Hello everybody and welcome back to the Everything Ham Radio Podcast! In this episode we are going to be talking about Power
Tech Corner – Power Cords
Where to Connect Power on a Mobile Setup
You should always connect the positive side to either the hot terminal of the battery or the input leg of the fuse box as close to the battery as possible. The negative side should be connected to the chassis where your battery is connected.
The reasoning behind this is because vehicle come standard now with a battery monitoring system that monitors the battery voltage as well as power consumption needs of the vehicle(i.e. When the A/C is turned on, more power is needed). The monitor is typically connected between the batteries negative terminal and the chassis ground. You need to bypass this monitor when connecting radio equipment so always connect your negative side to the same location as the negative battery lead is connected to. Because you are more than likely going to be killing the power to the entire vehicle, you could potentially activate the anti-theft device on your car radio and have to enter a security code to get it to work again. In some cases this could affect the starting of the vehicle as well, which could potentially have to be fixed at a dealership.
Selecting the Correct Size Wire
Make sure that you a big enough gauge wire to handle the amperage you need to power your equipment. There are several things to consider when selecting the size wiring you need. First off, you need to know what you Peak Current draw will be, not the average. A typical 100 watt radio draws about 22 peak amps while a 50 watt radio is about half that at about 11 amps. If you throw an amp in the mix that is even more.
High Power Installations
In high-powered setups, like those that will include an amplifier, you should also install a second battery in your vehicle. This is typically done in the truck of the vehicle, if it has one. If you are going to install a second battery, you should use at least a 4 AWG wire or 2 AWG wire if the length of the wire is over 20 feet. You also need to make sure that you fuse the hot wire at both ends with about a 60 amp fuse to protect the wire. Also, make sure that you connect the negative side of that battery to the same chassis ground as your other battery, again bypassing the battery monitoring system.
Multiple Devices Needing Power
Whether you have a high-powered setup or just multiple radios(which could technically be the same thing), one way to get power to all them the easiest is to use some kind of distribution power block, like a Rig Runner from West Mountain Radio. Like any other installation you need to know what you peak amperage is going to be when installing something like this. The higher gauge wire is only needed from the battery to the distribution block(Rig Runner). From there, you can use smaller gauge wire to each piece of equipment.
Can I Just Use the Existing Wiring?
You never want to use the existing wiring in your vehicle to power you radios. Things like Accessory plugs(Cigarette lighter plugs), or tapping into the fuse panel inside your vehicle. While this may seem like the easiest way to do it, and I have been guilty of it myself, this can cause problems down the road. The high power consumption needs of your radio equipment can cause the wiring to overheat and cause RFI in your system.
You would think that it would be ok to tap into your fuse panel because an open fuse spot on the fuse block can “kill two birds with one stone”. One it could fuse your power cord and two you don’t have to go through the fire wall. While you could do it for the short-term and it probably be ok, I highly recommend that you take to time to install your equipment properly. Going through the fuse panel doesn’t allow you bypass the battery monitoring system and could potentially cause problems.
If you use the accessory plug to power your radio, you can get RFI because of the circuitry that is built into the plug. Another possible cause of potential RFI is arcing can occur between the spring-loaded tip of the plug and the socket. Both of these potential problems could cause errors to show up in your vehicle’s computer and causing your check engine light to come on or other warning lights or error messages to show up.
We have talked already about how you should fuse you wiring, but let’s dive a little deeper into it shall we.
First off, what is a fuse? A fuse is a short piece of enclosed wire that is designed to melt if it is subjected to, to high of a current. When the wire melts it will open the circuit and power will stop being supplied to your equipment. However, if you use a fuse that is rated for a higher amperage than what is required for whatever you are powering, it may not open or it may open but with a long delay. You want your fuse to do it’s job before the wire itself acts as a fuse and opens the circuit by potentially starting a fire.
The above picture is a perfect example of using the wrong size fuse. The wire used in the picture above is a 6 AWG wire which is rated for a maximum of 100 amps, however, the fuse that the wire is connected to is 200 amps.
There are several types of fuse holders out there for different types of fuses, but which should you use?
The most common type of fuse that you see is a barrel type fuse. While there are several types of fuse holders for these type fuses, the most common that you will see are the inline ones. These are not the best kind to use, and here is why. With a barrel type in line fuse, you have two butt connections that you have made which are hard to solder and the wire that is supplied with the fuse holder is often two small of wire.
