As being an electrician I am always on the lookout for the latest and greatest gadgets. My home is full of smart lightbulbs, interconnected computers, TVs, NAS drives, and IoT devices.
My latest money-making project is connecting up to the Helium Network to provide a hotspot for the IoT devices in my local area. As I live in a smaller city there are currently only a few helium miners around that I can connect to. But most are over 7 miles (11km) away from me.
So the project is to set up a helium miner that is pole mounted on a double story house to reach the furthest miner.
Table of Contents
- 1 How do I start mining Helium? – Parts Needed
- 2 Why Helium Network
- 3 Basic Helium Miner Hotspot Setup.
- 4 Midrange Helium Miner Setup.
- 5 Highend Helium Miner Setup.
- 6 LoRa Outdoor Antenna Placement Range and dBi Explained.
- 7 How to Support the Antenna Pole.
- 8 Port Forward Your Helium Miner.
- 9 How To Set Up Your Helium Miner With Your Smartphone.
- 9.1 FAQ
- 9.2 What is LoRa Wan?
- 9.3 Can you run 2 antennas off one helium miner?
- 9.4 Which helium miner is better?
- 9.5 How much internet does a helium miner use?
- 9.6 Should you use Wifi or Ethernet for the helium miner?
- 9.7 How much power does a helium miner use?
- 9.8 Can I run more than one helium miner at my house?
- 9.9 How much money can you make from a helium miner?
- 9.10 Do you need to ground the antenna?
- 9.11 Can I build my own helium miner?
- 10 Conclusion
How do I start mining Helium? – Parts Needed
- Helium hotspot miner of your choice. Linxdot, have fast shipping at the moment and if you use this discount code notsealed3 you can get 3% off today. Sensecap (in stock), Nebra, Sincrobit, and Bobcats are other good Helium miners. (If you can get one fast but you most probably will be waiting months due to current chip shortages.)
- External Lora 824MHz-960MHz antenna. I went with 5.8GHZ spread.
- LRM400 cable shortest run possible.
- Lighting arrestor N-type.
- Earthing cable.
- Cat6 RJ45 ethernet cable.
- Ethernet Switch and or Router.
- Mounting pole and guide wires for your antenna.
Why Helium Network
The Helium network is powered by the Helium Blockchain (HNT) It is called the People’s Network and represents a big shift towards decentralized wireless infrastructure.
By deploying a simple mining LoRa device in your home or office, you can provide your city or town with miles of low-power network coverage for billions of IoT devices. This in return can earn you a new cryptocurrency called HNT.
So not only can I help out my community I can earn an income cool hey. The more hotspot miners you can deploy in your area the more you can earn. But you have to set them up correctly and this is where I will show you how.
I will explain the 3 basic setups and the pros and cons of each.
Basic Helium Miner Hotspot Setup.
This is where you buy a stock helium miner, place it next to your router and connect it via ethernet or WiFi. This is what I did the first day I got my Helium Bobcat miner and I only picked up 2 hotspots.
Most stock miners will have a stock inbuilt 2-4dBi antenna that should give you good coverage around your area 1-4 miles. This is provided you have other miners around you that you can connect to.
Placing the miner near a window in the 2nd story or in the attic space will be the best position for this setup. You can then reach out to 2-6 miles away in low-density suburban areas.
Lots of tall buildings and trees will degrade your LoRa signal with a basic helium miner setup like this. But it is the cheapest way to get started and you can always upgrade later on to an external antenna.
Midrange Helium Miner Setup.
This is where we start to get serious about getting our Lora 915mhz signal out as far as we can. Having an external antenna is a must and there are 3 different choices. 3dBi, 5.8dBi, and 8dBi. Anything over 8dBi is just not going to work well, the beam angle is just too narrow.
For all my setups I went with a 5.8 dbi external antenna. This gave me great range and a nice beam angle.
Each has its pros and cons and we will go over which may be better for your application further down in this article.
With an antenna mounted on the roof, you will need to run a high-grade coaxial cable to the antenna. Most people go with the LMR400 cable or above as it has excellent shielding properties and low cable dBi loss.
Many people place the HNT miner within 1-10m of their antenna. Any longer and you will start to lose too much signal in the cable run.
