Grounding and Receiver Noise

This guy’s an MIT expert!

Grounding is key to good reception
From: (John Doty)
Date: 16 Feb 1995 16:36:40 GMT

In article <> (Larry Picard) writes:

In your recent post you advised that coax should be grounded at two sites, first at the antenna and then just before entering the house. Is there an advantage in grounding at more than these sites?

With grounds the most common experience is “the more the merrier”. As you add more, however, you usually reach a diminishing returns (no pun intended) situation where there is no *observable* improvement: that’s usually a good place to stop. There are also exceptional circumstances where grounding increases noise problems, but these, in my experience, are much rarer than the pundits who preach against “ground loops” seem to think.

Even a semi-quantitative theoretical treatment of grounding in oversimplified situations requires heavy math at RF. Experimentation is thus required even if one has done elaborate calculations. It’s often easier to use the theory as a guide to what to try, and then experiment.

I would also assume that the antenna is grounded when it is connected to the receiver as the outer braid of the coax is in continuity with the receiver chassis.

What’s ground? If I connect the shield of my coax (which is grounded outside) to the antenna input of my R8, I hear lots of junk, indicating that there is an RF voltage difference between the coax shield and the R8 chassis. Last night this measured about S5.5, which is about -93 dBm (preamp off, 6KHz bandwidth). That’s a lot of noise: it was 18 dB above my antenna’s “noise floor”, and 26 dB above the receiver’s noise floor.

This sort of disagreement about ground potential is characteristic of electrically noisy environments. The receiver will, of course, respond to any voltage input that differs from its chassis ground. The antenna, on the other hand, is in a very different environment, and will have its own idea of what ground potential is. If you want to avoid noise pickup, you need to deliver a signal, referenced at the antenna to whatever its ground potential is, in such a way that when it arrives at the receiver, the reference potential is now the receiver’s chassis potential.

Coaxial cable represents one way to do this. Coax has two key properties:

1. The voltage between the inner conductor and the shield depends only on the state of the electromagnetic field within the shield.

2. The shield prevents the external electromagnetic field from influencing the internal electromagnetic field (but watch out at the ends of the cable!).

So, it’s easy, right? Run coax from the antenna to the receiver. Ground at the antenna end will be whatever the antenna thinks it is, while ground at the receiver end will be whatever the receiver thinks it is. The antenna will produce the appropriate voltage difference at the input side, and the receiver will see that voltage difference uncontaminated by external fields, according to the properties given above.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work that way. It’s all true as far as it goes, but it neglects the fact that the coax can also guide noise from your house to your antenna, where it can couple back into the cable and into your receiver. To see how this works, let me first describe how this noise gets around.

The noise I’m talking about here is more properly called “broadband electromagnetic interference” (EMI). It’s made by computers, lamp dimmers, televisions, motors and other modern gadgets. I have all these things. In many cases, I can’t get them turned off, because it would provoke intrafamilal rebellion. However, even when I turn them off, the noise in the house doesn’t go down very much, because my neighbors all have them too. In any case, one of the worst offenders is my computer, which is such a handy radio companion I’m not about to turn *it* off.

Some of this noise is radiated, but the more troublesome component of this is conducted noise that follows utility wires. Any sort of cable supports a “common mode” of electromagnetic energy transport in which all of the conductors in the cable are at the some potential, but that potential differs from the potential of other nearby conductors (“ground”). The noise sources of concern generate common mode waves on power, telephone, and CATV cables which then distribute these waves around your neighborhood. They also generate “differential” mode waves, but simple filters can block these so they aren’t normally a problem.

So, let’s say you have a longwire antenna attached to a coaxial cable through an MLB (“Magnetic Longwire Balun” [sic]). Suppose your next door neighbor turns on a dimmer switch. The resulting RF interference travels out his power lines, in through yours, through your receiver’s power cord to its chassis, and out your coaxial cable to your MLB. Now on coax, a common mode wave is associated with a current on the shield only, while the mode we want the signal to be in, the “differential” mode, has equal but opposite currents flowing on shield and inner conductor. The MLB works by coupling energy from a current flowing between the antenna wire and the coax shield into into the differential mode. But wait a second: the current from the antenna flows on the coax shield just like the common mode current does. Does this mean that the antenna mode is contaminated with the noise from your neighbor’s dimmer?

The answer is a resounding (and unpleasant) yes! The way wire receiving antennas work is by first moving energy from free space into a common mode moving along the antenna wire, and then picking some of that off and coupling it into a mode on the feedline. In this case, the common mode current moving along the antenna wire flows into the common mode of the coax, and vice versa. The coax is not just feedline: it’s an intimate part of the antenna! Furthermore, as we’ve seen, it’s connected back through your electrical wiring to your neighbor’s dimmer switch. You have a circuitous but electrically direct connection to this infernal noise source. No wonder it’s such a nuisance!

