July 27, 2017
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Setup the end fed antenna on the 3rd floor condo balcony this afternoon. This time I had about 10 feet of wire hanging off the end with the remaining 20ft aligned with the telescoping fishing pole at a 45° angle. Radio, tuner and amp were configured as before. Band conditions were generally bad. SFI of 68 with a sunspot number of zero. That being said I did manage four QSO’s over about an hour and a half. Two were on 20m and two were on 10m. Most copied me at between 55 and 57. So it works! Here is the rig on the coffee table:
Here is the antenna deployed on the balcony:
July 27, 2017
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Got started a bit late last night but managed to set up the beachside balcony station. I wrapped 30 feet of wire around the fishing pole and attached the end fed matchbox. I strung the coax around the balancing floor. The “mast” is self supporting in a nearly vertical orientation. I set up the FT-817ND with the tuner and amplifier set for 45w out.
The 20m band tuned right up but the band was quite dead by the late night evening. I moved to 40m and found a bit more activity but no contacts were made. The noise floor was surprisingly low on 40m considering there was lightning visible offshore. No contacts were made although I did pick up Roberto I2VRN with a solid 59. Could not bust the pileup.
All this being said will try this setup again this afternoon and try and scare up a QSO.
June 28, 2017
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I got a late start to field day this year due to a late breaking family commitment. Our club tried to setup at the local weather station but cancelled operations due to a large noise source crashing the bands at that location.
I started operating about 19:30 UTC. I started at 5W on SSB but over the first hour only made one contact. The band conditions were not good on 20m with lots of QRM and QSB. I added the amplifier and started to work on 45W. My power draw was significantly higher but my Q rate increased. The solar panel kept up with the power consumption even though there was quite a bit of cloudiness. I continued to operate on 20m until dusk when I switched to 40m. Overall I made 60 Phone contacts over the course of about 8 hours. My score this year will be lower even with more Q’s due to the higher power I ran. I did not get a chance to run digital.
- Digital logging – netbook needed one charge cycle during this period. The 12V to 18V DC-DC converter was running at abou 2.2A during the charging cycle. I used a 7Ahr for this through a spare Solar Charge controller. I am going to look at a tablet for next year.
- The EFHW antenna worked great on 20m.
- SOTAbeams travel mast + TV tripod worked great to support antenna with no guy lines.
- Solar generator box had enough juice to supply the day’s activity even at the higher power consumption and had some power to spare.
- Tube Tarp came in real handy as shade. Luckily no rain on Saturday. I’ll do better with the depolyment next time as I figured out how to guy it better.
What did not work so good:
- Can’t run digital mode while using an amp. The amp uses the ACC port on the radio but provides no pass through. I am looking at how I can accomplish this for next time.
- I don’t have the battery budget to run 45W phone for 24 hours. I figure I would have run out of power after about 12 hours. Partly cloudy day didn’t help.
- Didn’t take advantage of more 6 stations to raise Q count.
- Calling CQ consumes a lot of power. Need to refactor the power budget.
So I figure my score this year for 60 SSB QSO’s + bonus points for emergency power will work out to 310 for my 1B station. I am convinced now that I have to finish learning CW so that next year I can run 5W on CW and up my point count. A more directional antenna would be nice but a portable beam antenna remains elusive. For some reason I seemed to be doing better with stations in California than on the more densely populated east coast.
In summary, A great afternoon of outdoor radio fun and already looking forward to next year.
October 4, 2016
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I did some preliminary testing of the Hi-voltage capacitor I completed last week and found some interesting things.Rather than commit the 40m loop design I decided to try and adapt the existing loop antenna I have previously described. To make this work in a configuration similar to what I have in mind with the 40m loop, I installed the capacitor at the top and used a toroid instead of the shielded coax loop for the coupling at the bottom of the loop. To do this is needed to replace the vertical PVC supports to accommodate the configuration. The reducer I used for the 1/2″ pipe on the 40m loop was replaced with a 3/4″ version. This configuration worked well. The capacitor is in the range of being able to tune this loop on 20m. Previous experiments indicated a good match with 5 turns on the FT140-43 toroid. It turned out that 6 turns would give me a perfect match 1:1 SWR at resonance. Here is the SWR plot on 20m.
