PART 2 of ham radio and the condo life

Roll-top open and it's a nice station setup
Good afternoon lets look at the condo itself shall we?  Mixing ham radio and condo living does not mean you have to start looking for a new hobby! It's true there is no more tower with a Yagi on it but with condo living you may gain height anywhere from 30 to possibly 400 feet up. In my case I am at the 180 foot level in my previous condo I was at the 60 foot level. Most condos have a balcony of various sizes which can serve as a spot to place an antenna. In my case because this place is built like a brick you know what and there is some type of glazing on the windows that just does not allow me to operate with an indoor antenna. I have tried the loop indoors and I get no hits from reverse beacon network and no answer when operating FT8 and no digi reports on WSPR. In the past I was in a smaller wood construction unit and I had no issues placing my mag loop indoors and operating QRP. Also the smaller wood construction units may also give you access to an attic. This was the case for me and I did very well with multiple antennas in the attic. More on antennas in up coming condo life posts. Indoor space is also another consideration as you have to incorporate your station in a smaller living space. My solution to this issue was to use a nice roll-top desk. I am able to have all my radio equipment under the cover of a nice piece of furniture and when I roll the top up it's my station. Running coax out to the antenna can be a challenge, in this unit my roll-top is in the spare bedroom. The coax leaves the room under cover of a Persian run in the
Ham radio gone under cover
hallway. Into the master bedroom (under the baseboard at the doorway) then behind the dresser (out of site out of mind) and then onto the balcony as we have 2 sliding glass doors onto balconies. How might you ask does one get the coax out the balcony door?? More about that in a followup condo life post. So in a condo you may have an attic to use, if wood construction indoor antenna may be a possibility? Even in a solid concrete condo give an indoor antenna a go you may be surprised. You can take full advantage of height depending what floor you are on. Finally you may have a balcony were you can allow you mind to percolate as to how and what antenna to use. Speaking of antennas the next "Ham radio and the condo life" I will be looking at my experiences with antennas some failures and other successes.    

Mike Weir, VE9KK, is a regular contributor to and writes from New Brunswick, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].

6 Responses to “PART 2 of ham radio and the condo life”

  • paul rittenhouse. Wa3tiu:

    [email protected]
    Very informative

  • Gary KB0KDX:

    The issues of antennas in condos, town homes and HOA antenna restricted communities is becoming a growing problem with Ham operators. So, this is a very good topic to cover and I am anxious to hear everyone’s stories of success and failures in their attempts to get a decent antenna on the air. I live in a townhome and have only a 20×20 foot garage attic to work with because the rest of the roof is low and stuffed with duct work and insulation. I use a 37 foot 10-40m OCF Dipole in a sideways L-shape in the garage attic bout 15 feet up. It gives poor to fair results and does ok on the digital modes. My best antenna is an MFJ 7 foot tall 40m Ham-tenna mag mounted on my van in the driveway that is slightly better than the attic OCF Dipole. I still have a couple of other tricks up my sleeve and will share them and the results as I try each one. I have considered an MFJ-1788 Loop, but read they work ok if you get a good one, but they have horrible quality control from MFJ so it’s a roll of the dice. In a condo situation they are probably a lifesaver being the best option. 73!

  • Mike VE3WDM:

    Good afternoon Gary thanks for taking the time to read the post and leaving a comment. I too have lived in a townhouse and it sure can be a challenge. For sure having an antenna on the van compared to a garage dipole is a much better option. I too am hoping that as I bring out new parts in the series that there will be comments from those who have had success and those who have tried things that just did not work out for them. Who knows with the knowledge out there someone who posts of a failed attempt another ham can share how they made it work for them.
    73 Gary and have a great week.

  • Walt N5EQY:

    I too have suffered the “you cant have an antenna here” syndrome. I learned early on to observe the area and neighborhood for antennas of any kind. Before the advent of cable and satellite tv it was pretty easy to put up a pole or small tower under the guise of watching xyz tv stations. But having been career military, i learned quickly that a MARS membership went a long way to having a dipole or yagi or vertical etc. Working with local disaster groups helps immensely especially if you were a member of local weather groups like NWS or tornado watch, etc. I recently moved from a 2 acre spread out in the country to a HOA (which i grudgingly agreed to) to avoid divorce court, lol..Anyways, I have a one story house with a large attic space and it is stuffed full of antennas of all kinds and one 40 mtr EFHW that is camouflaged by white wire under white eaves and black/gray wire thru 2 trees. SO dont give up and remember if you dont ask you dont get turned down. Hide everything in the weeds, trees, attics, under eaves and flag poles. Its easier to get forgiveness that it is to get permission. CQ DX 73

  • Mike VE3WDM:

    Good morning Walt, thanks for all the great insight and it’s so true we’re there is a will there is a way! Attics are a great spot for an antenna. Being antenna challenged only but gets the ham radio mind rolling with ideas. Thanks for the input and have a great week.

  • Mike VE3WDM:

    Thanks Paul there is more to come.

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