The solution is to somehow isolate the antenna from the common mode currents on the feedline. One common way to do this is with a balanced “dipole” antenna. Instead of connecting the feedline to the wire at the end, connect it to the middle. Now the antenna current can flow from one side of the antenna to the other, without having to involve the coax shield. Unfortunately, removing the necessity of having the coax be part of the antenna doesn’t automatically isolate it: a coax-fed dipole is often only slightly quieter than an end-fed longwire. A “balun”, a device which blocks common mode currents from the feedline, is often employed. This can improve the situation considerably. Note that this is not the same device as the miscalled “Magnetic Longwire Balun”.

Another way is to ground the coaxial shield, “short circuiting” the common mode. Antenna currents flow into such a ground freely, in principle not interacting with noise currents. The best ground for such a purpose will be a earth ground near the antenna and far from utility lines.

Still another way is to block common mode waves by burying the cable. Soil is a very effective absorber of RF energy at close range.

Unfortunately, none of these methods is generally adequate by itself in the toughest cases. Baluns are not perfectly effective at blocking common mode currents. Even the best balun can be partially defeated if there’s any other unsymmetrical coupling between the antenna and feedline. Such coupling can occur if the feedline doesn’t come away from the antenna at a right angle. Grounds are not perfect either. Cable burial generally lets some energy leak through. A combination of methods is usually required, both encouraging the common mode currents to take harmless paths (grounding) and blocking them from the harmful paths (baluns and/or burial).

The required isolation to reach the true reception potential of the site can be large. According to the measurements I quoted above, for my site the antenna noise floor is 18 dB below the conducted noise level at 10 MHz. 18 dB of isolation would thus make the levels equal, but we want to do better than that: we want the pickup of common mode EMI to be insignificant, at least 5 dB down from the antenna’s floor. In my location the situation gets worse at higher frequencies as the natural noise level drops and therefore I become more sensitive: even 30 dB of isolation isn’t enough to completely silence the common mode noise (but 36 dB *is* enough, except at my computer’s CPU clock frequency of 25 MHz).

Getting rid of the conducted noise can make a huge difference in the number and kinds of stations you can pick up: the 18 dB difference between the conducted and natural noise levels in the case above corresponds to the power difference between a 300 kW major world broadcaster and a modest 5 kW regional station. The method I use is to ground the cable shield at two ground stakes and bury the cable in between. The scheme of alternating blocking methods with grounds will generally be the most effective. The ground stake near the house provides a place for the common mode noise current to go, far from the antenna where it cannot couple significantly. The ground stake at the base of my inverted-L antenna provides a place for the antenna current to flow, at a true ground potential relative to the antenna potential. The buried coax between these two points blocks noise currents.

There has been some discussion of grounding problems on this and related echos. I believe it has been mentioned that electrical codes require that all grounds be tied together with heavy guage wire.

I’m no expert on electrical codes, and codes differ in different countries. However, I believe that any such requirement must refer only to grounds used for safety in an electric power distribution system: I do not believe this applies to RF grounds.

Remember that proper grounding practice for electrical wiring has very little to do with RF grounding. The purpose of an electrical ground is to be at a safe potential (a few volts) relative to non-electrical grounded objects like plumbing. At an operating frequency of 50/60 Hz, it needs to have a low enough impedance (a fraction of an ohm) that in case of a short circuit a fuse or breaker will blow immediately.

At RF such low impedances are essentially impossible: even a few centimeters of thick wire is likely to exhibit an inductive impedance in the ohm range at 10 MHz (depends sensitively on the locations and connections of nearby conductors). Actual ground connections to real soil may exhibit resistive impedances in the tens of ohms. Despite this, a quiet RF ground needs to be within a fraction of a microvolt of the potential of the surrounding soil. This is difficult, and that’s why a single ground is often not enough.

A little experimentation with my radio showed that the chassis was directly connected to the third (grounding) prong of the wall plug. I am concerned that by connecting my receiver to an outside ground I am creating a ground loop that involves my house wiring. Can you comment on this?

Yes, you have a “ground loop”. It’s harmless. In case of a nearby lightning strike it may actually save your receiver. My R8 isn’t grounded like that, so I had to take steps to prevent the coax ground potential from getting wildly out of kilter with the line potential and arcing through the power supply. I’m using a surge supressor designed to protect video equipment: it has both AC outlets and feedthroughs with varistor or gas tube clamps to keep the various relative voltages in check. Of course the best lightning protection is to disconnect the receiver, but I’m a bit absent minded so I need a backup.

