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Author Topic: About to begin on HF, QRP to soon ?  (Read 3549 times)

Posts: 6

« on: March 25, 2008, 03:56:02 PM »

I am studying for my general class and thinking about my options while I do.
I live in an apartment complex so RFI is a huge issue.
I am thinking of operating QRP using either PSK-31 or CW. Still need to learn morse Smiley.
What is the prevailing opinion? Am I asking for problems operating QRP right away as an HF newbie ?
As an FYI I currently operate on the FM Oscars using a 5 watt HT, so I am used to not getting thru all the time.
Also I am learning and operating alone, so I have no frame of reference against which to judge the performance of a QRP unit vs a QRO unit.
Opinions Please.

Posts: 5446


« Reply #1 on: March 25, 2008, 07:09:56 PM »

Well, it's certainly an extra challenge but it's more than just 5W vs 100W.  The power isn't as important as your antenna efficiency.  With a poor antenna, sometimes it doesn't matter how much power you cram into it, but with a good one the power level is almost secondary.  So work hardest on putting up a good antenna as high and in the clear as you can, *then* you won't feel handicapped with QRP.

Mark K5LXP
Albuquerque, NM

Posts: 1421


« Reply #2 on: March 25, 2008, 08:16:56 PM »

I've worked all continents (including Antarctica) on QRP SSB.  It wasn't easy.  Australia was particularly hard.  OTOH, if a band is open, 5 W is usually all I need to work the world with PSK31.  In fact, I don't think I've ever run more than 20 W with PSK31.

1500 W into a crumby antenna can produce less signal than 5 W into an excellent one.  Poor operating skills and a lack of patience will not produce many contacts. Good manners and perseverance will.

Running QRP, you won't be busting many pile-ups, but when you do, you'll really enjoy it.

Posts: 1421


« Reply #3 on: March 25, 2008, 08:28:01 PM »

You get what you pay for.  If you are paying for 100 W finals in a rig, then you should expect to get less of a receiver that you would in a comparably-priced QRP radio.  Thus, if you compare the relative performance of a TenTec Argonaut V with other radios in its price class or an Elecraft K3 with similarly priced radios, you'll find that these low-powered units have the better receivers.

That's important.  You will never work a station that you can't hear, and good receiver performance is necessary to sort out even the strong stations when the band is crowded.

Posts: 2495

« Reply #4 on: March 26, 2008, 06:40:08 AM »

You have not indicated what kind of antenna system your planning on using. And you have not indicated what your expectations are. Both are very important.

I have operated QRP for 26 of my 30 ham radio years. My first ever rig was an HW-8 back in 1978 when I got my novice license. My elmer thought I was crazy and really lowered my expectations on how successful I would be in making contacts. In retrospect that was a good thing. I didn't expect much, so when I did make contacts I was pleasantly surprized.

If your planning on regularly talking around the world on a HF whip attached to the balcony, your going to be disappointed. You might as well go with 100 watts.

But here are a few things that might help:
1) Learn code and start out with CW. Your chances for making QSO's will be greatly enhanced. Once you get the feel of what your station will do, you can switch to phone if your so inclined.
2) Put up the best antenna you can. Can you put a dipole, windom, or vertical outside somewhere? If its outside make sure your connections are well sealed. Perhaps you can shed some light on what your antenna plans are. Do you have roof access? Or possibly access to an attic? (Some antenna companies have "stealth" antennas - thin wire, colored wire to blend in with scenery. I have used something as simple as a 20 meter quarter wave vertical wire with a couple of radials. I could take it down easily when I wasn't using it.) I lived in the back of one complex where I was able to put up a Butternut vertical with radials. The way it was situated nobody ever saw it except the lawn workers and it wasn't in their way so they didn't care. I got brave and put up a Butternut butterfly beam on the balcony. I made sure I didn't clear the roof line and once again nobody ever saw it. Be innovative.
3) Learn about propagation. If your interested in working some DX you will be more successful on the higher frequencies - and your antennas can be smaller in size.  As we move out of the solar cycle minimum, the higher frquencies will become available more often. Having a good understanding of propagation and current conditions will help you out alot.
4) Start slow, don't expect much and take the time to learn what your station will do and what it won't do. If patience is not your virtue, recognize that, and go with more power. QRP is not for everybody. I would rather you be active on HF rather than getting completely frustrated and giving up. (Some people get frustrated with 100 watts.)
5) Improve you skills. This is an ongoing process for all of us. At the 5 watt level it is absolutely essential. Blasting your way to a QSO is not an option.
6) If your ragchewing with someone, pump up the power a tad if the other guy is having a problem with the copy. QRP isn't an all or nothing deal. Your still at low power with 10 or 25 or even 50 watts.
7) Remember there's an op at the other end of the QSO. And if he/she is picking you up, their probably a darn good ham radio operator. Take some time and listen to what a QRP signal sounds like on your end. Then you really understand what the other op is listening to. It never fails to amaze me how an op sitting on the other side of the world can pick up a 5 watt signal. Sometimes I just sit back and say "wow".  

