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Author Topic: Question(s) for Fellow Apartment Dwellers  (Read 8763 times)

Posts: 51


« on: March 30, 2003, 01:22:54 AM »

I plan on acquiring my General Class license within a couple of months and am looking forward to getting on the HF bands.  I have a couple of concerns, however.  I'm basically wondering what you -- as an apartment dweller -- have experienced while operating on the HF bands and/or looking for suggestions you may have.

1).  I'm an apartment dweller, like a good number of you.  I live on the second floor, so I'm about ten feet or higher from the ground.  The windows that lead to the outside face the west and I have a pretty good view of the horizon.  I'm kind of in the center of the building, so you really can't see my windows from the ground level.  There's a building right beside my building (literally connected), and its roof is about two feet below the windows of my apartment on the west side.  I'm in the downtown area, though, so there may be some RFI from powerlines and the like.  

2).  While the landlord (or the lease) doesn't prohibit the use of antennas (even sticking them out the window), I'm going to assume that I can't.  

My concern is basically TVI/RFI.  I don't plan on using more than five to ten watts (SSB and CW mainly) so I'm not worried about overexposure to RF. I do plan on installing a low-pass filter on my rig so as to limit the TVI/RFI problem.    

I plan to operate on 20m and 10m, but I certainly don't want to limit myself to those bands.  Is there still a good chance that I'm going to interfere with my neighbors' TV, phone or stereo?  I'm sure the possibility still exists.  What has been your experience and what have you done to solve any problems.

Thank you for your time.


Posts: 24

« Reply #1 on: March 30, 2003, 01:22:09 PM »

Good Afternoon Fellow Apartment Dweller,
     I have for the past five years used my third floor apartment windows.  Using clip leads I linked all three window frames and connected that to my Dentron 80-10 antenna tuner. The counterpoise goes through the MFJ CounterPoise Tuner. My primary band is forty meters.  My rigs are the Ten-Tec Century-21(CW only) and the newest addition an SGC-2020ADSP. Now I can run SSB/CW.  Next I would like to connect an Antenna Coupler(SGC-237) to my window frame antenna and see how it tunes.  
                       Fred Lehman WD8MGO

Posts: 21764

« Reply #2 on: March 31, 2003, 12:34:40 PM »

It's impossible to make any sort of accurate predictions, you really have to just experiment.

However, it is extremely unlikely you'll cause TVI to your own or your neighbors' sets if everyone is on cable or satellite.  The majority of TVI problems occur when people are trying to use "off the air" broadcast signals, and if your apartment complex uses a community antenna system with distribution amplifiers, and people are connected to that, TVI is always a strong likelihood.  Those systems usually stink when it comes to RF immunity.  Commercial cable systems, on the other hand, are usually excellent.

Other problems that are likely: Setting off smoke detectors, and getting into neighbors' telephone lines which can interfere with not only their telephones but also computer modems, FAX machines and anything else they happen to have connected.

The best way to avoid all these things is to get your antenna(s) up, outside, and away from the building if at all possible.  Two ways I accomplished that when operating from a condominium (similar to an apartment, except I happened to own the unit) in the past:

1.  Installing a wire multiband inverted vee in a tree at the edge of the condominium common property, and feeding it using a nearly invisible run of black colored coaxial cable that ran behind shrubbery a long way and eventually entered my unit via the garage (under the door).  In this case, I had cable loss and risked having the cable cut or damaged (although it never was), but the antenna was more than 100 feet from my unit, or where anyone lived, so RFI/TVI problems were zero, even when I ran 1500W PEP output power on the HF bands.

2.  Installing a coaxial cable run through a rain downspout all the way from the roof of the condo (over 40' high) down to the ground, and then into my unit via a dryer vent; then, clandestinely installing ham antennas on the roof, accessed via a fire escape.  This was tricky, since I was trying not to be caught in the process, but it all worked out perfectly and got my antennas about 45' above ground and installed in such a way that they were impossible to see from anywhere, unless you happened to be flying over in an airplane.  Also, in this way, my antennas were at least 30-40 feet from any neighbors' living quarters, which again, goes a long way in reducing RFI/TVI.


Posts: 28

« Reply #3 on: April 13, 2003, 03:21:17 PM »

Here's another solution. It worked for me from a third floor apartment in a stick-built with stucco covered apartment complex. I used my "stealth" random length wire antenna. It is a 100 foot roll of No. 18 stranded copper with black insulation. Sold for $9 as auto hookup wire by a hardware store.

In the efficiency apartment, I laid out as much of it as I could from radio operating position toward the window wall, across the end and back along the other wall. It resulted in a "J" shaped antenna, with the undeployed rest of the roll left rolled up at the far end. Inductive "top hat?"

For grounding/counterpoise, I used a length of braid stripped from old coax therminating in a bannana plug which fit nicely into the ground hole in the nearest AC outlet. I checked to verify the AC wiring was correct and the ground acctually at ground potential before using it.

Tuner was my trusty MFJ 941D. Rig was a Kenwood TS-430s. For two years, I maintained regular weekly schedules on 20, did some 40 and 75 meter work mostly to the south and west of the place (the bottom of the J and its short side) and did some 10 and 15 QSOs into Europe and Russia aloang with a lot of SWLing with the hookup.  

