MF and HF Receiving Antenna
My first shortwave antenna was a simple end-fed wire which started at my bedroom window and extended out horizontally to a tree which was 25 feet away from our house. The antenna feed line was a short piece of wire that connected to the near end of the antenna and entered the house through a small hole I made in my wooden window sill. This feed line was directly connected to my receiver's high impedance antenna input. My station ground was long piece of wire that was connected to a copper pipe located in the bathroom next door. While this antenna brought in "the world" to my bedroom, it was extremely noisy. Directly connecting your antenna feed line and house ground system to your receiver are not good RFI reduction practices. This web page will explore some experiments in trying to minimize the Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) arising from my local environment.
Indoor RFI sources are usually plentiful. Electrical appliances
such as washing machines, televisions, DVD players, computers and electrical
wiring may all emit RFI which your antenna, or directly connected house ground
system may pick up and feed to your receiver. Certain indoor devices may be
really strong RFI sources and will have to be eliminated or decoupled. Outside
of your house
are also potential sources of RFI. These may include such things as power transformers,
electric fence and garage door openers. RFI location and reduction is out of scope for this web page,
however a good place to learn more is the ARRL RFI book (out-of-print: search on Amazon). To find RFI sources in your home and neighborhood, try using a battery powered AM radio.
At my QTH, I located
a noisy VCR inside the house my Grundig S350. We rarely use this VCR and now
just leave it unplugged until we actually need to operate it. I tuned the receiver to an empty frequency and found
by trial and error. Please note this web page is concerned with
feeding a shortwave listening antenna and does not describe providing protection against
lightning. For web sites which covers lightening plus RF
ground please refer to this
offering from W8JI or eHam.net.
Protect your home and family from lightening !!
Outdoor MF and HF Antenna
The schematic to the left summarizes the outdoor VE7BPO MF and HF receiving antenna system for summer 2007.
Although modest for a big city lot, this antenna seems to pull in the DX and is relatively free of RFI. This antenna
was just a case of "putting as much wire in the sky as possible" and the
dimensions are indicated for interest sake only. The 27 meter long horizontal section is supported between 2 trees at a height of about 14 meters high.
The weight of the vertical element wire plus slack in the horizontal wire droop
it to about 13 meters high in the center. The vertical section is soldered to the horizontal wire 6 meters from the nearest anchoring tree and
runs straight down to the antenna feed point which is
about 1 meter off the ground. The feed point is a piece of copper-clad PC board (with
isolated sections created with a hobbyist motor tool) and is bolted to a long copper pipe which serves as the
first station earth-grounding stake. A transformer (T1) configured as a
UNUN (unbalanced-to-unbalanced) is used to interface the antenna with 50 ohm coax that runs through the
house and into the radio shack. Some rudimentary experiments with the
UNUN and the earth-grounding system were undertaken.
The methods I used to potentially lower unwanted RFI to my antenna system are as follows:
- The receiver and power supply are independently connected to a single, central ground point (ground buss) in the radio shack.
- 6-10 gauge wire is used for my ground system (not including the radials which are bare 12 gauge wire).
- The ground wire connecting to my first earth stake to the station ground buss is just outside the shack window and is short as possible to provide a low impedance and low inductance path for MF and HF frequencies.
- There is a second ground stake located 1 meter from the primary ground stake (I will add 2-4 more in time).
- I have a large piece of steel buried underneath the soil tied in to my system as well as 3 bare copper radials. The radials are 3 - 7 meters in length.
- New RG58/U coax was used as the feed line.
- All wire splices in the grounding system are soldered and taped up. I used conductive grease (to prevent oxidation at the wire-stake interface) on any clamps connected to ground stakes. My ground stakes are ~ 2 meters long.
- The earth grounding area soil is moist and peat-laden and is watered regularly.
- I plan to maintain this ground system every 2 years.
