Part 5 modes for ham radio and the condo life

Good afternoon everyone the weather up this way is raining, the MFJ loop is on the balcony and there is nothing to be had on 20 and 40m CW it seems everyone is participating in the CQ World wide WPX SSB contest this weekend. So why am I not jumping into the fray you ask.......well this is the topic for part 5 of  ham radio and the condo life. In this post I am going to look at the radio modes I found work best for me. In a condo it's very obvious your neighbors are very close and now a days each home is FULL of electronic gizmos! In condo living it's accepted practice to respect your fellow neighbors by keeping the TV and music to an acceptable level as well as any noise overall. For the ham it should also be an expectation to be RF mindful as well. One of  the ways I found to be a good RF neighbor is to in my case to make sure I  "mind my mode".
Years ago when I was in a townhouse and decided to spend more time with my radio hobby. It just so happens the upcoming weekend was the Canada day SSB contest. I had a nice Yaesu FT 1000 MP radio and I was all set to dive right in. My antenna was out on my car a far distance way with coax running out to it. The first day of the contest ended and I was having a blast until my fellow neighbor asked me "did you hear "CQ contest CQ contest" from my speakers! I said no (which was the true I didn't) but knowing full well what was going on the Canada day contest came to an end and the thinking cap went on.
I could go and see them and explain it could be the poor electronics they have that is picking up my signal............not a good idea I thought as this can just open a HUGE can of worms! The plan I came up with to keep me on the air was to become a QRP (low power) operator. I very much looked forward to this and as I looked into things I also came to the understanding that you get more bang for your watt with CW than you do with SSB. My first but not only mode for ham radio in a condo is CW. Now there may be readers who are thinking "nice idea but I am morseless" funny thing so was I. Some time ago did have a basic understand but far from proficient. I set out to learn CW and it did take time and remember I did say earlier I really liked contesting so the goal was to get my CW up to contest speed in around 25-35 WPM.
Years ago I was introduced to the digital modes but found it very frustrating to get the PC to play nice with the radio and digital program. It would seem all was working fine until I turned the the rig and the PC on and for some reason something else was wrong. I found it took more time to hunt the issue down than I was operating digital.  So for some time I just stuck with CW and put the digital modes off to the side.
The next radio for me was the Elecraft K3 and the Elecraft reflector was booming with posts about getting your K3 up and running on the digital modes. Back then the popular modes were PSK31 and WSPR. I did still have some issues with the PC and rig talking to each other and did get frustrated at times. At present my condo modes are CW and FT8 and at the present time FT8 is very popular. While writing this post I had FT8 running in the background and was able to make 12 contacts. Having said that I do find CW more interactive but today with the SSB contest going on CW contacts were far and few to be had. The rig I have now is the Icom 7610 and it is a breeze to get working with digital.
Do give me your feedback with modes you are using in your condo. The next topic for ham radio and the condo life is dealing with close neighbors and most likely being in a city or built up urban areas is electronics causing you grief with there noise.

Mike Weir, VE9KK, is a regular contributor to and writes from New Brunswick, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].

4 Responses to “Part 5 modes for ham radio and the condo life”

  • Gary - KB0KDX:

    Again, I am living in an HOA Town Home (2 dwellings under 1 roof) so the only thing separating me from my neighbor is a concrete firewall between the two units. The next Town Home is 20 ft. away from mine. I knew when I bought my gear and having antennas in my 20’x20’garage attic that I would probably not be able to run over 30 watts max. So my previous love for CW was rekindled and I also became interested in FT-8, WSPR and PSK 31 for the exact reasons you mentioned (best bang per watt).

    The good news is that I started out at 20 watts and slowly stepped it up to 30 watts, then 50 watts on SSB phone as well as the digital modes. After 3 months there were no complaints from my neighbors. I then purchased a CMC-130S-3k Common Mode Choke, RF Choke and RF Isolator all in one from Since this choke cleans up your Tx RF and Rx I have noticed a drop of nearly 2 S-units of noise in my receive signal and much less RF interference in my radio room. So I decided to push my luck and try 100 watts. Still no complaints so far from the neighbors. Yay! But when using my 37′ OCF Dipole in the attic mainly for 17m, 20m, 30m I still keep the power down to 50 watts. When using my MFJ 40m mag-mount on my van in the driveway I use full power at 100 watts.

    I really believe adding the Common Mode Choke in line between my radio and antenna tuner enables me to use far more power as it helps suppress stray RF. Although each ones situation and living quarters vary, it just might be worth a try for some operators.

  • Jim - KH2SR:

    If you like FT8 but want more interaction and more features then you should try JS8CALL.

  • Mike VE3WDM:

    Good morning Jim, I have heard and did some reading regarding JS8call but have never tried it. This looks like a mode I could look into more during a relaxing evening with some tea.
    Thanks for stopping by Jim and have a great week.

  • Mike VE3WDM:

    Good evening Gary, thanks for all the information in your post! You and I were in the same situation regarding townhouse living. I never did increase my power just did not want to take the chance. The CMC 130S-3K sounds like a really handy thing. I did go to the site and did some reading about it and to tell you the truth I had never heard of this unit. I was reading one review on eham that gave the unit a 3/5. The way I look at it if it can drop the noise level by around 2 dB that’s excellent. Thanks very much for sharing and have a great week…..what’s left of it anyway.

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