Automation antenna, power and ethernet disconnection

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After just only fully recovering from a lightning strike from 2017 (and not fully discovering all the damage until this year!) I am just plain spooked about leaving  things connected when away from the house. We have(had) a beach house in NC (thanks Hurricane Florence for the change in status) and spent more than a few weeks down there. I would usually remotely connect to my ham shack via teamviewer and operate while down there. Every 3 years or so I would get a static field hit (lightning hitting down the street for instance) and it would blow the firewire port in my 5000a and ports on PC, laser printer, etc but it  wasnt to the stage I was considering not repairing things, until this last hit.

I have a 4 element Steppir (hence I have the control box and its cable to worry about), a 2x6 remote antenna switch (so I have that control line to worry about), 2 heliax connections between the bulkhead in my house, rotor with its rotor cable, ethernet connected radio and amp, etc.

I have seen threads about remotely disconnected the antennas and remotely powering down the radio but I would like to build/buy something that would let me do the whole thing (ie, disconnect control cables to rotor and steppir, disconnect ethernet (I have gone to fiber for any ethernet over 6 feet), USB connection between my 6600 and the steppir box, dc power to flex, wavenode usb head, antenna control switch, steppir box and ac power to amp and green heron controller.

Whew!

Any suggestions where to start with this?

Every single item mentioned was blown up in t he 2017 strike and I just don't have the energy for this again!
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Neal - K3NC, Elmer

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Posted 4 months ago

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Photo of Mark - WS7M

Mark - WS7M

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Neal,

I'd be wary of some commercial solutions that have relays in them.  Lightening can easily bridge a relay.

I am in the process of designing and building a device similar to this:

https://vimeo.com/133917999

I have had several people ask about my device.  I have offered when it is ready to provide parts possibly along with suggested motors and control logic.

My plan is to control this thing with a simple Raspberry Pi.  The Pi is easily able to do your remote radio power on/off.

I am a ways away from having this device ready to go but I am hopeful for something in the next month or two.  I'm waiting on my CAD designer right now.

If you are interested send me your email:  ws7m@arrl.net

I'll send pics and prices for parts when I get closer.   I am considering making this a complete kit with parts, Raspberry Pi all pre-loaded and setup ready to install.

I expect some will just want the parts.

Anyway let me know.
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Al / NN4ZZ

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Hi Mark,
I was thinking about building something similar....just notes on a napkin so far.  My device was inspired by an old quip, "the safest thing to do is disconnect your antenna coax and throw it out the window."  So a few of my ideas were:

  • enclose it in a waterproof box and locate outside the shack
  • power it with an air cylinder and use a small air pump and hose from the shack.  To close the connection, turn on the air pump.  Use a spring to pull the connections apart when there is no air pressure.   The benefits are: no electrical control path back to the shack, and if there is a power failure it would automatically open the connection.  
  • Add a metal ground plate that drops between the connections when they are separated/open.  And the plate would raise up as the air cylinder begins to close the connectors.  Connect the plate to a ground rod.  Any lightning surge would jump to the plate and ground.   
Good luck with your project. 

Regards, Al / NN4ZZ  
al (at) nn4zz (dot) com

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Bill Ham

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I use a weatherproof Hoffman enclosure on the wall outside the shack and run all coax, control lines, etc to the box thru ICE devices before entering the shack.  I also have them mounted inside on the power panel and telephone lines.  I use a UFER Ground system in the concrete, under the tower with copper wires out 90 feet from each leg of the tower and ground rods every 8 feet. An additional line goes from the tower to the Hoffman box (about 120 feet) with ground rods every 8 feet and then from that box to the electrical panel.  I switch the antenna feed to ground inside the shack, manually, when there is a storm.  Polyphaser has commercial grade equipment and a book called Grounds for Lightning.  ICE devices are less expensive:http://iceradioproducts.com
 
Nothing is fool proof, but the more you can do, the better. Good luck.

Bill - K0KO
(Edited)
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KF4HR

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My QTH has been hit by lightning twice over the years, the first time was not a direct strike and generated only minor damage but the second strike created substantial damage (nearly every electrical and electronic device in my house was destroyed in an instant)

While my home owners insurance did cover most everything, they required that I get a signed document from every manufacturer stating the equipment was indeed destroyed by lightning. My insurance company insisted on these signed documents before they'd pay off.  As you can imagine, this task took me several months to complete. 

Now-a-days I keep a lightning detector device in my shack and I disconnect and unplug all my electrical and electronic devices when storms approach.  And obviously I do not take the risk of running my equipment remotely. 

I shake my head when I hear about remote disconnect devices.  While they might help under certain circumstances, consider this.  Lightning has absolutely no problem traveling miles through the atmosphere, so it should go without saying that this energy has the potential to easily jump across the contacts of a remote power disconnect switch, RF, AC, control cables, or otherwise.

If remote operation is your high priority and you are willing to accept the risk of a lightning strike, my suggestion is to make sure you have the necessary insurance.     

And for those that say they always leave their equipment plugged in and have never taken a strike, all I can say is, "yet."

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Lee - N2LEE

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With the popularity of remote operation, not being to disconnect remotely is an issue. I have been mesmerized by the motorized remote disconnect but there is one question I can not determine.

How much power will a quick connect PL-259 handle ?
If you are running legal limit then I would worry about a Quick Connect PL-259 but maybe I am mistaken.

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Tim VE6SH

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That is my concern as well.

Tim VE6SH
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Joe N3HEE

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Good lightning protection requires substantial effort and expense to provide the lightning a low path of resistance to ground. This can very difficult for the average ham to achieve. Allot of us think we have good lightning prevention in place but find out the hard way when we suffer a strike. Air gapping the equipment and physically removing it from the desk is probably the best one can do. Of course that is a real pain. I keep spare radios and gear on a shelf located outside of the shack. I ground antennas during storms. All feedlines coming into the house have lightning arrestors and substantial grounding. I’ve been hit by lightning about 10 years ago before I had any protection in place and lost everything in the shack and throughout the house. My insurance paid for replacement. I may fare a little better this time but will still loose gear. It’s just a nasty fact of the hobby.
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Brian Morgan VK7RR/4

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I live in Queensland Australia, in an elevated location where lightning strikes are frequent in summer and close by. I am not much help to you Neal because, as other correspondents have said, a mere open circuit or even grounding of your cables does not "guarantee" that your gear will be safe. A little story. Nearly 50 years back when my wife and I were engaged, we spent several weeks at my in laws' farm where I had erected some antennas. One day there were storms around so I disconnected the PL259 cable before we went out & left it dangling just inside the window. My father in law came in to see sparks jumping across the connector so picked it up to throw it out the window. Instead, the EMF was sufficient to give him a huge shock. Moral of that story was, first placate father in law, second, don't rely on simply disconnecting your feedline.
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Winston VK7WH

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Well , I know you went on to Marry Sue, Brian. Just tell me one thing. Was that with or without your future Father-in-laws’s consent?


Winston
(Edited)
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Brian Morgan VK7RR/4

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He gave the bride away so I guess that answers that question. Interestingly my mother in law was a CW expert during WW2 and even late in her life she could still copy 30wpm in her head.  She was in the navy listening on air day after day for foreign CW transmissions.