Can Indoor Antennas Work? Yes!
By Dan Romanchik, KB6NU
Recently, a reader asked:
I am studying your “No Nonsense” book as I prep for the Technician test. I am also learning CW. I am going to buy a Yaesu FT 450D as my first radio, and I want to use an indoor antenna as my first antenna. What do you recommend for CW?
To be honest, I’ve never had a lot of luck with indoor antennas. Don’t let that dissuade you, though. I have worked many hams with indoor antennas. Just recently, for example, I worked a guy who was using a Buddipole (http://www.buddipole.com/) inside his apartment.
If you have an attic, you could easily install a dipole up there. The ARRL web page on indoor antennas (http://arrl.org/indoor-antennas) notes:
“Attics are great locations for indoor antennas. For example, you can install a wire dipole in almost any attic space. Don’t worry if you lack the room to run the dipole in a straight line. Bend the wires as much as necessary to make the dipole fit into the available space.
“Ladder-line fed dipoles are ideal for attic use—assuming that you can route the ladder line to your radio without too much metal contact. In the case of the ladder-line dipole, just make it as long as possible and stuff it into your attic any way you can. Let your antenna tuner worry about getting the best SWR out of this system.”
There are plenty of remote tuners now, too. You could install a doublet with elements as long as you can make them, connect them directly to the remote tuner, and then run coax to your shack.
I have also worked guys who have used Slinky antennas inside a house. The advantage of using a Slinky is that it is electrically longer than a wire of the same length.
An attached garage might also make a good location for an indoor antenna. VE3SO, who I’ve worked several times, uses a magnetic loop antenna installed in his garage (https://www.kb6nu.com/magnetic-loop-antenna-at-ve3so/).
If you do a web search for “indoor amateur radio antennas,” you’ll get many more ideas. Here are a few that looked promising to me:
• Indoor antenna for 7 Mhz (http://www.iw5edi.com/ham-radio/37/indoor-antenna-for-7-mhz)
• An Indoor Reduced Size Rectangular Loop (http://hamuniverse.com/kl7jrindoorloop4010.html)
Another option might be to load up your gutters! I’ve worked a couple of guy who use gutter antennas, including WA8KOQ (https://www.kb6nu.com/operating-notes-gutter-antenna-rac-contest-161-countries-worked/) and K3DY (https://www.kb6nu.com/operating-notes-computer-virus-club-net-gutter-antenna/).
This blog post garnered a couple of interesting comments. K2MUN wrote, “For many years I’ve used an attic mounted off-center fed 40 meter dipole. With an automatic antenna tunner and a 4:1 balun I’ve worked lots of dx with both qrp and, more easily, 100 watts! Certainly, outdoors is much superior but an attic is a nice location in bad weather making playing with your antenna a pleasure :-).
John, KD0JPE, said, ‘If you have an attic available, check out the following 6-band coax trap-based antenna: http://degood.org/coaxtrap/. I constructed one of these 9 years ago and have had great results with it.
The bottom line is that indoor antennas can definitely work. They may take more work to put up than outside antennas, but as the saying goes, “Any antenna is better than no antenna.”