Does Your Antenna Work?

The best antenna you can afford that will fit on the real-estate you have is important but it also important that you not exceed what you can afford and lets face it you can’t put ten tons of fertilizer in a one ton truck.

My first antenna was a center fed 40 meter dipole feed with 300 ohm twin lead. The transmitter was a Viking Ranger which, as anyone who ever owned one can tell you, will load just about anything.

Being a novice I could work the 80, 40, and 15 bands and they all worked using that one antenna. I was happy with it and worked a lot of stations but older hams told me that I couldn’t do that. I had to use 50 ohm coax cable to feed that antenna so I took down the twin lead and put up coax. The Ranger would still load all three bands but 80 meters did not work well at all while 40 and 15 meters showed no improvement that I could see.

Later I purchased a 23 foot vertical antenna that had a big coil at the base. By using an alligator clip the inductance of the coil could be changed thus allowing the antenna to be used from 160 to 10 meters. I could not put down radials but I made a lot of contacts on that antenna.

It is true that to operate most efficiently a vertical antenna needs a good ground plain. This means having a sheet of metal or metal radials at least one quarter wave long running out from the base of the antenna in all directions from the antenna.

A ground plain for UHF and VHF  is fairly easy to make but when it comes to making a ground plain for a vertical HF antenna it can become a lot more complicated because of the size of real-estate that is needed. To ground mount a 20 meter vertical antenna for optimal performance a ground plain of just over 33 feet in diameter needs to be laid down. That would be a tight fit for most city lots even if you had nothing else in your back yard.

There are vertical HF antennas available today that can be put up a few feet above The ground with no radials and I am told they work quite well. Having never experienced them personally but having very reliable recommendations I would say if you can afford
one this would be the best way to provide an omni-directional vertically polarized amateur radio station.

If you can not afford a no ground plain required vertical HF antenna but you do have access to or can build an antenna that would best be operated with a ground plain but you do not have room for such a ground plain the soil should provide sufficient ground plain allow reasonable operation. Not optimal but reasonable.

In the late 1960’s I lived in Sacramento and used a Hy-Gain 18AVQ which is a 80 through 10 meter vertical antenna. It should have had a metal ground plain but there was not enough room to put one in for the antenna. Using that antenna on a 180 watt PEP input (approximately 90 watt PEP output) transceiver I was able to work many DX stations including Europe, South America, Japan, Australia, and more. I was also able to run weekly phone patches for a missionary in Liberia to his family living locally.

The point is, when it comes to setting up a ham radio station, part of the fun is to evaluate your resources and make the most effective operating station you can. Be sure you are not radiating any unwanted signals. Then have fun. I am sure it will work better then you might think it will.

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