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Sunday, September 30, 2018

The October 2018 Communicator


Here is the latest Communicator 

Amateur Radio News from the South West corner of Canada and elsewhere. You will find Amateur Radio related articles, profiles, news, tips and how-to's. You can download it as a .PDF file directly from https://goo.gl/JmpT1u


https://goo.gl/JmpT1u




As always, thank you to our contributors, and your feedback is always welcome.  My deadline for the November edition is October 22nd. If you have news or events from your Vancouver area club or photos, stories, projects or other items of interest from elsewhere, please email them to the communicator@ve7sar.net

Keep visiting this site for regular updates and news.

~ 73,
  John VE7TI
  Communicator Editor

Friday, September 28, 2018

My Antenna Adventures - An OCF [Part 2]



A Communicator Reprise: June 2013


The RF Demons Are Finally Exorcised

I purchased the Carolina Windom 80 antenna from Radio Works with the idea of using it on 80 and 40 m to supplement my SteppIR vertical, which covers the 6m-20 bands. Being 133 ft. long, it is a full ½ wave for 80 m and advertised as usable on the higher bands.  One of its distinguishing features is a “vertical radiator”, a 22 ft. length of 50 ohm coax connected off-centre to the horizontal radiator by way of a 4:1 balun.  At the lower end of the vertical radiator is a choke balun (or “isolator”), there for the purpose of discouraging radiation from the remainder of the feedline connected to the transmitter.    Presence of the vertical radiator, it is claimed, changes the radiation pattern to give a low angle component, good for DX.  When I searched the web for comments on this antenna, virtually all indicated that the owners were happy with its performance and would recommend it to others.  I had some challenging issues when I put the Carolina Windom up at my QTH.

I have a number of tall trees on my property, but only one not-very-tall tree suitable for anchoring one end of the wire at the front of the lot.  At the rear of the lot are several taller trees, none of which is ideally situated to anchor the opposite end of the wire.  Nevertheless, I used SARC’s air cannon to fire a line through one of these trees about 50 ft up.  When we raised the antenna, both ends of the wire came close to branches, which raised the concern that they might affect the performance.  In addition, another tree near the middle of the lot had drooping branches that came very close to, and sometimes touched, the suspended wire.

I then proceeded to make some measurements using an  MFJ-269 analyzer.  The MFJ reads not only SWR but also the components of Z (impedance), which are Rs (radiation resistance) and Xs (reactance).  When I pulled the antenna up to full height into the trees, the measured SWR was above the range of the MFJ  (>31) over most bands.  Rs (which I expected to be around 50 ohms) was zero nearly everywhere. I then repeated the readings with a Comet CAA-500 analyzer with the same result: every SWR reading on every band was off-scale.   Clearly, something was wrong.   When I transmitted and put power into the antenna, sometimes I could tune it with the radio’s tuner and other times I could not.  The antenna was then taken down and all parts checked to see if there was a faulty component.  Both baluns tested OK, the coax connected to a 50 ohm dummy load appeared good, and all solder joints seemed to be sound.   I even substituted known good baluns for the ones provided but nothing changed for the better.

I then commenced my email correspondence with Jim, the Radio Works guy to explain the symptoms.  He was puzzled by the results and after several emails back and forth, suggested I return the antenna to them for checking, which I did.  I received it back within a few weeks after Radio Works had replaced the vertical radiator because of a suspected intermittent connector.  The winter months went by before I put the antenna up again, and began testing to see the results.  In the meantime, as related in the previous posting, I had acquired an AIM 4170 antenna analyzer and used the time to get familiar with its many features. I ran the AIM through some tests with my other (resonant) antenna and confirmed that the MFJ and the AIM gave almost identical results for SWR and the components of impedance (Xs and Rs).  

Now for the Windom.

Figure 1 shows the initial setup.  The antenna was about 35 ft. off the ground at one end and 50 ft at the other.  60 ft of 50 ohm RG213 transmission line connected the line isolator to a surge protector and station ground at the house entrance panel, then to an external swr meter and the transmitter. 


Figure 2 shows the results of SWR measurements across all bands from 3 to 30 MHz (note: the amateur bands are highlighted).  The SWR trace displayed dips at certain frequencies but mostly not where they should be. 


