If you’ve read my past posts here about my antenna projects, you know that I live in a covenant-restricted neighborhood that supposedly doesn’t allow outdoor ham antennas (at least none visible from the street). Thankfully, there is no homeowners association or dues that support covenant enforcement, and none of my neighbors had thus far even mentioned the short vertical antenna I built and installed in my back yard.
Up until now, I hadn’t really given that antenna a good workout. But last weekend was Field Day, and this year I had to settle for working Field Day from the shack. Sadly, I was disappointed by my antenna’s performance. Although I managed to work 50 QSOs in four or five hours, I struggled to hear and contact other stations, even when running 100W. The noise level was very high, and signal levels were underwhelming. I worked only two SSB stations, the rest being CW contacts. It was time to rethink my antenna situation.
Up to now I’d ruled out a dipole or similar antenna because I had no trees to support one. I hadn’t really considered using the house itself (it’s a two-story) to support a dipole. The house is wood-frame construction with wood siding, so having an antenna wire running along the side of the house shouldn’t be too bad, I figured. I decided it was time to experiment.
One of my favorite antennas is a half-size G5RV (I suppose a full-size one would be my favorite if I’d ever had enough space for one). My main HF antenna at my previous QTH was a half-size G5RV in a vee configuration supported about 25 feet up at the center by an aspen tree. And when I take my ham station out to the field, my main antenna is usually a half-size G5RV constructed with twinlead and lightweight wire–the entire antenna fits into a gallon freezer bag.
I did a little measuring and came to the conclusion that I could get a G5RV up about 20 feet if I used the side of my house to support it. The feedline could run up the back corner of the house. One leg would run along the side of the house from the back to the front, and the other leg would run through the air toward the back corner of my property and be tied off at the privacy fence. But would it work?
It took about an hour of time to put up the ladder and add some small hooks in strategic places on my house (hoping my neighbors wouldn’t get too nosy about what I was up to), and I soon had rigged a system that would allow me to easily hoist my feedline and wire legs up the side of the house and lower them again. I got everything rigged up, hoisted up, and connected up, and I went into the house to fire up the radio. I didn’t know how the antenna would tune up in a less-than-ideal configuration, but I was pleasantly surprised by what I heard. This configuration beat the vertical hands-down! Noise levels were lower and the signal strength was much improved, and the antenna tuned sufficiently on every HF band except 30 meters.
My installation was far from stealthy, though. While the feedline and the leg on the side of the house were difficult to spot from the street, the leg running through the air in the back yard stuck out like a sore thumb–both the wire and the string supporting it were clearly visible. And since I wanted to save this antenna for portable work, I knew I’d have to rebuild it using a more stealthy approach. So I ran over to my favorite junque store and acquired some light-beige-colored 26-gauge stranded wire, and a stop at the sporting goods store yielded some nice invisible monofilament fishing line. I rebuilt the antenna using some extra twinlead I had laying around, hoisted everything back up, and tested again with the same happy result. And now the back leg of the antenna, while still visible, is much less noticeable. Hopefully, my neighbors won’t notice that any more than the vertical that I’ve since taken down.
Up to this point, hamming from this QTH has been a struggle. Hopefully this antenna will restore more of the fun. Tonight is the Adventure Radio Society’s monthly Spartan Sprint. I’ll let you know how the antenna performs.