This may seem like a trivial point but I recently discovered that the main ground from the electrical service panel in my house was attached to a water pipe which had been painted over. I stripped the paint from the pipe and re-attached the grounding clamp and I noticed a reduction in noise from my receiver.

Not trivial. Not only did you improve reception, but your wiring is safer for having a good ground.

I suspect part of the reason I see so much noise from neighbors’ appliances on my electric lines may be that my house’s main ground wire is quite long. The electrical service comes in at the south corner of the house (which is where the breaker box is), while the water (to which the ground wire is clamped) enters at the east corner. All perfectly up to code and okay at 60 Hz, but lousy at RF: if it was shorter, presumably more of the noise current would want to go that way, and stay away from my receiver.

I am also a little confused by what constitues an adequate ground. I have read that a conducting stake driven into the ground will divert lightning and provides for electrical safety but that RF grounding systems have to be a lot more complex with multiple radials with lengths related to the frequencies of interest. Is this true?

Depends on what you’re doing. If you’re trying to get maximum signal transfer with a short loaded (resonant) vertical antenna with a radiation resistance of, say, 10 ohms, 20 ohms of ground resistance is going to be a big deal. If you’re transmitting 50 kW, your ground resistance had better be *really* tiny or things are going to smoke, melt or arc.

On the other hand, a ground with a resistance of 20 ohms is going to be fairly effective at grounding a cable with a common mode characteristic impedance of a few hundred ohms (the characteristic impedance printed on the cable is for the differential mode; the common mode characteristic impedance depends somewhat on the distance of the cable from other conductors, but is usually in the range of hundreds of ohms). Of course, if it was lower a single ground might do the whole job (but watch out for mutual inductance coupling separate conductors as they approach your single ground).

In addition, a ground with a resistance of 20 ohms is fine for an unbalanced antenna fed with a high impedance transformer to supress resonance. Such a nonresonant antenna isn’t particularly efficient, but high efficiency is not required for good reception at HF and below (not true for VHF and especially microwave frequencies).

Much antenna lore comes from folks with transmitters who, armed with the “reciprocity” principle, assume that reception is the same problem. The reciprocity principle says that an antenna’s transmission and reception properties are closely related: it’s good physics, but it ignores the fact that the virtues required of a transmitting and receiving antenna are somewhat different. Inefficiency in a transmitting antenna has a direct, proportional effect on the received signal to noise ratio. On the other hand, moderate inefficiency in an HF receiving antenna usually has a negligible effect on the final result. A few picowatts of excess noise on a transmitting antenna has no effect on its function, but is a big deal if you’re receiving (of course, one might not want to have transmitter power going out via unintended paths like utility lines: this is indeed the “reciprocal” of the conducted noise problem, and has similar solutions).

Appendix: Absolute RF measurements with an R8.

Although the Drake R8’s signal strength meter is marked with silly “S” units, the alignment procedure in the service manual actually sets up the meter to an absolute standard, at least sort of. A 60% modulated signal with a carrier level of -73 dBm (which is really closer to -72 dBm in total power including sidebands) is S9. One S unit is 5 dB. This is with 6 kHz bandwidth and with neither the RF preamp or attenuator engaged. I assume this is what they do at the factory.

Now, I don’t really know how accurately this calibration is performed, and it certainly can’t be more accurate than the flatness of the input passband filters (spec’d at <2 dB p-p). There are also problems because the measurement is actually being made by a peak-responding AGC system rather than an RMS meter. Based on experience with other peak sensing systems, I estimate that the meter probably reads noise power too high by about 3 dB, relative to the carrier power in the test waveform. Therefore, for noise, S9 is about -76 dBm.

On my R8, the linearity of the S-meter calibration is poor at the very low end: S1 is much less than 10 dB below S3. Therefore, for measurements below S3 I do relative measurements and refer them to stronger signals. I have on my NeXT computer an old demo application that gives the RMS amplitude of a signal on the audio input jack. With the R8’s AGC turned off and the RF gain set low enough to insure good linearity, this may be used to make quite accurate relative power measurements. You could, of course, use an ordinary AC voltmeter to do this if you have one sensitive enough to read the level of the Drake’s audio output (I don’t have one).

Considering all of the uncertainties, the numbers hold together remarkably well, better than the likely accuracies in this case (just dumb luck). For the measurements quoted in my previous message, the receiver’s noise floor is -119 dBm. Drake’s specs imply that for a 6 kHz bandwidth the noise floor should be below -118 dBm with the preamp off.

