This post is how I grounded my antenna using the “National Electrical Code” in the United States. Rules may differ from state to state, and in other countries. So, always check your local rules and regulations before doing any work on your house.
I am not a professional antenna installer and there are different variables you must account for depending on your situation when it comes to installing an antenna. This article is for informational purposes on how I grounded my antenna, and I recommend using a professional to safely install and ground an antenna. You can locate a local certified professional using Home Advisor, or calling them at 888-605-2759
Recently I posted a review of the Mohu Sky outdoor antenna. An astute reader asked me about grounding the antenna in the comments of the review.
Now, as I was replacing an existing outdoor antenna, I simply hooked the antenna up to the already grounded coaxial cable coming off the roof. . . or so I thought. I inspected the wiring of my antenna with the intention of doing a write up on how it was grounded. This is when I discovered the ground wire was corroded and needed to be replaced.
So not only do I have that reader to thank for prompting me to inspect and correct my current antenna grounding system, but they potentially saved me a world of trouble if lightning were ever to strike near my house.
Now that I’ve installed an antenna grounding system myself, I want to share how I did it with you in case any of you decide to install your own outdoor antenna.
Do I Need to Ground my Outdoor Antenna?
Yes, all outdoor TV antennas should be grounded. Even if you have a newer plastic antenna, there is metal inside. Furthermore, TV signals are made of electricity. The antenna is essentially designed to capture that electricity. If lightning strikes, your antenna will invite it in faster than Sookie Stackhouse after a knock on the door from Bill Compton.
I know many of you will say the odds are slim of lighting hitting your house. However, that’s not the issue. There is little you can do to mitigate a direct lightning strike to your house.
The reason we ground electrical systems is to protect against indirect strikes and other indirect electrical energy. The energy from a lightning strike is so powerful that even a strike somehere in your neighborhood can create a hazard for an electrical system that doesn’t go to ground.
How do I Ground my Outdoor Antenna?
Before I get into how and why you should ground your antenna, I wanted to let you know I am not an electrician. I’m a DIY weekend warrior that relies on Google search-fu to learn how to do household repairs and installs.
For any engineers or electricians that stop by, I welcome any critiques or corrections in the comments. Accuracy is extremely important to me, and I appreciate any corrections or adjustments you can offer.
That said, years of working in enterprise architecture make me a bit of a stickler for standards and practices. If you are as well, you may want to check out Article 810 of the National Electric Code. It covers all the codes and standards for installing the cabling for TV and radio transmitters.
However, if you are like most people, you’d rather hit your thumb repeatedly with a hammer than suffer through technical manuals. In that case, I’ll do my best to walk you through what I did after looking over the code.
Below is a picture describing exactly what we are going to do. It illustrates how to ground your antenna by connecting it to your house’s ground wire. Notice you should not only ground the coaxial cable, but the antenna mast as well.
Grounding an antenna isn’t difficult to accomplish yourself, but it shouldn’t be too expensive to have a professional come out and do this for you. If you want to attempt this, below are are the steps I took to recreate what is essentially depicted in the diagram.
1. Locate your house service ground wire
In the diagram, the house ground wire is labeled as the “Power System Grounding Electrode.” You will typically find this wire near your electric meter or where power service enters your house. This is typically near your breaker panel, but on the outside of the house. It should be a thick gauge copper wire coming out of the ground. Here is a photo of what mine looks like.
The preferred way to ground an antenna is by using your house service ground. Please check out the NEC manual linked above for more information.
2. Connect the ground wire to the house ground
Notice the clamp on the ground wire in the picture above? Here is a close up picture of what it looks like.
Use a solid copper wire and use the ground clamp to connect it to the house service ground. The minimum size wire you should use to connect the antenna to the house service ground is 10 AWG (American Wire Gauge ), which is 1/10th of an inch in diameter.
The type of clamp connector will depend on the size of your ground wire. The house ground wire is required to be at least 2 AWG. This is about 1/4 inch in diameter.
