My Simple Balcony Antenna
I’ve been using a new HF antenna recently with surprisingly good results. Hopefully this page will be encouraging to those in apartments with severe antenna restrictions. I used to operate an indoor dipole mounted on my ceiling which was virtually invisible, but ever since solar panels were added to my apartment roof this antenna is picking up a huge amount of noise. In the past I played with a base-loaded vertical antenna made from copper pipe and it worked okay, especially when on my balcony, but it was bulkier than needed and awkward to store. My most recent antenna is made from 24AWG wire helically wrapped around the top element of a 3-element cane pole. My dad found a 15ft cane pole for $4 and it’s working pretty well for me. I guess the best description of this antenna is a “fully-loaded vertical” similar to a DIY hamstick. Here are some photos.
Notice that I only wrapped the highest element with wire. (The arrows in the above image depict where the helical element begins and finishes.) My logic is geared toward trying to get as much of the functional antenna above my apartment roof as possible. While it might not be a high-gain antenna, the level of noise reduction I experienced by raising the majority of the antenna above the roof is astounding.
I can hear stations nearly full quieting that I cannot even detect with my indoor dipole. Also, I hate reports like this, but I’ve only made a few SSB contacts ever with my indoor setup, and always local US stations. The very first contact I made with this vertical antenna was Slovenia! He was calling CQ, I responded, and it picked me up on the first try.
THIS ANTENNA IS UGLY and a certain violation of my lease agreement which specifically states no outdoor antennas are allowed. Therefore, this is something I can only set up at night. Notice the PVC fitting at the base of the antenna - it makes it easy to set up and break down. Maximum setup / breakdown time is 30 seconds. On the floor of my balcony I have wire running up and down the wooden boards which forms a makeshift mesh ground plane. It’s not optimal, but I’m limited and it’s what I came up with. When I feel ambitious, I have quarter-wavelength radials that I toss off the balcony and in the bushes to improve grounding. Although I’m sure I could have tap points and gator clips to select the antenna’s resonant frequency, currently I run the antenna right into a MAC-200 antenna tuner. I’ve used it on 17m, 20m, 30m, 40m, and 80m. Again, this antenna is far from optimal, it should represent the last resort for extreme cases, but when you’re faced with not being able to operate at all this little quick and dirty setup has been a godsend!
I’m sure a lot of people will read this and be angry or argue as to why this doesn’t make a good antenna. I’m not claiming it’s awesome, but for me it’s the best I could come up with in my limited situation. That’s my $0.02!