You hear it all the time from the myriad suburban dwelling hams: “My darn Home Owners Association won’t allow antennas or I’d have a big old aluminum farm up in the air!” The HOA. The restrictions. The covenants. Curses!
Do not fret. First, you don’t need a “big old aluminum farm” to make fun and reliable contacts around the globe on the HF bands. Second, there’s more than one way to skin the covenant cat! One potential solution, among many, is a flag pole vertical antenna. Yep, it’s a flag pole. It’s an antenna. It’s a flag pole antenna, and it complies with most neighborhood restrictions. Further, no one has to be wise to the fact that your attractive new flag pole sometimes radiates and receives RF while Old Glory is flapping in the breeze.
Granted, every antenna is a compromise and a flag pole antenna is no exception. But if you have no giant trees in which to string up a stealthy wire dipole and if you can’t quite camouflage that 30 foot wide 20-meter Yagi as a new age yard sculpture, the flag pole vertical may be an upstanding choice for your HF station. Just be prepared for a little work to get it installed and anticipate that you’re probably going to have to use a high-end antenna tuner on some of the bands on which it claims to operate. Review that “compromise” statement above one more time.
My good friend Jϋrg, KDØRVG, is a recent graduate of our local radio club’s Technician License Class, and he was studying hard for the General License exam when he purchased a multiband radio. He lives in a very nice but stringently restricted neighborhood on a beautiful hilltop location that’s sure to provide magnificent RF propagation… if an antenna could actually be positioned there. Jϋrg’s primary amateur radio desire was to make contacts into Europe, especially near his former home region of Switzerland. After considering the lack of proper arboreal masts on his lot he decided to try a flag pole HF antenna. I was enthused to assist him! I had never installed one of these stealthy, covert flag pole thingies. Should be a fun project!
Antenna or not, a proper flag pole requires a sound base. Be prepared to pour some cement, or have some poured for you, in which to anchor the flag pole mast. See the accompanying video to get the gist of this operation, and attend particularly to the anchor bolt template and leveling tasks. The last thing you want is a leaning flag pole cemented into your yard!
Most vertical antennas need a good ground plane, and this turned out to be the biggest chore. Jϋrg laid 32 radial wires in the earth extending from the base of the flag pole. We needed a pick axe to break into the hard, rocky ground around the antenna, and each radial was about 25 feet long. If you’re keeping score, 32 radials x 25 feet = 800 feet of pick axe fun. Fortunately, the ground radials need be placed only slightly under the earth. In fact, placing them more than an inch or two underground may reduce the ground plane effectiveness, so keep it shallow. After several hours of trenching and covering wires under the hot sun, we called it a day.
But Jϋrg promised he would come back and finish the job, and I joined him again for a round of soldering action. He created a wire ring around the base of the antenna to which he soldered the 32 radial wires of the ground plane. Then he soldered one more wire onto the ring and coupled it to the ground side of the antenna radiator’s matching transformer/connection box. With the difficult work done, he connected the already-run-and-buried coaxial feedline cable to the antenna feedpoint and was ready to radiate!
A quick check of the SWR across the bands with an antenna analyzer indicated the antenna was working as advertised. We fired up Jϋrg’s new Kenwood rig. He was still a technician at the time, so I served as control operator on the 20-meter band using our club call sign. As luck would have it, the Worked All Europe DX Radio Contest was ongoing, and there were tons of European stations on the air. We tuned up a likely prospective station that was running a pile up and Jϋrg gave out a call!
Would Jϋrg make his first-ever HF contact on his new multiband transceiver and vertical flag pole antenna?
Would Jϋrg’s very first HF contact be back to his old European home?
Would the flag pole antenna even work properly?
Would Jϋrg upgrade to General so he can work all the bands his flag pole might offer?
Well, you’ll just have to check out the video to answer those questions and to see if this story has a happy ending. But be aware that there are several flag pole antenna commercial vendors to select from. Study their products and make an informed decision. Get online and check out the ham reviews for the products, and talk to someone who has installed and used the antenna if possible. Call up the company and ask them details about their product and its installation.
Then give it a shot and get on the air! Don’t let the neighborhood HOA get you down and put your HF operations in the dirt. There’s more than one way to get around those restrictions, and a flag pole antenna just may be the best bet for your station situation. 73!
~ Stu, WØSTU