Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Antenna Topics: Disconnecting equipment for safety. Post # 207

Like many regions of the northern hemisphere summer has come to Hawaii Island.  Although this tropic paradise is known for its gentle climate, there are occasions where severe thunderstorms and lightning plague Hawaiian hams just like our fellow amateur radio operators on the U.S. Mainland.  Every now and then, a small sea-spawned tornado (waterspout) comes ashore in Kailua-Kona and does some minor damage to beach areas.  Most of these unwanted guests arrive on the strong winds of a frontal passage which begins north of Kauai and runs down the island chain to Hawaii Island.  While most of these severe storms occur during the winter months, it's not unusual for a bad thunderstorm to strike in mid-summer and cause damage to utility poles, transformers, and other electrical equipment.

Now that I'm mostly retired, I tend to stay at home and can keep watch on the weather. With adequate warning, I can safely disconnect  my antennas and get my rigs out of danger before any storm strikes.
 With the passing of time, I've tended to get lazy about protecting my equipment, especially if my xyl and I decide to go on an impromptu shopping trip or to visit friends across the island.  I've been careless in the safety department--a pattern I've vowed to break ever since I read a helpful article by Claudia J. Lang (KC3GO) called "Quick power and antenna disconnects for equipment lightning safety."  The original article was published in the 13th Edition of "Hints & Kinks for the Radio Amateur."

Following Ms. Lang's example, I've instituted a storm safety program for my amateur radio equipment.  I follow this routine everyday, whether I'm away from the house all day or just visiting friends down the road.


1. When I finish operating for the day, I unplug all transceivers and computers from the power mains.  Most of my rigs run off solar-charged batteries, so I just disconnect all power leads from the deep cycle marine battery and put the solar panels in the garage.  I also disconnect my telephone line, since the line is also used for internet access.

2.  All antennas are disconnected and grounded at the mast for my verticals and inverted vees.  I also disconnect the feed line from my under the house 40 meter loop.  I also disconnect the RG-8X coaxial cable leading to the 4:1 balun on the garage wall.  I use home made swivels to lower the vertical and inverted vee antennas to ground level.

3.  I make sure all power cords have surge suppressors, so I don't get a surprise when I plug equipment back into the ac mains.

As good as these steps may be, "Hints & Kinks" Editor David Newkirk (WJ1Z) recommends some additional precautions to protect your equipment:

"Disconnecting antenna and ac-power leads may not fully protect gear connected to ground.  The best way to protect station electronic equipment against lightning damage is to disconnect all wires from the equipment and move the equipment away from station wires and cables."

Newkirk also suggests that you "keep a weather eye out and disconnect your gear well before severe weather moves into your area...better yet, keep it disconnected whenever you're not using it."

I apply these same rules to my audio and television equipment.  Whenever I leave the house, I disconnect all power and speaker leads from my component stereo system and make sure the television set is disconnected from the ac mains and the roof-mounted antenna.  Like my amateur radio equipment, my entertainment systems use surge protectors as added protection from power line "spikes."

Hopefully, these simple tips will save your equipment when lightning threatens your area.

REFERENCES:

Lang, Claudia J. (KC3GO).  "Quick Power and Antenna Disconnects for equipment lightning safety."  Contained in "Hinks & Kinks for the Radio Amateur", 13th Edition.  ARRL.  Newington, CT, 06111.  p. 9-7.

Editorial comments from David Newkirk (WJ1Z).  Contained in "Hinks & Kinks for the Radio Amateur", 13th Edition. ARRL. Newington, CT, 06111. p. 9-7.

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Thanks for joining me today!

Aloha es 73 de Russ (KH6JRM).

BK29jz15--along the beautiful Hamakua Coast of Hawaii Island.