According to “Reference Data for Radio Engineers” (Sams, 1975), the wintertime level of natural noise in my area at 10 MHz should be about 32 dB above the thermal reference level: this would produce a noise floor of -104 dBm in this bandwidth with a perfectly efficient antenna. A calculation for a 17 m vertical antenna feeding a high impedance transformer predicts a loss due to mismatch/lack of resonance of 4.5 dB at 10 MHz. My antenna is not a vertical but an inverted L which I presume is slightly less efficient (difficult to calculate). There are also presumably some modest losses in the transformer, the grounds, the cables and the connectors. I wouldn’t be surprised if these added up to 3 dB or so. With a total antenna system inefficiency of 7 dB, I’d therefore expect to see an antenna noise floor of -111 dBm, which is, in fact, just what I measure.

37 thoughts on “Grounding and Receiver Noise
  1. I designed my own house here in Thailand and the base/foundations is a LOT of cement and rebar which I connected together with jumpers (brass and copper wires covered in copperease at the junctions so they dont corrode inside the cement) plus welding and this formed a “Ufer Grounding System” which everything in the building is connected to including the steel roof structure. Thais dont use grounds much or ELCB/RCDs so in the rainly season the population reduces a little. My HF noise floor is good enough for WSPR reception in an unattended SDR rx

  2. Good read thanks, Also been down this path and have a reasonable noise floor in suburbia on 40mtr and 80mtr.

    Key for my set up.
    A balun with good common mode rejection. 80/40 inverted V.
    Grounding my radio gear.
    Grounding my “tin” shed. Yes my radio shack is in a steel shed.


  3. I’m sure John Doty is a smart man, and I am not an electrical engineer or electrician. I’m not even an amateur radio operator. However we recently moved to Central Kentucky and the electrical inspector pitched a hissy fit and required we disconnect all the coaxial cables from my radios and our TV and place them outside the residence “until such time as the ground rods are properly bonded in common.”

    Every state in the USA has incorporated the National Electrical Code as law. Different states have adopted different versions, some cities have more or less restrictive interpretations. I am also not a lawyer, and I don’t begin to understand the legalities.
    The electrical inspector told us “disconnect the ground cables or I’ll have the electric utility remove your power meter.”
    The electrician explained it to me like this.
    “All secondary ground rods shall be bonded to the electric service ground with a 6 awg solid copper wire. The wire shall be connected to each ground rod with UL rated direct burial connector, I usedDB acorns.
    Only one wire may be under each acorn, but a wire can loop through from one ground rod to another.”

    Bonded is NEC for “a permanent low resistance connection.”

    Connecting the grounds together is not an option, it’s the law. I asked our insurance carrier “What would happen if we’d ignored the law and had a lightning strike with damage?”

    “Your coverage would be void.”

    I urge everyone who has read this page to check with their local electrical inspector or a master electrician they trust.

    A hint, put the DB acorn clamp on before driving the ground rod!
    We had to have the electrical inspector observe as the electrician ground down the mushroomed top of the ground rod so the clamp would fit in.

  4. Hi. I have builded a fan dipole multiband for 7, 14, 21, and 28mhz. So totally i have 4 elements on each side.

    I have a current balun 1:1 on top of a 6meters mast installed on the roof of a building and then after having all elements properly cut to accurate length where my swr reached 1:1 i then tied each element with insulators and ropes at the ends.

    So far so good but my issue is noise. I guess the noise is probably coming from my radio shack somewhere or the power line. Have to search. Perhaps it might be also my power supply as its a switching one and i have no ferrites on its wires (in or out).

    I can tho describe my experience with you.

    On 7mhz when i remove noise blanker i have a signal increase by +2 (s2) but no significant impact (almost zero) on audio.

    When i am on 14mhz and turn off noise blanker from S-1 signal i get up to S-4 (so i have +3 increase of signal) but also a constant audio buzz like zzzzzzzzzz.

    When i am on 21mhz and turn off noise blanker i have no issues in both signal increase or audio noise increase. Everything seems to be ok from 21mhz and above.

    So the bands affected are 7mhz and 14mhz – so everything below 21mhz is affected.

    One last thing to ask: do i really need any grounding for this type of antenna ?

    Also forgot to mention a few important things:

    1. my coax cable is 25meters long (unfortunatelly cannot reduce that) – the cable is RG-213 tho.

