Now if I had my way in life, I would be living on a nice 20 acre “antenna farm” somewhere out in the country. I would have lots of room for all kinds of antennas and minimal electrical interference. Almost 40 years ago when I married my wife she made it “very clear” that she wanted to live in an old historic home with a sidewalk out in front. But as many of you may know, a happy married life is based on compromise. I offered to buy an old house out in the country and add a sidewalk, but to no avail. Today we live in a nice fully restored old brick home that was build in 1870. I have spent the last 25 plus years negotiating the placement of antennas on our 55 ft by 200ft small city lot. Unlike hams. wives do not see a antenna as a thing of beauty. Wives also have a hard time understanding the concept of needing different antennas for different frequencies. I don’t know how many times I have heard, “you already have an antenna, why do you need another?” Of course this is a two way street! Many times over the years my wife has heard me say “we already have a __________, why do you need another?” You could fill the blank in with, a new kitchen, new furniture, new windows, new carpet, new porch, another new kitchen, etc.. etc… Well, my wife has always said “A happy wife means a happy life”. And happy it is! We have a great house, both inside and out, and I have crammed as many antennas as I effectively can on our small city lot. It’s not to say that I’m not a little pissed when I’m unable to work a rare one on the low bands that the big guns can. But I get over it. It’s a matter of having the right DX-pectations. I take great pride in doing what I do with what I have!
The Lot Layout: The picture on the right depicts the layout of my 55′ by 200′ lot. I have overlaid the antenna information on a “Google Earth” map. The top of the map is north. You can see the C3 beam on the east side of the house. Unfortunately my lot has been cut in half by a power line that runs east and west and is depicted in red. This situation has separated my antenna layout into the “front” and “back” type of situation. I have heard some say that you can’t have too many antennas. For the most part I would agree with that with the caveat being that you have enough space for said antennas. I’m of the belief that if you try to cram too many antennas in a small space you start to degrade the performance of all your antennas. But my belief is based on limited real testing and personal experiences.
10 Through 20 Meters: The front antenna system consists of a Force 12, C-3 tribander beam mounted on the east side of the house on a 53 ft Rohn 25G tower. The tower is supported by a homebrew house bracket attached to a double brick wall at the 28 ft level. The C-3 is great performer for it’s size. For years I used trapped beams, but found the the C-3 had better gain, more bandwidth, and zero problems with any traps. The C-12 also works on the WARC bands with at tuner with slightly reduced gain on 17 meters and more so on 12 meters.
80 Meters: Below the beam on the PVC crossbar at the 47 foot level, I have a 80 meter “inverted V” that is fed with twin coax in a balanced configuration. I can be loaded up on 10 thru 80 meters. I use mostly on 80. It works very well for a low antenna. (~240 worked on 80). See Diagram of NU8Z 80 Meter Inverted Vee
40&30 Meters: On the other end of the crossbar I have mounted a parallel 40/30 meter dipole fed with a single coax. I have had very good luck with this type of design. The wire elements are one below the other with about 6″ of separation. I use 3/8″ PVC tubing to keep the wire separate.
The “backyard” antennas consist of the following:
6 Through 20 Meters: I have a 6 Band 2 element Lightning Bolt Quad mounted atop a 36 foot Rohn HBX HD tower. The tower was originally a HBX-48, but the bottom section was not installed due to height limitations. The quad does a pretty good job in comparison to the C-3 that is mounted on the front tower and almost 20 feet higher. The Lightning Bolt quad has a single feed point for all the bands except 6 meters. I have noted somewhat reduced performance on 15 meters. I think it is a case of the 12 meter reflector coming into play as somewhat of a 15 meter director and distorting the pattern. All and all it’s a good antenna and there are many times it does better than the C-3 due to the lower noise levels.
30/40 Meters: Below the quad, I have a parallel 40/30 meter dipole fed with a single coax. This dipole only about 25ft up and is broadside to the north and south, perpendicular to the 30/40 dipole on the front tower.
160/80 Meters: I have a loaded 85ft Inverted “L” with a 25 ft vertical section. It works on both bands. (See Diagram) . Seems to do a pretty good job considering its low height and the fact it only has 2 radials. I have managed to work 115 countries on 160 with the NU8Z Inverted “L” .
Force 12 C-3: This antenna has been up for about 15 years with no problems at all. I selected the C-3 because of it’s relativity light tower loading (~5 sq. ft) and it’s lack of traps. There is simply nothing to go wrong with this antenna. (knock on wood!). It has survived some terrible ice and wind storms with no issues. It covers the CW and Phone portions of the 10/15/20 meter bands with less than a 2:1 SWR. Also it’s SWR does not change with weather conditions like I have experienced with both the trap tribanders I have previously owned. Performance wise, it does an excellent job. The design is basically interlaced 2 element monobanders for 10, 15 and 20 meters with a single coax open sleeve feed point. Unlike some antenna manufactures claims, I believe that Force 12 is very honest with their performance claims. Regardless of the claims of others, I believe the C3 at a minimum has equal gain when compared to any 3 element trap tribander and most likely better! The antenna does load on 17 and 12 meters with reduced gain. On 17 meters it does pretty well. I use a tuner, but it does not have to work too hard. The SWR without the tuner is about 2.5:1. On 12 meters there is a very noticeable loss in gain when compared to my quad. The only reason I would replace this antenna would be to get full performance on 12 and 17 meters that is equal to the performance on 10, 15 and 20 meters. The Force 12 XR-5 or Optibeam 9-5 would fill that bill.