As long as you understand the power level your using I think you will be pleasantly surprized over time on what an how exciting QRP operation can be. From building equipment to working around the world, its a fascinating aspect of the hobby.

Good Luck


Posts: 550


« Reply #5 on: March 26, 2008, 06:59:54 AM »

Good advice from all the previous posters.

The only thing I will add is that with a QRP rig,
you can easily liberate yourself from the antenna
restrictions at your apartment, by going to a
neighborhood park and putting up an effective
temporary antenna. This is much harder to do
with a 100 watt conventional rig.

Pay attention to how much current the radios
draw. Some QRP rigs draw can down a battery
very quickly, especially if they are multiband
rigs that don't use latching relays for
bandswitching. The rigs from Small Wonder Labs,
Wilderness Radio, the MFJ Cub, and Elecraft
K1 and KX1 are all pretty easy on batteries.

You'll need more battery capacity to keep a
Yaesu FT817 or Icom IC703 fed.

It's much easier to operate at QRP power
levels using CW or digital modes than SSB. If
SSB is very important to you, I'd consider a
higher powered radio. That said, many find 17
meters to be an excellent band for QRP SSB.
The lower bands (75 and 40 meters) will be a
significant challenge on SSB.

A multiband multimode QRP rig that is not
too hard on batteries is the old Ten-Tec
Argonaut 509. They were made about 30 years
ago and are pretty common on the used market.
(They don't have 17 meters, though; or the
other WARC bands.) Should be able to find one
for about $200.

Hope this helps!

Posts: 17420

« Reply #6 on: March 28, 2008, 05:33:14 PM »

I started on HF running QRP but didn't know it:  my rig ran about 25
watts input and 2 watts output on a good day.  It was VERY frustrating.

Even though I run mostly QRP today, I suggest getting a 100 watt radio.
When you want to run QRP just turn the power down.  When conditions
are poor or your antenna isn't very efficient, use more power.  My
primary QRP rigs at the moment are a Ten-Tec Argosy (50 watts) and
a TS-450 (100 watts) and both run fine at 5 watts output.  Sure, they
aren't optimum for backpacking, but they give you the chance to
experience QRP while still having higher power available when needed.

Posts: 5

« Reply #7 on: March 30, 2008, 12:21:43 PM »

I would go budget QRP first. Buy a little kit, learn Morse while you enjoy every moment and see what a kick you get out of your first QSO with it!!!You can always spend big bucks on a 100 watt rig if you don't puff up with pride. I have been on the air 43 for years now with everything from the 3 watts and 0-V-1 receiver that I started with up to a 6 el tribander and a kilowatt. I am so pleased I started with low power and wire antennas first. These days I have a 5 watt FT817 and a SLA battery  with a few bits of wire in a little case and it sure gets me out to take the dog for a walk!!! I get more thrills from cw/qrp than I did with the big stuff. The bonus is that it will get you into CW now, it is so much more difficult "later" because later never comes!!!

John in Benoni, South Africa

Posts: 186

« Reply #8 on: March 31, 2008, 11:00:28 AM »

Kev, I have operated from apartments since 1980. In effect, the entire time I have been licensed. Like you RFI/TVI has always been an issue.