If you are going to use this type of fuse, I recommend using a fuse block or something along those lines with proper end connectors. I recommend using the round end connectors over the split ones so that they maintain good connection and not slip out. Also, you should use insulated connector whenever possible so that they don’t inadvertently come in contact with something else.
Another type of fuse that you see quite often is a blade fuse. You really see these in the automotive industry, however, the fuses that you use in your car are not the same type of fuses that you should use in your radio installation. The fuses that you use in your car are called ATO fuses. These fuses are not sealed and if moisture winds up getting inside of them, it can cause corrosion. You should use ATO style blade fuses because they are sealed.
These are the type of fuses that you will see used in a Rig Runner or other type of commercially available power distribution system. There are also inline fuses that use these type of fuses, however you still run into the problem of have to use butt connectors to put them inline and the gauge wire issues are the same.
Another option that sometimes is used is a circuit breaker. While you may think that this is a better option, because then all you have to do is reset the breaker if something happens, this is not really the case. Both fuses and circuit breakers have a time delay on when they open the circuit. With circuit breakers, that time is longer than with fuses. So your equipment will be subjected to a high amount of amperage for a longer period of time before the circuit breaker trips, potentially causing more damage to your equipment.
How to Run the Wires
First off, let’s talk about the firewall. This is probably one of the most dreaded things for most people to do. It is right up there with drilling holes in your roof or truck to install an antenna. Car manufacturers don’t typically design their firewalls with amateur radio in mind. That being said, there is, sometimes, an extra hole that is not used that is in the firewall for installation of high-end radio installations that you can use.
If your vehicle has one, great! Use it! If not, rather than trying to squeeze a wire through one that already has wires going through it, is often not a very good idea to try. Most of the time, these holes are already pretty much full and you won’t be able to get another wire through it, especially if you are using a higher gauge wire. So, as a dentist says, we have to drill!
Crap, I Have to Drill!
If you have to drill, there are a few things that you need to remember when you are planning out where you are going to drill. Most modern vehicles have a fresh air inlet just behind the hood. Sometimes this area will also have the windshield washer assembly or the cabin air filter. For this reason, the upper area of the firewall should be avoided.
Another thing to pay attention to, is in diesels and most high-end vehicles, there is a second firewall that is in place to reduce engine noise in the cabin. The second firewall should also be avoided.
Thirdly, often times, the brake lines are attached to the engine side of the firewall directly behind the brakes.
Wherever you decide to drill, always make sure that you know what is on the other side of the firewall, so you don’t damage anything that could potentially cost you a lot of money to get fixed.
Once you have the hole drilled, make sure that you put the appropriate size grommet in the hole. This is to protect whatever wires you have coming through from rubbing on the side of the hole and causing them to fray or get cut.
The last thing that you need to consider when choosing the location to drill, is make sure that the wires that you will be putting through the hole are not in a place where they will be stepped on or pinched. The closer to the outside of the vehicle on the driver side the better.
Probably one of the best bits to use to drill through your firewall is a Rotacut drill bit. They are pricey but they do an outstanding job according to their website and reviews.
We Are Going Under!
There is another way that you can get to the battery from inside your vehicle, especially if it is a truck. Sometimes there is a hole that can be punched out under the driver or passenger seat. Sometimes, if you are lucky there is already a grommet there, sometimes not. On my 2008 Ram, there was, but on my 2012 Ram, there wasn’t.
If you decide to go this route, just remember to route your wires in a way where they won’t be pinched and you will need to make sure and put some extra insulation on the outside of wiring to protect from moisture and heat.
Make sure that you stay away from the exhaust system, suspension members, factory wiring and fuel lines. On some vehicles, you can follow the brake lines and use the hard points to secure your wiring. On my 2012 Ram, I was able to run my wires through my frame most of the way. In doing this, I was able to protect the wire from road debris, and to an extent, moisture.
I’m Through the Firewall, Now What?
Now that the hard part is done and we are through the firewall, the next thing that you need to think about is how you are going to run your wires inside the cab of your vehicle to make it look nice. I know of some people who it doesn’t really matter to them if wires are going everywhere, but if this is not you, then keep reading.