Use this table to get an idea of the AWG of your ground wire and then you can buy a clamp that will connect the antenna ground wire to your house ground wire. You can use any size wire for your antenna ground as long as it’s larger than 10 AWG (and smaller than your house ground.
They sell various clamps and wires online at Amazon. You want to be sure to get a solid copper wire, as stranded wire can become brittle over time. I personally used a 6 AWG solid copper wire and clamped it to my house ground wire as seen in the picture below.
3. Connect the Antenna to Ground
To connect the antenna to ground, simply connect the other end of your ground wire to coaxial grounding block. The block will have two female coaxial connectors and a slot to connect your ground wire. The picture below illustrates what this looks like.
The left coaxial connector connects to my antenna on the roof, while the right coaxial enters my house and goes to my digital tuner. Your coaxial is now grounded. Be sure to check your channels on your television to ensure they still are being received. If done properly, there should be little noise added to the system. In fact, after grounding the antenna I actually gained 1 channel. However, that could have just been a coincidence.
If the antenna is already installed and there is no coaxial joint that can be unscrewed to connect the block, don’t worry. I explain what to do at the end of the post.
Update: It’s been pointed out that I should use compression fittings to avoid water seepage into the line. Furthermore, make sure the cables are connected horizontally at the block to avoid water traveling down the cable and into the connection.
4. Ground the Antenna Mast
Grounding the coaxial was the hard part. Grounding the mast is easy. Simply attach an 8 or 10 AWG copper wire to the mast using a mast ground clamp and run the other end of the copper wire to the house ground. It’s recommended to use a separate clamp, and not the one used to ground the coaxial to the house ground.
You can see the black mast ground wire in the picture at the end of step 2. As you can see, I need to purchase a second clamp.
Congratulations! Your antenna is fully grounded.
How to Install Coaxial Cable
Cutting the cable and attaching connectors is much easier than one would think. You just need the right tool. Simply pick up a coaxial tool and some male connectors as seen in the picture below.
Be sure to check the type of cable you are using. In the U.S. most cable and antenna installations are done with either RG-59 or RG-6. You should be able to find it printed on the cable. If you are purchasing cable to do the install, get the RG-6. It’s a less noisy cable, which translates into receiving more TV channels.
To install the coaxial connectors, just follow the following steps.
1. Cut the cable (literally this time).
Figure out where you want to install the connections and cut the cable. I like to leave about 6 inches of “mistake room” on each side. Your coaxial tool should have a cable cutter to cut the cable.
Below is a photo of the inside of the coaxial cable. It’s hard to see in the photo, but there is a tiny copper wire in the center with a foil shielding around it. Around the foil is the white (can be other colors as well) cable sheath.
2. Remove Outer Cable Sheath
On your coaxial tool there should be an outer cable stripper. Be mindful of the size of the cable you are working with. As you can see, I’m working with RG-6. Tightly clamp the cable stripper around the cable and rotate the tool completely around the cable.
After one or two rotations, pull the piece you just cut from the cable. If you have trouble, you may need to do another rotation. When the outer sheath is removed, you should see the inner foil shielding around the inner copper wire. It should see something like this. . .
3. Remove Foil Shielding
Line up the inner wire stripper with the copper wire in the middle of the foil shielding and slowly clamp the tool around the inner copper wire. Ensure that the copper wire ends up in the wire stripper when you close the tool. Otherwise, you will cut the copper wire along with the shield, forcing you to start over.
Just like when you removed the outer sheath, rotate the tool and remove the foil shielding. You should now have a coaxial cable that looks like this.
4. Install the connector
This part can be a struggle sometimes. Push the connector onto the end of the cable. You goal is to have the inner copper wire come through the connector. When looking into the connector the inner foil shield should be flush with the base of the connector. Here is a photo of what it should look like.
Once the connection is seated, simply crimp the connection with the crimping tool as shown below.
Crimp the connector onto the cable as tight as you can so it down’t come off. If you are installing this outside, I recommend using compression fittings.
You’re all done. Now you can buy a spool of coax and impress your friends and family, or possibly throw a crimping party.