Figure 3 shows the results of several re-scans for the 80 m band, and 

Figure 4 for 20m – every re-scan gave a different pattern.  When I tried putting power into the antenna from the transmitter, it usually would not take power or, if it did, it was only momentary while the internal tuner kept searching for a match on each key-down.   The results were no better on other bands, and rainfall also made things even worse.

As I struggled to find the reason for this odd behaviour, the only change that seemed to bring improvement was disconnecting the station ground. 

Figure 5 shows the result for the 80m band under both conditions.  This was possibly an important clue.

Since I had thought that the interfering branches might be affecting resonance (as they blew in the breeze), my next move was to have the trees pruned to eliminate the offending branches. At the same time, I got the tree guy to install a rope and pulley system (made from bicycle inner tubes, shackle and pulley) around the trunk of two select trees about 40 ft. up so I could raise and lower the antenna at will.  The wire, 4:1 balun and coax were then raised using the pulley.   The spacing between the trees did not permit the wire to extend full length, so I put a drop leg on the short end of the wire and pulled it taut.  The coax connected to the “middle” tree followed the trunk vertically down to ground level, snaked in a circuitous route across the garden and up into the second floor shack.  This required double the length of coax compared with the previous arrangement.  As before, the coax outer conductor was grounded at the entrance panel surge protector but this time I added a choke balun at the entrance panel by coiling up the extra 15 ft of coax, which I connected to the transmitter by a 15 ft jumper. 


Figure 6 shows the new configuration.


Figure 7 shows the 3-30 MHz scan, and 

Figure 8 the 80 m scan after these changes were made.  

The SWR across all frequencies and especially within the amateur bands was much lower and mostly below 3;  successive re-scans of SWR, Xs and Rs gave virtually identical results.  The SWR was now acceptable on most of the 80 m band and the match to the transmitter was stable.   Other bands (except 10 m) showed SWR 2-4, higher than I would prefer, but within the range of most internal radio tuners and a definite improvement over the initial results.  Also comforting was the fact that my external SWR meter connected to the transmitter (under power) displayed the same SWR as did the AIM.

To effect this dramatic improvement, I had made a number of changes all at the same time.  So I started undoing the changes one-by-one to determine which was the critical one.   I had previously confirmed (to my surprise) that the pruning of tree branches had no discernible effect.  Lowering the centre of the antenna to its previous height did not do it.  Removing the ground at the entrance panel had no effect, nor did uncoiling the choke balun.  The only way I could recreate the original problem was when the antenna was lowered to its original height, the feedline was shortened from 120 ft. to 60 ft. and the coax was allowed to make a drooping loop from the antenna to the shack rather than falling vertically from the antenna and taking a circuitous route to the shack.  Now this does not provide a technical explanation of the problem; it only explains what had to be done to fix it.  I do believe that I had RF on the feedline initially.  What have I learned from this experience?
  • Get the antenna as high as possible
  • Make sure the feedline drops down vertically to the ground
  • Change the length of the feedline if there appears to be a serious mismatch

There is one further puzzling footnote to this situation: Even after the aforementioned improvements, the MFJ meter consistently reads higher – by a large margin – than both the AIM and the external SWR meter. 

For example, on 80 m, an SWR of 2 on the AIM reads 8-15 on the MFJ.  Xs and Rs also disagree with the AIM, with Rs equal or close to zero on the MFJ most of the time.  I am interested in thoughts of our more knowledgeable members regarding all of the foregoing.  However, at least now I have an antenna I can use.

~ John Brodie VA7XB





Tuesday, September 25, 2018

My Antenna Adventures - An OCF [Part 1]


A Communicator Reprise: May 2013


I recently purchased a Carolina Windom 80 antenna and, after it was erected, immediately experienced some puzzling problems, as it would not take power from the transmitter, confirmed by high and erratic SWR measurements using a hand-held meter.  The full story will be related over a couple of postings but my first step was to acquire an antenna analyzer with more sophisticated features than the popular instruments and use it to help me with the diagnosis.  

