RFI in the house

Finally had a chance to connect the antenna up to the radio using the coax running through the conduit from the garage side of the house into the shack. Up until now, most of the operating (what little of it there’s been) has been out in the back yard with the radio connected directly to the antenna.

This weekend, I thought I’d give the ARRL November Sweepstakes (Phone) contest a try. After making a 40m contact Sunday morning, I noticed the network had gone down. Discovered the GFCI breaker for the circuit that our service provider’s ONT box is on had tripped. Not entirely positive it was because of me operating on 40m, because I had made a handful of 40m contacts on Saturday without any problems (that we noticed anyway). Seems likely to be an RFI issue though since the network was up just prior to my QSO.

Reset the breaker, got the network back up, and switched over to 20m but then the wife spotted one of her edge lit acrylic signs flickering on and off while I was making another contact and basically turning it into an “On the Air” sign.

Not wanting to risk messing up anything else in the house by overloading them with RF, I wrapped up the ARRL November Sweepstakes contest with 12 contacts in the log and 240 points with most of my contacts from Saturday evening on 40m (40m opens up pretty nicely out to the West coast in the evenings from here).

I’ve had the antenna up a handful of times since we’ve been in the house, but most of my operating has been outside, so any RF-induced problems there might have been in the house have generally gone unnoticed (except maybe for the time the Nest thermostat died). I’m pretty sure the issue is because most of the antenna lays on top of the roof and on the side where most of the wiring is (electrical service entrance, breaker panel, network router, AC unit, etc). Running 100W is probably causing a lot of RF to be coupled into the house wiring.

So it looks like I’ll have to work on changing the antenna situation. Moving the antenna and mast to the fence on the other side of the house would probably get the antenna far enough away to solve most of problem, but then I wouldn’t be able to use the coax running through the conduit without making the coax run a whole lot longer. The mast would also be on the street side of the house making it even more visible when set up. I could also order a ton of ferrite chokes to put on pretty much any current carrying wire in the house (that could get pretty expensive). I guess I could also take my operations portable and head out into the field or a park.

Field Day 2021

This year was another back yard Field Day (1D SC) and invited neighbours over again to hang out, chat, listen to me play on the radio (none of them wanted to give the radio a try), and of course eat. Got the dipole up in the air and had it working pretty well on 40m, 20m, and 10m.

Dipole set up on the fiberglass mast
HF dipole up on the mast

This year I also set up the 2m radio outside to listen in on the repeaters using a ground plane antenna kit we picked up at HRO back in the spring. Made a makeshift mast out of some 2×4, a length of 1″ PVC pipe left over from another project, and a spare mounting base for an outdoor weather station. Had it propped up against the fence, but I didn’t have any coax long enough to reach the radio, so I moved the antenna closer and leaned it up against my ladder. Worked well pretty well and had 1.5 SWR across the 2m band, which is way better than the hacked together mag mount currently sitting in the shack.

2m quarter wave ground plane antenna mounted on a makeshift mast.
2m quarter wave ground plane antenna on a makeshift mast

The ground plane antenna will probably find itself up in the attic at some point once I figure out how to run some coax down into the shack.

Got the radios and laptop set up on the back porch. Fortunately the rain went elsewhere, and the associated clouds kept things relatively cool for operating.

Radio and laptop set up for Field Day 2021.
Radio and laptop set up for Field Day 2021.

Band conditions weren’t that great, but they weren’t terrible. I didn’t hear the usual cacophony of stations this year. Lots of faint stations, a few loud ones, and mostly static in between. Tried 40m, but there was a lot of really odd sounding noise and stations fading in and out. Lots of stations up and down the east coast early on and then later in the evening on 20m, the band went long toward the west and I started hearing stations out in CA and WA. Managed to break through the pileup to get W1AW in the log. Also heard the Walt Disney World DEARS club station, WD4WDW, but wasn’t able to get through their pileup. The operator was fun to listen to though.