Have a look at this excellent coaxial cable loss calculator to see what different specs in dBi loss can be over longer distances.
Once I upgraded my stock antenna to an outdoor 5.8dBi omnidirectional I was able to pick up another 5 hotspots and increase my earnings. It was that easy.
Always use a cat6 ethernet cable to provide a stable internet signal to your HNT miner. You will be surprised how often WiFi drops out around your home. You should also be able to max out your internet bandwidth via ethernet so you will sync to the blockchain faster.
You can buy full helium miner installation kits that save all the guesswork from the Linxdot store ( Discount code notsealed3 ) this includes high gain antennas, mounts, cables, and lightning protection devices. Just be sure to pick the correct area such as USA or EU.
Helium antenna in attic
If you are unable to mount your helium antenna on the roof the next best spot is in the attic. You will still get better range than if the antenna is mounted lower down on the outside of a house wall. Mop grippers work well to hold the antenna in place.
The higher you can get your antenna the better. Remember that roof tiles will reduce the radio signal as well as every tree and tall building in the path of your antenna beam.
On this install, I mounted the Helium miner Sensecap m1 in a cupboard just under the attic. This way the hotspot stays cool. Using blank wall outlets with cable glands keeps the installation clean. I just need to tie back the cables now.
Highend Helium Miner Setup.
Ok now we are getting serious and the cost is starting to go up. For this, we need an external pole-mounted helium miner in an external weatherproof case. You will also need power over the Ethernet POE injector with a cat6 ethernet cable run to the pole. The helium miner must be installed in a weatherproof enclosure.
This will provide the miner with a low dBi loss, and a strong signal from the antenna.
What we are doing now is making the antenna cable run as short as possible. This will preserve the signal loss both in receiving and transmitting. For this setup people often go with a 5.8dbi or an 8dbi LoRa antenna. But I have seen 3dBi in a dense city environment. The mistake is people think a high gain antenna means more power. It may travel further as a signal but the with of the RF signal is very narrow.
Go with an 8dBi antenna only if you are trying to connect to another hotspot that is very far away. I’m talking 15 miles plus. With uninterrupted views.
A quality 5.8dBi antenna is a good all-around option.
Check out some topographic maps of your area. These can be a great resource on where to locate your helium miner. But if you are just putting it on the roof of your house you may not have much option on where the antenna goes.
But location plays a big influence on the antenna of choice. Are you in a valley, or on top of a mountain? As you can see from a topographic map of Portland Vancouver the elevation can go from 2m all the way up to over 3000m. A low gain antenna may be all you need to cover these areas. So check your area for high and low spots.
LoRa Outdoor Antenna Placement Range and dBi Explained.
- Outdoor placement beats indoor placement every time and I mean everytime.
- Elevation and height is the most important factor. I mean it is the MOST IMPORTANT FACTORE. A stock antenna will beat an expensive brand name antenna if the stock antenna is placed outside and high up in the sky.
- You should avoid going above 6 dBi if possible unless you live very far from every other miner. I am are talking over 10 miles away.
- The higher the antenna placement, the lower the dBi you should go for if you live in the city. For example a 3 dBi is perfect for a skyscraper, 5.8 dBi is great in a sub-urban elevated rooftop. 8 dBi for country with wide open spaces.
- As you can see in the above image 9dB travels further than 3dB but it has a much thinner or flatter beam angle. So you could be shooting over lower HNT miners. Plan your coverage and experiment with antennas they are cheap compared to the rewards you may be missing out on.
- If you would like to learn more about antennas check out this post on how to increase the range on your Helium antenna.
How to Support the Antenna Pole.
Having your expensive Helium LoRa antenna flapping around in the wind at an angle will give you bad results. All antennas need to be vertical.
Square up your antenna using at least 3x guide wires at a 120-degree angle from each other. Use a plumb bob or a brickies bubble level to get the antenna pole nice and vertical. Turn swivels will enable you to make fine adjustments on the guide wires.
Place your antenna at the very top of the pole. This is so the pole is not casting a shadow or causing a black spot on the antenna signal.
Sometimes you just have to think outside the box on how to mount an HNT antenna on your house.
Port Forward Your Helium Miner.