The AIM 4170C analyzer was recommended by Jim VE7FO as a suitable instrument, so I purchased one from Array Solutions.  The AIM can do many advanced analytical chores and plot graphs, which is an advantage if you want to see results without the need to make and record a number of spot readings. It allows selection of the desired parameter for the plots from the menu, any or all of which can be displayed simultaneously. It also allows successive re-scans so that changes can be seen but retains in memory the raw data only for the most recent scan.

The initial step was to get familiar with the instrument’s many features, which I did by making some measurements on my SteppIR beam in order to document its characteristics for future reference.   I ran scans of SWR versus frequency for the SteppIR set to resonate on each of the HF amateur bands (2 curves, one with the antenna set to the low end of the band, and the other to the high end).  The resultant graphs showed, as expected, a low SWR on all bands with the minima near the SteppIR operating setpoint.  In the interest of space only the 20 m curves are shown in Figure 1, but those for other bands displayed a similar pattern.


Then, I wanted to compare the AIM measurements with two other popular analyzers – an MFJ 359 and Comet CAA-500 – to see if the readings agreed, because my measurements on the Windom with different instruments did not agree.  However, the results this time (on the SteppIR) were very comforting, as shown in the table.  The SWR agreed very closely amongst the 3 instruments, and Rs and Xs also compared favourably between the MFJ and the AIM.  The Comet does not read Xs (reactance); rather it shows SWR and Z (impedance) so only the Comet’s SWR reading is comparable with the other instruments.  These results gave me reason to believe that at least with a “well-behaved” antenna system, the readings of the 3 instruments should be trusted. 

Figure 2, which shows plots of several other parameters,
illustrates some basic antenna/transmission line relationships.  

For example, the resonant frequency of the system is the frequency at which the reactance changes sign from positive (inductive) to negative (capacitive), i.e. the point at which the net reactance is zero.  The phase angle shows the same thing, where it crosses the X-axis.  Note that there are two resonant frequencies –the first where the phase angle goes negative at 14.135 and again where it turns positive at 14.399.  However, the second one is not only at a high SWR point, but is outside the 20m ham band.  At the resonant frequency the Z curve coincides with the Rs curve because the reactive component at this point is zero.  In a system where Rs does not equal 50 ohms and reactance is present (typically because the antenna is too long or too short), the frequency of minimum SWR will likely not be the same as the resonant frequency.  In this case because the antenna is very nearly the right length, the resonant frequency and frequency of minimum SWR are very close. 

Having completed this test with satisfying results, I then tried another feature of the AIM instrument.  It has a mode called TDR (time domain reflectometry).  I do not profess to have any understanding of the theory of TDR, but the results are easy to understand.  In order to use TDR you must enter the velocity factor of the coax in question.  Now the SteppIR beam is connected to the shack by 60 ft. of what is supposed to be LMR-400, connected directly to an Alpha Delta surge protector which is connected to about 20 ft. of RG213 or RG8 coax leading to the radio.  Both feedlines are rated at 50 ohms impedance.  The velocity factor for Belden LMR-400 and RG213/RG8 are 0.85 and 0.65, respectively .  However, my LMR-400 coax is a Chinese import for which I have no specs.  Despite having two different types of coax connected together, only one value can be entered in the TDR setup.  After entering the velocity factor of 0.85, I hit “scan” and waited for the graph to plot.  



The figure shows the result –impedance of the transmission line versus distance.  Where the line turns vertical is the point at which the feedline is connected to the antenna.  Now as you can see this graph for 0.85 velocity factor says my transmission line is 110 ft. long.  I know this is not true, as the total length is around 80 ft.  So?  Change the velocity factor to 0.65 and bingo, the length now shows around 80 ft.    

I suspect my “LMR-400” has the characteristics of RG213 or RG8 and perhaps the product I purchased is not what it was claimed to be. If another type of coax with difference characteristic impedance was connected in series or there was an impedance bump from a faulty connector or break in the line, the graph would show it.  TDR looks to be a very useful feature of the AIM analyzer.  However, having completed the preliminaries now I’m ready to do some diagnostics on the Carolina Windom. 



More to follow... 

~ John Brodie VA7XB



Saturday, September 22, 2018

An Invitation To Assist...



