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Author Topic: New ham needs help with planning shack  (Read 915 times)
KE5QKT
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Posts: 76




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« on: September 15, 2007, 05:33:21 AM »

Hi All,  I am a brand new ham, just received my general ticket, and am in the process of planning my shack.  To this end, my first dilemma concerns where to locate the shack within my home. Unfortunately there are really no ideal locations to place the shack, but nevertheless I have identified the three best possible spots and I will describe the pro and con of each from my perspective, but I need some guidance from the experts to avoid any big time faux paux.  Most likely I will be going with a vertical antenna with a tilt mount in my backyard and possibly a dipole as a 2nd antenna if I can hide it sufficently. We have very strict antenna restrictions that preclude a tower or roof mount.

Option 1)  This is a large windowless 1st floor (slab construction) closet that is on an outside wall of the house and would be closest to the point where I would be mounting my antenna.  Also, my electrical/fios service panels are located on the exterior side of the closet’s wall which would provide a very short run for a ground wire and creating an SPG (assume I would need to space out a few additional 8’ ground rods that would be bonded together and also tied to the electrical ground rod).  

Pro – shortest distance for both feedline (~50 ft) and ground wire (strap).

Con – Not much space or elbow room, could get a computer desk in there, but hardly any room to stretch out and put your feet up.  No electrical outlets in closet, but that is not a big issue. Closet also has three air conditioning compressors located just outside on the exterior wall of the closet, and I am not sure if this would preclude this location due to potential interference.  My burglar alarm system panel is also mounted inside this closet.

Option 2)  I have a 1st floor den with a built in desk that would be an appropriate size for my gear and would be very comfortable.  Also, the desk is adjacent to an outside wall where I could pass thru a feedline and groundstrap. Based on my circumstances, I am thinking this would be the best choice.

Pro – built in desk, lots of power outlets, reasonably good location as the room is only being used as a guest bedroom and a night time sleeping spot by one of our cats.

Con – further feedline distance (~100 ft) than Option 1 and also it would be further to connect the SPG ground to the electrical ground.  Another concern here would be that the feedline and ground wire would also have to pass by the three air conditioning compressors that I mentioned above, but the actual station equipment would be further away from these units.

Option 3) This is a large gameroom over the garage and it currently serves as my office and man cave Smiley

Pro – plenty of room and if technical obstacles did not present themselves this would be my ideal choice, but the technical challenges don’t look good for this spot.

Con – this room is totally on the other end of the house and is on 2nd floor. This would require a very long feedline run (225 ft+), but what is even worse, it would require a very long run to tie SPG back to the electrical ground.

One other challenge with my QTH is that I discovered there are two other hams in my immediate neighborhood, one of which is directly behind me and he also has a ground mounted vertical in his backyard.  Hope this doesn’t create any major overload/stepping on each other; guess I may need to talk to them and see if we can some how coordinate so as not cause each other problems. Although not germane to this post the other major purchase decisions I am trying to make is whether to go with an ICOM 746Pro or a Kenwood TX2000 and antenna wise, a BigIR, a Hustler or ZeroFive.  Well at least that is my initial list of possibilities.  I am mainly interested in phone and digital modes between 80 and 10M (due to CCR and antenna size may have to limit it between 10 and 40), but I may give code a try as well, although I am sure if I have the patience to do that.

Sorry for the lengthy post and would appreciate any guidance you can provide.

Thanks,

Doug
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W5GA
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Posts: 430




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« Reply #1 on: September 15, 2007, 07:11:14 AM »

First off, CONGRATULATIONS on the new ticket!!

1. Forget the closet.
2. None of the distances you mention are prohibitive from a feedline standpoint if you are using good coax on HF.

After reading your post, I'd vote for the office. If you get to where you are spending long stints in the chair, comfort becomes an issue. If you aren't comfortable you want to be there. The only issue I see here is what the wife will say about you soaking up 2 areas for your "man cave". The area over your garage would work also if you can address the comfort aspect.

The grounding issue from there is another story. I'll leave that to those better versed in it.

The vertical antenna is a good idea, but keep in mind that neither the Steppir nor the Zero Five have an insignificant vertical footprint. They are tall! Don't know how your HOA will look at that. Also, if you don't have room for radials you might be better served with something else. Same with a BTV. A full size 1/4 wave vertical on 40 is about 33' tall. 80 may be a challenge for you as it's going to be about 65' tall.

The BTV is only about 25' tall, and is the cheapest of the 3, see dx engineerings web site. It also offers good performance with a proper radial field.

Have you seen what the other hams in your neighborhood have done besides seeing that one has a vertical? How is it installed, does he have radials etc? Talking to them will be a good idea, as you both may need some additional filtering to avoid interfering with each other. That will depend on power level and how far apart the antennas actually end up being.

For a radio, that will depend on how you end up operating. The Kenwood is a do everything radio, so it has lots of compromises built in. If you end up contesting or dxing it may not be the best choice. The Icom is a good radio for those uses, but it won't do all the other stuff that the Kenwood will. My personal choice would be "none of the above", as I dx and contest. I'd go for used radio with a better receiver, my current rig being a Ten-Tec Omni 6+.

Good Luck!

