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Author Topic: Restricted Antenna/Band Realities... what can I expect?  (Read 54085 times)
KK6GNP
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Posts: 158




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« on: August 27, 2013, 02:33:50 PM »

Hello everyone,

Thanks in advance to those who read and respond!  Sorry this is long, most of my posts are...I wasn't sure if this was appropriate for this forum or the other antenna forum, because I think it might fit in both.

Before anyone asks, I have ordered the ARRL Antenna book and Handbook and I'm waiting for them to arrive.  I've also been looking around and reading a bit online. I'm hoping to get a little help from the experts here since learning all of this is going to take some time and tinkering.  Unfortunately, all the research I have done so far has taught me that generally speaking, there are no hard and fast rules in antennas, other than the basic science to work with, and that propagation conditions are a BIG deal.  I've seen people pull of contacts with all kinds of designs, huge and small.  That makes homebrew sound very intriguing, but doesn't help me understand where to start with my own antenna.

To keep this post a little shorter, I have left out the back story of what my restrictions are.  Suffice it to say I do have some restrictions, but I think I can get away with a 20-25ft vertical to keep the visual profile down.  I might be able to get away with a dipole at 15ft, but only if I can sort of hide that in some trees without hurting reception bad.

My plan, in my current home, is to keep my antenna down to something fairly simple that will get me the best results I can reasonably expect.  I'll likely be working barefoot up to 100 watts when not doing QRP until I move out of this house. I may want to add more power later, but I won't be going anywhere near kW here.  I'm thinking about a vertical that would be no taller than about 20-25ft, or something like a magnetic loop, or whatever you guys suggest.  I've done some looking around at mag loops, verticals such as the Hustlers, some simple stealth designs, and even mobiles mounted as permanent solutions such as a High Sierra 1800 Pro.  I will be working 70cm and 2m locally, but I understand I can just use a different, smaller antenna for that if need be.  I want to get into the HF bands and work as many of them as I reasonably can with a fairly simple antenna setup.  Given my current housing situation, a vertical will work best for me.  I've seen mixed reviews of the mag loops, but I did find that very interesting.

I'll probably also get some kind of portable dipole, such as a buddipole, that I can put up on my back deck on weekends, or while out camping, so that may be supplemental to my main antenna.

I know I'm opening pandora's box here, as well as showing my lack of radio experience, but my thoughts are that I can find something that will get me started and do a great job while I learn more about propagation and antenna designs in the coming months.  I'll be going for my Extra ticket before Winter as well, so I do plan to continue learning and getting into homebrew, not just looking for shortcuts.

Please feel free to tell me if I am way off base here.  I'll be glad to learn what I can from this thread.

~73's
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73 ~ Cory (JeepEscape)
KK6GNP
KB3ONA
Member

Posts: 84




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« Reply #1 on: August 27, 2013, 03:27:24 PM »

First - welcome aboard. You're in for a lot of fun! I've been in a similar situation, living in a restricted home since 2007, but I'm on my way out to the country the day after tomorrow. The lot I had to work with was small with no trees in Peoria, AZ but I managed to get up 5 HF antenna's and make contacts all around the world operating QRP. Wire is an amazing thing. The truth is, living in a restricted property made me a much, much better op than I ever would have been if I had no restrictions. I don't regret the experience but I feel for anyone living with restrictions. 

You can do a lot with the parameter's you gave (20'-25' vertical height, trees, etc.). Some ideas that come to mind are a Hustler BTV or Hy-Gain 12 AVQ for a commercial vertical. Just make sure you lay down at least 20 radials of whatever length you can fit on your lot but don't have to be much more than 20' or 30'. As far as homebrew, the skies the limit. You could go with wire verticals, dipoles, horizontal loops, etc. Take your time and do some thorough reading and you'll see there are beau coup possibilities. Good luck and let us know how you make out.

Gene (KB3ONA)
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WX7G
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Posts: 6201




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« Reply #2 on: August 27, 2013, 03:28:45 PM »

You want a vertical and there are many good ones made. If you don't want to spend a lot of money the Hustler 4BTV or 5BTV is a great one. Put down one or two dozen 20' radials and you'll put out a fine signal.
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WB6BYU
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Posts: 13462




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« Reply #3 on: August 27, 2013, 03:54:41 PM »

Quote from: JEEPESCAPE

To keep this post a little shorter, I have left out the back story of what my restrictions are.  Suffice it to say I do have some restrictions, but I think I can get away with a 20-25ft vertical to keep the visual profile down.  I might be able to get away with a dipole at 15ft, but only if I can sort of hide that in some trees without hurting reception bad.