Anything outside is better than anything inside. Anything inside is better than nothing at all.

Good luck!

Posts: 24


« Reply #4 on: April 17, 2003, 05:07:48 PM »

I've been operating in a second flor apartment for a couple of years now. I have two hamsticks attached to my balcony rail and the rail is used for the countepoise. One is for ten meters and the other is for 17 meters. I also have an MFJ antenna tuner. I use the tuner on all bands.

The ten meter stick only likes ten meters.

The 17 meter stick is another matter all together. It loads very well on twenty meters, of course 17 meters, good on 15 meters and fairly well on 12 meters. All bands, using the tuner have less than 1.1:1 SWR on all bands and good signal reports from all over the country and about 40 countries.

When I say good signal reports, I call 55 average. I do get 59s and some lower than 55 but I call it good for living in an apartment.

In the time I've been operating in this manner, I've had no TVI or RFI complaints running about 100 watts. I don't want to push it with higher power because I know it is a jury rigged system and increasing power might cause problems.

I get a good low SWR on 40 too but the power don't make it out too well. I haven't got a decent signal report. Oh well, how far can I push it?

As for stealth is concerned, there is a pond off the balcony. If anybody asks, they are fishing poles. If they want me to prove is all they have to do is wait until I get a length of line and a hook from my tackle box and a dough bal from a piece of bread. Seriously, no one has ever asked about them.

I hope this helps you.


Posts: 8

« Reply #5 on: May 01, 2003, 12:59:45 PM »

ANTENNA: You could run a nearly invisible small guage  black wire from your window down to the roof of the next bldg and subsequently along the lip of the roof and either on down thru the rainspout if made of plastic or just let it run secant to the lip of the roof. This is the first thing i would try in the situation as you have described it.

TVI: This would not appear to pose a problem-- certainly not at QRP [no more than 5W]!! If you are truly running QRP [viz. 5W ] then you should have nothing to worry about as far as RFI is concerned. Moreover running QRP on the low bands is a great challenge. Sounds fascinating and i wish you luck. But don't forget: the risk of RFI increases directly with the power...  

Posts: 3289

« Reply #6 on: May 07, 2003, 07:14:41 PM »

I had to give up my antenna farm and learn to operate from an apartment a couple years ago.  I have been using HF vertical antennas mounted in my stairwell between the second and third floors.  I have used the bottom half of a Hygain with the 10M, 15M and 20M sections, and am presently trying out a TarHeel screwdriver.   I recently replaced the 14AWG counterpoises with a 3 inch copper foil strip about 50 Ft long available at marine stores or from major vendors like HRO or AES (endorsed by Gordon West).  It is routed around the perimeter baseboard of my living room. The copper strip really improved the SWR and recieved signals (metal area matters)!  My rig auto tuner is now able to load up on 40M and above without using the MFJ 949E tuner.

Jim at RadioWorks sold me a coax line isolator to prevent the coax from radiating.  He also recommends NOT tying into the building electrical outlet grounds. He says that will prevent you reaching your neighbors electronics.  Jim has good recommendations in his catalog and is always glad to talk to customers.  
-Keep power low, below 50W.  I can gauge the RF by checking a small TV in the shack and any feedback through my computer speakers.
FINALLY:  Never tell your neighbors you are a ham, no matter where you live.  You will get blamed for everything.  Stealth is best.  73 Bill

Posts: 317

« Reply #7 on: May 18, 2003, 12:07:58 PM »

Keep all antennas inside. KB4QAA is correct - never tell anybody that you are a ham. That includes your license plates, etc.

I have used dipoles suspended from the ceiling. They worked quite well. Except the time I mistuned one of them and set off a few fire alarms.

Posts: 2


« Reply #8 on: May 24, 2003, 12:12:44 PM »

I live on the fifth floor of a large building, but I've got a big window to work with.

I built magnetic loop antennas out of copper pipe, with dimensions that hide them behind the window frames. From outside you don't see much. From inside they look like art! I have a J-pole for 2m and 70cm. I'm in California, and I've made HF contacts in New England, the Caribbean and Japan, no problem. My loop antennas work nicely for 40, 20, and 15 meters. I'm still trying to figure out how to get on 80 meters.

I recommend an antenna analyzer. When you're working with compromise or homebrew antennas, it'll save you lots of grief and guesswork. You want to get the most out of every watt, since you'll need to keep the power down.

My biggest problem was ground. The building's electrical ground was useless or worse than useless. The MFJ artificial ground solved this problem nicely. It's poorly constructed, though. I think there's another company that makes artificial ground units. They work.

Everything is plugged into a Belkin power strip with isolator filters. I didn't detect any difference in RFI when I installed the isolator, but it still seems like a good idea.

I'd recommend that you keep a television and some audio equipment near your radios and antenna. I occasionally hear a low hiss from the computer's audio amplifier 4 feet from the radios, but I'm pretty sure my neighbors don't know I'm here. I think that's the best strategy: be sure that the first complaint never happens.

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