My antenna is almost an end-fed wire with both a vertical and horizontal section. I do not have the gear
to measure the impedance versus frequency in the MF and HF bands. I do know that
on some bands it may present an impedance of several thousand ohms and a
transformer can smooth out the variation in impedance versus
frequency so my receiver sees a relatively low impedance on most bands. The
transformer also serves to help reduce RFI from my antenna system by
eliminating unwanted common mode currents flowing on the outside of the coax
Grounding the antenna via the UNUN will also prevent static electricity from building up on the antenna. My first UNUN had a 4:1 impedance ratio. It is shown to the right. The antenna connects to point A. The ground stake connects to point B. Point C connects to the inner wire of the coax and point D is connected to the braid and also the grounding stake. I used 24 AWG wire and A FT114-43 ferrite core. You can clearly see there are 20 primary windings and 10 secondary windings loosely coupled. I chose the FT114-43 core because I had it on hand and the 24 gauge wire provides good mechanical support for the coil. I could have used an FT50-43 ferrite torroid as well with a smaller wire gauge. You can also use a bifilar transmission line type transformer. I was very happy with this UNUN and however it did not have as much signal strength as I expected on the 160 meter amateur band and below.
Next I tried a 9:1 impedance ratio UNUN. This an extremely popular impedance
transformation ratio for end-fed or random wire SWL antennas.
I wound 30 primary and 10 secondary turns on a FT114-43 ferrite torroid. The connection points are identical to those described in the above 4:1 UNUN.
Remember that the impedance transformation ratio is the square of the actual
turns ratio on your transformer; thus my 3:1 turns ratio is a 9:1 impedance
Electrical engineers commonly use a rule when winding broadband transformers such as these. The inductive reactance (XL) of the smaller winding must be at least 4 times the load impedance at the lowest frequency that the transformer "looks" into. So for 50 ohm coax, the XL should be at least 200 ohms at 500 KHz which is the lowest frequency I intend to receive.
The formula for XL is XL = 6.28 X F X L. Frequency (F) is in Hertz and L is the inductance in Henries.
At 500 KHz my inductor has an XL of 189 ohms which is almost perfect. I should have used 11 turns which is an XL of 229 ohms and strictly observes the 4X rule. Therefore my UNUN ideally should have used 33:11 turns on the FT114-43 torroid. If you use a FT50-43 torroid, use the same 33:11 turns ratio; this will provide 198 ohms XL at 500 KHz. For practical purposes, my 30:10 UNUN should work fine as I rarely tune frequencies less than 1000 KHz. I found this UNUN to have strong signals all the way down to MF and decided to use a 9:1 impedance ratio for my antenna system. Many experimenters and a few commercial UNUNs recommend the 9:1 impedance ratio for multiband end-fed or random wire antennas. Eventually I will encase it in a water and UV proof enclosure.
My experiments while constructing a reasonable quality MF and HF receiving antenna confirmed that using a
UNUN, coax and a good RF ground system can reduce common mode RFI in my receivers.
I also tried temporarily connecting my ground system to a copper water pipe located in my shack while listening to WWV at 5 MHz and immediately the noise level rose 2 S-units on my receiver.
This pipe was clearly not grounded in my house where there is a mixture of plastic and copper water pipes. Additionally, my antenna wire and feed point is away from the house in a quiet area according to listening tests using a Grundig S350.
It is relatively easy to construct a UNUN on your bench using a ferrite torroid. Many builders have emailed me to say they do not feel comfortable winding torroids. Torroids are easy to use and by winding a couple and experiencing some success, your confidence working with them will surely improve. If you live in a part of the world where you can not easily obtain a suitable ferrite core, just email me and I may send you an FT50-43. You can also choose a ferrite with a different core permeability. Some builders use number 75 material. I used the FT114-43 because I get all my torroids from W8DIZ and just use what he has in stock for my projects. If you really do not want to construct a UNUN, commercial products are available on the web on sites such as http://www.arraysolutions.com/Products/baluns.htm.
I wish you good luck with your own antenna experiments and please be safe!