Can you electrocute yourself on an antenna?


Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about this for a minute. Going up on the roof can be a dangerous pursuit, especially if you live somewhere icy. You absolutely should take every possible precaution when you’re up on the roof. Make sure you’re wearing secure and tough footwear (in case there’s a loose nail), make sure you have a friend watching from the bottom of the ladder, and above all never ever ever go up on the roof when there’s even the slightest chance of lightning.

Now that I’ve scared you…

OK, so there is very little chance of being electrocuted by touching an antenna unless the antenna is struck by lightning. The television signals received by your antenna are far too weak to give you even a passing jolt. As long as it’s a sunny day and you’re taking all other safety precautions, you should have no worries about touching an antenna up on the roof.

Will lightning hit your antenna?

Hopefully not. Hopefully you’ve grounded it properly so there is less static buildup around it. Grounding is one of those things people talk about and they don’t do. That’s a shame because it’s simple and really saves a lot of heartbreak. I will say that if lightning does strike, there’s going to be a lot of damage. Grounding is a way to make sure that’s just not going to happen.

Does it matter if your antenna is encased in plastic?

The risk of being hit by lightning isn’t any higher or lower depending on if the antenna is encased in plastic. The plastic covers of antennas (collectively called “radomes” even if they are not domes) are designed to allow electricity to pass through. They are supposed to be invisible to signals and so handling a plastic-covered antennas isn’t really any safer. Well, there is one way a plastic-covered antenna is safer: with bare metal antennas I suppose you could put an eye out if you horse around up there. Ha lot harder to do that with a big hunk of plastic. But either way, don’t horse around up there.

What about amplified antennas?

An amplified antenna gets power from the coaxial cable. Usually we’re talking about between 5 and 12 volts here so while you could receive a little bit of electricity, it’s akin to touching the end of your phone’s charging cable or running your finger across the two terminals of a 9-volt battery. If you feel anything at all it’s going to be a very mild buzz. It’s not going to be enough to actually hurt you.

So is the threat of electrocution real?

I feel like if you’ve gotten this far down the article you might be feeling like there are some mixed signals. So let me circle back around. No you can’t electrocute yourself just by touching an antenna. No you can’t be hurt by touching an installed antenna on a sunny day when there’s no chance of lightning. Yes,  you can be seriously injured if lightning strikes an antenna even if it’s properly grounded.

The big takeaway here, folks, is common sense. Don’t go up on the roof if there’s any risk. Just wait until it’s safer. You’ll be glad you did.

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 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.