In early 2013, I got permission from the HOA to install a 30 to 35′ vertical at our second QTH. The antenna’s location is conveniently obscured from view in the community. I was pleasantly surprised at the community’s flexibility and went with the SteppIR BigIR with the 80 meter coil option.
First, a few pictures, and then I’ll summarize what I learned and recommend when installing this great antenna. Here is a picture of the almost completed antenna installation (before single 11′ guy installation):
Here is the base of the antenna, from the 80M coil side, showing the radial plate and cables exiting the ground/conduit:
Here is the base of the antenna, from the EHU with a clear view of the radial plate:
I ordered the antenna from SteppIR with the 80 meter coil, advanced lighting protection (relays that disconnect control lines when not in use, tuning interlock, and the various cables). I chose DX Engineering for their stainless steel base radial plate and hardware.
I also ordered a 3 foot 1.5″ OD stainless steel mounting pipe, machined to 1.48 at one end – this was used instead of the provided aluminum pipe. The location is near salt water, I wanted Stainless for as many parts as possible, especially where two metals meet.
There are 48 radials, radials ranging from 25 feet to about 70 feet. The average is 40 feet. I used a total of 2000′ of relaxed wire from DX Engineering. I’ve placed ground radials in the past with a comparable gauge stranded big box wire spool and it was much more difficult. The relaxed wire is 200% worth it — the radials stay where you put them until stapled (and thereafter). I’d purchased 2000 lawn staples in a few batches before installation time. That seems to be about the right amount. However, one box of 500 was painted black — avoid those as the paint coating gets on everything.
I chose to bury the coax and control lines in PVC conduit, even though the coax is direct bury and I could find direct bury cable for control lines. We have various pests, including moles, and I didn’t want the hassle down the road. The coax and control lines were routed inside the pvc conduit from the shack, first behind bushes and then underground through a segment of the yard. The cable was pushed through each section before gluing to the previous segment.
I also found that very heavy duty weed whacker wire – non metallic – (above .1 inch diameter) and the Buckmaster Line-Grip (hamcall.net) make strong, low visibility guy wires. I found some greyish color that works great.
Following another great tip I’d received, I used 4 pin connectors on each control wire. I used a male-female on the EHA and the other way around for the 80M coil. This makes it impossible to mismatch them. Using connectors makes removing the antenna for maintenance or large storms (hurricane plan) much easier. I’m also a new fan of Rescue Tape (thanks Amazon).
I initially had high SWR on most bands. After some tweaking at the antenna and learning the less than clearly named “create, modify” in the SDA 100, and using the 3/4 mode on upper bands, I got reasonable SWR. On 40 meters, SWR hovers near 2:1. On all other bands, from 1.1:1 to 1.6:1. It tunes up fine and seems to work well everywhere.
So far, the contacts have come with much less effort. CQs get answered regularly. There is no apparent local noise problem.
Thanks a million to K8GY, Mark Denslow, for immense help throughout the process, ensuring a great installation, and being a great friend in general.
Dan Hoogterp, W4LI