2018 Pacific Forest Rally


We have received an invitation to have our members assist at an event. Read on…

My name is Geoff Hill; I am the volunteer coordinator for the 2018 Pacific Forest Rally, the 5th round of the 2018 Canadian National Rally Championship, which is being held on September 28-30, 2018. I would like to tell you more about this event, in the hopes that you or members of your club would be interested in volunteering as Radio Operators.
Pacific Forest Rally is a sanctioned performance driving competition taking place on temporarily closed forestry roads surrounding Merritt, BC. 

The event needs amateur radio operators such as yourselves, who are crucial to the safety and success of the weekend. This is also an amazing opportunity to put your amateur radio skills & equipment in action, and see real cars, on real roads, driving real fast!

What you would be doing:

As radio operators, you would be stationed at the start and finish line of each closed road, or at blocker positions along the route itself, monitoring and controlling access at intersecting roads or high-risk areas. The primary roles of the radio operator are to help the event organizers track the progress of rally cars on the roads, to keep any civilians from entering the road during competition, and to pass along relevant information in the event of a crash or safety incident.



There will be a training and Q&A session for operators just before the event.


What we provide:

To reduce costs to our volunteers as much as possible, we try to provide free shared accommodation at the Best Western, Ramada, or Quality Inn hotels in Merritt. We also provide bag lunches during the event, and free admittance to the awards banquet and post event celebrations. When the budget allows, we do our best to provide shirts, toques, or other free swag to volunteers to show our appreciation.


What you need to bring:

Because this event takes place in late autumn conditions on dirt/gravel/muddy/snowy forest service roads, we advise proper winter or all-weather tires in good condition, a reliable vehicle with reasonable ground clearance, and reliable radio equipment that can run for multiple hours at a time on the power provided by your vehicle. It is good practice to also bring food, fluids, and anything else you might need for an extended stay outside. The event does run after dark, so headlamps and flashlights will come in handy. Finally, warm winter clothing and wilderness common sense are also important to bring along! 


Where to sign up:

The Volunteer registration page for the event can be found here:
https://www.rallywest.com/signup/volunteer/PacificForestRally 


For more information:

Introduction to Rally Volunteering (description of the radio operator role in particular can be found on page 6 of this document)
Pacific Forest Rally Website
Canadian Association of Rallysport (CARS) website
Canadian Association of Rallysport Youtube channel with lots of videos showing rally cars in action.

I humbly request your assistance to inform members of your amateur radio club of this opportunity. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me directly.

Geoff Hill
geoff@rallybc.com 
Volunteer Coordinator, Pacific Forest Rally 2018
Director at Large, RPM
Secretary, WCRA

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Reflecting On The Summer Forest Fires


Over 500 Forest Fires

The Largest, Longest, Most Expensive Fire Season Ever


In the Greater Vancouver area, we have not had to endure any evacuations due to the fires that are plaguing much of our province and even into the USA. The smoke in our area gives us some impression of how bad the forest fires must be.  The Province of BC declared a state of emergency August 16th 2018 and there were about 560 fires burning in our province alone. For a short stretch, the news reported, that we had the worse air quality in the world.




There has not, to my knowledge, been a need to activate any Emergency Communications Teams due to the fires. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t the real possibility that there could be activations for forest fires. 

The Colorado forest fires in July 2012 saw ARES teams in Colorado County called out to communicate at a number of fires. In Arizona this year, the ARES group in Coconino County was called to action because of poor cellular communications to the front line of the forest fires. In 2016, in Tennessee, ARES bridged the communications gap for the Red Cross during the wildfires there. In California in 2015, during the wildfires there, ARES volunteers in Amador,  Yolo and Sacramento Counties were activated to assist the Red Cross. 

In 2016, New Mexico Volunteers were also activated during wildfires in that state.
It’s pretty unlikely that we’ll be called to action for a wildfire in the Greater Vancouver area. It is a real possibility for other areas of the province however. When a disaster happens close to home, it makes people think about disasters, so it’s a good time to think about your preparedness status. 

If you are reading this and don’t know how to prepare (hopefully you aren’t a Surrey Emergency Program Amateur Radio (SEPAR) member because all our members should be ready), there are lots of places online that can give you ideas of what you need to do.  Preparedness is a little different for everyone, depending on your personal needs. A good place to start is:

https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/emergency-preparedness-response-recovery/preparedbc

Get Prepared!

