There is a saying the amateur radio community that money is best spent in upgrading your antenna. This can be an investment as little or as much as you want. That is a great aspect of ham radio. If you have some trees and wire, you are set! Of course some (like myself) tend to buy antennas as opposed to experiment with antennas. Nothing wrong with either approach, but if learning is to occur then a “home brewed” antenna cannot be beat!
As for my station I have some very substantial upgrades so far in 2009, both of which I did not expect to happen so quick, being on HF since 2007. But when a good deal came I my way I could not pass it up. I upgraded my Icom IC-718 to a Yaesu FT-1000MP, once a top contesting rig, well proven and full of mods and filter, courtesy of N6RO. Just a few months ago I inherited a ETO Alpha 76PA linear amplifier. Another quality piece of hardware that I NEVER thought I would see in my day.
Both additions have a learning curve I am still working with on a nightly basis. For the layman, the rig has more knobs and dials and gizmos than my previous rig, which allows me to do more in order to receive a signal. The amp allows for a 100w input and in return can pump out close to 2kW!!! Power!!!
Unfortunately I am now handicapped by my antenna, a Hustler 6-BTV. It has been a very solid performer since it was erected with some additional parts purchased through DX Engineering. After laying 50 radials and tuning for resonance (as opposed to VSWR) the antenna performs average given the circumstances and limitations I have.
To date I have confirmed 49 states and 34 countries, the latest coming last night working ZF2ZB down in Grand Cayman. 34 countries with an average antenna setup. Not too bad, I am setting my sights for 100 by the end of the year on the 6-BTV. But how do I go about improving the antenna situation?
As mentioned the main limitations are the homeowner’s association and the CC&Rs I must abide by. Thankfully I have already got an exemption for the 6BTV at 24′ and even the one lady who was opposed to the proposal is okay with it now. So I do have the HOA on my side to some degree. But what are my options?
When we purchased the house I cut down the two eucalyptus trees we had, which now leaves the back yard without any real vertical component, except for the roof line of the house, which is about 35′ high. Wires or a combination might be the only option I have running in a sloping, inverted vee of the middle of the house down to the corner of the fence. Will it work? Dunno. Experiment is part of the hobby, I will have to give it a try.
Buy a new vertical? This has really been on my mind, a Big SteppIR would be great at 32′ it is just a bit higher than the current setup. The other vertical would be a Bencher Butternut HF9V (26′) or even a ZeroFive Antennas Ground Plane Vertical (21′) I would approach the HOA for their “approval” before raising anything new. They might go for it, I don’t know. I have yet to receive any sort of complaint about the antenna or interference from my radios. Both big pluses.
So I will read the reviews and the installation instructions and hopefully make a well informed decision on what to put up in place of the 6BTV.