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Author Topic: Apartment dwelling ham newbie with questions  (Read 14499 times)
DEEJ59
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Posts: 8




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« on: April 15, 2014, 08:58:51 PM »


Hi, everyone.  I hope I'm doing this right and not messing up protocol.

I'm only a month and a half into the ham world.  My grandfather and his brother-in-law were hams, so I fell in love with it at age 4 and promised myself and everyone I knew that I'd eventually get a license and and go for it.  At 54 I decided it's time to stop just talking about it.

Here's the problem, though.  I live in an apartment about 2/3rds of the way up a small mountain in the Cascade foothills of Washington State.  The summit is behind our apartment.  My office, which will be my ham shack as well, looks straight into the trees facing the other way from the summit.  The trees are very tall and thick, going about half a mile before it hits a road.  There's a window that has about a 20% sliver that looks at a spot near the summit.  There are several antenna towers up there, but I haven't learned enough about this to know what they are, apart from a few of Seattle's FM station towers.  The apartment managers don't allow us to put up antennas that can be seen by other tenants.  There is a deck facing the woods, and it can't be seen by other tenants, so if there's such thing as a low profile antenna that can get signal through the trees, that'd be wonderful.  So far, my searches for answers online have been useless.  This is the first truly active forum I've found thus far.  I am budgeting only about $1500 for a radio AND antenna, so I'm going to need a lot of advice, and I'm hoping I can pick your brains (all of you).

I guess the starter question is just this:  Is there a small antenna that can either fit in a window (inside) or wrap around a deck railing, one that gives me the power to talk to people out there or hit a satellite or a repeater (still not 100% clear on the whole repeater thing)?  Thanks in advance for any help you can give me. 
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W1JKA
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« Reply #1 on: April 16, 2014, 04:17:55 AM »

Sounds like your office may be in your apartment, if so do you have roof or attic access? Antenna feed line doesn't have to go direct to an antenna that you can only see from your shack window.
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W8JX
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« Reply #2 on: April 16, 2014, 04:24:47 AM »

He did not state if he was going to do HF. If so he could string a thin long wire from porch to trees and fee it with a tuner and it should perform well. 
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N3HEE
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Posts: 120




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« Reply #3 on: April 16, 2014, 09:09:14 AM »

Welcome!  You have a good budget to work with and probably some workable antenna options as well.  Please give us more info on how you plan to operate.  HF, VHF/UHF, Repeaters.  This will greatly effect the advise you will receive.  If you are interested in VHF/UHF operations then a small antenna, such as a mobile type antenna, mounted to your deck will work fine.  If you are interested in world wide HF operations then the antenna will be a little bigger or maybe a wire running through the trees.  Either way you have options that will get you on the air.  This is a fine group and I'm sure you will get some good advise.  -Joe
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DEEJ59
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« Reply #4 on: April 16, 2014, 11:10:52 AM »


Thanks for replying, everyone. 

I am still trying to figure out the basics of all of this.  For instance, I don't know if only operating VHF would be severely limiting.  I want to talk to people all over the world, if possible.  Can you have many QSOs world-wide while limited to VHF?  I have assumed I wanted to do HF and VHF, but if HF requires a noticeable antenna I won't be able to do that.  The apartment's rules forbid it.  No stringing a wire to the trees because, while there's just forest in front of my office windows, there's a narrow walking strip below, so people would see a wire running out into the trees.  Whatever solution I go with, it's going to have to be useful while positioned either on a windowsill or on the part of our deck that's under an overhang and can't be seen by others.  Either that or something that can be disguised. 

In case it matters, we live on the second floor of a three floor building.  And to answer W1JKA's question, I have no roof or attic access.  Also, I'm disabled and wouldn't be able to get on the roof even if I had access.  The disabled thing is another limitation, I realize.  Whatever the solution, it'll have to be something I can do without much mobility.

Here's the view out of my office windows, just to show you the tall tree situation. My office is the re-purposed dining room of our apartment.  The room is a heptagon, with the 7th side being the opening into the rest of the apartment.  Five of the sides have windows.  Two of those sides are covered with huge bookshelves that have nowhere else in the apartment to be, leaving two windows in the pictures and the one directly behind me, which points generally toward the top of Cougar Mountain, a very tiny mountain in Issaquah, Washington.  We live about 2/3rds of the way up.





I hope I covered all pertinent points.  Please let me know if more information would help.  Thanks, everyone.  I'm so relieved to find this place.

DJ



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AA4PB
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« Reply #5 on: April 16, 2014, 12:58:23 PM »

On HF you are going to be a bit limited if you are restricted to the deck. I'd suggest perhaps an MFJ-1782 loop antenna if you can handle the cost. http://www.mfjenterprises.com/Product.php?productid=MFJ-1782 It could be set up on the balcony and you could run the control line inside so that you can adjust it from your operating position.

On VHF or UHF you might be able to hit some repeaters because it sounds like you have a height advantage and the deck (I assume) is facing away from the mountain. The trees shouldn't be a major issue since your apartment is up near the top of them. VHF isn't going to give you world-wide coverage, although some repeaters can link via the Internet to other repeaters around the world. In that case your radio signal is only local. An antenna could be as simple as a mobile whip (about 18 inches for 2M) attached to a 20" x 20" metal plate and set out on the deck. If you get a steel plate you could use a magnet mount for the whip.

You can purchase a 5-Watt Handi-Talki for as little as about $60 these days so that might be an inexpensive way to get started and see what repeaters you can hit from your location. You can usually find repeater directory info on the Internet to see what frequencies and tones to program into the radio for repeaters located in your area.

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AF5CC
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Posts: 941




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« Reply #6 on: April 16, 2014, 08:14:53 PM »

Congrats on the license. Hope you enjoy this hobby as much as I have for the 34 years I have been licensed!

