Saturday, July 18, 2009
I have spent the last 3 weeks installing a ground radial system for my DX Engineering Hustler 5BTV 80M-10M (3.5MHz - 28MHz) vertical antenna. Opting for the marginal benefit of sixteen radials cut at the lowest frequency I plan to operate on. This means that each radial is thirty-three feet long! The picture to the left shows a view of the antenna and surrounding area. The two traffic cones are covering some horseshoe pit metal poles. They most likely affect the antenna but it's not the worst problem in the world!
Each radial is made of #14 wire I stripped out of three cable Romex house wire leftover from building our garage (yes we built it ourselves). I soldered ground lugs onto each end and attached them to the antenna base at the U-bolts since I do not have the radial plate.
Fanning each radial out about 22.5 degrees (just and estimate with the handy protractor), but I was not strict on the angles being exact or laying the radials exactly straight. Instead of digging trenches for each wire, simply taking a square shovel and making a long slit in the ground worked great and left minimal marks. I took a piece of scrap metal and shoved the cable down and followed with the shovel pressing the ground back into place.
It took me three weeks which consisted of about 20 hours in all of laying the wires. It could have gone much quicker but I had to get set up each time I went out to work on it because most of the time I would do this after work and only had a few hours of light. There is a compost pile right next to the antenna which I had to move for each radial, in the end the whole pile was turned over so I guess I "hit two birds with one stone". It hadn't been turn in a year or two so the tough and slow part was moving the wet flattened leaves.
Before I laid the radials for the Hustler 5BTV it performed like an aluminum rod stuck in the ground. It really didn't pick up signals well and was deaf by antenna standards. Any attempts to adjust the SWR were not easy, very touchy, and almost unable to be tuned below a 3:1 VSWR on the amateur bands. After putting these radials onto the antenna, I am able to adjust the elements as suggested by the manual with ease and so far have adjusted most bands to <1.9:1 VSWR. The picture to the right shows the base of the vertical a few days before I was finished installing the radials. The coax can also be seen which attaches under the antenna by simply splitting the sheath and center conductor appart. The Hustler 5BTV is mounted about 4 inches above the ground as suggested by the manual.
The Hustler 5BTV vertical antenna went from performing like a 21 foot aluminium rod stuck in the ground to a 80m-10m antenna! Using an MFJ 269 antenna analyser has been great and I hope to have SWR data and operating performance soon. The 4BTV is exactly the same except there is an extra trap and whip antenna attached to the top which makes the 5th band (80m).