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Author Topic: Is there hope for QRP during declining sunspot cycle and minimum?  (Read 23423 times)
KA2ZEY
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Posts: 78




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« on: May 14, 2014, 07:19:02 AM »

I've been trying to decide on a QRP rig given that I can't operate anything above 10 watts in my apartment and balcony (too many people around and impractical). I notice that with an already weak sunspot cycle, we may be heading down now. Can CW QRP contacts still happen on 40 and 20 Meters during minimums?

Perhaps I should start looking at 6 and 2 Meters given the current cycle and my operating conditions.
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W1JKA
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« Reply #1 on: May 14, 2014, 07:52:30 AM »

This will be Blasphemy for non QRPers but don't get all hung up on sun spot cycles especially for 40/30/20 meters, just put up the best antenna you can and learn your basic daily/seasonal  propagation for theses bands at your QTH. I and many others have operated QRP DX over several years without any regard to sun spots other than to but on a pair of RayBans.
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K0OD
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« Reply #2 on: May 14, 2014, 07:54:13 AM »

Good question. My QRP is limited to CW DX contesting. And most of that is on 40 meters which doesn't vary much with the sunspot cycle. During the last ARRL DX contest I operated at 5 watts on Friday evening and made so many Qs that I reduced my power to one watt the following day for more of a challenge. I would have tried 100 milliwatts if I had a way to accurately set that level. There's a reason that 40 is the most popular CW QRP band.

Also consider channelized 60 meters if you have a radio for that band. 30 should be fine too.
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NU4B
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« Reply #3 on: May 14, 2014, 02:21:27 PM »

I looked back at my log through the past solar min. I check from the beginning of 2008  to towards the end of 2010. This was a period when the solar flux was around 70 or below and sunspots were rare if not zero. I worked 182 countries running 5 watts with my K2 or my HW-9 running 4 watts.

Results may vary depending on antennas, I used a windom and Butternut HF5B.

You may not be that interested in DX, but the point is there should be no problem making contacts at QRP levels during a solar min.

40 and 80 will be enhanced. 30 and 20 will offer some great openings. Even 17 will be available much of the time. 15 meters will have some decent openings. 10 and 12 meters will be rough with a capital "R", but there will be trans equatorial openings and decent openings to the Caribbean.

So as long as your realistic in your antenna selection you should be in good shape. You should have no problem making stateside and NA QSO's.   

Antennas, antennas, antennas!

Good Luck!
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KB1GMX
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Posts: 780




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« Reply #4 on: May 14, 2014, 03:07:57 PM »

Solar minimum only affects what band you might use and when. 

Back in 2010 people kept telling me 10 is dead... From January to May I worked 10M
and made 85 countries QRP off a PAR EF/40/20/10 and a K6STI rectangle.  Yep, 10
was dead all right. 

I got my ticket in 2001 during that peak and rode through the big long minimum to now.
I found if I turned on the radio and tuned around I would find a QSO. 

Solar flares can really kill the bands, most anytime.


Allison
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WB0FDJ
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Posts: 144




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« Reply #5 on: May 16, 2014, 12:10:32 PM »

"Can CW QRP contacts still happen on 40 and 20 Meters during minimums?"

I checked my log also. On 4/6/09 and 4/7/09 I finished building my MFJ Cub for 20 meters. Running a whopping 2 watts worked both coasts (from Minnesota) WA, ME and Nova Scotia using an MFJ-1786 mag loop that sits indoors in an unused room. I actually made many more, these were just the first three. You will definitely make contacts. Have fun!

Doc WB0FDJ
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WB8YYY
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« Reply #6 on: May 16, 2014, 06:40:21 PM »

I still think we are a few years from the minima so don't stop operating yet.  The temptation to work lots of dx will go down with sunspots and those regional qrp contacts will be more treasurered then.  20m wilo hang in there for some qsos until most minimal conditions.  40m becomes less effective for nearby contacts with very low sunspots but qrp signals still propagate well on longer paths.  Those that can radiate on lower bands find improved qrp distance down there.  Keep radiating HF there. 

Curt
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K8AXW
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« Reply #7 on: May 17, 2014, 08:17:39 AM »

If you're operating QRP to start with, you're already operating with a self-imposed handicap.  If you're using a compromised antenna system, the handicap increases.

Just look at the sunspot cycle as another challenge and have at it!  This is all supposed to be fun and games.  Enjoy!!

BTW, one of the greatest surprises I get in ham radio is making a contact on a "dead" band!  Sometimes everyone in the world is listening for someone else.   Roll Eyes
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KW4CQ
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Posts: 129




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« Reply #8 on: May 23, 2014, 08:45:20 AM »

Fear not OM the best is yet to come.  I urge you to try some of the weak signal digital modes like JT65, PSK31, and WISPR, which work well with QRP and under poor band conditions.  The software is free and widely available on the internet.  Check out the various user groups for these modes and I think you'll find something that will perk your interest.  Cheesy

73, Bob KW4CQ
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KC2UGV
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Posts: 441




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« Reply #9 on: May 28, 2014, 06:40:45 AM »

Over the past 8 days of operating QRP, I've logged about 17 contacts, while only half-heartedly working on it.  By which I mean, I'd spend a few hours on Saturday and Sunday, and an hour maybe during the week days.