Doug
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KE5QKT
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Posts: 76




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« Reply #2 on: September 15, 2007, 10:20:29 AM »

Doug,  Thanks for your comments.  I am not totally sure what the other neighborhood hams are using for an antenna, although the guy behind me appears to have a ground mounted Hustler.  He also has a small solar panel at the base of his antenna which I assume might be there to power a remote auto tuner???

The peak of my roof is ~ 28 ft tall, so I would like to keep antenna size close to that, but also want to use a tilting mount so I can lay it down in high winds or if the HOA says something.  I suppose I could ask permission before putting it up, but given how aggressive our neighborhood HOA is, it might be better to ask for forgiveness later if caught.  Also, the antenna will be hidden by trees behind it and to one side and should not be very visible to my immediate neighbors. I was planning to use LMR-400, the variety that can be burried, and will run it through some burried PVC.

73s,

Doug
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ONAIR
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« Reply #3 on: September 15, 2007, 07:17:44 PM »

    I agree to go for the "Man Cave"...  YLs and XYLs can cause loads of trouble.  BE AS STEALTH AS POSSIBLE WITH YOUR ANTENNAS!  Sounds like you live in HOA Hell, so do what you can to keep everything hidden from the Gestapo!
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KG4DXS
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« Reply #4 on: September 15, 2007, 09:06:37 PM »

My advice, plan your shack; outside your home.
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KB9CRY
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« Reply #5 on: September 15, 2007, 09:17:15 PM »

Option 2 is best.  Plenty of room and plenty of outlets.  Coax run listed is no big deal and your SPG bonding to the service entrance is done outdoors; just make sure you  use large wire or strap (I use #4 bare solid).

The neighbors and you will have to learn to get along; be very active and you'll dictate the bands.  Get an amp!!

You may need bandpass filters also so you can use part of a given band while they use the other part.  They may not be very active anyway.

The SteppIr vertical would be first choice with the ZeroFive second.
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N3BIF
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« Reply #6 on: September 15, 2007, 10:44:25 PM »

 I would opt for number 2 as well. If it were me I wouldn't want to be that far from the rest of the house and family during non working hours. The office should not be occupied beyond normal hours. As far as conflicts with the neighbor hams I would not worry about it unless a problem presents itself. Not likely that you will share interests to that extent as there is so many ways to enjoy radio.
  Another option would be both 2 and 3 many hams have rigs throughout the house. I have a standby hf set up in my guest room in addition to the basement shack.
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ONAIR
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« Reply #7 on: September 16, 2007, 03:22:41 AM »

    Yep, and don't forget a mobile station as well.  This way you'll have a place to operate in case the HOA and XYL kicks you out of the house!
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NA0AA
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« Reply #8 on: September 16, 2007, 01:55:08 PM »

I'm going to throw down for No. 2 as well, although I can appreciate No. 3.  I just moved my shack into a ground floor room and while I miss my former view, the better ground access and sound isolation work too.

One thing I really like in my shack is a workbench that is NOT the radio table, there I can solder and work w/out disturbing the radio setup and if I want a break, the station is operational.
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KE5QKT
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Posts: 76




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« Reply #9 on: September 17, 2007, 12:30:47 PM »

Well it looks like option 2 will be it, however, I may now try a DX-EE attic dipole before an external vertical.  If it works great, if not, then there is always outside.  Very tough hoa police in my neighborhood. Thanks for the advice!
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K8KAS
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« Reply #10 on: September 18, 2007, 07:42:11 AM »

Make sure you can supply the shack with an RF ground, your ground rods are fine for DC protection but remember your playing with RF and as such your need an RF ground as well. take a look in the Handbook and see whats called for, I use a number (30) of 30 ft to 40 ft radials spread in the back yard and 4 rods. My shack is dead cold to RF and the likes, lots of Hams forget this and wonder why they have all sorts of control/feedback and interference problems.
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KE5QKT
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« Reply #11 on: September 18, 2007, 09:11:32 AM »

That is certainly important with a vertical, but I have reconsidered my antenna choice and will most likely try an attic dipole first, and don't believe this will require an rf ground.
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NA0AA
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« Reply #12 on: September 19, 2007, 11:24:47 AM »

Don't underestimate the value of your operating desk.

I had a station for almost two years before I got to put together my current station.  Having enough room is really helpful in the early days when you are always changing things around.
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N5XM
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« Reply #13 on: September 19, 2007, 03:19:02 PM »

I also agree with no. 2.  You will spend a lot of time in the shack, and it needs to be YOUR place, with manly Ham accoutrements.  I would advise this: The best chance you will have to prevent the eventual rats nest is at the beginning of your installation.  Try to plan in such a way that expansion is natural and easy, if such a thing is possible.  Try to figure easy access to the back side of everything, making future chases for stray RF easier.  I would also suggest going ahead and putting in an antenna switch for a second HF radio, which you will eventually have.  That way it can be plug and play.  Put in a 220 line from square one, if you can.

I certainly agree with the attic dipole idea.  A flag pole makes a great point of attachment for a sloper.  Welcome to HF, my friend, and I doubt I've mentioned anything you haven't already figured out.  Put up a picture for us when you get her done.  73 and good luck!
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KE5QKT
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« Reply #14 on: September 20, 2007, 06:38:05 AM »

Thanks everyone, I appreciate your suggestions and encouragement.  I will provide some pics when I get the shack operational.

73s,

Doug
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