Lightning Bolt 5 Band Quad: I don’t know that I would own a quad in any other configuration than the one I have. It is low at only 35ft. But the good news is that a quad does pretty good when mounted low. I have friends that have had quads up much higher than what mine is and they did not last the first winter. My quad has been up for about 7 years with no problems at all. It is somewhat protected by the surrounding trees. If the quad was the only antenna I had I would have no complaints. But that being said, I have the opportunity to compare with my C3. First I will note that the C3 is about 20 feet higher than the quad. On 20 meters the C3 and the Quad at very comparable. I would say in terms of gain the C3 seems to have maybe a slight advantage. But the quad in most cases much quieter. There are many times that I would not be able to work them without the quad. On 12 and 17 Meters the quad is the winner. This is especially true on 12 meters. On 15 meters, I think the quad suffers from what I call director/reflector confusion. Yes there is a 15 meter reflector, but I think on 15, the radiation pattern is effected by the 12 meter reflector which I believe functions as somewhat of a 15 meter director. (confused yet?) On 10 meters the quad compares very well with the C3. Again like 20, sometimes better, sometimes worse. I also have a 2 element 6 meter quad nested in the center of the other elements. It does a OK job. I have worked 33 countries on 6 meters in the last 4 years. If I were to do anything to this antenna it would be to modify the one coax single feed system on 10 through 20 meters. I would get a remote coax switch and have a separate feed for each band using 75 ohm 1/4 wave coax matching transformers as needed.
My 80 meter Inverted Vee: My 80 meter inverted vee (see diagram) is somewhat what of a anomaly or an aberration. It works much better than it technically should. I’m in the city on a small lot with the apex of the “V” at 46 feet. I have worked ~240 countries on 80 meters. I fair much better than I should in the pileups many times beating out local that have much higher antennas and are running more power. This antenna is a variation on an antenna that I saw many years ago in 73 magazine. The title of the article was “the antenna that is too good to be true” (hey, no kidding that was the name). OK, I’m ready for the antenna purest to pile on. But before you do, others have tried it and claim the same results. Simply stated, it was a big improvement over the regular single coax feed inverted vee at the same height. To those that look at the diagram and say “hey why don’t you just use open wire feeders”. I would say “good point”. But I tried that but the feed lines just picked up way too much noise here in the city. I don’t believe the coax losses on 80 meters are that great. The SWR without the tuner is about 2:1 at 3700.
Invasion of the Rocky Raccoon! (and his many relatives): A number of years ago, my 1870 built home was invaded by raccoons. They somehow got on my roof (more later)and tore off the attic exhaust fan and entered the attic of my home. They migrated to an area of the attic that had been bricked off except for a small entry hole. We had an expert come and check the situation out. He advised that our only recourse was to let them stay until they leave when in the early summer when it gets too hot. When I use the term “them”, this include the new raccoon babies that were born. They were not a bother except for the except for the noise that they made when they moved around. The expert advised use to re-seal and reinforce the attic fan when they leave. He told use that their homing instinct would assure that they would return to their birth place the next year. So when they departed, the attic fan was replaced and mounted on reinforced steel grating!
Fast forward to next year; As the expert predicted, they returned. Unable to get in through the attic fan they went to the area on the roof that was over the spot where they spent the previous spring. They tore the shingles off but where not able to get it. At that point they went to the point where the tower passed the eave of the roof and tore off the fascia board to gain entry. This meant war! It was obvious at this point that I had to keep those critters from climbing the tower. I called our local ham and “jack of all trades” Norm W8TTH. Norm is the owner-operator of Norms Fabrication. I explained the problem and Norm came up with the solution. Norm make all sorts of tower accessories, but I think this was a first for him. Norm came up with the design and fabricated the first W8TTH “anti coon cone”. See the photo. I think that I have the only one. I have not had any problems with “Rocky” and any of his kin since installing the “anti coon cone”. Problem Solved!!
As a side note, I made a insurance claim for the damage Rocky and his friends did. This coupled with a claim for some hail damage from a 2000 storm caused my house insurance to be canceled. In the process of getting new insurance I found out how hard it is to get complete replacement insurance on a home that is is over 140 years old. It’s double brick wall construction sent the replacement cost through the ceiling. That being said, it will still be standing in another 150 years. Rocky and his friends caused my insurance rates to almost triple. The moral of the story is: Don’t make claims on an old home! The insurance companies have changed there policies with regards to old home coverage. You will pay a heavy price!