I've worked Cuba, Ireland, Italy, France, and a ton of US stations.  My antenna setup is ok (Nothing to write home about), a 30-20 fan dipole in an inverted V formation, at about 28ft up.

Yes, the declining sunspot numbers are putting a damper on things Tongue
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NU4B
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« Reply #10 on: May 28, 2014, 11:28:51 AM »

I played around in the WPX contest this past weekend and 20 meters was hopping. I don't know about the other bands because I stayed on 20. I wish I had spent more time. I was using a windom at about 30 feet and worked many EU, Caribbean, and SA standard fare. But also worked VK6LW (zone 29), UA9 (zone 18), 4L8A (zone 21), JA, 5B, D3. I usually quit around 1:30am (local) and the band was still open. It seemed I had a more difficult time working western and southern Europe than northern and eastern Europe. But that may be just a result on the times I was on the air.

Also worked E51 on 12 meters on Monday and 9G5ZZ on 20 yesterday.
Anyway, this cycle hasn't given up the ghost yet.
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KE7TMA
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Posts: 471




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« Reply #11 on: May 28, 2014, 03:38:08 PM »

This will be Blasphemy for non QRPers but don't get all hung up on sun spot cycles especially for 40/30/20 meters, just put up the best antenna you can and learn your basic daily/seasonal  propagation for theses bands at your QTH. I and many others have operated QRP DX over several years without any regard to sun spots other than to but on a pair of RayBans.

This is it exactly.  HF propagation varies a lot day to day - two nights ago it was great here, though if one had looked at the solar weather before one might not have bothered to turn the radio on.

Easiest thing is to get on the radio and call CQ.  If nobody's calling you might think a very lively band is quite dead.
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ZENKI
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Posts: 956




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« Reply #12 on: May 29, 2014, 06:16:03 AM »

And really who cares how low or high you go with QRP.  The Q code for QRP means "Shall I decrease my power?Huh??" It does not mean I must run 5 watts  because a contest committee made a silly rule for contests.

  If you run 100 watts and you reduce your power to 50 watts,  you have  reduced power and that is sufficient  to claim legitimate QRP status. So really if you can effectively increase the efficiency of your station  effectiveness by increasing power  to the 25 or or even 50 watts  you are QRP legal in the spirit of what QRP really means especially if you constantly adjusting your power limit up or down. It will also make your low power ham life more enjoyable.

 5 watt QRP is  a contest rule and was not meant to  one of the ten commandments of ham radio carved into rock. It was also meant to be the minimum power suitable for battery operation. I can tuck a  LIPO battery pack and Yaesu FT857 in my jacket and operate at 100 watts SSB for a short period of time. This is legal QRP as well because its in the spirit  of what is possible with technology for what is considered  possible with portable or low power operation.

It would be nice to have a real QRP contest thats truly based on science and actually being able to copy a low power station  A contest that is limited to 100 watts of power. You can exchange a report of 5XX00 or 5XTT or 5Xt. This would indicate you running 100 watts. You can then make  a series of power reduction in 6db steps. So 25 watts would 596. The 6  indicating  6db less power. You get  a few extra points for the -6db QSO. The next report would be 59(12) indicating -12db less power or 6 watts.  You keep on reducing power by 6db and the reports keep on going -18, -24 etc You also get more points the lower you go in power. The power could  be reduced by a automatic step attenuator. It would also be a good check for your S-meter. 6db is a reasonable step for  accuracy when considering  fading and other factors. +-2db is considered acceptable in a EMC lab for example and this is using  100 thousand dollar EMC  calibrated receivers.  So 6db would be nice noticeable step even on the junk ham radios with the typical guess meter.

This kind of contest would truly assess the effectiveness of low power communications on all modes.  After years of doing this exact thing I have come to the conclusion that 25 watts of power  from a perception point of view.  When considering the lousy S_meters on most transceivers, t 25 watts is just as good as 100 watts in real effectiveness since most stations cant spot the difference.  Those who can tell the difference exaggerate the real difference  mostly because they have  a lousy S_meter, AGC or a high signal to noise ratio. So the effect can be dramatic  for some  hams. Using a quality SDR receiver that has a very accurate S_meter the differences between 100 watts
and 25 watts is barely perceptible.

Bottom line is change bands and increase or decrease power where applicable. There is little point being a stubborn  QRP hero by being stuck on 1 band , 1 power level  and making no QSO's by trying to fight the MUF by being on the wrong frequency or using insufficient power. QRP shall I reduce power?!
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W1JKA
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Posts: 1760




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« Reply #13 on: May 29, 2014, 09:49:45 AM »

Re: ZENKI
 
  Thanks again for the discourse on what 98% of us on this Forum already know is the technical definition of a QRP Q signal and probably 95% of the 98% operate LOW POWER  Wink because they want to and still make contacts with little if any concerns about MUFs and sun spots. I'm glad your Bottom line works out well for you and your operating expectations. Please leave your Hero mantra to those that deserve, our Veterans.
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W7WQ
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Posts: 105




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« Reply #14 on: May 29, 2014, 04:48:21 PM »

"Can CW QRP contacts still happen on 40 and 20 Meters during minimums?"

Yes, yes they can.
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