    2. the transceiver is yaesu ft-450D which is not considered a base station radio and as well doesn’t have very good filters to reduce noise reception

    3. on the roof where my antenna is installed i have nearby solar panels

    Best 73s,
    Jimmy Sy1Dal

    • Hi Jimmy,
      While the article above is about effective grounding, I have found that only grounding rarely improves locally generated noise, and it is usually necessary to eliminate the noise at its source.
      Try a choke (many ferrite beads) on the radio end of the coax, as the shield can pick up a lot of noise.
      Then you’ll need to switch off everything at breaker panel and solar inverter (run the radio on a battery) and see if the noise is coming from something you can control.
      Then switch things on one by one (start with your solar charge controller and inverter) and find what is causing the noise.
      When you find the noisy equipment, put ferrite toroids near it on all wires in/out. Get toroids big enough for the wire to pass through it several times.
      If turning everything off does not reduce your noise then it is coming from power lines and/or other buildings and you have to try to work with others to reduce or eliminate it.
      73, –kv5r

  5. I sent you an email and I did not get an answer from you yet I am going to change the letter I sent you on 160 and 40 meter receive is good but on 75 meter I get a lot of noise on 160 and 40 meter the S meter is S9 when I have a problem on 75 meter the S meter rises to S20 went buy the next store neighbor and it was from no devices she has tv, baby monitor it’s not all the time but when it gets S20 of noise on 75 meter which is very often it is either the power line or my be what other people are turning on when I get that noise I s on I turn my transceiver for because when it is S20 I can’t receive no buddy tell me what I can use to get the receiving to wok on 75 meters and tell me how to hook it up (how to do it) thanks I need help. Paul Wozniak…KB9VWD

    • Get the power company to fix their arcing hardware. Beyond that there isn’t much you can do about very strong line noise.

      Since there are so many sources of noise, and every ham station is different, your best bet is to find some local hams to help you. I think ARRL has a program that finds hams with RFI knowledge.


  6. Harold I have noise From my power lines something like that I tried to put ferrets on my power supply and on my coax fed fan dipole and it did not work what can I buy to get rid of the power line noise out of my HF transceiver I need help on what to get thanks KV5R. Paul Wozniak KB9VWD

    • Powerline noise is 120hz. So you will hear a 120 hz buzz or “braaaaah” coming from your speaker. The reason is that a spike is generated each time the sine wave crosses from positive to negative or vice versa therefore 120 cycles. The best way to reduce it is to have the power company fix it. So call them. It is to their advantage to repair it as the radiation frequently unmasks a component that is about to fail and the sooner they know the less costly to them will be the repair.
      So to make sure that is is 120 hz.. Use an oscilloscope on the audio output of speaker and look for spikes that are 8.3 milliseconds apart.
      Other things that might help is a notch filter. That can be placed on the most annoying component of the noise which is influenced by speaker peaks and resonances in the audio or eleectronic circuitry nonlinearities. That will not eliminate it but often will enable you to copy an othersise uncopyable signal. Also to mention here is a directional antenna as powerline noise comes from a specific location. And lastly there are systems that use two antennas and apply a phase shift null which can be helpful in eliminating the noise. MFJ and DX engineering have these units for sale.
      But after all is said and done having the power company fix their equipment is the best solution. In addition to it being financially advantageous to them it is also the law.

    • Hi Paul, ferrets are generally affectionate little creatures with sharp teeth, but can also turn nasty if in their native hunting mood. They also run around a lot and are quite fast, one of their skills in making a kill or driving prey in to the open. You should be able to train them to run along rope or antenna wires as some people who have squirrels as pets do which could make the problem less. I would suggest you use a more stable form of pet to try to reduce the noise you are receiving from power lines. A FERRITE CORE (not to confused with the 4 legged variety) wound as a common mode choke at the TXR may improve the situation and good earthing may help too. Some people have invested in a cheapish QRM Eliminator (I went the expensive way and got divorced!!!). I would suggest disconnecting the dipoles you do not use daily, and use the remaining one for making comparisons with your current situation as you try various ‘remedies’. When you main dipole is functioning well add another and make any adjustments., could be worth while making the shorter dipoles in to inverted V’s. Part of being a radio ham is to keep experimenting and solving problems. Finally don’t be a cheap Charlie, invest in quality items from a reputable dealer not cheap ‘made in Chan’ from the internet sellers. You have invested a lot of money in quality equipment, back it up with quality accessories. 73 and best wishes.

      normally used for

  7. I am a new General Class that has invested in an Icom IC-7100 and an Ciro Mazzoni STEALTH Magnetic Loop Antenna. I have still not installed the Magnetic Loop but I have a 20m portable dipole (MFJ-2220) installed inside the Attic because I wanted to test transmitting from North Carolina to the Caribbean before taking the Magnetic Loop $$$$ plunge. The transmission was a success but the receiving part is lousy because the RF noise is at S-6 constantly and the antenna is not oriented properly for receiving due to the Attic structure configuration. The purchase of the Magnetic Loop was decided based on the ability for these loops to “minimize” a lot of noise and because their small size allows to be placed inside an Attic space wide enough to be directed towards the other station transmission location. My concern is that, If the noise is not minimized, I might not be able to hear stations transmitting at very low power even with a Magnetic Loop Antenna.

