Buying a house based on soil conductivity?

Discussion in 'Ham Radio Life' started by KJ5T, Jul 27, 2020.

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  1. KJ5T

    KJ5T Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I wasn't really sure the right forum to put this topic in. But "Ham Radio Life" seemed appropriate as it is more about those tough decisions on property purchases than about ham radio. Soil conductivity and the various maps has been discussed in various threads over the years. Never having had a real station, I had made due over the years with whatever I could.

    My wife and I will soon be entering the market to buy our first home (Planning to start the real search in October). For us there are three key drivers:

    1) We want to start having kids in the next year or two and therefore desire the extra space.
    2) I want to be able to have some place where I can play radio in some fashion
    3) My wife wants a place where she can entertain her friends.

    As those who have been on QRZ.com for years know, sometimes I get into my "thinking/planning" moods where I start pondering things. I lurk in the antenna threads and today spotted a discussion which mentioned several vertical antennas. I had recently come across K3LC's article from 2004 in NCJ which talks about antenna performance over various ground systems (http://ncjweb.com/bonus-content/k3lcmaxgainradials.pdf). The article talks about optimum radial systems under various soil conditions.

    I heard several locals complain about the ground conductivity around here, and it is true much of the area west of IH-35 has a rating of 8 millisiemens. Much of East Austin has a rating of 15 millisiemens. However, there is a section in Williamson County which includes a large part of the area that I am looking at which has a rating of 30 millisiemens.

    I am no expert in any of this, from what I have read the only real difference here is vertical antenna performance will need far more radials and longer radials to reach maximum gain with the poorer soil.

    Of course it will already be enough of a challenge to find some place without an HOA or CC&R's so we will take what we can get. It does beg the question if I would consider soil conductivity at all when purchasing the home. I have read it can make a different with other antenna systems as well though it would seem a no brainer if there was a larger lot in the area with the poorer soil that I would still likely go with the larger lot as that gives me more flexibility with antennas.

    This is a completely hypothetical discussion. There are far more important things on our home list, but I finished up my work early today and clearly have too much time on my hands. I would be curious who has considered soil conductivity when buying a house or property. So much of the east would have what is considered poor soil conductivity so many practically it doesn't make a huge difference.
     
  2. K0UO

    K0UO Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    You're not alone and good luck on your search
    The fact is many amateurs over the years and currently have looked for ideal locations based on various things.

    I don't know where you're going to be conducting your search.

    Please be advised that the ground conductivity maps are not accurate.

    I conducted extensive ground testing around my Ranch and have found High degree of difference.

    Some areas just have poor conductivity in that case you best look for an area that you can put up tall towers. And plan on an extensive or elevated system to improve efficiency.
    Keep us posted and provide more information about location
     
  3. KJ5T

    KJ5T Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Thank you for the feedback, I suppose the maps not being accurate is to be expected since the FCC map does say it is an estimate. I am currently using data found here: https://www.fcc.gov/media/radio/m3-ground-conductivity-map .

    The reality is this is our first home purchase, my wife and I both still work "in the city". While I am able to be remote (and in fact likely will be remote the remainder of this year due to COVID-19) my wife still commutes daily (minus some strange scheduling during the pandemic). She doesn't want more than a 1-hour commute in traffic (I don't blame her). My wife's office is north of Austin, but actually in a pretty decent location and therefore opens up a wide area of possibilities. I am partial to Taylor which just so happens to be an area where the FCC estimates soil conductivity at 30 millisiemens, it is a lot further from my office in Northwest Austin but within 20 minutes of my wife's office and an area where you can get more bang for your buck.

    Reality is that we aren't going to have a huge lot, I would be lucky to wind up on a .25 acre lot. While one day I might have a radio range with big towers that isn't in the current plans. I will be happy to have a hex beam at 40ft at some point. I know a lot of people where radio is the most important thing for them, or they have retired and are lucky to be able to live in the country, or in your case lucky enough to commute to work in your plane when you were working. At this point I am just looking for an upgrade from apartment living! Though if I get lucky and do end up somewhere with good soil conductivity I can have a lot of fun with vertical antennas!

