Antennas are key to the performance of a ham radio station. Fortunately there are many low cost wire antennas that can be bought or made and provide a good level of performance.
Making or even installing an antenna can be a very rewarding activity. Installing the antenna to give the best performance can provide a real sense of satisfaction.
G5RV wire antenna
On favourite form of antenna is the G5RV antenna. This performs well on many of the HF bands although the use of an antenna tuning unit is recommended. However the antenna is multiband, easy to install and is well tried and tested.
Simple wire versions of the G5RV antennae a good investment for operation on a variety of the HF bands.
When installing a balanced antenna for ham radio use such as a dipole and using coaxial feeder which is unbalanced it is always best to use a balun. In addition to this baluns can be used with a variety of other types of antenna from end fed wires to doublets (which are effectively a form of dipole anyway).
Baluns provide a transition from balanced to unbalanced, and they may also provide an impedance transformation as well. Check the ratio - often given as 4:1, 9:1 etc.
Antenna insulators are a key requirement for any HF wire antenna. As the voltages rise to their peak at the ends, insulators ensure that the voltage does find a path to earth, and also they provide an effective way for linking the wire to the rope that is used to hold the antenna end in place.
Antenna insulators are relatively cheap and are particularly useful.
Using the right type of wire for an an HF ham radio antenna is key. Whilst it is possible to use ordinary copper wire, this stretches over time. If the antenna is cut for a particular frequency, it will soon pass its optimum operating point. Also the antenna may start to sag. Hard drawn copper wire is recommended as this balances the stretch capability with the good conductivity of copper - a low resistance is needed to ensure resistance losses are minimised.