    I also know NOTHING about grounding requirements for equipment with antennas inside an Attic space in reference to where and how they should be grounded, and would like to get information on that issue. I don’t want to set up an equipment grounding system that could attract lightning towards my antennas inside the attic which could be a fire hazard to the entire house. I am even disconnecting the antennas at the transceiver every time there is a possible thunderstorm in the area. Am I getting paranoid? Could you sent me references where I could get that information?

    Oz. 73’s (KO4SAE)

    • Fortunately, grounding things does not “attract” lightning (it’s an old myth). And your attic is already full of grounded things, like power cables and duct-work.

      Lightning goes where it can start a small “leader” of electric corona. Things that start leaders are typically very tall and pointy (towers), or very low and smooth (lakes). If that’s not available, it will then usually find a tree. But rarely a house full of ground wires. Indeed, an attic is probably the safest place you can put an antenna (but also the noisiest).

      The Ciro Mazzoni says it needs to sit on metal (screen or sheet-metal). You might want to deck part of your attic with plywood or OSB sheets, then nail down steel flashing over that. It might shield the loop somewhat from the noise, if most of your noise is coming from electronics in your house. If it’s coming from overhead power-lines and/or neighbors, it probably won’t help much.

      Actually, if you’re only getting an S6 on an attic dipole, that’s pretty good, and the loop on a metal deck should be quite a bit lower.

      Grounding things in your attic will not reduce RFI noise. On 20 meters, a 16-foot ground wire isn’t a ground, it’s a quarter-wave antenna! All the wires in your house are noise antennas!

      You first need to see if your noise is from your own house. Run the radio on a 12v battery and turn off the main breaker. Then go from there, turning on circuits and devices one at a time.

      RFI noise is mostly conducted on cables in common-mode and then radiated to your antenna, and a ferrite choke around the cable will block it (some). What you may need to do is locate the devices generating the noise and put chokes on them. Get GOOD quality snap-on chokes from Palomar or Amidon; ask them what you need, after locating noise-generating devices (by process of elimination). Don’t get snap-on chokes from ebay, etc, they’re all imported crap that usually don’t work.

      Also, please read my reply to Patrick, below.

      73, –kv5r

  8. I have a small vertical (Super Antenna), fed by coax and a 58’end fed with UNUN and coax to the shack. I have an 8 ft ground rod outside near the shack which is downstairs and is connected to my Icom 746Pro. The noise is about S7-S8 on all bands. I have shut all power down in my house, with exception of the one circuit for outlet in shack, still have same noise, with Everything shut down I connected my rig to my car battery, ran the coax to my car and still same noise. When I took my rig and antenna to a park about 4 miles away, and set it all up, no noise at all, even worked AZ from WA. I am at a loss and considering a MFJ Noise Canceller. What am I missing??

    • Howdy Patrick,
      You need to locate the source and eliminate it. Look up any good book or articles on-line about RFI locating techniques. There are thousands of possible sources, ranging from tiny arcs in overhead power-line hardware, to a neighbor with a noisy LED light, TV, or wall-wart.
      I’d start by walking around with a pocket AM radio, or better, a scanner or HT that has VHF AM aircraft band (will get you much closer due to the much shorter wavelength). Even better is a DIY spectrum analyzer — an V3 (with a small antenna), plugged into a laptop running HDSDR.
      The hardest part is “diplomacy” with the power company and neighbors…
      Power-line noise is that 60-Hz grinding sound, and is very broadband. As you drive along, listening to car AM radio, the volume goes up & down as you pass through the peaks and nulls.
      Cheapo switching power supplies as used in LED lights, wall warts, TVs, everything nowadays, will usually put several noisy harmonics across the bands, and they wiggle and drift around, being quite unstable oscillators. But they don’t cover whole bands like power lines do.
      Plasma TVs are getting rare now but are some of the worst RFI offenders (they should be illegal).
      Power converters in RV’s are also big noise sources, as are high-power marijuana grow lights.
      73 & GL, –kv5r

  9. I have a G5RV at 35 ft high It has a 33 ft ladder line drop at where i connect my coax The coax run is about 100 ft I have about an s7 to s9 noise level at all times Would like suggestions as to reduce this noise My radio is an ftdx 3000 It is set according to yeasu specs for best noise reduction but still s7 to s9 I do live in a subdivision but several ham friends here do not have this problem Any help greatly appreciated

  10. At all the places I’ve checked, the accepted definition of one “S unit” is that it represents a change of signal strength of 6 dB (not 5 dB)

    For HF, “S9” is defined at 50uV across 50 ohms. It’s S9 = 5uV for VHF

    Most rigs I’ve tested are no where near the defined standard, they seem to be anywhere between 3dB and 10dB per S unit.

