Hi All

Thought I would do a write up on my antenna installation. This project sat on my to do list for a while,while I got all the equipment together and the time to get up there and do it. In the end I installed a Ringo Rango II VHF antenna for my ham radio and an EZHD antenna for over the air TV. I got the ham antenna from my father in law and the EZHD antenna for about 40 bucks on amazon, so pretty cheap. Antennas are shown below. Be aware, that I have seen a very similar TV antenna on Amazon made by RCA. Some internet searching suggests it may be cut just a bit different and thus not tuned quite as well for digital TV. Not sure about this, might work just fine, but be aware and do your own research.

ARX-2Bez hd antenna

Ok, so I got my antennas, now I need to mount them. I took my time and researched, and basically there were four things I was watching for in picking my mounting location.

  1. Unobstructed position, as high as possible.
  2. Short cable runs.
  3. Lightning Path to Ground
  4. Grounding Rods.

So for me, I know I wanted to get onto the tallest point in my roof, that was an easy enough decision, and with my location there are no obstructions for me to care about. Some people choose to mount antennas in their attic for easy installation. I’m sure overall it works fine, but I like to go big, so the attic really was never an option, and the Ringo Rango II wouldn’t fit anyways, too tall. Next I needed to decide which part of the house. Originally I was thinking the peak in the middle of my house structure over the garage. I like my ham setup in the garage as I typically listen to it while working on other projects. However this quickly became an issue when I looked at grounding. I learned lightning does not like bends in grounding lines. If I had put the antenna over my garage, the grounding line would have come down from the second story roof, to the garage roof, then over to the back of the house and finally down to ground. Not a very straight shot at all. Secondly, my existing home grounding rod is on the other side of the house. I learned it is a bad idea to have 2 ground rods, as you can get current flow from one ground to another, through your hose. If you do have multiple grounding rods, they should be directly connected. In addition, the cable TV entered on the other side of the house, so it made sense that the TV signal should enter the house there. The only bad thing about this location is that I have about a 100′ run to the garage for the ham antenna. To minimize this issue, I went ahead and bought 100′ of good quality Belden 9913 for about a dollar a foot. Expensive, but I got other stuff for free, so why not.

So now I new where I was going to mount the antennas. Putting up a tower was just way to expensive for all of 150 dollars worth of antennas. So I found a nice cheap gable mount on amazon for about 40 bucks.

antenna mount

For grounding I ran some #6 grounding wire. I thought about running it straight down from the peak, but the existing grounding rod was about 12 feet to the side. I could probably have sunk another rod and connected the two, but it seemed kinda pointless for the amount of money. In addition I could save some cable length, as both the TV and Ham cables would enter the house right next to the existing grounding rod. So in the end, the cables and grounding line go at about a 25 degree angle down to ground. Not bad. Also your grounding line should always follow your cables down to ground. The cables and grounding rod were securing using screw in insulators right into the side of the house, through the siding. Be sure to use some exterior caulk to seal around the holes.

Getting the antenna, mount and cables up to the roof was definitely a bit of a job, but it worked out alright. Used two pieces of mast I got from lowes to get the height I needed. The line you see running straight down, didn’t stay that way, it just wasn’t finished at the time I took the picture.

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Overall I was very happy with this  installation, however the gable mount is secured to the house with 2.5 inch lag bolts. For a normal single antenna setup, that is probably fine, but the more I kept looking at both of these antennas together so high up in the air the more nervous I got. The Ringo Rango II actually does  have a very low profile when it comes to wind load, but still. So after staring at it for a week I made up my mind to replace the bolts with all thread, all the way into the attic. This took some doing to actually do. Had to get a very long bore bit and drill one hole at a time while hanging over the side. It was able to be done safely, but was a pain. All the while my wonderful wife sat in the attic to help figure out what length to cut the all thread, and tighten the bolts on the inside. Now that its done, I can proudly say that mount is never, ever coming off this house!

So now that everything was installed, my last bit of business was hooking up my cables and ground rod. I highly recommend first wrapping your connections in a bit of electrical tape, and then putting Coax Seal on them. This stuff is like moldable plastic that should keep water out of your cables for a long long time. The initial electrical tape is really just to keep the coax seal from mucking up your connectors. It can be a bit of a pain coming off, but is well worth it for permanent installations.

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Now because I am ultra cautions when it comes to lightning, I chose to go ahead and grab some lightning protectors. Now these things won’t actually protect from a direct strike, but its better than nothing. The TV one I got from amazon for 20 bucks. Nothing fancy, and not sure how well it will work, but its better than nothing. For the Ham Radio, I was going to use a 20 some dollar gas tube lightning protector from MFJ, but read some less than stellar review. In the end I went for a kinda expensive Alpha Delta ATT3G50U.  At 50 bucks this thing is rather expensive, but it does look to be quality made, and you can replace the gas tube separately. What these things really do, besides shunting charge to ground in the event of a lightning strike, is to shunt smaller build ups of static electricity. It came as a surprise to me, but counter to initial thought, providing a good  ground doesn’t increase the likely hood of a strike. Which is odd, because you think of lightning hunting out the easiest path to ground, but that’s not really the case here. Evidently a static build up on the antenna, cause by dry air and wind, actually makes it much more likely to be struck. The ground line and these lightning protectors should prevent any noticeable static buildup. Its kinda funny, I have a cheaper lightning protector, protecting multiple nice TVs, and the Ham radio one is protecting a 150 dollar radio. Ohh well.
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I did find the alpha data lightning protector has a stud for connecting to the ground. So I had to jerry rig a ground plate. In the end I took a piece of 3/4″ copper pipe, cut it long ways, and beat it out to a plate that would wrap around the ground rod. I was pretty happy with the way this turned out, and should provide a very good connection. As always, make sure you have a drip loop before any line that enters your house.

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The Ham Radio is working great, everything is crystal clear, and I was able to do simplex with a friend over 10 miles away as the crow flies. Did this on low power (10 watts) and  there is some terrain in between us. The TV worked well, but it quickly became obvious I would need an amplifier to overcome the cable loss to the TV’s farther downstream. So I found a good one on Amazon. I was getting almost 20 channels on the TV closes to the antenna, but half that farther down the line. Keep in mind, these amplifiers only help with long cable runs, you will never get more tv channels than you can with the tv hook up right at the antenna. In addition, if you install these on a short cable run where it isn’t needed, you can actually get fewer channels due to overpowering the receiver.

amp

Initially i found the Ham radio would only just barely interfere with the TV signal, and only on high power. However, once I got the amplifier installed,  even a low power transmission would cut out the TV.  That is kinda  a bummer, but ohh well. I tend to listen to the Ham Radio more than talk anyways. The amplifier is working well and the interference from the Ham Transmissions haven’t damaged anything yet.

So overall, this project came out great. In the end, the setup worked out very nice. Took alot of work, and a surprising amount of total money, very little of which was for the actual antenna. I have two good antennas installed, we cut out cable which saves 70 bucks a month. My ham radio is crystal clear. I feel pretty good about the grounding, but will feel better after a few lightning storms without getting hit. Overall cost was probably approaching 500 bucks, but that’s partially because I splurged on good cable, etc… I also think the antennas add some good character to my house, but someone my wife  doesn’t agree. Ohh well.