SEPAR Annual Competition


As of last April, we started a competition that active SEPAR members can participate in. The most active member will win an MD390 DMR Radio package. You can checkout pictures of the radio and see the rules on http://va7.ca/radio (an interim website).
If you are not now a member, we’d love to have you on-board. Contact me at the  link above.

~ Roger VA7VH
   SEPAR Coordinator




Friday, September 14, 2018

About Microphones



A Communicator Reprise: September 2012

A Primer On Mics For Ham Radio

All Hams use them as a basic piece of operating equipment but most never give it a second thought—the microphone.

A microphone colloquially called a mic or mike is an acoustic-to-electric transducer or sensor that converts sound into an electrical signal.


Both Thomas Alva Edison and Emile Berliner filed patent applications for the carbon microphone, in March and June 1877 respectively. After a long legal battle, Edison emerged the victor, and the Berliner patent was ruled invalid by both American and British courts. 

There are basically two kinds of microphone technology, dynamic and condenser.
Dynamic mics are actually backwards speakers and generate a small amount of electricity when the diaphragm of the mic moves back and forth under the pressure of the sound waves hitting it.

Condenser mics are powered or biased by electricity and so are more sensitive; they use a more lightweight diaphragm and are better at picking up nuances of sound. "Large diaphragm" condenser mics are more sensitive and more expensive than "small diaphragm" types. 

Pickup Patterns isn't what you get when you drive your truck in circles in the snow, but refers to the relative sensitivity of a microphone to sounds coming from the side. A pickup pattern can be… 

Omnidirectional picks up equally well in all directions
Unidirectional picks up mostly from one direction
Cardioid picks up in a heart-shaped pattern (hey, you think your dad was kidding when he said studying Latin would come in handy sometime?) 

Exotica ribbon mics, tube mics, and most other technologies are probably way out of your budget anyway… except for the PZM (Pressure Zone Microphone), which is patented by Crown and was used by Radio Shack for many years. The current Radio Shack mic is not considered to be much good, but if you can find one of the older ones, you can modify it for serious use.

Plugs everyone is used to teeny little 1/8" plugs found on consumer mics, 1/4" plugs found on guitar cables or the little square plastic ones on your transceiver mic  that look like an over-sized telephone plug. Forget all that. Professional mics have XLR plugs and balanced cables, which have the following characteristics.

The plugs lock in and don't rip out easily when someone trips over something.
the cables have three conductors, which not only make them thicker and more resistant to rough handling, but also means that they're less likely to pick up buzz, hum, etc.

Balanced vs Unbalanced

An unbalanced audio path has two conductors. One carries the audio signal and the other is the shield/ground. There is nothing at all wrong with an unbalanced signal but at times can be susceptible to picking up interference from radio frequencies or electro magnetic fields causing noise and buzz and picking up the occasional unwanted radio station! In fact, a lot of gear is unbalanced on the inside even though it has a balanced input and output. Including some high end consoles. 

A balanced signal has three conductors. It relies on a sum and difference principal. 
Sum and difference is the combining (summing) of two signals that are out of phase from each other. Whatever doesn't cancel out is what you're left with (difference).
When two identical signals of identical amplitude (volume) are combined and one is 180 degrees out of phase from the other you have complete cancellation of that audio. However, if one of those signals is a different amplitude, you don't get complete cancellation. And it's this principal that makes a balanced audio path work.
The output from a balanced piece of gear will have the audio signal on XLR pin 2 (hot). That same signal will be present on pin 3 (cold) however that signal is at the opposite phase from the signal on pin 2. The shield/ground will be on pin 1. 

When the signal reaches a balanced input, the signal on pins 2 and 3 are combined with either pin 2 or pin 3 (usually pin 3) out of phase. If that cable happens to pick up interference along the way, it will be on all pins, in phase together and at the same amplitude. When it gets to the input, pins 2 and 3 are combined out of phase and any signal exhibiting the same amplitude (the noise) will cancel out completely. Since the audio is at different amplitudes, it doesn't cancel out and you're left with the difference: clean audio!

