Frustrated with HF

Time & time again I browse the amateur radio forums & blogs, and the single most mentioned item would probably have to be the HOA. Ah, the good ole’...

Time & time again I browse the amateur radio forums & blogs, and the single most mentioned item would probably have to be the HOA. Ah, the good ole’ Homeowner’s Association. Some say they help keep communities safe & clean, others just hate them! I’m still on the fence about them. I’ve only been a homeowner for a few years, but thus far it has proven difficult to get on HF radio. I live on a lot that is 4,500 sq. ft., so space is precious. What do we do when we want to get on HF radio, but can’t because of where we live?

One option was brought up to me about having a vertical antenna mounted on one of those DX engineering tilt mounts, that way when I’m done using it, I can just tilt the antenna back down. Problem being, is that the DX engineering verticals are 43 feet tall! Granted they work every band from 10m-160m, I think I’d be find with one that supported 4 or 5 bands, just need to find the right one. I would also like to keep the height down to a minimum (my 2 story house can only hide so much in the backyard, a 43 foot vertical might stand out like a sore thumb! Not to mention that the 43 footer requires radials (recommended 65 feet long!). Here’s a pic of the antenna folded on the tilt mount:

There’s no way I have space for that, I don’t even have 65 feet across in my backyard! Question is, is there a vertical that will meet my needs that requires shorter radials? Should I get one that doesn’t require radials? I’m sure there would be some type of compromise with that antenna. More to think on that one, if anyone has any ideas, please feel free to comment. Below is a picture of my house (ignore the graphics, I was putting up a fan dipole under my eaves of the house indicated by the yellow & green lines in the below pic, but it picked up so much noise (probably from coupling to electrical wiring in the house) that I had to take it down.

The only space I have to work with is really the backyard, which will also need about 125′ of coaxial run, but as you can also see, there’s not much room to lay a vertical down unless I were to put it in one of the corners of the backyard and layed it down during the day when not in use. These vertical antennas though are pretty expensive, and I want to make sure that whatever I get next is going to work.

So until I get my HF working, it’s back to VHF. What is it about HF that draws amateur operators in? Is it the fact that your making a contact further away? Its basically the same principle of radio operation, except that your contacts are local! VHF can be fun, if you’ve got a good repeater your hanging out on. So far the guys on N5OAK have been really friendly, and always willing to give signal reports if needed! I took disconnected the discone antenna in the attic & connected the Arrow J Pole in its place. Luckily I had just enough room to squeeze the antenna in the attic vertically. The antenna is about 57 inches tall, and is built like a brick compared to my diamond discone. I can see why these j poles have had such success, they may not necessarily be the best antenna for your purpose, but they’re built solid, will last for years to come, and get the job done for most people!

Here’s the antenna after assembly & before I placed it in the attic:

So far I’ve gotten great reports on it, but have only connected to repeaters about 30 miles away (Cedar Park, TX) using full power on the FTM-400DR (50 watts). I’ve just started researching EchoLink as well, which is apparently a way to communicate with hams all over the country using 2m frequencies. Interested to try that out!

Edit & update: After asking the question over on eHam & Reddit, it seems that the best option would be to go with a Hustler 5BTV or 6BTV. They’re relatively inexpensive, so if it doesn’t work, it won’t be too big of a hit. Some folks were also suggesting trying different configurations of wire antennas, but what I’ve done thus far hasn’t worked. Not only will I have to buy the vertical antenna, but the radial plate, the tilting mount, the radial wires, and the long coax run, probably almost 400 in total!

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  • Mark Lunday
    16 July 2016 at 10:49 PM

    Don’t give up, keep experimenting. And your CW will improve your ability to make QSO’s.

  • Mark Lunday
    16 July 2016 at 10:49 PM

    I have the 43 foot vertical. Performance on 160 is poor, 80 marginal. 40 terrific, 30 excellent, 20 excellent, higher bands poor due to higher angles of radiation. This is because of the length on each band (which is NOT a problem with the Hustler antenna because of the traps which provide the correct quarter wavelength). You don’t NEED 64 radials. More is better to a point. You need at least 16 radials to get a halfway decent signal. But it will work with just 4 (“work” means it will radiate, but with 100 watts in you will be warming the worms mostly…and only putting out about 10 watts of transmit power). This is my experience as well…more radials is better. You can read about my experiences on

    When is a 43 foot vertical a good choice? If you have the room for the radials, if you want wider bandwidth (I use a remote tuner at the base of the antenna), and if you want to avoid loss of the traps. You could just as easily build your own 43 foot vertical wire. What I have found to be a KILLER antenna is a 160 meter inverted L stealth antenna (Home Depot 16 gauge insulated wire 132 feet long strung up in a tree) with a remote tuner at the base. This thing does OK on 160 (better than a low dipole), rocks on 80, and is superb on 40 and 30. Modelling agrees with the results. And it will work with 4 radials that are 64 feet in length (because of the high impedance on 80 and 40 and 30). And it is STEALTHY!