In this section:
1) As much as we can, we make any improvements, clean up any loss and detuning issues in and around the inverted L to make it as efficient as we can.
**When we're done doing all that,**
2) We use one of various methods to match the L's feedpoint to 50 ohms so it will look good on the shack SWR meter and support amps with limited matching range.
Between publishing the NCJ article in May 2012 and year end 2016, we engaged in over 250 person-to-person email, phone or in-person communication threads related to the 5/16 Wave Single Wire Folded Counterpoise more commonly known as the FCP.
It quickly became clear the inverted L is the predominant aerial wire of choice among those installing FCP's.
Installers put up an L because they had seen them working before, and because in mechanical and practical terms an inverted L was doable on their property. Experience and struggle-begotten inverted L understandings have taught us that an L over FCP can be tamed, saddle-broken into an excellent antenna. This still-evolving section lays out the details of the taming.
Among other questions, initially most of our correspondents were asking about getting their new aerial wire + FCP tuned up and looking good. Looking good mainly meant getting Z = 50 + j0 at the feedpoint, so they could see a comforting and amp-compatible 1:1 SWR in the shack.
In dealing with these communications, it became clear most issues at inverted L over FCP sites had nothing to do with the FCP. The issues had to do with the L itself and its local environment.
Installers, in the beginning very much including K2AV and W0UCE, simply didn't know much about an inverted L. Though we would not want to insult anyone, the suspicion persists that largely hams still know little about an inverted L. Its mechanical simplicity is an effective disguise for its true complexity.
Working with these correspondents and their problems unearthed priceless information probably not discoverable any other way. emerged from that experience, and we hope to pass it all on to the reader without the bafflement, expense and frustrating poking in the dark to gain understanding starting from zero.
Completely cleaned up, a common quarter-wave-ish inverted L over FCP with an isolation transformer (L/IsoT/FCP) is a very strong performing antenna. It is probably the most effective 160 aerial wire possible at many locations, with simple support requirements. Without doing anything to the aerial wire, it can also be dual-banded to use on 80 meters as an end-fed half-wave-ish L, arguably the best single wire 80 meter performance antenna for both local and DX.
You can listen for K2AV on his new relocated Inverted L, which is a quite ordinary medium size, medium height L/IsoT/FCP, up 66 feet (55 over FCP at 11) out 88 feet. The prior K2AV L was a 3/8 wave L, a larger, higher up 90 out 105 foot L next to the service road. But the Town of Apex, North Carolina ran a 13 kV primary power line down the service road within 25 feet of the old L. That forced relocating the L to a pair of trees up near the house. You could find or erect the mechanical equal to the new K2AV L on many small properties with some 50-60-70 foot trees.
Aside from using an FCP as the counterpoise, nearly all the issues and countermeasures listed in "Your Shrinking RF", also known as "The Loss List", were developed with correspondents and tabulated after the old K2AV L went up. Loss List items have been addressed in the new K2AV L, mostly not addressed in the old L.
The smaller new K2AV L does in fact clearly outperform the old K2AV L. K2AV says it's nice not to mourn losing the old site. Some Loss List items would be very difficult to remedy at the old site.
While it's not possible to assign comparison dB benefits to each individual change between the two, being unable to rank individual changes does not diminish enjoying the new L's obvious total improvement to Europe and the USA West Coast.
This section treats numerous issues that have flummoxed hams trying to use inverted L's. It includes taking a careful, detailed look at your planned or existing station looking for loss and other issues that have defeated other installers.
You may have read all you can take in today, but if you are going to use the ubiquitous inverted L, DO come back later rested, and take on this section and There is much to be gained.
Pay special attention to items throughout marked **Like This** which are murk and confusion factors from correspondence on inverted L over FCP. These warnings are repeated all around this web site to make sure they are seen, so many times do they recur as confusion issues in correspondence.
Two particular warning items stand out starkly from the rest as singular roots of misinformation, confusion and discouragement. These two warnings are involved in easily 2/3 of our correspondence. They are somehow readily forgotten by correspondents who can need multiple reminders over the course of their project. Initially some correspondents are not convinced either of these warnings are true. We have no explanation why these particular two persist to afflict novice and old-timer alike to such effect. The hyper-emphasis below, indicating jumping up and down, screaming at the top of our voices while waving lit highway flares, is deliberate. For cause. No apologies for screaming over the internet will be forthcoming.
Not even close. Think 20 to 35 ohms.
Varies with dimensions and environment.
**Lower SWR does NOT
predict improved performance**
A dummy load has perfect SWR and at
is a worse antenna than a light bulb.
**Loss should be remedied before tuning work** because successful loss countermeasures usually modify the 160 feedpoint resistance and reactance, sometimes a lot.