Heil, Shure and Sennheiser are manufacturers of premium microphones. They generally come with XLR plugs but Heil in particular provides a vast array of adapters to interface their mics to almost any make of transceiver. Bob Heil [K9EID] is a ham himself and has devoted a great deal of time to perfecting mics that sound good despite the poor conditions often encountered with HF Amateur Radio.

All amateur radio transmitters (except the new Yaesu FTdx9000) unfortunately use an unbalanced microphone input. It's sad, but true. In connecting a balanced microphone, equalizer, or audio device that uses balanced signals, care has to be taken in how the balanced signal is UNBALANCED in order to feed that unbalanced input.

So you can't generally just plug a mic with an XLR cable into a radio jack, even with a properly wired adapter. That's because the mic will almost certainly have a lower impedance than the input of what you're plugging it into, and that means that unless you correct things with a matching device, it will sound like junk. 

One option for HF home use is to invest about $45 in a small mixer such as a Behringer Xenyx 802. This unit comes with 1/4” and XLR jacks but will adapt to almost any mic.  It will even provide ‘phantom’ power to condenser mics when the radio does not provide it. The output of the mixer goes to your radio and you have full control over what your mic sounds like, particularly of you want to adjust the equalizer to punch through HF interference. I purchased mine at a music store here in Surrey and the difference is noticeable.



VHF and UHF Transceivers generally come with low cost and sometimes low quality microphones. The mic on your handy talkie or a typical handheld mic is a condenser microphone. Manufacturers use different plugs and pin configurations  though most amateur supply houses stock adaptors. 

If you are participating in an event where you may be on the radio as Net Control for an extended period, a headset and boom or desk mic and a foot pedal are a must. Not only does it leave your hands free but the audio quality and lessened background noise will provide much better communication. My Heil desk mic and Heil headset will interface with all my transceivers (and even my computer) with adapters.

Hints on using your mic effectively

If using a handi talkie, invest in a hand-held microphone. It will he healthier not having that antenna radiating right beside your brain and also more comfortable in use.
Talk across the front of the handheld mic rather than directly into it. This will provide a less harsh and therefore clearer sound.

Push the ‘Talk’ button and pause a second. This will permit the repeater and any interface equipment with an opportunity to fully power up and avoids a portion of your transmission being cut off.

In closing, be careful about switching mics from one transceiver to another. Not only are different makes using mics with different pin connections but some manufacturers use different mics with the same plug on different models within their own brand. Transceivers generally carry a small voltage on one of the mic pins to power the condenser element. If this voltage is shorted because a pin is connected to another point inside the mic, say to ground, damage to the transceiver may result.

There is an excellent site with pin-outs for different mics at https://www.scribd.com/doc/54320681/Microphone-Pinouts




Tuesday, September 11, 2018

RFI: A Practical Example Of The Effect


A Communicator Reprise: January 2013


At the suggestion of Jim Smith VE7FO, I recently joined an RFI reflector at http://lists.contesting.com/.  Why?  Because I hoped to find some answers to a frustrating Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) problem that I was experiencing.  

I had installed in my bathroom an electrically heated floor and thermostat c/w built-in ground fault interrupter (GFI).  However, whenever I transmitted, even briefly, on 15m or 10m the GFI would trip and the power would go off.  The first time this happened, the thermostat failed to work again even after resetting the GFI.  First call was to the supplier (NuHeat) of the “Solo” thermostat.  

Their customer support team knew nothing about RFI and I had to explain that it was likely a problem with the thermostat and not a problem with my radio transmissions.  Without argument, they replaced the thermostat with a new one (#2).  Not wanting to take further chances with ruining another thermostat, I decided to install some RF protective devices, as I assumed that the 220 v house wiring was picking up RF and passing it through to the thermostat. 

While RF interference is not a new problem, it is most commonly experienced with telephones and audio devices.  However, nowadays the large variety of RF susceptible electronic devices in our houses has greatly increased the likelihood of problems.  The number of devices emitting RF has also increased accordingly.  Plasma TVs, computer monitors, electric fences, touch turn-on lamps, halogen lights, and wall-wart switching power supplies are just some of the items that are reputed to send out wide-spectrum RF, but there are many others.  What to do in this case? 