    • Yes, I think it was Collins that long ago defined S9 as 50μV, and S units as 6dB down from that. But radios have never actually been accurate, as AGC and other things mess with the received signal strength.
      I measured my IC-7100 with a function generator and precision step attenuator. At S9 and above, it’s quite accurate, but below S9 it’s way off, getting down to like 2dB/S at S1-S3.
      I wish ham radio would get completely away from stupid S units, and instead provide an S/N Ratio meter, which is a much more meaningful report to give to others. Several SDR softwares use dBm, and SDR-Console V3 even has an SNR meter. Some digi-mode softwares provide both SNR and IMD. Such a pleasure to use meaningful measurements!
      73, –KV5R

  11. when I connect my Antenna, Tuner, SWR Bridge, and Xcvr together via coax links my ability to receive diminishes and my ability to tune the antenna also goes away. It is only when I unscrew the sleeve at one of the posts that the receive level comes back and the Tuner works again. It is a QRP setup and I have not installed an Earth Ground. Do you think that would help?

    • Something’s wrong with your antenna. Maybe it’s shorted at the feed-point? Or way too small? You did not describe the antenna.
      When you unscrew the sleeve of a connector, you are then using the entire feed-line as a long-wire antenna.
      If your antenna is a balanced antenna, such as a half-wave center-fed dipole, then grounding the station won’t matter. But if you are running a long-wire or end-fed antenna, then grounding is essential, to make the other half of the circuit.
      73, –kv5r

      • The Antenna is a 58 foot long end fed random wire connected to a tuner via a 9:1 UNUN. It doesn’t seem to matter whether the UNUN is in the circuit or not. I do run a counterpoise away from the direction of the Antenna. I have tried using the counterpoise as a radial by laying it on the ground or as it is intended to be run at least a foot off the ground. neither seem to make a difference. Thank you for your quick reply. Guess I may have to stick something in the ground to see if that will help.

        • Ah, okay. If you’re using coax (more than a few feet), that’s gonna be very lossy with high SWR on it. Also, if it’s an odd-quarter-wave long (like ~60 feet on 80 meters), the very high impedance on the antenna end will give you a very low impedance at the radio end (and T-match tuners are very lossy at low impedance).
          Suggest you try 32 or 96 feet of ladder line with that antenna. Since it’s way imbalanced, you’ll need a good 1:1 choke/balun at the shack end, or even at both ends. At QRP power, 11 turns bifilar-wound on a type 31 ferrite toroid (FT-140-31) will do nicely & cost ~$5 each. You may or may not need the 9:1 unun at the antenna, just have to try both ways & see.
          See also the Ladder-Line articles on this site.
          73, –kv5r

          • Thanks very much and I will give it a try. Think I have some ladder line in the shed 🙂 58 feet was recommended on several sites as a proper antenna length for a random wire and an UNUN because the Impedance would be about 450 Ohms at the feed point and the UNUN would bring it closer to 50. Several longer lengths were also recommended. I will be homebrewing an L network tuner soon. Thanks very much for your help. I will build a current Balun as well soon. I appreciate the help very much. 73. -WB2TQC

  12. Grounds for 2nd floor Apartment in a Wood Frame building
    Antennas deployed outdoors on and from Balcony

    What’s the best;
    Ground Rod below Balcony
    Ground to Cold water pipe in Apartment
    Artificial Ground MFJ 931

    • For lightning protection, a 4-6 inch wide copper flashing directly down to a ground rod below balcony, as short and straight as possible.
      For RF transmitting/receiving, also use the artificial ground (counterpoise tuner), if you’re running an end-fed wire antenna, or mobile whip on balcony.
      I would never ground to water pipes, as 1) the connection corrodes, and 2) lightning strike will blow holes in your pipes.
      73, –kv5r

  13. I have a fan dipole for 160,75,40 meters it is fed with 80 or 85 feet of LMR-400 coax the transmitting is okay but the receiving is kind of noisy what can I do to make it better I will leave leave my email to you and I can tell you what I have on my coax feed to choke it I have it on the antenna feed line and when it goes in the ham radio office too they are snap on rings for coax that I bought from . I also have 3″,4″ Ferrite Toroid rings from my radio,power supply,linear amp.and tuner also lot of things are on station but it is not working on the noise may be you can tell me what or how to do it for less receiving noise I bought them from Palomar Engineers in CA.I have everything just tell me what and how to install those items thanks KV5R. Paul Wozniak kb9vwd P.S please get back to me thanks again