One common example occurs doing a "160m de-resonance" loss mitigation on nearby 80/40 dipoles, vees, OCF doublets, etc. On 160 these radiating wires and feedline behave as a T or L parasitic element with a lot of the "vertical wire" (shield of feedline to dipole/vee/doublet) laying on the ground. This indirectly hard-couples the 160 antenna to lossy ground. These "weed" parasitic elements also "pull" the feed impedance/resonance of the 160 antenna, and in many cases make the 160 antenna poorly responsive to antenna adjustments (on the 160 antenna) that otherwise work well.
RigExpert AA-30/54, portable, R,X graph and others, USB to PC for larger, detailed screen, saving and processing data for in-shack view of feedpoint state. At this writing, it appears to be the least expensive with all required features. After setting center frequency and range, remaining work can be done with "Scan R,X" and "Display All" menu items. Continuously variable Zref can only be set in software display. The 30 model is the cheapest but cannot store readings unless hooked to a PC or tablet while making measurements. The 54 model adds 6 meters and also has 100 memory slots to retain reading data for later transfer to PC. Other models are available with additional features and cost.
AIM family 4130, etc. Portable only with windows tablet or small laptop running software. These have been around for a while, rock solid to those who are used to and equipped for them.
In "An Unhappy Example" above, a graphing RF analyzer would simply show X crossing zero at 1.837, where R=35. Let's assume for explanation only our center frequency of choice is 1.825 MHz. Using the graphing analyzer you would then have five basic strategies with possible combinations for matching the antenna feed to 50 ohm coax.
Method A: Prune/extend horizontal for R = 50 then tune out X.
Method B: Prune/extend horizontal for X = 0 then adjust isolation transformer turns ratio to approach R = 50.
Method C: Non-resonant dimensions for best RF then matching network.
Method D: Non-resonant dimensions for best RF then use coaxial series matching transformer as the coax to shack.
Method T: Non-resonant dimensions for best RF, simple fixed components to moderate the Z from isolation transformer, larger feedline to shack, tuner in the shack.
Note there may be significant work involved, some methods more work than others. In text below, 1.825 is used as a center point. Substitute your own desired center point.
Method A: Prune/extend horizontal for R = 50 then tune out X.
Method A1 Matching is done on the antenna side of the isolation transformer, but measured on the coax side of the isolation transformer to absorb non 1:1 aspects of the isolation transformer.
Find the point on the graph where R (not Z) = 50 ohms. If that point is not 1.825, then prune/lengthen the L horizontal wire to move the R (not Z) = 50 ohms point to 1.825. Then depending on the sign of the X at 1.825, in series use a transmit power level variable capacitor or (rarely) a tapped or variable inductor at the base of the vertical wire to adjust the X to zero at 1.825.
Wire length and capacitor adjustments may interact a bit, repeat the process if needed. A vacuum variable capacitor is commonly used for QRO. Air gap variable capacitors are sometimes used for lower power levels, but must be protected from dampness.
If the uncorrected inductive X value at R=50 is too low, method A1 has a blind spot where the required value of a single cap is too large to be practical. Add a series coil to increase the inductive reactance and bring the X correction into range of the cap. Or better, implement A2 and use the cap elsewhere. Either narrows the SWR bandwidth a little.
Method A2 Same as A1, but does not require a vacuum variable capacitor. Place in series with the antenna a fixed high power, high current transmitting cap in series with a coil and move a tap on the coil to zero out X at the 50 ohm point. This narrows the SWR bandwidth a little. When using the RF analyzer, use receiving capacitors to determine the value just small enough to go with a tap on a 3 uH coil, this will allow you to determine the appropriate pF value of the capacitor.
To obtain sufficient current rating in fixed transmitting capacitance, multiple identical caps can be used in parallel. Better to have the combined current rating well in excess of calculated max than discovering insufficient rating in the middle of a contest in a blizzard or rainstorm.
Method A advantages: The Z = 50+j0 point can be set precisely at the transformer output, and then the series adjustment at the antenna can fine tune the 1.5:1 or 2:1 SWR range points in the shack to best advantage. Method A is compatible with the 160/80 dual banding extension. Method A2 can switch between different taps on the coil to cover multiple 1.5:1 SWR ranges on 160.
Disadvantages: A project box is needed at the antenna to house a vacuum variable, fixed cap, coil as specified above. This makes a DIY isolation transformer, or ordering commercial transformer without the enclosure a good idea, to wire it into the box housing the cap.
If You're Lucky: If a high power, high current 2000, 2200, or 3300 pf transmitting cap, together with pruning the horizontal/drooper produces results close enough for you, it all can be put in a plastic 6 x 6 enclosure, including transplanted hardware and guts of commercial transformer.
