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Author Topic: Need Antenna Advise for Condo Balcony  (Read 91811 times)
N3AEG
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Posts: 40




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« on: August 30, 2013, 04:19:30 AM »

Hi all,

I just got my general ticket this week and I'm starting to look for an HF radio.  I live on the 3rd floor of a 4 floor condo which is going to limit me to the type of antenna I can use.  The rules for the condo don't allow antennas outside unless for TV or satellite so I need to be stealth.  I need some suggestions for antennas that I can put on the balcony since I have no access to the attic nor can I put anything beyond the edge where people can see it.

I stopped in at the Delaware Ham Radio Outlet and the person recommended a 20m dipole and to wrap it around a PVC pipe.  I'm not sure how will this will work.  It would be nice to have multiple bands, but I'm ok if I'm limited to 20m.  Also, I'm concerned about grounding.  Can I ground to the electrical outlet on the balcony?

Thanks,

Leo
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WX7G
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Posts: 6136




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« Reply #1 on: August 30, 2013, 04:32:34 AM »

I've used a variety of HF antennas in five apartments from 160 to 10 meters. If the building is wood framed an indoor antenna will work as well as a balcony antenna. A balanced antenna (dipole) can result in less RF in the building AC wiring. For all bands and ease of use I recommend the Buddipole.

http://www.buddipole.com/

If you like to experiment a manual antenna tuner such as the MFJ-901B ($99) and some wire strung through the apartment and you're on the air.

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AD5X
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Posts: 1432




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« Reply #2 on: August 30, 2013, 04:36:46 AM »

Look at the 40-10 meter portable dipole in the "Articles" section of my website at www.ad5x.com.  There are pictures of it mounted in a condo balcony.  This is my antenna of choice when we stay in a condo in Port Aransas, TX.

Phil - AD5X
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N4JTE
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Posts: 1158




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« Reply #3 on: August 30, 2013, 05:20:43 PM »

DO NOT CONNECT ANYTHING TO THE ELECTRICAL OUTLET !
Bob
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KQ6Q
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Posts: 991




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« Reply #4 on: August 31, 2013, 01:54:30 PM »

For HF operation on a balcony,consider one of the MFJ Mag Loops if you can afford one - see the reviews here on eham.
Also consider one of the portable dipole setups, either Buddipole or from Superantennas or MFJ.
You can also consider going QRP Portable for operation in the park - if you operate HF in a condo
environment, you're certain to get into people's stereo systems and have much RFI grief.
Visit your local ham club and have someone bring over a portable HF setup, and see what they can do
from your location, and they'll have sound recommendations for you.
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VE3WMB
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Posts: 289




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« Reply #5 on: September 01, 2013, 09:22:06 PM »

As someone else suggested, look at the Eham reviews for the MFJ-1786 (30m to 10m) and the MFJ-1788 (40m to 15m) Magnetic loop antennas. Mounted on a tripod I think you could easily pass one of these off as a
satellite TV antenna and they work very well. 

http://www.eham.net/reviews/detail/174
http://www.eham.net/reviews/detail/2992

Best of luck

Michael VE3WMB

Hi all,

I just got my general ticket this week and I'm starting to look for an HF radio.  I live on the 3rd floor of a 4 floor condo which is going to limit me to the type of antenna I can use.  The rules for the condo don't allow antennas outside unless for TV or satellite so I need to be stealth.  I need some suggestions for antennas that I can put on the balcony since I have no access to the attic nor can I put anything beyond the edge where people can see it.

I stopped in at the Delaware Ham Radio Outlet and the person recommended a 20m dipole and to wrap it around a PVC pipe.  I'm not sure how will this will work.  It would be nice to have multiple bands, but I'm ok if I'm limited to 20m.  Also, I'm concerned about grounding.  Can I ground to the electrical outlet on the balcony?

Thanks,

Leo
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JAHAM2BE
Member

Posts: 277


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« Reply #6 on: September 02, 2013, 07:41:06 PM »

I live on the 3rd floor of a 4 floor condo which is going to limit me to the type of antenna I can use.  The rules for the condo don't allow antennas outside unless for TV or satellite so I need to be stealth.  I need some suggestions for antennas that I can put on the balcony since I have no access to the attic nor can I put anything beyond the edge where people can see it.

The magnetic loop suggested above is one good solution. However, they are expensive to buy, and tricky to build (you have to make the entire assembly as close to zero resistance as possible, requiring obsessive attention to milliohm-level losses).

Another option is a shortened dipole antenna. If you're a little handy with construction, you can build one yourself: it's just some aluminum tubing and copper wire (used to form the loading coils and the capacity hats). You're basically creating two high-Q, low-loss "Texas Bugcatcher" style antennas, and feeding them against each other to make a dipole (which, being a balanced antenna, will need no separate ground plane). Search eham for the "N3OX balcony dipole" and you will find a lot of good advice on how to make a similar antenna.

