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Author Topic: Transmitting woes - Not being heard - Out Of ideas  (Read 7055 times)
KB8LOG
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Posts: 36




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« on: February 03, 2013, 09:04:42 PM »

Following having my gear packed up for a couple years, I recently decided to pull it out and again see if I could figure out why I've never been able to make any contacts.

Over the past few weeks I have been working on eliminating possible culprits for my struggles. Basically I feel I've narrowed it down to either my Icom 718 transceiver or something in this apartment building.

Regarding the building, I have drilled a hole in a wall and found that the studs are wood, and the siding is vinyl or some other plastic. Whether or not there is some other obstruction that remains unseen, I am not sure.

I will readily admit that I am not at all an expert with testing equipment and stuff like that. However I question my transceiver because I feel that I have eliminated the other possibilities. I've reduced my setup to the rig hooked up directly to an Alexloop antenna I purchased last month. Unfortunately I do not have another transmitter right now, so testing with another rig isn't possible at the moment.

The Alexloop easily tunes to low SWR, so I feel confident that it's not problematic. I have tried all sorts of homebrew indoor antennas - a dipole, long wires, random wires, a loaded vertical. I've also tried antennas at night (leaving anything up during the day is not an option because of the frequent passersby who are walking their dogs) - long wires into a tree, half of the previously mention dipole,

My transmitting has consisted of CW on 40, 15, and 10 meters, spending hours calling CQ and trying to answer others calling CQ. So far I have not received any responses. I am aware that the Alexloop is not the most efficient antenna for use on 40 meters, but should perform better on 15 and 10 meters. However, I have not even been able to observe my callsign showing up on WSPR nor the reverse beacon network.

This leads me back to the transceiver. Reception is fine as I can hear plenty of transmissions on the bands when they are active. When I do transmit and I have my MFJ-812 hooked up, I can see the power meter showing the correct output.

Is there something I am missing that would explain why this would occur? Any ideas or thoughts are appreciated. I'm prepared to do any troubleshooting or problem solving to see if I can figure this out or at least shed some light on what may be happening to keep my signal bottled up in this darned apartment.

Edit to add: I have made sure that I am transmitting on the same frequency that I'm receiving. And when I am answering a CQ, I do try to zero beat as closely as possible.
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KQ6Q
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Posts: 993




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« Reply #1 on: February 03, 2013, 09:59:11 PM »

You need a local Elmer !
Get in contact with a local club - check the club finder on www.arrl.org - and have another ham with HF capability listen for you, or make a house call and check things out.
What kind of house do you live in ? Brick, Stucco, wood frame, aluminum siding, mobilehome ?
A local, experienced ham, who normally works HF CW is the person who can help you solve the problem.

Good luck!

Fred, KQ6Q
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W5DXP
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Posts: 3639


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« Reply #2 on: February 04, 2013, 04:03:13 AM »

Is there something I am missing that would explain why this would occur?

Getting an Elmer is good advice. If I were you (assuming you have access to a vehicle)  I would make me a simple dipole resonant on 28.4 MHz, fed with a short piece of RG-58, park my vehicle between two trees, and string up the dipole. Run the (fused) XCVR directly from the battery in the vehicle (or from an auxiliary battery) and try some portable CW or SSB field-day-type operation on a day when 10m is open.
« Last Edit: February 04, 2013, 04:11:15 AM by W5DXP » Logged
WN2C
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Posts: 481




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« Reply #3 on: February 04, 2013, 04:31:21 AM »

Do you have a watt meter or swr bridge?  Are you sure the transmitter is transmitting?  Maybe you can take the radio to another hams house and try it on his antenna(s). 

Rick  wn2c
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W6EM
Member

Posts: 900




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« Reply #4 on: February 04, 2013, 05:38:30 AM »

I'm not sure if this is a widespread practice (yet) or not.  My son has a new home.  I had reason to climb up into his attic.  What did I see, but aluminum foil-coated plywood being used for roof sheeting under the shingles.  I'm not an HVAC expert, but the attic space isn't a heat-gain-loss component so much as the ceiling joist pockets stuffed with insulation.  And, the ends of the attic have vents anyway.  So, what could the foil be for?  It's not a water barrier as the shingle nails penetrate it everywhere.