Method B: Prune for X = 0 then adjust isolation transformer turns ratio to approach R = 50.
Prune or lengthen the L horizontal wire to move the X=0 point to 1.825. You likely will have a somewhat different R value, say R = 38, after you do this. For R in the vicinity of 36 ohms you remove three turns from the antenna/FCP winding of the isolation transformer, one turn in the center, and one at each end. At this point you can prune/lengthen the horizontal wire to optimally place your 1.5:1 or 2:1 SWR range points in the shack.
This method works because a turns ratio of 17:20 gives 17/20 = 0.85. 0.85 squared = 0.7225 impedance ratio. 0.7225 times 50 = 36.125 ohms on antenna to produce 50 ohms at coax connection to the shack.
Given the ease of pulling out one turn through the core at either end of the antenna/FCP winding and reconnecting, it's possible this easy reduction of two turns may make the SWR curve "good enough" on a thirty something ohm L/FCP. Restoring the two turns to original state is easy if the wire has not been yet trimmed. Removing a center turn is more "interesting" mechanically, and obviously hard to return to original state once the wire is split.
Advantages: It's dirt simple out at the antenna feedpoint after everything is done and closed up. Lacks the series capacitor blind spot in method A. Just another antenna with a 4" x 4" grey box between the antenna and counterpoise wires, with coax running off it to the shack. Can transform 36 to 70 ohms to 50 by removing end turns then center turn of one of the windings while still in the enclosure. Once 1:1 transformer results are known, finer steps in R adjustments are possible with turns ratios like 20/19, 21/19, 21/18, 22/18, etc.
Disadvantages: Working with turns ratios can be tedious, particularly when placing deleted turns evenly around the winding. Changes in the aerial and FCP may require redoing the winding. May make initial 160/80 dual band setup touchy if more than three dropped turns.
Method C: Non-resonant dimensions for best RF then matching network.
Build an adjustable L matching network between the isolation transformer and coax to shack. Quite a few hams are capable of designing these, especially now with the collection of excellent network analysis and design programs available. This method may complicate dual-banding by requiring additional switched circuitry. This will have to be your own design project.
Advantages: Assuming taps on coils or adjustable capacitors or both, easier to adjust after changes to antenna, as in unavoidable gradual implementation of loss list fixes.
Disadvantages: 160/80 dual banding may require switching the network in and out, designing modifications for the 160/80 dual banding circuit to operate correctly.
Method D: Non-resonant dimensions for best RF then coax series matching transformer as coax to shack.
Build a coaxial series matching transformer, same strategy as Method C, but accomplishes the same in the coax running to the shack.
Advantages: Useable with a stock DIY or commercial isolation transformer, giving the antenna the external simplicity of Method B without having to mess with turns ratio. For the dual band scheme, a simple one range on 160, one range on 80 version can be done easily since the dual banding scheme has an 80-meters-is-active voltage available, both in the station and out at the antenna. This is the voltage that energizes the FCP shorting relay on 80 meters.
Disadvantages: Without some changes, cannot be used with 160/80 dual banding or 160 range-switching because the coax series matching transformer is a single frequency device. The coax lengths are specific to your antenna on a single 160 range of frequencies only. Switching for more than one range on a band would require switching separate coax runs for frequency switching.
Method T: Non-resonant dimensions for best RF, simple components to moderate the Z at transformer output, larger coax, tuner in shack.
Use any of various methods to convert antenna Z to the rough neighborhood of 50 + j0. Use a larger feedline, RG213 minimum or small hardline. Use a stand-alone or built-in tuner in the shack.
Larger coax, better small hardline, will have less center conductor or shield resistance where current maximums occur, reducing the dB loss at any power level.
Advantages: For those always operating transceivers barefoot, a built-in auto-tuner may have excellent range. Adjust the minimal matching at the antenna to place and maximize the auto-tuner range. At K2AV the K3's built-in auto-tuner matches 1.8 to 1.9 at 1:1 and to 1.920 at 1.5:1.
With a no-tuner outcome near 50+j0 at 1.830, some stand-alone tuners in the shack can match all the way to 2 MHz. At K2AV the ATR-30 can easily produce 1:1 SWR from the inverted L's 1.999 MHz 8:1 SWR at the shack. 100 watts is solid and effective. For those who operate CW and have regular low power up-band SSB contacts, impedance matching by the numbers in the shack may be all that is needed.
Disadvantages:If an amplifier is used, a tuner in the shack may not stand up to voltages at the extreme frequencies. At K2AV this method does not stand up to more than 300 or 400 watts above 1.95 MHz due to voltages present, usually arcing across SO239 chassis connectors in the very solidly built ATR-30 tuner.