Like many people who've visited their tower manufacturer's website, I came away with the belief that the pricing of their motor drives was a bit over the top, so I avoided buying one. Being a long-term cubical quad owner means occasional broken wires, not to mention the fact that here in Florida we see squalls move in quickly from the Gulf, necessitating the need to lower the tower in short order. It can get old fast!
I looked at some possible solutions that might involve both electric hoists and winches to raise and lower my tower. I quickly found out that there is a difference between a hoist and a winch. Here's a couple of explanations that I found on the web that will help to clarify:
This hoist has the same motor as the winch and is operated by a handheld remote. Although the hoist appears to be very similar to the winch, when suspending a load rather than pulling or dragging it, there are different safety circumstances involved that one should be aware of.
Some safety feature differences between a winch and a hoist include:
The load-rating are different because winches are rated for pulling capacity, while hoists are rated for safe working loads.
Hoists are not equipped with a free-wheeling clutch because free spooling while lifting vertically would be dangerous.
Hoists are equipped with a better brake design.
Hoists have a travel limiter so that the load is not lifted high enough to jam the spool.
The links below are just a sample of what's out there on the web. You'll see some of the very same company sites displayed more than once under different categories. Because pricing varies so much between companies, I tried to include a cross section. If you happen upon a link that's gone bad, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and copy & paste the bad link from this page in your message and I'll search out a newer link that works.
With all of that said, the primary objective is to raise and lower a heavy load in a controlled manner and hold it in place for extended periods of time. A hoist was obviously in order.
I did some searching on the web for hoists and came up with two distinct categories: engine hoists and boat hoists. Within the boat hoist category, there's a further distinction and that's enclosed vs. open type drive. The open drive being the most common type, but we'll touch on both of them on the Flat Plate page, along with the Enclosed Belt Drive page. In looking over the differences between the engine and the boat hoists, what was most obvious to me was that the engine hoist - once mounted in an inverted fashion didn't need anything else to make it work other than an attachment point. I had a welder fashion an aluminum plate/tray to which the engine hoist is mounted. I then bolted the mated pair to the existing tower mounting points where the original hand crank was mounted and simply routed the existing tower lifting cable onto the engine hoist's drum and I was ready to go!
Q: Why not use the larger, more durable boat hoist? A: The typical boat hoist is only half of the equation. It lacks the take-up drum, coupler and backplane to mount it all. Take a look at the pictures below and you'll notice that the engine hoist is a self contained, ready to go unit. The motor, housing & take-up drum are all there. All you have to do is mount the hoist in an inverted fashion to something. With 650 lbs. of single line hoisting power it's enough to lift two TX-455 tower sections at under 350 lbs plus some room for antennas and a mast. As to headroom - probably not enough for some. Durability - this may be another soft spot, also.
The Harbor Freight Tools 1300# Engine Hoist in use on my US Tower TX-455
Note how clean it is. It is kept that way under a canvas cover with a slit cut in it to
accommodate the cable from above. It was built for inside use. Additional pictures here.
Phil Glagowski - W1TRrecently sent me news of a new addition to his Tristao HG52SS tower and the innovative way in which he protects his hoist from the weather. Note: Phil owns a home based server so pictures may be slow to open but they always do.
Thanks, Phil. 10-29-11
The Harbor Frieght engine hoist that I'm utilizing at the top of the page came about without a lot of research on my part. I threw it together and it worked. I had a need - it filled a void. Now that I've had a bit of time to peruse the Internet for motorized items that are used to haul or lift heavy loads in a variety of venues, I've come to the conclusion that for not a lot more money or time, a ham can put together a tower drive system that will get the job done without having to do any fabricating. With that said, below you'll find a variety of different means of overcoming gravity - all of them built to take a fair bit more weather than the Harbor Freight Engine Hoist that I'm currently using. In July of 2014 I decided to add this section detailing the American made Dutton-Lainson line of products.
As of late the Dutton-Lainson Company line of Electric, Hand, Brake and Worm Gear winches have been getting some good reviews by radio amateurs in the various tower and antenna chat groups. D-L has an extensive line-up of hand and electric winches, documentation, specifications and repair parts for their Made In America products on their web site. I've provided links to a few of their electric winch models, below. D-L manufactures many variants to their 5000, 7000, 9000 and 12000 lines of AC and DC powered winches. The links that I've provided, depict units powered by 120 VAC, (12 VDC is available) featuring NO CLUTCH, for safety. The specifications chart lists both AC and DC powered models.
While D-L calls these models 'winches', you might note that their documentation routinely states the following: "Suitable for short-distance vertical lifting applications not involving people, or loads over where people could be present."
Typical D-L 100VDC - 7.7 Amp Totally Enclosed Non Ventilated Motor used in 120VAC Applications
This page highlights some of the more commonly available engine and boat hoists and winches that require the least amount of fabrication to place into service.
Examples of Flat Plate Boat Hoists that can be adapted to amateur radio tower service are located here:
Examples of Enclosed Belt Drives 'EDB' Hoists that can be adapted to amateur radio tower service are located here:
WARN Industries produces a large family of hoists and winches. But what makes a hoist different than a winch? Hoists and winches look alike. Both consist of a motor, a rotating drum with wire rope, reduction gears, a base, and usually an electrical control system. However, hoists and winches are used for different purposes.
Hoists are used to lift a load into the air while winches are used to pull a load horizontally across the ground. Because a load that is suspended in the air creates unique hazards, hoists are engineered to higher safety standards. And unlike winches, the operator of a hoist may not unwind cable by “free spooling” or disengaging the motor from the gear train.