|The MFJ loop covered and ready to go into service.
In part 2 of antenna challenges, I want to dive into living in a condo and getting on the air. Many amateur operators at some time have found themselves moving into an apartment to save for a home or downsizing into a condo when the house has grown too big.
This lifestyle does not mean the radio hobby is tossed. Most of us find our radio hobby adds pleasure to one's day. For me when I was in a condo it meant just another hurdle to overcome toward getting on the air. In my readings, I have seen hams who have erected wire, mobile whips and so on. I have never tried any of these and if you have please do share what you have tried. The condos that I have lived in were heavy on condo cop protection and the list was long as to what could and could not be on a balcony. One of the items on the list was antennas and as for me, I look at that as where there is a will there is a way!
In all the condos I have lived in I have always had a balcony to take advantage of for an antenna. After investigating many antennas the best solution (a pricey solution) was a mag loop antenna for the balcony. It offered a small size, if needed it could be taken in and out from the balcony and as well its multi-band antenna. In the past, I have had mag loops such as an AEA isoloop, Chameleon P-loop and Alex loop. I planned to leave the loop on the balcony and not have to run in and out to tune the loop. I ended up purchasing the MFJ 1786 mag loop and this loop gave me the desired remote band tuning I wanted. I then purchased a tripod to mound the loop and next was how to conceal the loop. I ended up getting a patio furniture cover which looked great and to the condo cops, it was just another piece of patio furniture on the balcony. I was thrilled the cover did not affect the SWR at all as I was prepared to remove the cover during operation and then cover it once done. The mag loop had to be moved around the balcony for the best overall SWR. This took some time and once done I marked the balcony floor with a permanent marker. Also in the front of the loop is a round copper wire and by changing its shape also can help with improving the SWR.
|Changing the shape improves SWR
This way when it was stored in the corner during non-use I was able to put it in the right spot for best operation. The loop was very fussy and putting the loop in the exact spot was important for the best possible SWR. The loop was tried both in the vertical and horizontal position. I was not able to get a decent SWR when the loop was mounted vertical. I ended up using it in the horizontal position. This was also great for the cover as it looked like a patio table I was covering. I used the Comet CTC-50M (flat coax cable) to feed out the sliding glass door so the coax would be permanent as well. This setup allowed me to place the antenna in position and start operating. Again in this configuration, I was strictly CW and I also added digital communications as well. I admit it is not an ideal situation but it got me on the air and making contact.
In my third and final antenna challenge post I want to share some other antennas I have tried some failed, some worked and others were crazy and worked. After using the loop for a short while I became very fast at tuning the loop. I also found in the summer if the humidity was high it would affect the SWR. Once a year I took the loop in for an inspection and remove any bugs that made the loop home.