First, I applied the standard remedy: I clamped split ferrite cores around the power cable near the thermostat.  That appeared to have no effect, however this time the thermostat could be reset and made functional, which was progress of a sort.  Then I ordered an RFI kit from Palomar and when it arrived I added ferrite beads to the individual power leads.  No improvement.  Next I connected .01 uF disc ceramic capacitors between the hot leads and ground.  Also NuHeat had provided me with a “snubber” – a capacitor with a resistor in series – which I connected across the power leads.   However, the problem persisted.  Finally after many emails and telephone back and forth, NuHeat put me in touch with Honeywell, the manufacturer of the thermostat.  

Honeywell responded very quickly first asking me some questions about my power level, frequencies, SWR etc that might suggest a transmitter problem.  After they were satisfied with the answers, Honeywell couriered another thermostat (#3) to me for trial.  No cigar.  When I reported this failure, they promptly sent me yet another thermostat (#4) called “Harmony”.  This is a more expensive device of (apparently) different design.  It worked!  

One by one, I removed the RF chokes and capacitors until they were all gone.  After several days of testing at different frequencies, there has been no effect on the thermostat/GFI, so I mounted it permanently and thanked Honeywell for their efficient service. 

Lesson: if you have an RFI issue, try the standard remedies but when they fail to solve the problem, get the manufacturer on board with device replacement in mind, as with modern radios it is typically not the radio transmissions that are at fault.  This approach may not work with some of the off-shore manufacturers, so bear this in mind when purchasing electronic devices – they may not care about their reputation and customer service the way Honeywell does. 

ARRL publishes several good RFI guides as well as the Radio Amateurs Handbook and more information can be found on the Internet.  For unusual problems that defy the conventional solutions, the RFI reflector website mentioned above is another excellent source of expert advice.

~ John VA7XB
   Now enjoying toasty toes in his remodeled bathroom.




Friday, September 7, 2018

SARC Contest Contender: September-October 2018




The Fall Contest Season


John VA7XB has taken on the job of Contest Manager and is proposing an active schedule for the next year now that SARC has two contest grade radios available for club use at the OTC.

For that purpose John would like to know who would like to be notified about upcoming contests.  If you have an interest in contesting, please contact John at va7xb@rac.ca with your preferred mode(s) and he will put you on the contact list. The objective for this fiscal year will be for SARC to compete in at least one contest a month so that members may acquire comfort with operating our new radios, accurately recording exchange information and using logging software. 

If your main interest is in emergency communication, these contests provide invaluable experience in operating under sometimes chaotic conditions including multi-station pileups, QRM (man-made interference), QRN (natural interference), lids (bad operators), over-the-pole flutter, static crashes and fading. 
If there is sufficient interest, we may even try some of the more exotic digital modes.
We cannot do them all, of course, but listed here are a few of the available contests for the months of September and October.

These and other contests are described at: http://www.contestcalendar.com//index.html



Monday, September 3, 2018

Surrey Basic Amateur Radio Course




Register Now... We Start Tuesday, September 11


The Surrey Amateur Radio Club generally offers two Basic licensing courses per year. Last year we graduated 27 members who attended our classes. These new 'Hams' came from all walks of life, some with technical backgrounds, most without. Many were interested in emergency preparedness and staying in touch if the BIG one hits.

We have set the start for the next class as Tuesday, September 11th at 6:30pm. We use the excellent classroom facilities courtesy of the Surrey Fire Service at their training facility 14901 64th Avenue, Surrey, BC.

Have a look at what Amateur Radio can offer:

An exciting modern hobby



A useful emergency communications skill





Have a look at our Basic Course brochure and poster



Saturday, September 1, 2018

The September 2018 Communicator


We're Back! Here is the latest Communicator 

After our Summer recess we have over 50 pages of Amateur Radio News from the South West corner of Canada and elsewhere. You will find Amateur Radio related articles, profiles, news, tips and how-to's. You can download it as a .PDF file directly from 
goo.gl/8Kekuo



http://goo.gl/8Kekuo

As always, thank you to our contributors, and your feedback is always welcome.  My deadline for the October edition is September 14th. If you have news or events from your Vancouver area club or photos, stories, projects or other items of interest from elsewhere, please email them to the communicator@ve7sar.net

Keep visiting this site for regular updates and news.

~ 73,
  John VE7TI
  Communicator Editor

CQ CQ CQ

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