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Apartment Hamming

Discussion in 'Becoming an Amateur Radio Operator/Upgrading Privi' started by NC4JB, Apr 21, 2010.

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  1. NC4JB

    NC4JB Ham Member QRZ Page

    Hi Folks,
    I've been a lurker here for a couple weeks, and had a question. My girlfriend and I are studying for our Tech tickets, but we live in a 2nd floor apartment and obviously can't put up any antennas outdoors. Her interest is primarily in getting her feet wet DXing on 10m, and I'd like to do a little of that as well as some local 2m and 70cm repeater stuff. I've been looking at used handhelds on ebay for both of us, and thinking about picking up a second-hand 10m rig for her eventually, but I'm not sure what to do about antennas for either when operating in the apartment. Any suggestions?

    Also, any hams here from Western North Carolina?
  2. KF5GIN

    KF5GIN Ham Member QRZ Page

    I'm a newbie myself so I'm afraid I can't help you much with the antennas. I've spent a couple of weeks going through this site and others and I'm now looking at a mobile rig instead of a handheld to start with. A 2M mobile isn't too bad, expense wise, and will give a lot more power output and capability. You might want a haldheld eventually, but you might want to look at a couple of mobile rigs (2m & 10m) to start with and add a handheld later.

    Hopefully some of the more experienced folks will chime in on antennas, there's a good possibility I'm going to be operating out of hotel rooms and my car for the near future.
  3. NC4JB

    NC4JB Ham Member QRZ Page

    I've been looking at both, but it seems like I'll be making a significantly larger investment in equipment with a mobile rig than with a handheld that has everything "built-in" (somewhat). Granted I know I'll be sacrificing power and performance, but it will at least be an entrance into the field for less than $200. I do plan to pickup a mobile rig sooner rather than later, however.
  4. K0CMH

    K0CMH Ham Member QRZ Page

    Apartment Hamming is always a challenge.

    2 meter and 70 cm work is not to bad. If you have a balchony, you can mount a mobile antenna on a sheet of metal, or even a pie pan or pizza pan, and work that way. If you have one of those metal outdoor tables, you can clamp a mobile antenna on that. If you can't even put an antenna outside anywhere, then the same thing inside but right at a window.

    The advice about a mobile 2 meter is pretty good. First, you can get a very nice,new 2 meter mobile for almost half the price of a good HT, and it will have 10 times the power 50 watts vs 5 watts).

    Regarding 10 meters, there is not much FM activity on 10 meters. There may be none in your area. DX is sporadic now at best (due to the sunspot cycle). Most of it is taking place on HF. There are 10 meter mobile antennas that could be used like a 2 meter mobile.

    If you have access to the attic, and can make a small hole in a closet ceiling (to put some coax through), attic antennas are not all that bad. A "copper j-pole" for 2 meters and a center fed dipole for 10 meters HF (a wire that is approximately 16 feet long) will not take up much room.

    One BIG problem with HF in apartments is causing interference with neighbors' equipment. TVs are not much of a problem anymore, but sound equipment and computer speakers seem to be really suseptable.

    Other will offer some more suggestions. Hope you find a workable solution.
  5. W0IS

    W0IS Ham Member QRZ Page

    Well, don't be too quick to jump to that conclusion! If you have windows that open, then chances are, you can come up with an adequate solution.

    Personally, I would recommend trying another HF band, but 10 meters gives you a lot of good options for "stealth" antennas. Basically, if you can get about 8-1/2 feet of wire (or other conductive object) out the window, you probably have a lot of good options. Since you are on the second floor, the trick is to make those 8-1/2 feet of wire invisible from the ground. This is quite simple if you use an extremely thin wire, and something like monofilament line to hold it up.

    The possibilities are usually limitless.
  6. KF5GIN

    KF5GIN Ham Member QRZ Page

    Like I said, I know where you're coming from. Some judicious shopping on ebay for a power supply should keep you under $200 for a mobile rig. You might also find some good information if there's a local club or hamfest.

    Here's a couple of links to different antenna strategies for apartments:
  7. KJ4RZZ

    KJ4RZZ Ham Member QRZ Page

    I would focus on the 10M... 2M is active is some areas but it's pretty dead these days (since the use of cell phones). However it might be interesting if you and your girlfriend are both using 2M handhelds.

    If you have two windows, you could string a 10M dipole between them. If you have a balcony, you could easily get a dipole up in that space.

    You will be surprised at what you can reach on 10M when it's open. South America and the west coast of the USA are all reachable during the day when it's open.

    My antenna for 80M is a 65 foot wire thrown over the top of my house. It's not the best but it's better than nothing!
  8. WA4OTD

    WA4OTD Ham Member QRZ Page

    I would buy as much rig as you can afford that does it all, 80M through 2M. If you hang with it you will upgrade to General of more and then want to work more HF. Not sure why your wife thinks 10M DX is good, but it is really a challenge now, example, I have 700 DX contacts since Dec 1st and 15 are on 10M.

    HT's have a place but get old quick if that is all you have.
    Mobile is ok if you have someone to talk to, and I wouldn't count on your GF!

    Good luck!

    Antennas, if second floor is the top floor you have a little more hope. ANy trees or tall structures near?

    COuld you trace your cable TV coax out, disconnect from cable outside the apt, and use it for a vertical? Nice coax run for you. WHo needs cable anyway?

    If you can get in attic or on top you are golden.
  9. KB3RHV

    KB3RHV Ham Member QRZ Page

    Hi and welcome to Armature Radio!:)

    Apartment living can be tough for the average Ham radio operator, especially on the HF bands, but it can be done.

    First is the equipment, stay away from buying a HT or FM mobile for your first radio. These will only box you into FM repeaters or simplex contacts. It will also not let you try other modes of communication out, Like PSK, SSB, or even CW. It will also having you buy more equipment long run.

    For you first radio, I would look at a used all band/mode type radio. Like an ICOM 706 or Yaesu 857/FT100. These radios will cover 160M-70CM and also allow you to use them as mobile radios, or with a battery, they will let you run QRP mode if you definitely can not run a stealth antenna at the APT.

    Now for antennas, I would get your self a J-pole for 2M and 70CM. These are Farly cheep and they are also easy to build. For HF, I would run a random wire out to a tree or toss one over the roof and feed it with a 4:1 Unun and an auto tuner.

    A few other pointers. Don't buy your first equipment from EBAY. I have seen allot of beginners get burned or frustrated from doing this. If you do decide to buy from there, just make sure that you can get parts and there is some one close to you that can help if it dose not work.

    Now the best places to get used equipment, is locally from the clubs around you and at local ham fests. There can be better deals there then EBAY and it will also allow you meet some of the local ham's in your area. You can find information for clubs and ham fests on the ARRL's web site.
  10. G4ILO

    G4ILO Ham Member QRZ Page

    For HF I'd suggest that you take a look at the MP-1 antenna. It is a very versatile antenna and efficient for its size. You can mount it on the car if you are mobile. You can clamp it to a balcony rail for apartment operating, or use it indoors on a tripod if that isn't possible. I've even used it, with suitable adapters, mounted right on the antenna socket back of the rig. It covers all bands 6m to 40m.

    Regarding your plan to operate 10m, that band will be coming to life with short skip sporadic-E over the next few months but we are still in the doldrums of the solar cycle so the rest of the time it will be dead as a dodo. So it would probably be worth while considering other bands. In your situation it might be worth looking at an FT-817 or the other portable Yaesu (857 / 897?) that runs a bit more power. They cover all the populat bands so you will always find something interesting going on, whatever the conditions.

    Good luck with getting your tickets.
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