A vertical is a good place to start.  Something like the 4/5/6BTV, 12/14/18AVQ, etc. will
get you started.  The other option is a vertical whip or wire of some sort with a remote
autotuner at the base.  (I'm looking at putting up a 20' to 30' tapered fiberglass pole with
a vertical wire inside on my back fence.)   Pay attention to the ground radial system - that
is important to getting good efficiency.



Quote

I'll probably also get some kind of portable dipole, such as a buddipole, that I can put up on my back deck on weekends, or while out camping, so that may be supplemental to my main antenna.



If you have trees where you go camping, consider a homebrew wire dipole:  cheap and
light, easy to put up, doesn't take up much room in your backpack, etc.
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KK6GNP
Member

Posts: 158




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« Reply #4 on: August 27, 2013, 04:36:05 PM »

Thanks for the suggestions so far everyone!  Unfortunately, radials are not an option for me as my back yard is small, and is composed of a swimming pool and some concrete deck my family uses.  I should have mentioned that in my original post, sorry!  Such is life in Southern California.

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73 ~ Cory (JeepEscape)
KK6GNP
W1JKA
Member

Posts: 1812




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« Reply #5 on: August 27, 2013, 05:09:00 PM »

Re: Jeepscape

  Pool, small yard? consider any type of EFHW with matching unit(single or multiband)easily home brewed, flexible configurations. My 40m Par EFHW goes from pool side angled up and back to pergola then angled back to palm tree on other side of pool, works fine at my S.Cali qth both portable and home based. See it in my eHam profile pic.
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KK6GNP
Member

Posts: 158




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« Reply #6 on: August 27, 2013, 07:42:07 PM »

Re: Jeepscape

  Pool, small yard? consider any type of EFHW with matching unit(single or multiband)easily home brewed, flexible configurations. My 40m Par EFHW goes from pool side angled up and back to pergola then angled back to palm tree on other side of pool, works fine at my S.Cali qth both portable and home based. See it in my eHam profile pic.

W1JKA, I looked at your profile, but didn't see any photos.  Can you point me in the right direction for the info you mentioned?  Thank you.
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73 ~ Cory (JeepEscape)
KK6GNP
W1JKA
Member

Posts: 1812




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« Reply #7 on: August 28, 2013, 04:20:22 AM »

Re: Jeepscape:

Strange, I just typed my call sign into the eHam call search box and small pic comes up in upper right corner of profile page. Click on picture(it will be over expanded for about 15 secs.) then revert to normal size. Antenna goes up over my right shoulder.
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AD5X
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Posts: 1436




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« Reply #8 on: August 28, 2013, 04:58:14 AM »

Thanks for the suggestions so far everyone!  Unfortunately, radials are not an option for me as my back yard is small, and is composed of a swimming pool and some concrete deck my family uses.  I should have mentioned that in my original post, sorry!  Such is life in Southern California.

I have a similar situation.  My backyard is almost all pool.  I mount my vertical in the back corner of my yard (where the cedar fence "L's"), and then ran some short radials directly to the pool deck (about 6-8ft, radials along the fence, a couple of radials that sort of encircle the pool deck, one radial to the metal landscape edging that is along one corner of the pool, one radial ties into the pool electrical ground, one radial thru the fence and is stapled to my neighbor's fence that T's-off my fence, and even one radial that goes through the fence and ties into the CATV ground in the alley behind the fence.  Not the greatest set-up in the world, but I measured 12 ohms ground loss and I have fun on all the bands.  Do the best you can and have fun.

Phil - AD5X
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NI0C
Member

Posts: 2418




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« Reply #9 on: August 28, 2013, 06:01:43 AM »

Here's how I handle vertical antenna radials versus the swimming pool.

Since DX'ing and swimming are seasonal activities (my pool is not heated), I use a no radial vertical dipole (N6BT Bravo 7K) during the summer for operating the higher frequency bands.  Then in the Fall, the pool gets covered, and I switch over to one of my low band antennas that require radials.  I stretch out the radials over the pool cover for some DX fun.  A picture of my Fall/Winter/Early Spring antenna setup is displayed on my QRZ.com page. 

