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Powering up the radio room


I’ve had very little access to the ham radio bands since I left San Francisco in February 2008. Though I have a VHF/UHF transceiver on the Jeep, and though I had a crummy VHF/UHF antenna installed outside the trailer, VHF and UHF serve only for local line-of-sight communication. For longer-haul communication, one needs longer antennas and the longer wavelength HF bands (1.8 Mhz to 30 Mhz or so, with wavelengths from 160 meters to 10 meters). Now that I have a house, I can bring my radios out of storage and put up longer antennas.

I installed a wire loop antenna of modest length in my attic yesterday (60 feet or so). The length of it makes it good for communications on the HF bands from around 14Mhz up. By golly it works. In no time, I’d made two-way voice contact with CO8TY in Cuba on the 21 Mhz band, YV1JGT in Venezuela on the 14 Mhz band, and LU8EOT in Argentina on the 14 Mhz band. I never use more than 100 watts to transmit. The antenna and its feed line still need some tweaking, but I’m encouraged that attic antennas here are going to work for me. Attic antennas are limited in length, but they aren’t out in the weather, they aren’t exposed to lightning, and no one can see them.

Propagation on the HF bands varies from minute to minute based on time of day, geomagnetic conditions, solar emissions, etc. Clearly propagation was good to South America this evening. I should be able to hear Europe earlier in the day when there’s daylight over Europe. Getting to Europe was tough from California. It should be much easier from here on the East Coast.

There are many who consider radio communications on the HF bands quaint and obsolete. But we’ll see about that if there’s ever a widespread power outage or widespread failure of the Internet pipes.

I installed wiring in my house so that I can power the HF radios, which are on the second floor, from a battery array (probably golf cart batteries) in the basement. But it will be a while before I can spend money on batteries and big chargers.

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