With the HOA-builder-CATV conspiracy against any forms of antennas, my suspicion is that it's for the obvious: make any attic antennas for TV or other uses worthless.  And, they're not that good anyway if there are aluminum or sheet metal HVAC ducts running hither and yon.

Perhaps your apartment builder/owner had the same idea and put that type of aluminum foil coated sheeting against the studs to discourage indoor antennas.

Have you tried moving your loop antenna out to your apartment patio or deck area (if it doesn't have a metal screen over it)?  The best test would be a "fixed mobile" test at a local park or other place where you could temporarily put up a test antenna like a wire dipole that there's little question about.

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AA4PB
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Posts: 13032




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« Reply #5 on: February 04, 2013, 06:20:03 AM »

Building materials should affect the received signal as much as the transmit signal. It appears to me that you have done everything to make sure you are transmitting a proper signal on the proper frequency. The next step would be to set up an on-air contact with a local ham to see if he can copy your signal. 40M would probably be a good choice for a local contact.

You could also listen to your own signal with another receiver if you have one.
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AA4HA
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Posts: 1640




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« Reply #6 on: February 04, 2013, 06:36:02 AM »

I'm not sure if this is a widespread practice (yet) or not.  My son has a new home.  I had reason to climb up into his attic.  What did I see, but aluminum foil-coated plywood being used for roof sheeting under the shingles.  I'm not an HVAC expert, but the attic space isn't a heat-gain-loss component so much as the ceiling joist pockets stuffed with insulation.  And, the ends of the attic have vents anyway.  So, what could the foil be for?  It's not a water barrier as the shingle nails penetrate it everywhere.

With the HOA-builder-CATV conspiracy against any forms of antennas, my suspicion is that it's for the obvious: make any attic antennas for TV or other uses worthless.  And, they're not that good anyway if there are aluminum or sheet metal HVAC ducts running hither and yon.

Perhaps your apartment builder/owner had the same idea and put that type of aluminum foil coated sheeting against the studs to discourage indoor antennas.

I see the foil backed products everywhere in home building. Foil backed foam board that is used for insulation or house wrap, Foil backed sheetrock, foil backed vapor barrier cloth and just foil.

None of it is intended to be "to block RF". It has thermal insulating value if it captures dead space air and as a supplemental vapor barrier like Tyvekk. Also it is used as a radiant reflector of heat.

In my house I did install it in the walls, floors, attic and joist areas as an RF shield (more effective than tin-foil hats for alien mind control rays). Even my windows are covered with metallic window film (just a higher grade of window tint). On the inside walls between rooms there is fiberglass insulation and foil/tyvek house wrap. It makes the house quiet from an RFI/EMI standpoint but also quiet from a "loud noises in other rooms/privacy" perspective.

The downsides, cellphone reception in my house is terrible. One bar where I can get three to four bars outside. 802.11 type devices do not work in much more than the room of where the access point is located. I cannot use indoor antennas, even to pick up the nearby FM radio station ten miles away.

Upsides, computer RF noise is almost nonexistent. I do not "hear" the DVR on 40 meters. My house is very efficient with HVAC requirements and it saves me around 20% or so in energy costs. (that from my local utility that provides comparisons of electrical demand data, relative to neighbors with a similar home of construction, era and square footage).

There is a good write-up about radiant heat on this DuPoint article about Tyvekk   http://www2.dupont.com/Tyvek_Weatherization/en_US/assets/downloads/ThermaSBK14130.pdf

From an insulation standpoint a metallic foil adds an insulating value of R-2
« Last Edit: February 04, 2013, 06:45:30 AM by AA4HA » Logged

Ms. Tisha Hayes, AA4HA
Lookout Mountain, Alabama
K5LXP
Member

Posts: 4536


WWW

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« Reply #7 on: February 04, 2013, 06:39:55 AM »

Regarding the building, I have drilled a hole in a wall

This alone establishes you as a ham among hams.  Hang in there.


Quote
I question my transceiver because I feel that I have eliminated the other possibilities.
...
The Alexloop easily tunes to low SWR, so I feel confident that it's not problematic.

SWR is not an indicator of performance.  A resistor inside a box can have great SWR.  An alexloop is a low efficiency antenna at best, and I would question the efficacy of that (and it's installed location) before anything else.

