eHam Forums => Station Building => Topic started by: GREG-STUDYING on April 26, 2006, 10:29:19 AM

Title: Solar Powered Station for new ham
Post by: GREG-STUDYING on April 26, 2006, 10:29:19 AM
I was in the ham radio club in my freshman year of High school, but never got my liscense. My Dad got into it though, and I spent many weekends at field days and even did some real emergency work with him during some floods.  25 years later, my intrest is renewed, and I hope my son will join me in the hobby.

I am studying for my test, and I want to set up an HF base station at home. I have about $1000 (for everything)to spend. I like the looks of the icom IC-718, it looks like something I could use at home, and take with me on field trips.

Here is the catch. I live 'off the grid', and have limited power resourses (unless I fire the generator). I have a 1500 watt square wave inverter (trace) powered by 6 batteries charged by solar panels, and sometimes helped along with a 2000W honda generator when the sun is missing (I live in Northern WA state). This system has to power more than my radio, and I plan to beef it up in the future, but power use is an important issue in setting up my station.

One other note, I have to use power from the inverter (120V) because the collection site is 500 feet from the house, and we can't sent 12V that far without big losses. Should I be looking at a 10w radio like the IC-703plus, or will that not do the DX I hope to be able to cover. Any input would be appriciated.


Title: Solar Powered Station for new ham
Post by: K8AG on April 26, 2006, 01:54:49 PM
The problem with the IC703, and the FT817 is that they draw a lot of power even when receiving.  The 817 lists something like 500mA receive current.  If you really want to save on power consumption while operating, you may want to shy away from the microprocessor controlled rigs.

I would look into something analog or early digital before microprocessors.  Check the receive current as that is where you will be spending most of your operasting time.  Analog radios may draw less than 100mA on receive.  They have fewer features.  But you will need to think about what features are important.

My 2 cents.

73, JP, K8AG

Title: Solar Powered Station for new ham
Post by: K8AC on April 26, 2006, 03:55:30 PM
The Elecraft K2 draws only 58ma in receive mode according to the Elecraft website.  In its basic form, you can get 12-15 watts out of the transmitter on all bands.  It would be my choice for a solar power station.  A 100W amp is available as an add-on, but that would drive the price above $1,000.  

73, Floyd - K8aC

Title: Solar Powered Station for new ham
Post by: K7PEH on April 26, 2006, 09:13:48 PM

I know a guy who is a ham in northern Washington state and he too is off the grid so he might give you some pointers.  His name is Bruce and he is N7JEB and he lives in Maple Falls (near Canada and east of Blaine).  I just realized though that I don't know how you would get in contact with him except by snail mail (check QRZ).  I don't think he has e-mail.  You can also find him on 3970 KHz most evenings between 7 and 9 PM.

Title: Solar Powered Station for new ham
Post by: GREG-STUDYING on April 26, 2006, 09:19:22 PM
Thanks for the input. So, if my math is right, 500 ma at 12 volts is 6 watts, which doesn't seem like too much, but the power supply I assume would draw more than that due to losses etc, say 15% more. Still doesnt seem too bad to me, but the idea of an older analog station seems appealing to me. My biggest fear with that is getting someone elses junk. I live on an island, so doing a lot of hands on shopping is tough, I would have to rely on online shopping. I have cosidered spending much less money on an old rig, so it wouldn't be so much of a risk, but it seems you have to spend at least $300 for anything that might be decent, and then there is no warantee. I looked at the K2, and it seems really cool, but I don't know if I would ever get the kit together. I guess I wouldn't mind spending $300 on a good used anolog station, but now I really don't know which one to look for. My Dad had a Kenwood ts 530 that he gave away a year ago. I guess I waited just a little too long to get interested. Just because I have $1000 doesn't mean I need to spend it all. Any suggestions on specific analog radios, and where to buy them?

Thanks for the advice, BTW let me know if my math is wrong!


Title: Solar Powered Station for new ham
Post by: N1EY on April 27, 2006, 06:22:36 AM
Mail order a 703 PLus from HRO.

If you shut off the backlighting on the
display it is little below the 500ma,
I think.

I just sold mine to go QRO.

It has a very interesting receiver design
and a latching transmatch built-in, which
would probably be handy for you.

Put up a fan diple to a 1to1 balun and
run some coax to the 703.

Title: Solar Powered Station for new ham
Post by: KB1GMX on April 27, 2006, 03:54:54 PM
>>interested. Just because I have $1000 doesn't mean I need to spend it all. Any suggestions on specific analog radios, and where to buy them?<<

Well if your running solar consider saving say $300 for
a decent pannel (20W at least), charge controller and
battery.  A decent sized pannel is costly but with care it's a one time investment.

There are a lot of radios that run under our around 1A
on RX so if the system can support better than 1A (20W
or more pannel) then the battery though can support the
transmitter.  Still makes sense to not have a power hog
but with a good 100A battery and a way to keep it
charged you can run many radios for a few hours per

Myself I run a 20W station on a 45ah battery and 20W pannel just fine.  I'm just careful to not discharge the battery too deep or it will have a short life.


Title: Solar Powered Station for new ham
Post by: AI4NS on April 27, 2006, 07:47:38 PM
There are many people that will assemble a K2 for you. Join the Elecraft group on Yahoo, and post that you are interested in purchasing a completed one or have a kit assembled. Go to the website and they have a listing of people that assemble them. I just finished one last week, and it is an awesome rig. I would build one for you if you are interested. 15W on CW will let you work a lot of contacts. I live in FL, and worked europe on 10 watts last week. You can add options incrementally as you get the funding, need, etc. After the basic K2, you could add  SSB, which also will let you work digital modes, more power, etc.