73,
Chuck  NI0C
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KK6GNP
Member

Posts: 158




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« Reply #10 on: August 28, 2013, 10:50:13 AM »

Here's how I handle vertical antenna radials versus the swimming pool.

Since DX'ing and swimming are seasonal activities (my pool is not heated), I use a no radial vertical dipole (N6BT Bravo 7K) during the summer for operating the higher frequency bands.  Then in the Fall, the pool gets covered, and I switch over to one of my low band antennas that require radials.  I stretch out the radials over the pool cover for some DX fun.  A picture of my Fall/Winter/Early Spring antenna setup is displayed on my QRZ.com page. 

73,
Chuck  NI0C

Thanks, Chuck.  This won't work for me either, because we live in the Coachella Valley (Desert), and use our back yard, pool, spa during the Winter too.  Our average Christmas Day temperature here is about 70 degrees.  We entertain more during the Winter here than the Summer.  At any rate, until I move out of this house, I'm going to have to figure out a solution that doesn't include radials.  I realize this places limits on what I can do (though I don't understand the limits yet), but I have no choice for now.

So is the consensus around here that magnetic loops suck?  It's the only other semi-compact design I've come across that I may be able to get away with if it's not up too high.  Other than that, I would have to make use of a portable unit on my back deck.  I hate to do that as my daily solution though, for obvious reasons.
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73 ~ Cory (JeepEscape)
KK6GNP
WB6BYU
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Posts: 13462




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« Reply #11 on: August 28, 2013, 11:43:33 AM »

Quote from: JEEPESCAPE

...At any rate, until I move out of this house, I'm going to have to figure out a solution that doesn't include radials...



Radials can take several shapes.  There is a big difference between radials ON THE GROUND
(where you want a goodly number of them for high efficiency) and those ABOVE GROUND,
where 2 or 3 may be sufficient if they are cut to a resonant length.

For example, I'm planning to mount my vertical on the back fence with 2 radial wires for each
band running along the fence (stapled to the underside of one of the boards, so out of sight)
about 3' off the ground.  The vertical will probably be a fiberglass fishing pole (or similar) with
a wire up the middle, mounted so it can be tilted down horizontal when not in use.

And I've known many hams who put up a trap vertical with no more ground system than
the piece of pipe it is mounted on.  Granted, that tends to work better with higher
conductivity soil than you may have in the desert, but sometimes "usable" is more
important than "perfect":  I make plenty of contacts running 5 watts to a dipole, and
with 100W your antenna can be only 10% efficient and still radiate more power than
I do.


Quote

So is the consensus around here that magnetic loops suck?



No, not at all.  They can work fairly well, especially on 20m through 10m.  (Most of
the commercial ones are too small for good efficiency on 40m, though you can build
your own and disguise it as patio furniture if you want.)

They have a very narrow operating bandwidth without retuning, which can be
annoying if you like tuning around the band a lot.  They tend to be more expensive
than a lot of wire options (though there are plenty of other commercial limited-space
antennas that also seem too expensive.)  But sometimes they are the best solution,
and you're willing to put up with the limitations to get on the air.



Quote
 

...Other than that, I would have to make use of a portable unit on my back deck.  I hate to do that as my daily solution though, for obvious reasons.



Depends how difficult it is to put up each time.  One of the reasons I'm looking at a system
that can be folded down is to get around some of the HOA details by having it be "temporary".
For example, the mast can be hinged at the bottom so you just tilt it up and clip it into place,
stick it into a prepared socket, or secure with a bungee cord.  With some of the light masts
you could do this with the center of a dipole attached to the mast, so the wires lay down out
of sight when it isn't in use.  I've even seen systems with a motor or rope that allowed the
antenna and/or mast to be operated from inside the house.  There certainly are ways to
make that approach work as well.
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KK6GNP
Member

Posts: 158




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« Reply #12 on: August 28, 2013, 12:07:47 PM »

WB6BYU, thanks for all the great information!

I'm looking forward to expanding my scientific knowledge of antennas and propagation.  At this point, I'm only starting to get a glimmer of it as I study for my tests.  I can see how understanding the science is key to making antenna systems work just about anywhere, rather than doing what I am doing and trying to find a one size fits all solution.

