Some problems that while not unique
are certainly more pronounced here:
§Lots tend to be small, often less than 2000 square feet.
§Other homes tend to be fairly close by.
§In many areas, power lines are quite close to the houses,
particularly in mobile home communities
So what are some solutions?
§Compromise antennas are generally the best answer. These
can be of several types.
§Vertical antennas work quite well if properly installed
with enough radials.
§Mobile antennas can also be used successfully.
§Wire antennas can be used if space available.
Verticals are a good solution for small
spaces. If there are CC&Rs to worry about, of course, provision must be made for hiding the antenna during the day time.
Usually, this involves some kind of a tilt-over mount that lets the antenna hide behind the house during the day and be erected
after dark. Another option is to hide the antenna in plain sight by using it as a flag pole or a support for something the
CC&Rs may permit such as an arbor or garden ornament of some sort.
§There are several vertical antennas that have been used
with good results.
§The GAP brand of antennas is well known here in Florida and are made near Melbourne, FL. Because of the parasitic elements unique to the GAP concept, these antennas are not
suitable for a flag pole disguise.
§There are several different models that do not require radials,
notably the Titan (75/80 thru 10 meters) and
the Eagle (40 thru 10 meters)
§25 feet tall
§mounts on 1 ¼” mast
§covers 10, 12,15, 17, 20, 30, 40, 75/80
§Does not need a tuner
§21 feet tall
§Mounts on 1 ¼” mast
§Covers 10, 12, 15, 17, 20, 40
§Does not need a tuner
§I have used this one very successfully for a number of years
although since our move a couple of years ago, I have since sold it.
§Tilt mount for ground mounting
GAP, The company
§Speaking from personal experience, a very good company to
§Comet makes one model that I will discuss here- The CHA-250B
§Weight 7 pounds
§No radials required
§Mounts to 1” to 2” mast
§Covers 3.5 MHz to 57 MHz
§Handles up to 250 W SSB, 125 W FM
§A fellow ham in Bradenton uses a CHA-250B as his only HF
antenna and is very happy with it.
§ QST review was less enthusiastic.
§On the theory that any antenna is better than none and that
installations will vary, performance is adequate. May be a good candidate for the flag pole approach but it will have to be
enclosed in PVC pipe.
§4 bands 6, 10, 15, 40 with trap radials
§weighs 6 lbs.
§11.8 feet tall
§radials can be concentrated on one side for close to house
mounting or tilt up/down for CC&R areas.
§Very similar to CHA-250B
§Coverage 2 MHz to 30 MHz
§22 feet tall deployed
§Again, a compromise antenna. I have not tried this unit
so I cannot talk about performance.
§4, 5, 6-BTV antennas are all trap verticals that require
§4-BTV covers 10, 15, 20, 40
§5-BTV covers 10, 15, 20, 40 & 75 or 80
§6-BTV covers 10, 15, 20, 30 40 & 75 or 80
§Can be disguised as flagpoles if necessary. Removing the
stubs from the models that use them will require retuning the antenna, but that is not difficult.
§Covers 6, 10, 12, 15, 17, 20, 30, 40
§does require radials
§28.5 feet tall, may require guys
§listed to handle 1500 watts
§needs a 2” mast mount.
§Cushcraft has several other models
§Several different models that cover 4 to 8 bands depending
§Most require radial systems to operate effectively.
§Like Cushcraft, now made by MFJ.
§If you live right by the water, a vertical antenna can be
substituted for the mast of a small sailboat and the coax can be buried all the way to the house. One ham in this area has
done this for years with an old Hobie Cat that never sails but with water all around the base of the antenna it works great.
It pays to think outside the box.
In CC&R communities, some method of raising and lowering the antenna is mandatory. Several companies sell “tilt
mounts” My solution is to use a converted trailer jack that cost me less than $20 brand new. I gutted it of the crank
mechanism and use the shell to tilt my mast up and down. With a little ingenuity a tilt mount can even be motorized so you
don’t even have to go outside to tilt it up or down. Just push a button at your operating position.
Any antenna of the vertical type with a tilt over mount can of course only be used at night, when the "CC&R Police" are
hopefully in bed asleep. This does limit your operating opportunities.
Other Antenna Types
§Isotron antennas are a group of rather strange looking antennas, some of which can be combined on a single mount for multi-band capability.
One of the hams in our local club often brings them out for Field Day and usually does well. I have no personal experience
with them but reports are fairly good. They can usually be hidden behind a structure such as a house or out-building. Sometimes
they can be disguised as some kind of bird house or garden ornament.
§MFJ offers a number of “loop antenna tuners”
for use with homebrewed loop antennas. Some reports are quite complimentary, others, not so much. Loop antennas are a viable
option in CC&R communities where nothing else will work, because they can be stored easily and taken out only when used.
Loop antennas are also easy to hide in gutters or under shingles on the roof of a house. Fed with a tuner right at the antenna,
it is easy to hide the tuner or antenna coupler with foliage or structure.