Title: Solar Powered Station for new ham
Post by: GREG-STUDYING on April 27, 2006, 09:22:58 PM
Allison, I assumed that not many Hams would be off the grid, but thinking about it, I bet there are quite a few. Seems like they may be compatible life styles other than the power issue, which seems to be not such a big issue after all. I am typing this message on my laptop, by candle light. I could turn on a light, but then the inverter would come on, and I would waste all that great sunshine I saved up for the day. The power system is already in place, so that is not part of my budget. I found out there is a hamfest a week from saturday not far from the ferry, so I think I will see what they have. I also plan to test for my tech as VE's will be on site.
The K2 really seems to be popular. I will have to look into it furthre.


Title: Solar Powered Station for new ham
Post by: AA4PB on April 28, 2006, 06:04:29 AM
The Elecraft K1 draws 58mA in receive. The basic K2 draws 150mA in battery save mode and that starts to climb as you add accessories. In any case, if you want very low power consumption then you need to stick to CW. If you are willing to stick to CW then the K1 is probably an ideal place to start.

For your situation, I'd stick to QRP (5 watt) levels and make up the difference with a better antenna.

Title: Solar Powered Station for new ham
Post by: KE4DRN on April 28, 2006, 05:57:39 PM

if you work off the island you can also
charge a small sla battery in the truck
depending on your drive time.

73 james

Title: Solar Powered Station for new ham
Post by: KB1GMX on April 29, 2006, 06:46:49 AM

While I'm not off grid I've enjoyed working with solar power to limits of budget (small) and low power high performance radios with 6m and 2m SSB as my prefered bands and modes.  I also do not use an inverter as
my power budget is very small and losses from inefficientcy are intolerable.

Since you didn't specify the size of your solar installation as far as generating capacity and
battery size there are a lot of assumptions.  It
may help to outline your power budget.

If you have more than 100Ah of battery and more than
100W of solar generation you far less constrained than
with less.  So knowing what your power budget is
can influence the decision.

A fairly good mobile radio like a 706MK2G by some standard is a power hog.  It draws about 1.3A on
recieve and full power SSB TX can hit 20A.  But if
you only listen 2 hours a day and talk for 20 minutes during that time thats not a lot of power used considering it's a 100W radio (it can be throttled back).  

As to a kit, the K1 for CW and the K2 CW/SSB are near
impossible to beat.  The excell both as good radios
and as low power consuming choices.  People will build
them for nominal cost or possibly less if that is an
issue.  I can understand running a soldering iron for
extended periods and lighting a workplace could be

What I'd suspect you don't want is any radio that requres 100V AC power as the radio plus inverter are
less efficient than a radio of the same power that
runs directly off 12V.  However there are a lot of radios that use 12V power and are decent for recieve power consumption.

Another trick is a lesser radio used for recieve only
as less circuits to power less current.  Once you find activity fire up the transceiver and go talk.

FYI: clusters of high brightness LEDs make good reading lights at high efficiency.  They are not so good for area lighting but point lighting they do well.  I also use 12V halogen bulbs as they are good bright white light source.  My favorite source for the bulbs is garden lighting as they can be had in 10-50W sized
both as bulbs and reflector style and are bright.  


Title: Solar Powered Station for new ham
Post by: AB2KT on May 01, 2006, 09:48:56 PM
The Wilderness Sierra might be a good choice too. It draws 35mA on receive through headphones, 350mA on transmit at 2W. Somewhat less expensive than the K2 or K1, too.


Title: Solar Powered Station for new ham
Post by: GREG-STUDYING on May 02, 2006, 11:13:17 PM
My power budget isn't that extreme. I have 4 60 watt panels and 6 golf cart type batteries (don't remember amphrs). I have to run the whole house on that, 3 kids, wife to compete with. We use compact flouesent bulbs. Fridge, stove and hot water all propane, wood heat. I have to run everything through the inverter because the panels are so far from the house, so I convert the power to ac at the source, then will have to use a power supply, so much for efficientcy. I have been taking a close look at the icom 703plus. I am going to take my tech test at the Stanwood swap meet this Saturday. I want to try for my general in a month or so. I 'accidently' bought a Kenwood TS-820 on Ebay. I'm not sure if it even transmits. I bid on it before I did any research, then prayed someone would outbid me. 4 days went by and nobody did. It will be good for listening for now, then I can always swap it out later once I get my new radio figured out. I was going to pick up an inexpensive 2 meter HT at the swap meet to try out my tech chops. I liked the looks of the yaesu vx 170. I could charge that in my car or at the office. I guess the longer I wait to buy the new HF radio the more I will know what I want.

Title: Solar Powered Station for new ham
Post by: KE4DRN on May 09, 2006, 07:29:34 PM
hi greg,

good luck with the tests, when you're there,
go for the general too !

the 820 is a great radio, you can leave
the heater switch turned off to conserve ac power.

here is a link for you,

73 james

Title: Solar Powered Station for new ham
Post by: W7WIK on May 20, 2006, 09:56:29 AM
Hi Greg,

Since your power budget is probably a bit bigger than pure minimalist, you might want to think about one of the UHF/VHF/HF mobile rigs on the market.  They all work fine and you'll be able to use it as a Tech on VHF and UHF, then when you get your General you can use it on HF.  Yes, these radios have receivers that are not as good as some of the big rigs, but antenna performance is far more important than this small difference in reciever design.  You can make your station very efficient by the use of average radio with an effective antenna.  Much more efficient than a fantastic radio and a bad antenna.

Anyway, I just bought a Yaesu FT-857D for less than $700 and so far so good.  It replaced a Ten Tec Jupiter and I really can't hear any difference in the receiver.