Low Profile Vertical HF Antenna

With the upcoming solar cycle pushing operations on the HF bands towards success on 20 meters to 10 meters you might be wondering if a vertical antenna may be the right choice for making the most of this time.

Well, to be honest you may well have just as much success with a simple horizontal dipole strung up.

Dipoles are pretty easy to build and don’t cost too much if you would rather purchase one from Alpha-Delta or the Wireman.

However, if you…

  • don’t have trees to support your dipole
  • already have a dipole, but are interested in seeing if a vertical provides more performance
  • have no antenna, but lots of property to try something new
  • just want to try something different

…then this simple vertical antenna is for you.

The description on its construction are contained within the pages of…

It is nothing more than several sections of copper plumbing pipe available at any hardware outlet such as Home Depot, Lowes, etc.

The key to any practical ground mounted vertical antenna is radials, radials and more radials. I choose the radial concentrator plate from DX Engineering to organize my radial attachments. In my case each radial is 33 feet long, but since this is ground mounted, the radials are not tuned which means the lengths are not super critical.

I buried the coax between the house and the antenna.

As you can see…

16 foot vertical antenna over radial wires
16 foot vertical antenna over radial wires

…this antenna has a simple appearance. However, it works quite well on 20, 17 and 15 meters. I have a few 10 meter contacts too, but this is arguably the wrong band for an antenna cut for 20 meters.

Soon I will be putting up a dipole too since I actually do have a few trees of modest height. I am considering the Alpha-Delta DX-CC as a friend of mine has a large log from his. Plus, this will get me on 40 and 80 meters which is, at this point in the solar cycle, a good place to operate.

When I have both antennas I will do some simple AB comparisons asking:

  • Does the vertical receive more noise as everyone suggests it might?
  • Does the vertical provide better low angle performance?
  • Does either antenna provide a benefit for certain bands and distances?
  • Is a replacement vertical radiator such as the continuously tunable SteppIR BigIR vertical or the “tuner-required” 43 foot radiator several companies are selling something worth considering?
  • Assuming I get a vertical with more bands along with the dipole DX-CC am I done with antennas for my QTH?

One of the things I love about ham radio is exactly these kind of choices.

Even though my radials are good and plenty, I realize the low angle performance is more reliant on the local soil conditions up to many wavelengths away from the antenna rather than anything I do with my radials. Still radials are there to ensure your antenna efficiency is good so you still should have plenty. Look up the excellent details on Cebik’s web site for more information before you try to understand what radials do for vertical antennas.

If you desire to try a vertical antenna, consider this simple copper pipe version. It is cheap, but does require quite a bit of radial wire. However, if you like what you get with your vertical antenna and want to upgrade to something better, the investment in your radial system will translate right over to your new antenna… and that antenna will love you for it.

UPDATE 2009:
I made my first, and so far only, Phone contact with Australia using this antenna on 20 meters. I was thrilled. This suggests simple antennas do work. However, I do admit the quad array of 20 meter beams used by the Aussie were the significant factor in our QSO 😉

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