Here are some links on this style of antenna:
http://www.eham.net/ehamforum/smf/index.php/topic,82262.msg588479.html#msg588479
http://www.eham.net/ehamforum/smf/index.php/topic,76604.msg529158.html#msg529158
http://www.eham.net/ehamforum/smf/index.php?topic=82054.0

Here's my version of this balcony dipole antenna. In the horizontal orientation:


In the vertical orientation (should theoretically be better for DX):



You'll need to use your ingenuity to decide how to build the capacity hats. Here's how I did mine:


You might also do some research on "double-T vertical antennas", which are basically the same kind of antenna (vertical dipoles) except each capacity hat is reduced down to just two spokes.

Since you're aiming for 20m, it should be possible to make a small antenna (only 2m or 3m long) that still retains high intrinsic efficiency. The biggest problem will be the detrimental effect of the building, which is hard to predict.

Good luck!
« Last Edit: September 02, 2013, 07:45:52 PM by JAHAM2BE » Logged

W9GB
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Posts: 2626




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« Reply #7 on: September 03, 2013, 07:40:48 PM »

Maco® BA1 Balcony Antenna
http://www.macoantennas.net/NewProducts.html
The new Maco® BA1 Balcony Antenna has been designed to be used on the 10/11 meter bands. It can be mounted either horizontally or vertically, depending on the operator's preference. This 1/2-wave antenna can be mounted on a wrought iron or wooden balcony, making it the perfect solution for operators who have limited space or cannot have a permanent installation.
5 dB gain.
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K5LXP
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Posts: 4507


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« Reply #8 on: September 04, 2013, 06:24:24 AM »

Maco® BA1 Balcony Antenna ...This 1/2-wave antenna...5 dB gain.

Gee, I would think on 11M a half wave would be good for at least 10dB.

Mark K5LXP
Albuquerque, NM

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KA4NMA
Member

Posts: 348




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« Reply #9 on: September 09, 2013, 11:53:53 PM »

Maco® BA1 Balcony Antenna ...This 1/2-wave antenna...5 dB gain.

Gee, I would think on 11M a half wave would be good for at least 10dB.

Mark K5LXP
Albuquerque, NM



Since it is a 10/11m antenna, you take the gain (10) and divide it among the 2 bands which is 5.  Don't forget the new math.  Be sure to check out some of the gain numbers on other Maaco antenna's.

Randy Ka4nma
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W9FIB
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Posts: 799




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« Reply #10 on: September 11, 2013, 04:14:30 AM »

So if it covers 4 bands it would only have 2.5 dB gain? The "new math" seems rather fuzzy. Can you show what "new math" your using?
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KA4NMA
Member

Posts: 348




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« Reply #11 on: September 13, 2013, 10:26:37 AM »

I was joking.  On a more serious note, check the gain figures of 11m antennas and compare them to conventional antenna theory and practice.

Randy ka4nma
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WA6MJE
Member

Posts: 71




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« Reply #12 on: September 14, 2013, 08:28:22 PM »

The first choice for a balcony would be a mag loop, the MFJ works well but it pricy.  But it is small, about 36" diameter, and can be mounted on a musicians speaker tripod, vertically or horizontally.  I own one and use it on my third floor condo and it works. 

I also own a Buddipole and it also works, but will need more space.  Think of the Buddypole as an "antenna erector set" and try many configurations.  You will be limited to mostly vertical.  But since there is someone above you, you cannot just go up with a thin vertical.  I add a screwdriver type coil so I can tune indoors, and if needed keep the vertical small on lower bands.  Since you are on the third floor you probably could get away with dropping a thin wire resonant counterpoise straight down with a weight at the end, as long as it went along a wall instead of in front of someone elses balcony where it would be a shock hazard.  I have also used the 16 foot stainless steel telescoping whips you can get from MFJ with the Buddypole, and using those, screwdriver coils, and so on I have no problem coming up with something that works.

But the Mag loop is by far the smallest, less obtrusive and also leaves some of your balcony for use as a balcony.  If you do not want to pay for the MFJ mag loop, the Alex Loop (www.alexloop.com) is cheaper and easier to move around, but is limited to about 12 watts.  I own one of those and it works well with my Elecraft KX3. 

I gave up trying to get various wire dipoles, short dipoles etc to work, but some have had success with these. Buddipole verticals and mag loops have worked like a champ for me in a confined space.
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WB8VLC
Member

Posts: 123




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« Reply #13 on: September 30, 2013, 11:28:46 PM »

Huh, you mention outside tv antenna is allowed.   Why not add to the fun and find an old channel 2tv antenna and make some minor mods and your on 6 meters too or better yet a vhf low vhf hi tv log and with some mods your on 6 and 2 meters but of course you need to see if the nazi regulations will let you have a rotator otherwise your limited to a certain geographical area but still better than indoor antennas.
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KA4NMA
Member

Posts: 348




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« Reply #14 on: October 01, 2013, 07:55:36 AM »

Put up a TV antenna, as high as possible.  Run the TV twin lead to a tuner with the ends tied together.  Add a good radial system and you have a multiband top loaded "vertical" antenna.  I have not tried this, but I have heard of people using this system.  A SGC tuner would work good for this system.

Randy ka4nma
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