It isn't the 5 watts QRP, it is the antenna. First of all forget about any indoor antenna at a QRP output. That is an exercise in frustration. If there is anyway to get a wire outside, do so. If you are several stories up in an apartment building, consider one of the 'no counterpoise' antennas found on the Bell-Imel site on e-bay. A 10-20 meter zepp is about 25 feet long. It doesn't need a counterpoise(s). Position your station as close to a window as possible, attach it to a necessary antenna tuner and toss it out the window. Make sure it doesn't touch the ground or can be grabbed by anyone. If you have a balcony and balcony railing, consider the Buddistick antenna. You will need at least one counterpoise for each band you intend to operate on. You may have to jury-rig something to attach to antenna to the railing.

As a new General Class you will naturally want instant gratification when you hit the HF spectrum. Only natural. However, you will find a certain satisfaction in working stations, any stations, at the QRP level. Frankly I think QRP CW will be more effective. If you join FISTS and operate on their calling frequencies you will find friendly folk willing to help you along in mastering CW.

Operating on the QRP calling frequencies can be helpful as other QRP operators are also listening for weak signals and will make a greater effort to copy you than some QRO operators who like the stronger signals.

You are fortunate in coming on board just as we are beginning to see some light at the end of the dismal sunspot cycle.

73 es GL

Posts: 189

« Reply #9 on: April 13, 2008, 03:56:09 AM »

I have an Oak Hills 100A on 40 meters. Got it off the web for $95. It has a great receiver and "features" like RIT and variable bandwidth; so it operates nicely. Using a dipole about 20 feet up that's lost in trees about 60 feet high (neighborhood CCR thing) my first QSOs in two days were IN, NY, GA, and 2 Cubans. I live in north central FL; so that represents ranges of a few hundred to about 1000 miles on daytime propagation. Good for 40 meters. All good solid quality QSOs. However, I have been a ham 47 years;  started on novice CW; had several small/modest stations and antennas over the years; operated portable a lot ............ so I have operating skills (CW ability -- propagation knowledge -- contest/pile up experience -- etc) and antenna experience that help me make the most of what I have equipment wise. I doubt I would do anywhere as well if I was new and inexperienced. Probably would frustrate the hell out of myself and maybe turned sour on the hobby instead.

I suggest you think -- plan -- consider -- find a way to get as much antenna up as you can. Antenna is the biggest single factor. Next operate from a friend's or club station to gain experience. Learn CW to be solid/comfortable at at least 10 words per minute. Those factors will have much more to to with making QSOs than the power level. Maybe a used HF rig in the car as a mobile or sitting in your drive? THEN give QRP a shot. It's a lot of fun and there is a big kick when you do work someone neat or DX and it can be done. Build your skills then as the sunspot improves propagation you'll be ready for and enjoy QRP.

Posts: 81


« Reply #10 on: April 30, 2008, 02:09:24 PM »

I would not recommend starting with QRP. Low power into a poor antenna is not a happy combination, and a poor antenna is probably all you'll be able to put up if you're living in a typical apartment complex. And apartment buildings also tend to be RF-noisy environments because of the close proximity of so many TVs, computers, and other electronic devices, which only makes QRP even more difficult.

What I would recommend is to get a 100 watt rig and to keep the power turned down to 50 watts or less. It still won't be great, but with 50 watts you will make contacts and at that power RFI is not likely to be an issue.

QRP is a lot of fun, but I wouldn't recommend that you start with it. Build up your HF experience at a higher power, and then you can try turning down the power to QRP levels to give it a try.

Posts: 1

« Reply #11 on: May 19, 2008, 10:20:35 PM »

I would begin with a basic 100 watt radio such as a used FT-840 first and get some operating experience under your belt. Then turn down the power to five watts and see how well it works for you. If you have fun doing that buy and build an easy QRP kit such as the SW20 or the Wilderness SST.

I don't recommend starting out with QRP especially with current band conditions. Focus now on learning good operating skills.

Posts: 79

« Reply #12 on: June 29, 2008, 02:09:46 PM »

NO. Testerday, I watched an Elecraft K2 in action. We had no antenna up, so a few meter coax was tuned by the built in ATU and then my friend David PA3HBB worked S51, Bosnia with QRP. A few meters of coax cable, inside the house.

With a simple $ 10 homebrew antenna like a dipole or some wire vertical, you yould do some DX as well.

100 watts is not 20 times more efficient than 5 Watts hi. And for all that's worth, I only made CW contacts on 40 m.

Start little and grow!
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