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Budget friendly repeater for private use

srbecker58

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75
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Amherst, NY
Hello all. Its me again with probably another stupid question, but here it goes.

Some buddies and I are looking to pitch in and build a budget friendly repeater, install it at my house and hope it reaches all of us. Most of us are within 8-9 miles from my house and I am pretty central to everyone. We are not looking for anything state of the art, but obviously want something that works. Here is the plan so far, but I need help modifying said plan.

Repeater: Retevis RT97 (been told it is a decent repeater for personal/private use)
Antenna: Need help
Antenna Pole/mount: Need help
Grounding plan: Need help
Coax type: Need help

The plan is to install a mast attached to the side of my chimney that will extend about 10' higher than my chimney. This would likely give me roughly 50' or so for my antenna. I will then run the coax and grounding line down the chimney and into the basement where the repeat will be. I will have the repeater plugged into an outlet that is on my generator switch so if power does go out, the repeater will boot back up after a minute.

What I really need help with is choosing the type of coax cable, determining how to mount my antenna mast, which antenna to get and a WIRING DIAGRAM that shows all of this and how I should connect it.

Any help/assistance is very much appreciated and your opinions are very much welcome as I am pretty new to GMRS. If this is a stupid idea, simply say so, I can handle the truth lol.
 

vagrant

ker-muhj-uhn
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Messages
1,985
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California
Someone else with that repeater noted it is six watts output after the built in duplexer. In order to get as much of that six watts to the antenna, use LDF4-50A coaxial cable. An omnidirectional antenna is next with some reasonable gain to help that weak signal at the antenna. I have cut/tuned my UHF antenna to get the best result on TX. Others settle for an antenna covering GMRS. The others in your group can get away with LMR-400 coax and an antenna above their roofline.

You will need to provide measurements, photos and more details of your house and current ground. You should add the cost of a Polyphaser lightning arrestor and a power supply for the radio.

Now, before you do any of that, is there an open GMRS repeater in your area you could use instead? Another thing to check is if there could be too many GMRS repeaters in your area. If they are often used, RFI is an issue, regardless of using a different tone...and they may be putting out 50 watts.
 

rescue161

KE4FHH
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Hubert, NC
Budget friendly and repeater will not give you good results. You will be sorely disappointed with the performance. Even if the antenna is a 100 feet, 8 miles will more than likely be spotty with handhelds. There are online antenna pattern calculators that will use your potential site with your repeater and antenna specs that will give a very good idea of what you can expect. I have several repeaters and various sites and one is at 150 feet. VHF Quantar with 4-bay dipole and 7/8" Heliax and it still sucks due the height restriction.
 

srbecker58

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Amherst, NY
Great points! Thank you! There are a bunch of repeaters in the area honestly, but only about 4 of them are active and running currently, the others are down due to storm damage or offline. As far as the ones that are up, 1 is a paid membership that I am a member of and use, but they dont want to pay (they are cheap lol). The others are further south and out of our range and the other two are further east and I can barely hit them, so the fellas who live further west than I do cannot hit it at all. This is why we are toying with the idea of putting one up at my house since I am fairly central to everyone who wants in, and there would be the up front cost of install, but its our channel then and no membership for the cheapos to deal with.
 

srbecker58

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Budget friendly and repeater will not give you good results. You will be sorely disappointed with the performance. Even if the antenna is a 100 feet, 8 miles will more than likely be spotty with handhelds. There are online antenna pattern calculators that will use your potential site with your repeater and antenna specs that will give a very good idea of what you can expect. I have several repeaters and various sites and one is at 150 feet. VHF Quantar with 4-bay dipole and 7/8" Heliax and it still sucks due the height restriction.
Well, that is good to know! This is the reason I am asking, as I would rather be told I am an idiot for the idea than be told I am a fool for wasting my money! If you dont mind, do you have a link for any of those online pattern calculators? That would be a great start for me to look at.
 

srbecker58

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iMonitor, Yeah, thats is not what I want to hear but also what I do want to hear to basically shut the idea down and tell those guys to just pay the damn $10/mo to use the repeater currently in operation that has amazing coverage!