While in graduate school I had a 20 meter bent dipole running through the bedroom (where the shack was) kitchen, and living room in my apartment. Also used it on 17, 15, 12, and 10 with a tuner.  Not the most ideal antenna but worked WAS and DXCC with it.  Any antenna is better than no antenna, and it doesn't get much simpler than a dipole.

John AF5CC
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N3HEE
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Posts: 120




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« Reply #7 on: April 17, 2014, 06:28:01 AM »

Take a look at the MFJ Apartment Antenna.  It is inexpensive, small, easy to install and covers both HF and VHF (40-2 meters) bands.  http://www.mfjenterprises.com/Product.php?productid=MFJ-162  It comes with everything you need to get on the air.
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DEEJ59
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Posts: 8




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« Reply #8 on: April 17, 2014, 08:42:07 AM »


Thanks again for the help, everyone.

M3HEE: I'm looking at the MFJ and I am not finding any images (Google) that show more than four inches of antenna.  They're all cropped.  Can you tell me if this is a long antenna that would have to stick out over the deck?  Thanks.

AF5CC: I considered dipole, until I looked it up (again on Google) and saw what they look like.  My wife is very supportive of this right now.  I think any antenna that has to be strung through the apartment would change her attitude pretty fast.  By the way, sorry if I wasn't clear, but I don't have my license yet.  I've decided to GET it, though, and am currently studying for the Technician ticket.  I'm surprised at how much of it I get, considering I never understood anything about electronics before, but it's still not a clear picture.  I'll get it, though. 

AA4PB: I did some reading on the MFJ-1782, and it sounds fantastic for my situation.  At $410 bucks it'd break my budget, though.  I'm going to set up a watch for it on E-Bay, though.  I think I really do want to be able to work 2 and 6 meters, but I can get a different small antenna for that.  Thanks for the suggestion.  As for the trees in front of my office and the deck, some of them are about 40 feet over my window level, but there are spots of clear sky.  Maybe that's all it takes?  I have no idea.

SO much to learn.
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W8JX
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Posts: 6075




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« Reply #9 on: April 17, 2014, 09:27:25 AM »

When I suggested a wire to trees they make a thin wire antenna with low visibility. Indoor HF antennas can be a can of worms from noise pickup and causing RFI. You could also put a wire up at night and take it down during day too.
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N3HEE
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Posts: 120




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« Reply #10 on: April 17, 2014, 09:29:31 AM »

Sorry, the link got cut off.  Here you go.  http://www.mfjenterprises.com/Product.php?productid=MFJ-1622

The MFJ-1622 Apartment Antenna covers 40 through 2 Meters, mounts outdoor to windows, balconies, railings, and works great indoors mounted to desks, tables, and bookshelves!
This Apartment Antenna lets you operate 40 through 10 Meters on HF and 6 and 2 Meters on VHF with a single antenna! Its universal mount/clamp lets you easily attach it to window frames, balconies, and railings. It also works great indoors mounted to a desk, table, or bookshelf. Its not a five element yagi, but youll work your share of exciting DX!
The highly-efficient air wound bug catcher loading coil and telescoping 5 1/2 foot radiator lets you really get out! The radiator collapses to 2 1/2 feet for easy storage and carrying.
It includes coax RF choke balun, coax feed line, counterpoise wire and safety rope. The operating frequency is adjusted by moving the wander lead on the coil and adjusting the counterpoise for the best SWR.

It would not have to stick out over the deck.  There is a counterpoise wire that you can string around the inside of the deck floor.  The length of the wire depends on what frequency you are operating on.  

How big is the deck?
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DEEJ59
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Posts: 8




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« Reply #11 on: April 18, 2014, 03:08:52 PM »


W8JX: I see what you mean.  I'm still not sure it wouldn't be seen from the ground below us, but there is one branch that reaches right to the deck, so that might be a possibility if I can't get it to work well enough with just a main antenna on the deck itself. 

N3HEE: If the MFJ-1622 can easily mount to a bookshelf, that could be a solution right there.  I have large bookshelves against two of the window walls.  If I could mount an antenna to the BACK of a bookshelf (they're enclosed) it would be right up against a window, on this side of the blinds.  The blinds are metal.  Would that cause any kind of interfence (the blinds)?  They would need to remain shut if there's an antenna visible like that.  And pardon my most likely hilariously dumb questions.  All this is still so new to me.

I'll look up "counterpoise wire".  That one sounds promising, too.  Meanwhile, here's a very rough map of our deck.  Proportions are not accounted for, to put it nicely.  But the measurements are listed. 

Thanks again, folks.  You're a nice bunch.

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LA9XNA
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Posts: 109




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« Reply #12 on: April 21, 2014, 03:10:54 AM »

You can make a wireloop in between the railing and the roof on your balcony.
Make some standoffs in a insulated material and use a tuner close to the feed point.
Depending on the size of your loop you can operate on several bands.
On the UHF/VHF bands you can use a fiberglass vertical like the Diamond X-30 or X-50 and camouflage it as a flag pole.
An magloop is also an option you can at least get some of the higher HF bands.

http://www.hamlearningnet.org/dl/Stealth_Antennas.pdf
http://voices.yahoo.com/stealth-ham-radio-antennas-guide-2032424.html
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W6UV
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« Reply #13 on: April 21, 2014, 10:57:54 AM »

Mobile is another option. Do you have a car?
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W0AEW
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« Reply #14 on: April 21, 2014, 03:32:37 PM »

https://amateurradiostore.com/all-alpha-antennas-c-2/1540-meter-microtune-magnetic-loop-antenna-tripod-mount-bag-p-282

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