Lightning Surge Protectors for Cellular Signal Boosters
As you may already know, surges caused by indirect lightning and static are something signal boosters are extremely vulnerable to since the donor antennas tend to be installed on the roof. In the event of a surge, the energy can flow through the outdoor antenna’s coaxial cable and degrade or severely damage the amplifier and everything in its path – including other electrical equipment. They can even cause fires and electrocute people.
To protect your signal booster from surges (as well as people, property, and other electronic equipment), properly installing AND grounding a lighting surge protector is key. The focus of this article will be on installing a lighting surge protector. If you wish to learn more about surge protectors, visit our Signal Booster Accessory Guide.
How to Install a Lightning Surge Protector?
Installing a surge protector, also known as lightning surge arresters or surge suppressors, is quite simple and can be done in a few steps.
Step 1 – Make Sure you Have the Right Surge Protector for Your Booster
Signal boosters and surge protectors both have impedance ratings – 50 Ohm or 75 Ohm. The surge protector's impedance rating must match that of the signal boosters for optimal results. Using the incorrect arrester could degrade the booster’s performance.
If you don’t know your repeater's impedance rating, you can easily find it in the manual. The unit’s connectors and coaxial cables can also help you determine the system's impedance. Boosters with type-N or SMA connections have an impedance rating of 50 Ohms, while those with type-F connections have an impedance rating of 75 Ohms. Alternatively, RG6 and RG11 cables are compatible with 75 Ohm suppressors, while Wilson400 or LMR®400-like cables are compatible with 50 Ohm suppressors.
Step 2 – Installing the Lightning Surge Protector
The surge protector should be installed between the outdoor antenna and the amplifier. Per the National Electrical Code (NEC), surge suppressors should be installed outside your building, close to the point of entry but away from combustible material.
Our high-quality lightning surge protector kits include a double-sided female coaxial lightning surge protector and a 2-foot double male coax cable — everything you need for an easy installation.
To install the surge arrester, you would:
- Connect a 2-foot cable to the outside antenna.
- Connect one end of the surge protector to the 2-foot cable – either end will work. Surge protectors are bi-directional, meaning they can’t be installed backward.
- Connect the other end of the surge protector to the coaxial cable that connects to the amplifier.
Step 3 – Grounding the Lightning Surge Protector
Grounding the surge protector is extremely important, otherwise, the lighting arrester won’t work. If the external antenna is shocked with high voltage energy, this step will help earth ground the energy.
To ground the surge protector, a grounding wire is needed (sold separately). It’s recommended to use a copper wire no smaller than 10 AWG. Reframe from using braided copper wire.
Attach the ground wire to the surge suppressor’s ground connector and use a set of pliers to crimp the wire on the connector firmly. The other end of the wire needs to be attached to a grounding point. When installing the wire, avoid creating any sharp bends.
Different Grounding Points:
- Ground Rod (Most Common): A metal rod outside buildings that's buried at least 8 feet into the ground.
- Metal Electrical Service Panel: Usually, the panel is connected to the grounding rod.
- Metal Electrical Raceway or Conduit: Typically, they are already grounded, simply attach a grounding strap to the electrical raceway or conduit.
- Water Pipe: The pipe must be in direct contact with the earth. Should only be done if the water pipe is 5 feet away from the entrance of your home AND if the pipe is at least 10 feet above the earth before entering your property.
- Metal Frame or Structure of a Building: Only use if no other option is available.
Avoid attaching the wire to materials that lead inside your home or building.
Step 4 – Grounding the Antenna Mast
Grounding the antenna mast is as important as grounding the surge protector – especially for tall antenna masts. As a matter of fact, it’s mandated by the NEC. All you need to do is attach the grounding wire to the mast and the grounding point. If the antenna mast is painted, scrape off some of the paint before installing.
PRO-TIP: Before grounding the surge protector and mast, we recommend checking local electrical code grounding rules. They tend to differ from city to city.
Lightning Surge Protector Installation Help
If you're not confident about installing and grounding your surge protector, we recommend calling a local electrician to do it for you, or give us a call at 1-800-568-2723 for help.
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