I echo the advice to find some local help.  Being able to test your transceiver by connecting to someone else's antenna can eliminate that as a variable. 


Quote
I have tried all sorts of homebrew indoor antennas

If your indoor location is not transparent to RF you could put all the antennas up you want and they won't work.


Quote
I have not even been able to observe my callsign showing up on WSPR nor the reverse beacon network.

Another indicator you're not really getting out.


Quote
Reception is fine as I can hear plenty of transmissions on the bands

That can be deceiving.  Due to the gain vs noise floor of HF, receivers these days can pick up a lot with inefficient antennas.  Case in point, I recently bought a transceiver at a hamfest and to test it out I plugged a 3 foot piece of wire into the antenna jack.  On 40M I immediately picked up W1AW and a guy I know in Texas on CW.  This is due to the "lopsided" path between us - W1AW and my friend are running large power with good antennas.  My 3' wire reduced band noise as well as signals, so that made the receiver really quiet and the signals I did hear then sounded relatively strong. Even if I were able to load up my 3' piece of wire on 40M, it would be far too inefficient for them to hear me.  My point is just because you can hear them, that doesn't mean they will hear you.

My advice would be to start doing things that put the odds in your favor.  Compromise antennas in compromise locations compound to a nearly impossible scenario.  Wouldn't hurt to check out the rig and eliminate that as a variable but chances are it's the antenna and antenna location.    You just can't cheat physics there no matter what you do.


Mark K5LXP
Albuquerque, NM
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AC2EU
Member

Posts: 471


WWW

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« Reply #8 on: February 04, 2013, 06:49:00 AM »

I was unfamiliar with the alexloop, so I looked it up.

It says that you are to use the "built in tuner" to tune it.
That made me wonder if you are using your rig's internal tuner as well, or is it in the the "off" position.
It should be off when using this device.

Sometimes, with the right conditions, you can get confusing readings with SWR. It is possible to "tune" a piece of coax ( stub)if there is a short at the end. Perhaps there is some defect inside the the antenna tuner box ?
Is the solder on your coax OK? Did you check it for continuity between the ends and for a short to the braid with an ohm meter?

I'm not a big fan of muti band "swiss army knife antennas", but that should be doing something more than it is doing!!
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W6EM
Member

Posts: 900




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« Reply #9 on: February 04, 2013, 08:41:22 AM »

I'm not sure if this is a widespread practice (yet) or not.  My son has a new home.  I had reason to climb up into his attic.  What did I see, but aluminum foil-coated plywood being used for roof sheeting under the shingles.  I'm not an HVAC expert, but the attic space isn't a heat-gain-loss component so much as the ceiling joist pockets stuffed with insulation.  And, the ends of the attic have vents anyway.  So, what could the foil be for?  It's not a water barrier as the shingle nails penetrate it everywhere.

With the HOA-builder-CATV conspiracy against any forms of antennas, my suspicion is that it's for the obvious: make any attic antennas for TV or other uses worthless.  And, they're not that good anyway if there are aluminum or sheet metal HVAC ducts running hither and yon.

Perhaps your apartment builder/owner had the same idea and put that type of aluminum foil coated sheeting against the studs to discourage indoor antennas.

I see the foil backed products everywhere in home building. Foil backed foam board that is used for insulation or house wrap, Foil backed sheetrock, foil backed vapor barrier cloth and just foil.

None of it is intended to be "to block RF". It has thermal insulating value if it captures dead space air and as a supplemental vapor barrier like Tyvekk. Also it is used as a radiant reflector of heat.

So, with it installed on the inside surface, the only source of radiation incident on it would be from the insulation below it in the ceiling joists.  Not talking about conduction or convection.  Radiation.

Vapor barriers require a barrier.  Filling it full of roofing nail holes defeats any such purpose.  Besides, as Dupont cautions, such metallic surfaces in humid climates tend to cause condensation when outside temperatures drop to below inside structure temperatures.  Mold, rot, etc., can be a problem.

Tyvec is a polymer and a good moisture barrier.  No metal involved, unless an impenetrable barrier is desired.  Dupont makes a point of saying that Tyvec will breath vapor.

Quote
Upsides, computer RF noise is almost nonexistent. I do not "hear" the DVR on 40 meters. My house is very efficient with HVAC requirements and it saves me around 20% or so in energy costs. (that from my local utility that provides comparisons of electrical demand data, relative to neighbors with a similar home of construction, era and square footage).

