Thursday, October 2, 2014

Trial and hopefully not error

For most ham radio operators... having a decent working HF station is somewhat of a holy grail. First, let me define HF for those not familiar. The term HF stands for "high frequency". This is the type of ham radio where you can talk around the world. Other types of ham radio (like VHF and UHF) are only suitable for local communications.

So most hams want to do HF, but it takes a lot more energy and effort. It also takes more dollars and higher license privileges. I've had the license privileges needed to do this for quite a few years. But I've only had an HF station very briefly. An HF antenna typically takes a lot of room. People who live in apartments or in houses that are on small lots face many challenges in setting up an antenna that will work. Also, many homeowners find themselves restricted from putting up antennas due to CC&R rules and such.

My wife and I recently bought a house and we live under such restrictions. The rule is basically, no antennas. However, there are a lot of "stealth" options available where you can put up an antenna (particularly a wire antenna) that people cannot see or will not recognize as an antenna. As I've recently become interested in operating HF, I've been thinking a lot about those options.

One possibility is putting up an antenna in one's attic. Radio waves typically go right through wood and other building materials like sheetrock and roofing. However metal such as ducting or electrical wiring are problems. Other problems with antennas indoors or in the attic have to do with all the interference caused by normal household electronics. Not only will the electronics bother the radio reception, but the radio will likely bother the household electronics when it transmits as well. Then there is the reality that a misstep in the attic will mean a large hole in the ceiling and/or an injury. That's the part that discourages me.

One can string wire antennas around their property. But a common example of a wire antenna would be 102 feet long. I have nowhere outside where I could possibly string a wire that long in a straight line. You can get creative and zig zag wires different directions or around corners but then you face the fact that it's fairly likely that you'll try many things that don't work or don't work very well. I know a lot of hams like this trial and error. But honestly, I just don't want to dork around that much.

So I decided to go with the very well-known portable antenna called a Buddipole.

This will be 18 feet high. And while it's not exactly "stealth". It is not a fixed antenna. I can take it down in about one minute. And I would typically only have it up when it's in use. So I think because it's not mounted on the house or any fixed structure, I should be able to squeak by the restrictions. And it has the distinct advantage of being known as a very effective antenna (for it's kind) where you basically follow the instructions, put it together, and it works! Gotta love it.

For my radio... I have long been wanting a Yaesu FT-857D. There was a $50 rebate on these that ended two days ago. I bought the radio online with the "will-call" shipping option on the last day of the rebate offer. I had been debating between that radio and the Yaesu FTDX1200. The FTDX1200 is far more radio. But it's not as versatile (and certainly not as cheap). And it didn't have a rebate.

However, the day after the rebate offer on the FT-857D expired I was on the store's web site and guess what was on their front page? The FTDX1200... with a $200 rebate!

While it's not typically going to be something I'll take out of the house to operate at the park or whatever, it will be much nicer to use at home than the little FT-857D.

The reason for the title of this post... is because in spite of the fact that this is a "good" radio and a "good" antenna. There is no guarantee that it will work well here, or even be usable. There is only one way to know. It's possible that it will totally suck. Here's hoping it doesn't.