The bandwidth at the 2:1 points measured at 45kHz. This compares favorably to the original capacitor which was indicating a bandwidth of around 68kHz. This indicates that the Ohmic losses are indeed lower and therefore efficiency should be higher as well.
I did not have enough time this weekend to run all the measurements I had planned but I did operate the antenna indoors at 45W with the FT-817ND and amplifier.The Califonia QSO party was underway and I made numerous contacts in California without difficulty with this loop. The capacitor handled the power without any issues at all!
September 17, 2016
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Setup the 20m EFHW as a vertical on the 30ft travel mast as before. The mast is lashed to a chain link fence post and the match box is just off the ground. Checking the antenna at the feed point with the Mini60 antenna analyzer showed a bandwidth of 588 kHz with a 1.11 SWR at 14.175 MHz. The antenna is resonant across the 14.150-14.350 Mhz voice band. Then through a 50ft piece of RG-8X coax the SWR increased to 1.24 but the antenna remained resonant. Here is the station in operation:
There was a couple of QSO parties going on this afternoon so there was a rich field of domestic contacts. I operated at 45W using the FT-817ND and the amplifier.Partly cloudy day today so there were period with no direct sunshine. The following power statistics were noted:
After 1 hour Solar panel provided .644Ahr and the rig consumed .380Ahr
After 2 hours Solar panel provided 1.146Ahr and the rig consumed .904Ahr
I was unable to take a final reading as I accidentally pulled the plug on the solar panel erasing the counts. The 52W fold up panel was able to keep up with my duty cycle at full 45W.
I operated for 3 hours and made 16 QSO’s mainly in the Washington State area.No difficulties at all making the contacts and received solid 59’s across the board. Propagation during this time favored North America but Europe started opening up towards the end. I was able to copy QSO’s in progress with stations in Italy and Germany. I was not able to break the pile ups though.
All in all I am impressed with the performance of this antenna and with the ability of the solar panel to let me operate for an extended period even with periods of cloudiness. Here is a view of the antenna and the antenna fed point.
September 4, 2016
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It took awhile but I finally setup the EFHW antenna I has built and tuned for 20m up as a vertical outside late this afternoon. The antenna required no external tuner and I am able to run 45W into it without issue.
It worked beautifully!
This could be the best antenna I have built yet for 20m. I noticed low noise and lots of stations coming in. This on a day with SFI at 90 and SSN of 58.First contact was a soild 59 into Guatemala. Also had numerous stateside contacts all coming in nicely. One other DX into Brazil also 59. I ran the FT-817ND with solar power with the two 15W panels. Was able to put in over 1Ahr on the solar side and consumed only .66Ahr on the load side (rig and amplifier). Looks This will be my EMCOM goto system. Next step is to work on a linked antenna so that I can work other bands as needed. Here is the the whole station packed up:
July 16, 2016
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I finally got my solar powered portable station out for a full power test. For this test I used the DXextreme 100 with a 33 foot wire setup in vertical configuration. The SOTAbeams portable mast was used to hold the wire up. This was feed with 50 feet of RG-8X coax. I used the FT-817ND with the amplifier and ran it this time on the full power 45W. This was powered as before with the two 12V 7Ahr gel cells and the 55W folding solar panel. Band conditions were not too bad today but there were few stations on the air. I worked outside for about 2 hours today and made four solid contacts. My signal was reported between 53 and 59 depending on the station I contacted. All were domestic contacts. I did hear some stations in South America on 15m but they could not hear me.
Power wise, I consumed 1.1Ahr and put in .3Ahr from the solar supply.That being said I was able to transmit fine with the batteries peaking at about 8.5A. Overall a successful test! Next step is to try this with the Buddipole/Buddistick as well.
