It seems that the ARRL has made it official ... well, maybe not, but at least Ed Hare, W1RFI has. In a recent interview on the HamRadioNow webcast, Hare said that he believed that switching-mode power supplies are a more common source of QRN than noisy power lines ... and I believe him. I have heard countless horror stories of amateurs having to go QRT for good (at least on HF) because of issues with neighbourhood switching supplies. It's one thing to be able to hunt these things down and remediate the problem within your own home but when it comes to the whole neighbourhood, it's an awfully large challenge. And it's not as if there's just the odd one around, here and there ... they are everywhere.
In Ed's own words:
“The old days of those iron transformers are gone,” Hare said. “Every single one of these is a switcher. We’re also seeing noise from pulse-width control motors.” Hare said the big culprits are “little wall warts,” not switching supplies designed to power Amateur Radio gear. “Every TV you own has a built-in switcher, almost every device has a wall-wart, and a lot of these are imported, not necessarily meeting the FCC rules, so we’re seeing more reports involving those.”
I've never personally had a problem with a wall wart, other than a cheap charger for my I-Pad, but that's not to say I haven't run into switchers. The charger emitted a low-level hash that I could hear only on a very quiet 6m band, not much of a real problem considering that I could unplug it at any time. A couple of problems here in the neighbourhood were eventually traced to the poorly designed or faulty switchers inside some CFL bulbs. These were emitting signals via the powerlines and being picked up by my antennas almost two blocks away. This was a problem only on LF however, where the powerlines make pretty efficient antennas.
Hare went on to say that some of the new LED-type lightbulbs have proven to be noisy as well. Not hard to understand when each one has its own low voltage switching power supply. What is hard to understand is why these device are even allowed on the market without having to undergo some type of noise-testing for approval. Another 'growing' threat are the lights used by neighbourhood grow-ops, legal or otherwise.
Hare also indicated that the ARRL lab can work with manufacturers to correct problems but that they need to know specific model numbers and information about the problems you are experiencing with the device.
Apparently, according to Hare, many issues can be resolved without involving enforcement from the FCC, the last step, should issues not be resolved by other methods.
You may be able to help by sending the needed information to the ARRL Laboratory for this and other types of RFI. Both Ed Hare and ARRL EMC Specialist Mike Gruber, should be contacted if you can supply information or have an unresolved problem.
The excellent 11-minute interview (Episode 196 'W1RFI's Tall Tales from the ARRL Lab') can be watched here, with thanks to HamRadioNow TV and to Gary Pearce, KN4AQ of HamRadioNow.
Steve McDonald, VE7SL, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from British Columbia, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].
As Mr. Lennon wrote, "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans."
I had planned to get to Washington Rock State Park around Noon. The park, which is on the first ridge of the Watchung (Wach Unc in Lene Lanape) moutnains, meets the QRPTTF theme requirement for being a place somehow related to Native Americans. What actually happened was that my daughter was invited to a sleepover/birthday party, and I had to have her at her friend's house at 2:00 PM. So much for the early start.
Set up did go like the knife through hot butter, after I made it to the park. The new Joplin ARC antenna launcher got my antenna hoist line up over a 40 foot high tree branch on the first shot. The EARCHI was up, literally in minutes.
I got on the air at about 1830 UTC and I spent about 15 minutes calling CQ QRP on 15 Meters with no takers. I had a feeling that 15 Meters was going to be good today. It wasn't, at least for me. So I meandered over to 20 Meters and was answered by Craig N8KMY at 1855 for my first QRPTTF QSO.
It didn't start out as a QRPTTF QSO. He called me because in his words, he couldn't believe that I was QRP. He is located in northern MI and told me that I was one of the loudest signals on the band for him. He repeatedly asked me to confirm that I was only running 5 Watts.
He was as loud to me as I was to him, so that's where the fun began. First he lowered his power from 40 Watts to 20 Watts, when I told him there was no difference in his signal, he continued to lower his power down to 10 Watts, and then, eventually 5 Watts. He was astounded when I told him (quite honestly) that there was no difference between his signal at 40 Watts or 5 Watts. A new QRP convert? I certainly hope so! Craig seemed enthusiastic enough.
Getting him down to 5 Watts qualified as a QRPTTF contact. We had a nice ragchew for about 25 minutes. A bit longer than I had intended, but it's never a bad thing to promote QRP, and bring a new soul into the fold, right? So it was worth it.
Besides, as it turned out, the bands weren't exactly rip-roaring with QRPTTF activity. I ended up making only 8 QSOs. Six on 20 Meters and two on 40 Meters.
I worked, in addition to N8KMY, NK9G, WQ8RP, K7RE, K4UPG (Kelly, my fellow QRP Polar Bear - Grrrrrrrr), WB3T, KS8M and AA5TB.
What made the day, was when my fellow SPARC members, Marv K2VHW (my official QRPTTF 2015 photographer) and Drew W2OU came for a visit. They kept me company in between QSOs and also stayed with me until I packed up for the return trip home. Around 5:00 PM, it started getting chilly again and QRPTTF signals were becoming about as scarce as hen's teeth. So only though I put in only 2 & 1/2 hours behind the key, I decided to call it an event and head home.
The important thing was that I had fun and enjoyed my time playing radio today. It feels like I don't get to do this anywhere near enough.
72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!
Larry Makoski, W2LJ, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from New Jersey, USA. Contact him at [email protected].
When we teach the Technician License Class, we provide a simple explanation of Standing Wave Ratio (SWR) that emphasizes the concept of impedance matching. An SWR of 1:1 is a perfect match; anything higher is less than perfect.
SWR is an important amateur radio concept, one that is not that easy to explain so I am always on the lookout for training materials. HamRadioNow just republished this video of excellent standing wave demonstration by Bill Hays, AE4QL. Bill actually goes well beyond just standing waves and shows some antenna and transmission line theory as well.
If you just want to learn about standing waves and basic antenna radiation, view the first 35 minutes. After that, it starts to get a little deep.
Grab a cup of your favorite beverage, settle in and get ready to learn from this video.
73, Bob K0NR
Bob Witte, KØNR, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Colorado, USA. Contact him at [email protected].
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Amateur Radio Weekly is curated by Cale Mooth KK4HSX. Sign up free to receive ham radio's most relevant news, projects, technology and events by e-mail each week at http://www.hamweekly.com.
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Bill Pasternak, WA6ITF, is the co-founder and producer of Amateur Radio Newsline. Contact him at [email protected].