1 Watt and a Wire… in the Attic

You can't always get what you want, but you try sometimes...

Recently I've dialed my normal 5 watts down to 1watt (one watt, singular) for all my contacts.  To throw some water on the fire I've decided to use my attic antenna which weaves all around my metal ductwork and electrical wiring.   Mostly this was to prove a point to myself but it may be enlightening to deed restricted hams that they can use a qrp radio and an attic antenna successfully.

Key lineup... Palm Single (paddle), Vibroplex Bug (circa 1970s), Kent Hand key

It only seems pointless until you try

Calling CQ with 1w QRPp into a poor attic antenna isn't as pointless as it would seem.  I didn't have to wait long when calling CQ before I got an answer most of the time.  

Now am I going to bust a pileup with 1 watt ?  Possibly not but I think that my assumptions about both how much power I need and how big an antenna I need are usually out of proportion with reality.

1 mighty watt

My assumptions are often incorrect

I made QSOs on 30m, 20m, 17m and 10m this morning all at 1 watt.  The solar conditions report was not really fantastic, especially for 10m.  Yet 1 watt through the attic antenna bagged the only DX I heard on 10m.  I had a couple of other multiple exchange contacts on 20m, 17m and one good old fashioned 25 minute long ragchew on 30m where I received a 599 report for my one watt from Bob (NR8M) in Ohio.  Admittedly, Bob was booming in and we had good propagation to each other.



The recording below was number 4 or 5 this morning.  I wanted to post this one because I was working another QRP station in Arkansas (K5EDM) and we did NOT have great propagation to each other.  He was running 5w while I was running 1w so it was QRP to QRPp.  In the video you can see that I'm using some of the KX3's tricks to pull the signal up because there was a lot of QSB and noise (note the GEOMAGNETIC FIELD UNSETTLED in the solar report).  

I had the volume maxed and was using the RF gain control mostly.  I eventually had to turn on the preamp which really washed me in noise but I dropped the RF gain more and eventually switched in the APF (audio peaking filter) which performed magic on this contact.  Often I find that APF doesn't help but this time it made a big difference.

That's all for now

So lower your power and raise your expectations

Richard N4PBQ
Richard Carpenter, AA4OO, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from North Carolina, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

5 Responses to “1 Watt and a Wire… in the Attic”

  • Bart w0iit:


    Thanks for sharing! You are living proof that QRP and CW ROCKS!!!!!!! I operate 100% CW QRP and have for years. Just in case, I have a venerable KNWD TS 830s sitting ready to do duty, if required, by a disaster requiring the passing of “health and welfare” traffic.

  • Richard N4PBQ:

    Thanks Bart. I’m still quite new at this and learning more about the hobby and QRP. There are a lot of seasoned QRPers out there such as yourself that have known what I’m discovering for years. I had one ham contact me to tell me he worked France with 20mw and a fan dipole in his attic for a 180,000 mile per watt contact. I am psyched to learn more about RF and how it propagates.

    I am building my 1 Watter transmitter now.

  • w3fis:

    I regularly run my FT-817ND or X1M into an attic antenna, and have no trouble on CW working up and down the east coast. I am located in “slower lower” Delaware, just above the MD line, and 3+ miles from the ocean.

    SSB at QRP levels is another story, but I’ve done well in the field with SSB at 5 watts and a wire strung out between some trees.

  • Mac KJ4DEJ:

    Appreciate all the good info! ! Commend the excellent pix. Thanks !

  • Mario N2HUN:

    This information gives hope to all who don’t have the liberty of outdoor antennas. Having lived in a condo years back with only an indoor antenna and a Yaesu FT-7 it wasn’t easy making contacts so I know how you feel. Thanks for the great insight into a truly humble but successful ham station Richard.

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