Your house may indeed be very energy efficient, but it is likely so because you have addressed heat gain and loss through conduction and convection, not radiation.  If I built an outdoor shed in a very hot climate, I'd want only specular aluminum or galvanized corrogated steel roofing for the obvious benefit of its reflection of incident solar radiation.

I'm not all that concerned about "big brother" eavesdropping or the possibility of EMP effects.  Maybe I should be.  On the other hand, I want to be able to use a cell phone indoors and tune in a local game or two on a portable FM radio.  And, use a 2M HT or weather radio indoors to monitor in the event of a major weather event.

By accident or mis-applied intent, the use of foil-backed materials where the foil is on the inside, unexposed surface is, in my opinion, misapplication if thought to be for radiant heat source reflection.  Weird, just plain weird... Especially in Houston, TX, where it is both very hot and humid. 
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WB6BYU
Member

Posts: 13574




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« Reply #10 on: February 04, 2013, 08:47:42 AM »

When you transmit, does the frequency change on the display?  It could be as simple
as the RIT setting or VFO A/B, such that you aren't transmitting on the same frequency
that you are listening.

A good first step would be to take your radio over to the shack of another ham and
have them try it out with their antennas.  Some things like this can be obvious in
person, but very difficult to diagnose via a text-based medium such as eHam.
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K8AXW
Member

Posts: 4001




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« Reply #11 on: February 04, 2013, 08:58:59 AM »

LOG:  I agree with BYU, which is as far as I'm concerned is the only logical step to take now.  Take your rig to another hams house and try it. 

This is of course assuming that your transceiver controls are properly set as BYU also pointed out.

With a dipole, which pretty well eliminates the antenna ground variable as with a vertical, you should be able to make contacts. 

When you made the dipole did you turn off the rig antenna tuner?  You should have because the dipole is a resonant antenna which needs to be tuned by adjusting each side of the antenna until the SWR is at a minimum.  In most cases it shouldn't be necessary to use an antenna tuner for a dipole, except perhaps 80m.

A dipole antenna that is initially tuned up with an antenna tuner might not even be resonant.

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W5ER
Member

Posts: 74




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« Reply #12 on: February 04, 2013, 09:28:41 AM »

hERE IS INFO ON YOUR LOCAL CLUB, attend a meeting, make a few friends, find an elmer, look up the presidents or Editor's name in your phone book. The editor appears to be quite close to you.
 Do something.
Call Sign:W8CSOAnnual Report:May 18th 2011Meeting Time:4th Thurs Monthly 7:00 PMMeeting Place:Spring Lake Public LibrarySection:MIAffiliation Date:Mar 21st 1987Specialties:Digital Modes, DX, General Interest, Public Service/Emergency, Repeaters, VHF/UHFServices Offered:Club Newsletter, Entry-Level License Classes, General Or Higher License Classes, License Test Sessions, Mentor,

North Ottawa ARC Officers

Contact, Editor
 John F. Sundstrom N8YQD
17933 Comstock St,Grand Haven, MI, 49417-9361

President
 John T. Fischer KC8UNY
309 S Third StreetGrand Haven, MI, 49417

gudluck 73
Ed W5ER
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N6AJR
Member

Posts: 9927




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« Reply #13 on: February 04, 2013, 09:35:02 AM »

First join club, next get the book out for the radio. Go in the menu and see if you need to set mic gain or such.  if mike  gain is at 0 then you will have no output.  lots of other problems possible, join club, get local, help.
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W4HIJ
Member

Posts: 367




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« Reply #14 on: February 04, 2013, 12:18:02 PM »

I concur with all the others about getting help. If you've got something.....anything...out in the open air and it's taking power then you should be being heard by someone. I once saw a guy make a QSO using a light bulb for an antenna after seeing an article in QST.  No, I'm not suggesting light bulbs be used as antennas! It was a prearranged contact meant to prove the point that most any thing that has metal in it will radiate. Some antennas just radiate better than others. Some guys who have apartment stations will put a mobile whip like a Hustler out on their back deck and string a few ground radials out. It's not the best solution but they make contacts. Good luck!
73,
Michael, W4HIJ
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