    • I donno, you didn’t say what kind of noise it is. Atmospheric, power line, or electronics? If it’s that constant wide-band 120Hz grinding noise, call the power company (and be prepared for a long battle). If it’s electronics, you need to locate it and filter it at the source. Process of elimination; turn off one thing at a time. Put your radio on a battery then start flipping off breakers. Might be neighbor too. Walk around with a portable AM radio. A noisy switch-mode power supply needs ferrites on both input and output. 3-6 turns through a ring toroid works a LOT better than snap-ons. Choking goes up by the square of the number of turns. 3 turns through a ring is a lot better than 9 snap-ons. I use the Amidon FT-140-77 rings; unlike snap-ons, they actually work, provided you’ve actually identified the noise source. Most of the snap-on kits are crap, they are type 43 which is unsuitable for power supply noise that originates at ~30-60 kHz. Type 77 is what you want for the low bands.

  14. Harold,
    I have been building and modeling the T3FD terminated 3 wire folded dipole for the past 18 months. It is a powerful weapon against noise in a congested QTH.

    Am I correct assuming this is more like a magnetic loop antenna? The receive noice reduction is very well worth the 1 to 7 dB transmit ineffeciency, as simply adding a linear overcomes the Tx reduction. Reducing the noise floor 2+ s-units com
    pared to an equivalent length off-center fed dipole is very useful.

    What makes me assume the antenna is magnetic is that the NEC/4 models show the RF current is constant over the length of the antenna, whereas a single wire antenna the current is max in the center, and tapers to zero at the ends. This makes me think that contributes to low Rx noise floor.

    A second issue: I am also questioning the model’s assumption of the loss in the load resistor, as it can indicate 6 dB of the power goes in the resistor. Some of my test loads are two series 25W resistors that “supposedly” are taking 1400 watts of the energy. It takes many minutes of sustained “key-down” time to cause them to crack.

  15. After 25 yrs I’m trying to get back to basic 80 – 30 meter CW. Restarting antenna building your article on noise, especially neighborhood utility noise was very interesting and I’m following up. Thanks. Kg6ht April 2018

  16. The problem I am having is a hum in my power supplies, my radios, especially in the receiver of my Yaesu FT-707(which has no squelch control). The “S” meter show S5-6 in noise. It’s like the noise blanking cicuit is not working. My other radio’s noise blanket works fine. I’m lost in what to do to fix it.

  17. Just got my General and want to get out on HF. Was going to string a G5RV junior under my 2nd story eaves (77 feet of run available) until I realized the metal rain gutter would be just 30″ away from the dipole and parallel to it. Then I realized the ladderline portion of the antenna would need to run horizontally from the eaves to where my Yaesu FT-101EE is located. Will the gutter’s proximity “short-circuit” the antenna’s ability to radiate? Will running the ladderline horizontally instead of as a vertical drop compromise its function? Help!

    • Congrats on the upgrade!

      Yes to both: (1) the dipole would be much too close to the gutter, which would soak up most of the power via electromagnetic induction, and (2) the ladder line should be (mostly) perpendicular to the dipole. It can be vertical or horizontal or any angle between (sloping/swagging), but only in the plane perpendicular to the dipole.

      If you have 77′ feet of straight eave, you have 77′ of peak; suggest you put it above peak (between masts on gables), or under peak in attic, but only if you don’t have foil-backed roof sheathing or thermal barrier under rafters. Even then, you’ll likely have duct-work and wiring in the attic that will impair the antenna’s performance. It really should be at least quarter-wave (at lowest freq) above any metal.

      Got trees? Take a big wrench and heave #36 nylon strings over branches. 20+’ high will do. Got POA? Use green wire; paint ladder-line green.

      73, –kv5r

  18. I read this article and was amazed at how much I never knew about how important it is to have earths from equipment and antennas in the correct places. The author certainly knows his stuff ! I’ve been a radio ham for thirty years and thought I knew it all. this old dog has just learned a few new tricks after reading this thanks for all the fb info. 73’s.

  19. I have run a long wire along the edge of my roof on the outer edge of the evestrough which is aluminum. Will this interfere with my reception by actually creating more noise being less than a 1/8 inch away from the metal? I do have it connected with insulators so as to not come in direct contact with the metal but still not sure about the entire setup I have built. If anyone can give me some feedback I would appreciate it. Thanks.

    • That will probably not work very well. But feel free to try it!

      First, rain gutters and fascia drip flashing are notorious RF noise-generators, due to metal oxides (corrosion) between the overlapping sections. Many hams actually have to bridge each joint with short jumper wires and sheet-metal screws to stop the RF noise, particularly if near a commercial broadcast transmitter.

      Second, running the wire that close to metal is probably gonna make it act more like transmission line than antenna.

      I suggest running your wire under the eaves, or better, out to a tree or something, to get most of your antenna further away from the house.

      73, –kv5r

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