You must port forward your helium miner to stop it from being in relay mode.
Port forward 44158 TCP in your home router so you can connect to the maximum amount of devices. If you are in relay mode you will receive less HNT as a reward.
Check out portforward.com to see how to do this.
It is important to set up a static IP address of the helium miner device that you are forwarding a port to on your router. This ensures that your ports will remain open even after your miner reboots.
If you can’t set a static IP address then you may be able to assign or reserve an IP address on your router according to the helium miners Mac address. A mac address will look something like this: 4C:52:93:81:B2:E3
Once your port forwarding has been set up the status on https://explorer.helium.com will not update immediately, it may take up to 24 hours or more for the network to work out your hotspot no longer requires relaying.
Some home routers support UPNP so if your helium miner and your router support this you may be fine to just let it do its own port forwarding in the background. But best practice is to do it yourself with TCP to 44148. I have both enabled and it seems to default to TCP.
How To Set Up Your Helium Miner With Your Smartphone.
It is very easy to set up a helium miner using a smartphone and the official helium app for Android or Apple. The app works on all the approved HNT miners and will walk you through the setup process. I really like how easy this was. The video below shows you how, so check it out.
What is LoRa Wan?
The LoRa WAN is a Low Power, Wide Area network designed to wirelessly connect IOT (Internet of things) to the internet in a town, city, or region. The Internet of Things (IoT) is bi-directional communication, with end-to-end security, mobility, and GPS localization services. Specializing in low power usage.
Can you run 2 antennas off one helium miner?
It is possible using a splitter but it is not recommended. Once you split your cable and splice it into two antennas you will halve your signal dBi.
This is bad as each antenna will only work half as good. Do not do it.
Which helium miner is better?
The best helium miner is the one you can get today. Currently, there is a huge backlog of HNT miners. Nebra at this stage seems to have the longest delivery times. We are talking months. Hopefully, that changes soon.
As long as you purchase one that is recommended from the helium website you will have no issues. I have heard good things about Sensecap, Bobcat, Syncrobit, RAK Wireless, Cal-Chip, and Nebra miners.
How much internet does a helium miner use?
This varies from hotspot to hotspot, but expect to use between 20 to 60 GB a month. My Sensecap miner averages around 1GB a day or 30GB a month.
I expect this number to go up as more helium miners come online and more IoT devices use the network.
Should you use Wifi or Ethernet for the helium miner?
I always use ethernet for my Helium miner installs. It is a much more reliable signal without dropouts and interference. I find that my Bobcap and Sensecap seem to sync faster to the network when running on ethernet. You don’t need Wifi to run a helium hotspot unless the location is too difficult to run an ethernet cable.
How much power does a helium miner use?
Helium miners use about the same power as a network router. This is around 10 to 20w of power. Some people have stand-alone systems that run off a solar panel with battery backup and a cellular hotspot included.
Can I run more than one helium miner at my house?
Yes, you can but it will 1/2 the rewards you receive. This is to stop people gaming the system by installing more than 1 miner in the same location.
It is recommended to install helium miners at least 300m away from each other for maximum rewards.
Bad luck if your next-door neighbor sets one up as well.
How much money can you make from a helium miner?
This is a hard-to-answer question as it depends on so many variables such as how many other miners you can connect to and the price of the HNT token.
I average around 0.4 to 0.6 HNT a day or around $14 with the current price of HNT. So for a month around $441. This is due to only having 10 other helium miners around me that I can connect to. I’m sure once a few more HNT miners get set up the rewards will increase.
If you are surrounded by helium miners but have more than 2 miners in your hex your returns may be less. The average earnings on the helium network at the time of writing is 0.1 to 0.4 HNT per day.
Do you need to ground the antenna?
Yes, you must ground the antenna with at least 10 AWG earth wires. This provides dangerous static build-up to safely discharge to the ground.
I also use a quality lightning arrestor on the antenna cable. This is just in case the antenna gets hit with lightning and deals with static buildup.
Can I build my own helium miner?
In the past, you could build a helium miner out of a Raspberry Pi but now these devices need to be approved by the Helium Development website. So even if you do make one out of the many plans and downloads that are available they won’t mine HNT but will transmit data. So in one way, it is helping expand the network.