There is another repeater that should be very suitable near us and pretty centralized, but its down right now and the guy lives in Vegas. He plans on coming back up in June/July to get it operational again and move it higher too he says. If that happens we are likely to have a pretty decent shot at using that one.
 

vagrant

ker-muhj-uhn
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If your buddies think that they can use a handheld with the repeater you want to setup, full stop. The Retevis is more for camping and maybe a couple mile radius with handhelds outdoors, or less due to terrain. You’ll also want to tune the duplexer for a single frequency pair.

Your cheap buddies would need to spend money on their home stations as well, using an external antenna, mast, quality coax, power supply, Polyphaser for lightning and a good mobile radio that can transmit more than 5 watts...or they could try standing on their roofs each time.
 

srbecker58

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Valid points! Thats what I like about the good repeater I am a member of. It is pretty far away and I can hit it with my handheld in my driveway and chat with guys from 60 miles away! I am thinking about a nice mobile set up next.
 

WB9YBM

Active Member
Joined
May 6, 2019
Messages
1,392
for 8-9 mile coverage, a budget repeater should be good enough--for that matter I'm surprised you need a repeater at all (unless you're all running at H.T.?) Except for duplexers, a basic repeater is something that can be built in an afternoon (I've done it myself often enough--just tying the squelch signal detect from the receiver in one radio to the transmitter of a 2nd radio)--things like time-out functions and controlling it remotely won't be needed if it's in easy reach of the control op (like in your basement) which will cut down on the circuitry you need. (Let me know if you need schematics for the actual circuits--I've got several options floating around.)

On Antennas: same answer as with other applications, get the best your budget will allow. Antenna systems are not the place to cut corners (for several reasons).

On location: I had to cringe when you mentioned you're going to install it in the basement because of the extra length of antenna cable you'll need. I'd recommend an option that'll cut down on the feedline length if at all possible.
 

srbecker58

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Thanks WB9YBM! I am not scratching the idea yet, just trying to get opinions and feedback! We are ALL currently using HT's only, so yes, that likely is the problem with range, but even with mobile stations, unless we are all using 40 or 50 watt stations, we will still likely need a repeater, especially for the far east guys to call the guys that live to the west. They will need it more than myself I would guess.

I am trying to think what other options I would have as far as a location for the repeater.... There isnt any power in my attic, and my house is all brick, so the 2nd floor really isnt an option either. The top of my detached garage could be viable option, but then I am sacrificing height in order to shorten the feed cable. Which is the lesser of 2 evils?

I am more than interested in hearing you out on building my own repeater with your ideas! I am here for knowledge!
 

mass-man

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Parker Co., TX
When the fellow from Vegas comes to town, approach him about pitching in with repairs and upkeep of his repeater. Maybe that would get you and your buddies on his good side and access to the repeater.

Putting up a repeater is an education unto itself and can be fun...but it can also be a pain. Not wanting to dampen your interest, but if someone has already gone to the expense and trouble of putting something up, you've saved yourself a lot of headaches.
 

srbecker58

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I did offer that already, he basically turned me down. I asked if I can send him any money via paypal or Venmo to help with his repair or upkeep costs and he said he appreciated it but wasnt going to accept it. I tried!
 

rescue161

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Nothing against the folks that use the repeaters that want to help. I just want to be able to make changes without having to please people that think they have skin in the game because they donated 20 bucks a few years ago.
 

srbecker58

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I mean, IF i build one, and that is a BIG IF at this point, I am thinking 800-1k since we are splitting the cost up between 7 or 8 of us. Buf I am slightly deterred hearing the feedback lol. I think I would rather spend my share of said money on a nice mobile setup and antenna for my garage or house that I can take the mobile out and use as a base when wanted. Seems like a smarter use of money for me.
 

prcguy

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So Cal - Richardson, TX - Tewksbury, MA
The Rettevis repeater with 50ft of 1/2" Heliax and an actual 6dBd gain antenna 10ft above a chimney over flat ground will not give reliable coverage to a handheld outdoors in the open with a clear shot to the repeater from 8 miles away. It will be spotty at best and from a handheld indoors forget about it. If the house with the repeater is on a hill with 100ft or more elevation relative to the other locations it will have a chance.

If all the users put up a 6 or 7 element Yagi or very large omni and had a reasonable run of LMR400 from the hand held to the antenna then it has a good chance of working over flat ground. I'm speaking from experience using similar equipment.
 
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