Everyone loves a thumbrule. We all use them, but often we don't know which ones to trust. Although they are generalizations, here is a useful collection of thumbrules about antennas:
1. Any antenna is better than no antenna! Take all the time you like reading, chatting, or searching on the internet. Until you actually put up an antenna you're not on the air. Don't agonize over the choice, get something up quickly and try it. Particularly if you're working with wire you can try different things and experiment until you find something that works without spending too much money. An SGC Smartuner makes it possible to try a wide variety of antennas using nothing more than wire.
2. Higher is better. The higher you can get your antenna, the better it will be.
3. Outside is better. Some of us are limited to indoor only antennas, but anything you can do to get outside will improve your antenna's performance.
4. Longer is better. More wire on the antenna will generally make it a better radiator up to a point. As it starts to get over 2 wavelengths long, it becomes highly directional.
5. Most beginners will be happier with a dipole. A dipole has excellent performance and doesn't require much in the way of installation savvy. No other antenna is as simple to erect and use. A Smartuner can make it into a multiband antenna as well.
6. You can't have too much RF Ground. When your antenna needs an RF Ground, more is definitely better. The key is RF Impedance, keeping this to a minimum between the point you connect to the RF Ground and the ground itself. A huge RF ground connected to the RF Ground point on your Smartuner with a wire with a high impedance at your operating frequency is like having no RF Ground at all.
7. It doesn't matter what wire you use. Within limits, whether you use thick or thin wire, insulated or bare, high priced copper or low grade copper, performance won't change much. Certainly, all of these factors have an effect, but it is small compared with just getting on the air.
8. If you're facing restrictions on a permanent antenna, consider a temporary one. You may get better performance from a temporary antenna you can rig when you need it than from a permanent one that you have to compromise so heavily with that it barely gets a signal on the air.
9. Most single band antennas can be made into a multiband antenna with the addition of a Smartuner. An 80 meter dipole can be tuned from 160 to 6 meters by an SG-237 Smartuner with no adjustments to make. Select a frequency and transmit. This applies to loops, dipoles, long wires and so forth.
10. Antenna projects in magazines and books never work as advertised. Any antenna installation depends on where and how you install it. An 80 meter dipole installed 10 feet over the ground will perform differently than one that's 100 feet in the air. Experiment with any project before you make it permanent.
11. Homemade antennas are better than commercial ones. Often they are because you can make your antenna into exactly what it needs to be. At the very least, before buying a commercial antenna, you should test your antenna configuration with wire to be sure it will perform the way it is supposed to.
12. Antennas don't change much. Even old antenna books have a lot going for them. Find a used book store and see if you can locate an old ARRL Antenna Handbook. If you can't afford a new one, the old one will still have more things than you can try in a lifetime.
13. SGC Smartuners™ make it possible to get on the air with nearly any kind of antenna. They give you the flexibility to adapt to your circumstances no matter what challenges you're facing. Drop us an email today and we'll show you how you can use a Smartuner to overcome your antenna problems.
SGC’s book "HF User’s Guide", has an overview of the issues related to HF installation and operation and includes a section on antennas. You can download a free copy in PDF format from our publications page.
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