The only way to mine the Helium token is to buy a hotspot from an authorized vendor.
Many people are starting to deploy and make their own solar-powered off-grid helium miners. Check it out as it has the full wiring diagram and parts list.
If you can fix a TV antenna connector you can set up an outdoor Helium miner. All it takes is Antenna, Cable, and some electrical power.
Setting up a helium miner to be part of the people’s network is an exciting time. We are part of the fastest-growing private network in the world.
So go and get yourself a helium crypto miner and join the revolution. It really is easy to set up and run once you know the basics.
My total cost to set all of this up was around $900 USD. But payback was only around 3 months. Imagine how much you could make with 10 helium miners. It could be a real business idea.
Let me know in the comments below what LoRa antenna you are using and your mining tips & tricks.
I am a qualified Industrial Electrician for the past 20 years and I love to share my knowledge on home repair and maintenance jobs.
I love fast toys like Motorcycles, Cars, Jetskis, Boats, and Computers so writing about them is easy. Working on them is fun.
To keeps costs down I do all my own mods, repairs, and servicing. These skills I want to share with everyone. DIY is a skill everyone can learn.
I have read a few articles about helium, antennas etc in your site. Very interesting stuff and an excelent job! I have 2 questions.
A) I have read that the helium firmware will adjust the emmision power depending on the declared antenna gain (loweing the power when a high gain antenna is used). That means that an 8dbi antenna will perform as a 5dbi antenna or it will perform as a 8dbi antenna (in terms of the beam remaining narrow) with limited reach potential as the power will be lower?
B) in the example of an 80cm 8dbi antenna attached to a pole, should the whole length of the antenna be on top of the pole, or there is a part of the length that can be parralel to the attaching pole (e.g. half the lenth – 40cm)?
Thank you in advance.
You will lose power in cable run and connection points but this loss in power will not affect the beam angle.
You should only clamp the antenna to the top of the pole using approved clamps.
Any part of the external antenna that is in the shade of another object will cause signal loss.
So don’t be parallel if you can help it.
Hi Matthew, thanks for the great article. I also have a few questions
1) I am also interested in George’s question ‘A’, and how important it is to set the antenna gain (dBi) in the app if not using the stock antenna? Helium still thinks its the stock one (however this may be a question for another forum).
2) should you ever modify the Tx Power (dB) ?
3) How important is it that an antenna be perfectly plumb when set up?
It is very important to set the antenna gain. You can change it in the helium app, otherwise, you could get invalid witnesses.
You cant modify the TX power it is set for your country.
It should be verticle. Use a bubble level or a plumb bob.
Great article, thanks!
I read in other places that a TV antenna is designed to deferment RF, and therefore will have a big loss on power.
But here in the end of this post you suggest that it will actually work well.
Can you please expand on that?
Hi, thank you for such a detailed blog one of the best I have read. Question viewing my location on helium explorer i am not within a green hex. Is this a positive or a negative…..however there are several miners 2-3 miles away.
Thank you for your information! An outside set up high looks like the better choice for most helium miners. How often would a person need to access the miner once it is installed? Thanks!
I mounted my 5,8dbi Antenna on the roof slope, i cant get it on the top of the roof. Also it is not 100% vertical, it has a little angle. You know how that can affect my HNT gains? Because the other day i got like 0.35 Hnt, the day after i get like 0.8-0.10 HNT. and then again like 0.33 the other day. Would be nice if someone has any advice for me.
In Mathew’s article, see the above illustration titled “LoRa Outdoor Antenna Placement Range and dBi Explained” which depicts the “oval” like shapes of the RF range for different dbi antennas. Those shapes are based on a vertical/plumb antenna. Imagine rotating/tilting those shapes as your antenna “tilts” on your roof.
Regarding the day to day deviation of rewards, that is 100% typical with the Helium network. In fact, sometimes you will see 0.00 due to various issues.
TL/DR: Generally, mounting your antenna straight will yield better performance.
Does the antenna vertical angle continues to get wider as the signal reaches long distance or does it stop at a certain height. Let say an 8 db antenna with 25 degree angle, at 10 meters distance the signal width will be how wide compare to 10 miles?
Yes beam angle continues to get wider the longer it travels.