Can you get an electric shock by touching an antenna?

Oh boy, I better get this right. I don’t want to mislead anyone on something this important. Because electricity is serious business. So, let’s jump in. Before I do, though, the bloodsucking lawyers have told me that I have to remind you of something. You should not do things just because you read them on the internet. You are a person with agency and you have the power to make your own decisions. We can’t be held responsible for the choices you make, so make them safely.

What is an antenna?

An antenna is, by definition, a device that conducts electricity that travels through the air. So, yes, you’re technically getting a small electric shock every time you hold a metal rod up in the air. But it’s SMALL. Think, like, 1/10,000th of a watt, so tiny that you don’t realize it. Walking across a carpet in socks and touching the doorknob is like 1000 times worse and let’s face facts, you get over the doorknob thing pretty easily.

An antenna is designed to conduct electricity. I’ve told you how all broadcasting is really just wireless electricity. A broadcast signal is encoded into electrical current. The current is then modified so that its waves are at a specific length (unlike the 60Hz of regular electricity in this country). Then it’s amplified to a ridiculous level and pumped into the air. There’s so much electricity that a metal rod of a certain length will conduct it right out of the air.

BUT you should know that an antenna has the potential to conduct a lot of electricity. I mean, a LOT. If there’s a potential for a lightning strike, you don’t want to be anywhere near an antenna. Antennas do a very good job of conducting electricity, and that means lightning strikes just as much as it means TV broadcasting. If you’re touching an antenna when lightning strikes, you’re done for. Period. If you’re even near an antenna you could be severely hurt. So while it’s not going to hurt you at all to touch an antenna on a sunny day, let’s be super clear here- don’t get up on the roof if you even suspect lightning. It could ruin your whole day, to say the least.

Another possibility

A commenter on an earlier version of this article mentioned that it’s also possible to get a shock from an antenna amplifier. An amplifier will send from 5 – 12 volts up the line and this potentially could shock you depending on what part of the antenna you touch. That voltage shouldn’t flow into the antenna elements, but anything is possible. Remember that your antenna is outside in the elements for years and sometimes damage does occur.

Need a new antenna?

If you’re worried that your old antenna isn’t safe anymore, or even if you just want better reception, there’s one place you can go. You’ll find the best selection of antennas for indoors and outdoors at Solid Signal. Shop now for the antenna you’ll need to get today’s broadcasts, and tomorrow’s.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 7,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.