How to Select an Antenna for Ham Radio

By eHow Hobbies, Games & Toys Editor

Most hams choose a wire, beam or vertical antenna for HF operations. Wire antennas are simple and inexpensive. Beam antennas require rotators. Vertical antennas are compact.

Wire Antennas

Plan on putting up the longest wire you can at the highest level possible.

Select an area clear of power lines and other obstructions.

Decide whether you want to operate with a dipole, an inverted vee or a long wire.

Decide whether you intend to feed the antenna with open wire, ladder line or coaxial cable.

Secure a weatherproof entrance of the line to your radio room.

Measure out wire for the lowest frequency at which you plan to operate by dividing 234 by the frequency, in megahertz, to determine the length of one leg of the antenna in feet.

Trim the antenna using wire cutters.

Attach it to the center insulator or balun.

Adjust for proper resonance with an SWR meter or reflected power meter.

Beam Antennas

Remember that beam antennas are heavy and bulky and require adequate support.

Check the manufacturer's gain rating.

Read independent reviews to make certain that gain claims are accurate.

Consider purchasing a tower to support a large beam antenna.

Understand that beam antennas are rigid and weigh more than simple wire antennas. Make certain your tower wind-load rating is adequate.

Check local government zoning requirements before purchasing a tower or beginning construction.

Vertical Antennas

Choose a ground-mounted vertical antenna if you have limited space.

Remember that a vertical antenna needs counterpoise, since the vertical itself is the radiating element.

Choose an area where a set of wire radials can be easily laid out to serve as a counterpoise.

Consider mounting a vertical on a deck rail or a support post for a chain-link fence.

Consider building a single-band vertical from scrap metal as an experiment.