    I am not sure if it would be worth it to have the actual soil tested before buying a house, or purchasing a meter myself. While I likely will take an AM radio and listen for noise sources the fact is we were will be in the burbs and there will be noise sources beyond our control. Part of me keeps thinking we should save money by just buying in an HOA, maybe even something like a 3BR townhome and then using the money saved to go buy an undeveloped lot and start building a remote site, but that is a pipe dream.

    Maybe one day I will hit the powerball (ha!)
     
  4. K0UO

    K0UO Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    I would not worry that much about the ground, but think 2 or 3 times before you go HOA, or a townhome. Then only way to really enjoy radio then is to move, (RFI from others will be bad too) I have been there a few time over the years.
    Good luck
     
    WA8FOZ, WF7A, SA6CKE and 1 other person like this.
  5. KJ5T

    KJ5T Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I would only consider a townhome or condo or being in an HOA if it was a sure thing that I would be able to have both places. It would certainly be a lot of added work (some of which I would need help with), time and money to build and maintain a remote contest station but I think that would be my ultimate dream. In reality we really don't have the money for two places and while under a few situations we could make it happen it would pretty tough, we will most likely focus on find a non-HOA home in the suburbs. Hopefully we find a gem and I am sure when that happens there will be plenty of threads here for me to wax poetic about various antenna projects.
     
  6. KP4SX

    KP4SX Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Ask the Realtor about the soil conductivity :)
     
    SA6CKE and K0UO like this.
  7. W7UUU

    W7UUU Super Moderator Lifetime Member 133 Administrator Volunteer Moderator Platinum Subscriber Life Member QRZ Page

    My realtor was stymied enough by my request for 5 acres with lots of tall trees in the clear and sitting at or near the top of a ridge...

    I can only imagine the looks I would have gotten if I'd also asked for great soil conductivity :D:D

    Dave
    W7UUU
     
    AH7I, ND6M, N2EY and 1 other person like this.
  8. N7WR

    N7WR Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I have had HF stations at 7 different QTH's over a period of 50 years. I have never given a thought to ground conductivity. I have, without exception, avoided any HOA or property with CCR's . Having said that with modest antennas over who knows what kind of ground I have confirmed all but P 5 and have 7BDXCC. There are ways around poor soil. There are seldom acceptable ways around HOAs and CCRs.
     
    K2CAJ, N0TZU and K0UO like this.
  9. W6MK

    W6MK Ham Member QRZ Page

    Look at how you operate or how you will want to operate in the future: bands; NVIS range; DX at various azimuths. Etc.

    There are far more important considerations than soil conductivity if you want to be able to set up high performance antenna systems: tower or other antenna support feasibility; useful trees; lot square footage: a good radial system will probably outperform good soil conductivity.

    I think property height can deliver the most benefit for radio operating. Height above surrounding
    terrain up to several wavelengths away.

    I've never even considered whether a prospective house would be good for radio operating. There are so many other aspects about housing that far outweigh aspects of this hobby.

    What's most important is being creative about using as best you can what property you end up with.
    There's the challenge and much of the fun.
     
    WA8FOZ likes this.
  10. W4IOA

    W4IOA Ham Member QRZ Page

    When we moved haM radio was not in my list of top 10 things concerning a new home. That said, really think about what you want in a home, really think. Then see what the options are. Fixer upper, new build, quality preowned. Look at where you want to live, distance from work, stores, family, etc. Here I had some good choices not involving an HOA, and in the end we chose our first new build in what WIK refers to as a "tract" home. I can do radio here with a flagpole antenna and enjoy HF. I have no regrets (besides not adding 10' to my garage depth).
    Soil conductivity should be way way way down on your list in choosing a house. And don't forget if you're married there are others who might have a list of importants.
     
    W2AI likes this.

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