May 28, 2016
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I presented a seminar today at our local Ham Club entitled “A Solar Powered Portable Station for Field Day”. Here is a copy of the presentation and an associated spreadsheet for making power budget calculations.
Solar Powered Portable Field Day Station
Power Usage Calcs for Battery
The presentation went quite well and we are getting more local ham’s attending the C.H.A.R.R.O. club seminars. Next month no seminar as it will coincide with 2016 Field Day.
March 12, 2016
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Today took the portable HF station out for a stress test on power consumption and a shoot out between my 60W folding panel and the Sunkingdom 52W panel. The configuration today was the magnetic loop antenna, the FT-817ND and the MX-P50M amplifier configured for 20W running off the solar charged batteries. I am using two 7Ahr gel cell batteries in parallel.
I started by running the 60W folding panel that I used last field day and ran normal operations for 1 hour. I used the DC meters to monitor how many Amp-hours were delivered to the batteries by the panel and how many were consumed by the radio and amplifier. Today was a partly cloudy day with periods of direct sunshine followed by cloud induced shade. After 1 hour the 60W panel delivered .422Ahr to the batteries with the load consuming .717Ahrs. I then switched to the new Sunkingdom panel and after 1 hour it had delivered .727Ahr with the load consuming .667Ahr. The smaller Sunkingdom panel clearly outperformed the large 60W foldup panel running these loads.
During these 2 hours of operations I made 8 contacts including Venezuela and Argentina. Interestingly enough my weakest contact was with a NPOTA station at Palo Alto battlefield only 10 miles from the QTH. All in all another good afternoon of outdoors radio! I will likely do some more testing on these solar panels but it looks like the Sunkingdom panel is a winner.
I also did a tweak on the Magnetic loop antenna and replaced the wooden dowel with a fiberglass rod for tuning. The wood rod was getting chewed up with each use while the fiberglass looks like it will be more durable. The tripod repair I made did not take as the epoxy looks like it didn’t cure properly. Probably a bad mix on my part. Will repair as time permits.
October 4, 2015
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California by far has one of the most active QSO parties I have seen all year. I joined in on this for a few hours this afternoon using the FT-817ND with the MX-P50M amplifier and the Magnetic loop antenna. My goal today was to gauge the effectiveness of running at 20W vs. 5W in making QSO’s. I started by tuning around 20m but found the noise level was a bit high on the band and most stations were coming in weak. I switched to 15m and didn’t hear much until I adjusted the direction the loop was pointing in. Many stations working this band out of California started coming in after adjusting the loop.This was the first time I really noticed the directivity of the loop antenna.
I was using a 13.8V power supply to run the rig and the amp so I only needed 1 W to drive 20W out. Started to work the stations I could hear and almost all returned my call on the first try. Only one station reported a weak signal but by then the band had started to fade.I worked 20 stations on 15m running 20W with the mag loop (indoors!). I setup the loop with the shorter coax to run 15m thru 10m. 12m and 10m were fairly quiet so i tuned back up to 15m and closed another 6 contacts. These were my first real tests of the loop through its tuning range and I was able to verify it was working well.
I moved back to 10m and heard nothing then tried 12m. I heard a station on 12m from Chile and once again adjusted the direction of the loop and noticed the pickup in signal strength. On 2.5W at 15m I was getting 30W out and made the call. He picked me up right away and gave me a 54 signal report.
This experience has verified the performance of both the large loop from 20m thru 15m and the small loop from 15m to 12m. 10m remains elusive but the band is really hit or miss lately.
I am confident now that on the 20m-12m bands I can make reliable contacts using 20W on SSB using the amplifier and the mag loop antenna.
Moved to the FT-450D and made a few more contacts on 15m and 20m for the QSO party and made one 10m contact to Argentina. All in all a fun afternoon of HF.
Next up is to take to the outdoors with this setup and take some measurements using solar charged battery power.