Called it a night around 10PM after unsuccessfully trying to break a few more pileups for stations out on the west coast. My ultra-casual operation managed to get 19 contacts in the log, mainly on 20m and 10m, including a few Canadian stations, USVI, PR, and a DX station Costa Rica.

Evening radio station illumination provided by the radio, SWR meter, and W4BXC edge lit acrylic sign.
Evening radio station illumination

Field Day 2020

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, Field Day was a bit different this year. No big gatherings, and many of the public spaces that normally hosted Field Day this year were closed or only permitted small groups. With some modified rules for Field Day this year, there were a lot of Class D stations (commercial power) on the bands this year.

We got our back yard Field Day set up (1D SC) and invited neighbours over. Set out a few items for people to check out, and got the radio fired up. Had a few of our nearby neighbours over, and another person stopped by with her grandkids later in the afternoon.

We were able to show off radio operating during Field Day, talk about some of the things amateur radio operators do on the radio, shared radio stories, and show off radio related paraphernalia like QSL cards, boat anchors, Morse Code keys and some of the kits I’ve put together.

Plenty of activity on 10m today, which was where I spent most of the afternoon in seek and pounce mode. The pileups were thick and a bit challenging to get through, but I was able to make it through a few of them. 10m started to slow down as the afternoon went on, so I dropped down to 20m where there was even more activity. Worked a few stations there and popped back up to 10m to get one of our newly minted Tech friends her first HF QSO. Then it was back down to 20m for a few more contacts until the mosquitoes got bad enough to make me call it a day. I ended up with 22 QSOs in the log, with the last few getting out to the west coast.

Even though this year wasn’t a typical Field Day, it was still a good radio weekend.

Winter Field Day 2019

Participated in my first Winter Field Day this weekend with WA4USN (also the first one for the club), 1O SC. The event made for a good excuse to check out the HF capabilities of the CARS communications trailer (which I suppose is the whole point of Field Day). It’s a much more casual and far less involved day than Summer Field Day (no food, fewer operators, no overnight shift).

Started off Saturday (January 26) getting the trailer set up. By the time I got to the site, the trailer had already been pulled out of the building and the radios were getting set up. Apparently there was supposed to be an HF dipole in the trailer, but it couldn’t be found so we went with the Tarheel antenna that had been mounted to the roof of the trailer.

The Tarheel is an OK mobile antenna but for long distance HF, we found our signal just wasn’t getting out very well. We managed about a dozen contacts over the three hours or so that we were out.

The next day (January 27), I brought out my ZS6BKW antenna. By the time I got there, the others had already set up the trailer with a 20 m dipole hanging on the trailer’s pneumatic mast. We switched out the 20m dipole for my antenna and got back on the air.

The dipoles worked much better than the Tarheel, and with the ZS6BKW, we were able to operate on 40 m and 20 m.

Weather was fairly decent (especially compared to other sites further north). Sunday was a good bit colder than Saturday was though, and I was starting to get a bit on the stiff side by the time we wrapped things up.

Ended up the event with 69 contacts on 40 m and 20 m, mostly phone but a few digital (PSK) in there as well. It was a good exercise for myself and everybody else who came out on getting the trailer set up and operating from it.

I also think I want a pneumatic mast for the house like the one on the trailer.

Quadruple QSO party weekend

There hasn’t been a whole lot of radio activity going on here lately since Field Day.

There were four state QSO parties going on this weekend (AZ, NV, PA, SD).  After getting a SD station (W0SD), I decided to try to get at least one contact in the other three.  I wasn’t able to find any more SD stations, but I did manage three contacts in AZ, three in NV, and eight in PA.

While tuning around the other bands (there wasn’t a whole lot), I scored contacts with hams in the Dominican Republic and Slovenia.  There was also someone in Spain, but he had a bit of a pileup going that I wasn’t able to get through.

Also came across the AMSAT International net that I listened to for a little bit.

Good weekend to be on the air.