It seems like I'm going to need a dual band solution for 2m and 70cm locally, and then something else for HF, is that right?  I was looking over a couple dual band antennas like the Arrow OSJ or the Diamond dual/tri band units.  I'd like to just use a simple whip because it would be much less visible, but I don't know how those perform as a base antenna.

I still feel pretty clueless about the HF solution for my situation, but I'm learning as I go.

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73 ~ Cory (JeepEscape)
KK6GNP
WB6BYU
Member

Posts: 13462




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« Reply #13 on: August 28, 2013, 02:54:25 PM »

Quote from: JEEPESCAPE

I'm looking forward to expanding my scientific knowledge of antennas and propagation.


Getting your license is only the start of the learning process.  It allows you to get on the
air and experiment.




Quote
 

It seems like I'm going to need a dual band solution for 2m and 70cm locally, and then something else for HF, is that right?


Depends on local usage.  In southern California the 440 band is heavily used, but not so in
some other areas.

For relatively local work simple antennas are quite adequate.  My 440 antenna at my last
house was a homemade quarter wave ground plane hanging on the inside of the window
by my desk.

If you are trying to hit more distant repeaters or simplex work, then a higher gain antenna
may be an advantage.  But overall height makes more difference than gain:  a simple whip
mounted at the peak of your roof may be better than a bigger antenna mounted on a tripod
in the back yard.  For a lot of purposes a quarter wave ground plane for 2m will work well
enough for local repeaters on 440, and you can easily make such an antenna yourself if
you want to. 

For omnidirectional vertically-polarized antennas, generally gain is a function of the overall
radiator length.  If two antennas are about the same size they will have about the same
gain, regardless of what the manufacturer claims, unless one of them is particularly badly
built.  Common dual-band antennas are in the 3' - 4' range (equal to a dipole on 2m) or
around 8' (3dB gain over a dipole on 2m.)  At least around our county, stations with such
an antenna mounted just above the eaves generally can cover the whole county on simplex.
(But the situation will be different in San Bernardino County!)  That's a reasonable target,
but if the CC&Rs won't permit it then try to put a simple antenna as high up on your roof
as you can and still have it be in conspicuous.  (Ventenna makes antennas disguised as
roof vent pipes, or a thin whip painted black is very difficult to spot.)



Quote

I still feel pretty clueless about the HF solution for my situation, but I'm learning as I go.



That's more difficult because you are less likely to find a commercial version that is just
right for your specific situation.  Have some local hams come over and look at your house
and make suggestions.  There are a lot of trade-offs about expense, usability, visibility,
your relations with your neighbors, etc. that are difficult to assess from a distance.  Then
try out a couple of things.

Making mistakes is part of that learning process - just try not to make them too expensive.
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KK6GNP
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Posts: 158




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« Reply #14 on: August 28, 2013, 03:59:36 PM »

WB6BYU, thanks again.  You are helping a lot.

I will be connecting with the local hams soon.  So far I've been in touch with a nice gentlemen who will be administering my tests.  

Here is the repeater info page from the local club website:  http://www.qsl.net/k6bsc/

Unrelated:  A friend of mine runs a local internet service provider with wireless backhaul and other services, so I've been up on Edom Hill pictured at the bottom of that page a few times.  It's the main RF hilltop for our valley, as far as I know and there's a ton of equipment and antennas up there.  Pretty cool they put D-Star up there too, but I'm not investing in that just yet.

My HOA situation is strange.  It seems to be what I would call "HOA-lite".  Our dues pay for our neighborhood park, roads and common landscaping to be kept up, but other than that I've never heard a peep out of them.  I've let my yard go a few times over the past 8 years too, left my cans out too long, and all kinds of things that normally make HOA Nazis freak out.  Not a letter, not a word.  My next door neighbor has a 25' flag pole dead center of their front yard!  I'm trying to get a copy of our HOA rules. It's very odd considering these are your typical California three car garage, single level, stucco and tile roof homes that are only around ten years old.  My previous home in Vegas had one of those crazy HOA's you want to choke out... haha

Having said that, I still have some aesthetic standards to uphold with my neighbors, as you mentioned, so I won't be erecting anything that will draw significant attention to bother people or cause complaints to get back to the HOA.  I'd like to keep them hands-off if I can.  I'll do some more elaborate antennas at my next home.
« Last Edit: August 28, 2013, 04:09:25 PM by JEEPESCAPE » Logged

73 ~ Cory (JeepEscape)
KK6GNP
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