0
\$\begingroup\$

Is it worth electrically isolating the control box of a gate opener from a well grounded steel fence? Or does the grounding of the fence have the same effect?

My house is in a very lightning prone spot and has been struck with much damage twice in 10 years. The lot is surrounded by 2000' of steel wire fence attached to 1' deep steel t-posts every 12' and 2 3' deep 2.5" steel posts every 200'.

I'm installing a gate opener and am afraid it won't last long in these conditions. I can isolate the control box and everything connected to it except the wires from the gate lock and the actuator, which are bolted or welded to the steel gate and fence. I can run those wires through heavy duty surge protectors, which aren't cheap. Then I can ground the control box to a ground rod separate from the fence.

The gate opener is powered by a 12 volt battery in the control box, charged by a solar panel.

But is it worth going to this expense when the fence itself is grounded by the fence posts? Or since the fence is grounded can I just attach the control box directly to the steel posts with no difference? Is it worth doing something in between, or does only the weakest link matter?

\$\endgroup\$
1
\$\begingroup\$

Is it worth electrically isolating the control box of a gate opener from a well grounded steel fence?

Sorry about being pedantic: don't mix up Ground (GND) and Protection Earth (PE). GND is the 0V reference and current return for your circuit. PE is not necessarily at the same potential, and the words "Earthed" and "Grounded" have different meanings. In this case we're talking about earthing.

except the wires from the gate lock and the actuator, which are bolted or welded to the steel gate and fence.

I'm sure the live mains wires for these are not bolted to the gate, so this must mean that along with the actuator wires there is a protection earth wire coming out of the control box, and this one is connected to the steel gate, correct?

In this case... I assume your house is earthed via a metal post into the soil. Now, if this post is copper and the fence posts are galvanized steel, and you connect them with a wire, humidity and acidity in the soil will turn this into a copper/zinc battery whose poles are both posts and with the soil acting as electrolyte. A stray current will flow into the Protection Earth wire between the two posts, and they will corrode. If your house has underground metal tubes for water and these are also earthed, then maybe they will corrode too.

This is something one has to be aware of, so make sure you check before connecting the house's Protection Earth to the fence. No current should flow.

If the gate must be connected to the control box's protection earth... which makes sense since there is a mains power actuator in it... then if you have a stray current problem you can solve it with an insulation transformer.

EDIT

The gate opener is powered by a 12v battery which is solar charged, not attached to mains power.

OK so that makes the above irrelevant.

There is a wire labled "ground" coming from the control box. My main question is whether to connect it to the steel fence post or to a separate copper ground rod.

Yes in this case you can connect it to the closest piece of fence, or the gate post.

If lightning hits the fence you want the circuit's ground to be at the same potential as the fence. If you connect this ground to an earthed rod then the zapped fence will be at high voltage while your controller's ground will be earthed.

\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ There is a wire labled "ground" coming from the control box. My main question is whether to connect it to the steel fence post or to a separate copper ground rod. The gate opener is powered by a 12v battery which is solar charged, not attached to mains power. \$\endgroup\$ – Mori Dec 16 '18 at 16:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah well that makes my answer irrelevant LOL. I've edited. \$\endgroup\$ – peufeu Dec 16 '18 at 17:08

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.