§Another option for the space limited ham is the “Hamstick
Dipole”. Two mobile whips for the same band mounted back to back on an extendable mast will give a good account of themselves.
Not as good as a full size dipole, but much better than no antenna at all. There is also the "Buddy-Pole" line of temporary
antennas that can be easily set up for an afternoon of DX on a patio and then stowed away in mere minutes when operations
Mobile Antennas II
§Another “Mobile” antenna that can be used at
home is the “screwdriver” antenna. Mounted on a short mast with 4 to 8 radial wires attached to the mount, a screwdriver
antenna can be a fair performer. They come in powered or unpowered versions and by all accounts work quite well if set up
properly. Since they are so short (usually 5 feet or less) they can easily be hidden behind foliage or disguised as part of
a patio umbrella, perhaps.
Mobile Antennas III
§Another way of using a mobile antenna is to mount it on your car and provide a way of switching
the antenna to a length of coax run from your home station. The car provides the counterpoise to the antenna, but it is connected
to the base station in the house. Just remember to disconnect before driving off in the morning to go to work. Of course,
this will not work if the CC&Rs require you to garage your car instead of leaving it in your driveway.
§One of the nice things about “Hamstick Dipoles is
that with a telescopic mast they convert to NVIS antennas simply by setting them up closer to the ground.
§This makes them good candidates for ARES use. Vertical antennas
do not work well for NVIS work at all. Unless they are tilted down to horizontal where they can work surprisingly well. There
is a reason all those military vehicles have their whip antennas tied down and it’s not to avoid bridges.
§Most Mobile homes do not have an “attic” as
such, but most other homes do. While a 160 meter antenna won’t fit in your attic, one for 20 meters or even 40 meters
will, often surprisingly well. As long as the elements are symmetrical, they do not have to be in a straight line. One "drawback"
or at least serious consideration about attic antennas is the need to keep power levels down due to RF exposure. There is
also a greater tendency for RFI problems with the other electronic devices in the house due to the close proximity of the
§Another area where attic antennas can shine is VHF/UHF.
Small beams can be purchased or homebrewed to fit neatly into an attic, even with a rotor. Since there will be no wind load,
the rotor can be smaller and the antenna less robust than normal. Beam antennas are somewhat less prone to RFI than wire antennas
since they direct their maximum energy away from the house. There still can be problems however, so plan ahead.
Really Strange Antennas
§ The Aluminum Pool Cage- If you have a wide coverage tuner
and a pool cage, try loading the cage. You will have to hunt around a bit for the “sweet spot” but almost any
cage can be made to carry RF. Of course, chase the grandkids out of the pool first.
If your house has aluminum rain gutters, make sure all of the segments are
cleanly attached to each other and load the whole gutter system with a tuner. If the gutters are vinyl, just lay a wire in
the gutter all the way round the house and feed it like a loop antenna. Use low power if you do since the family is now within
§ Almost anything metallic can be loaded
as an antenna under the right conditions. The big difference is going to be the efficiency of the antenna. Obviously all of
these are compromise antennas. The efficiency is no where near a real full size dipole, no matter what the dealer says.
§ The question boils down to some kind of
antenna or none at all. Most of us cannot afford to move to the country and put up 100+ foot towers just because we want to
get some DX. If the antenna isn’t perfect, we listen harder, longer, and search out the DX all the more often.
In the March issue of QST, there is a very interesting article by Lorraine Wilson, W1AR about hiding a Hustler 5-BTV in plain
(well not so plain) sight in California.
§ As you can see, even weird looking installations can work
quite well. Lorraine reports that with this configuration mounted temporarily in her living
room, she was able to rack up 36 states as well as Mexico and Canada.
Hiding the Antenna.
§As I mentioned before, some antennas can be made to look
like a flagpole. They even sell a “Flagpole” antenna (Force 12). Or you can just build a flagpole like I did,
out of a 22 foot aluminum boat mast, insulated from the mount at the bottom, and connected to an Icom AH-4 tuner.
§ My Flagpole
can see the flagpole that I converted to a multi-band vertical on the QTH page of this site. Because I have not yet laid down
sufficient radials it is not truly efficient yet. (At my age, getting up the energy to bury 12 more 25 foot wires under the
sod is somewhat difficult.)
An Alternate Solution
Recently, a different solution has entered the realm of possibility. A new device called the RRC-1258 is being offered commercially.
While not cheap it offers the promise of keeping the control head of the radio at one's operating position and connecting
it to the main body of the radio via the Internet. No computer needed. The main body of the radio, plus all the towers and
antennas one could want are then sited anywhere you want in the world. That site would need to be free of any CC&Rs naturally.
Some people have their operating position here in Florida with the actual tower site in Illinois. One need not go that far
however. I am sure there are plenty of place in the farming areas of Florida that would permit the installation of a modest
antenna farm for a reasonable fee. As long as they have DSL or faster connectivity and you do too, the hook-up is virtually plug and
play. There are some cables to modify but that is not a difficult task.