There are channels along the door that you can run your wires through. All you have to do is pull up the door kick plate and you will see it. These door trim pieces, just snap in and out. They generally pop out fairly easy and are just as easy to reinstall. See the picture below for an example of what I’m talking about. This picture is not of my installation although I did the exact same thing. This picture was taken from Alan Applegate, K0BG, website. I’m not sure if it is a picture of his installation or someone else’s.
You can also route you wires under the carpet of your vehicle, but sometimes this can be a real pain the butt, however, it can be done.
The major thing that you need to remember when doing this, is to pay attention where you wires are lying. If they are lying in a place where they can get cut, or a screw be screwed through it, it is a recipe for disaster and you can see in the picture below.
What About Base/Home Setups?
So we have pretty much just been talking about mobile installations here, however, a lot of what we have talked about transfers over to a home or base station as well. The major differences is that you don’t have to worry so much about external temperature, extra installation on your wiring, and going through the firewall…:)
You will still need to make sure you have proper wiring size, fusing your connections and to a certain degree, a neat installation. Guys you know what I’m talking about, I’m sure your wife is probably like mine and don’t want a bunch of wires running all over the place making the desk look nasty!
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Amateur Radio Club Spotlight
Hall of Science Amateur Radio Club
Meetings which are held at the NY Hall of Science cafeteria (47-01 111th Street, Queens, NY) are open to the public and are held on the second Tuesday of the month at 7:30 PM. No meetings in July, August and December.
- WB2ZZO 444.200 (+5mhz offset), PL 136.5 Located in Alpine NJ
- KC2PXT 145.270 (-600 khz offset), PL 136.5 Will be up soon
- Hamfest – Oct 9, 2016 starting at 9am – Flyer
- NCCC RTTY Sprint – 0145Z-0215Z, Sep 30
- NCCC Sprint – 0230Z-0300Z, Sep 30
- YLRL DX/NA YL Anniversary Contest – 1400Z, Sep 30 to 0200Z, Oct 2
- TARA PSK Rumble Contest – 0000Z-2400Z, Oct 1
- 15-Meter SSTV Dash Contest – 0000Z, Oct 1 to 2359Z, Oct 2
- Oceania DX Contest, Phone – 0800Z, Oct 1 to 0800Z, Oct 2
- WAB HF Phone – 1200Z, Oct 1 to 1200Z, Oct 2
- TRC DX Contest – 1200Z, Oct 1 to 1200Z, Oct 2
- GTC CW Cup – 1200Z, Oct 1 to 1200Z, Oct 2
- Russian WW Digital Contest – 1200Z, Oct 1 to 1159Z, Oct 2
- International HELL-Contest – 1600Z-1800Z, Oct 1 (80m) and 0900Z-1100Z, Oct 2 (40m)
- California QSO Party – 1600Z, Oct 1 to 2200Z, Oct 2
- FISTS Fall Slow Speed Sprint – 1700Z-2100Z, Oct 1
- UBA ON Contest, SSB – 0600Z-1000Z, Oct 2
- RSGB International DX Contest – 0700Z-1900Z, Oct 2
- German Telegraphy Contest – 0700Z-1000Z, Oct 3
- ARS Spartan Sprint – 0100Z-0300Z, Oct 4
- Phone Fray – 0230Z-0300Z, Oct 5
- CWops Mini-CWT Test – 1300Z-1400Z, Oct 5 and 1900Z-2000Z, Oct 5 and 0300Z-0400Z, Oct 6
- 432 MHz Fall Sprint – 1900 local – 2300 local, Oct 5
- UKEICC 80m Contest – 2000Z-2100Z, Oct 5
- NRAU 10m Activity Contest – 1700Z-1800Z, Oct 6 (CW) and 1800Z-1900Z, Oct 6 (SSB) and 1900Z-2000Z, Oct 6 (FM) and 2000Z-2100Z, Oct 6 (Dig)
- SARL 80m QSO Party – 1700Z-2000Z, Oct 6
- NCCC RTTY Sprint – 0145Z-0215Z, Oct 7
- NCCC Sprint – 0230Z-0300Z, Oct 7
- Makrothen RTTY Contest – 0000Z-0759Z, Oct 8 and 1600Z-2359Z, Oct 8 and 0800Z-1559Z, Oct 9
- Oceania DX Contest, CW – 0800Z, Oct 8 to 0800Z, Oct 9
- Microwave Fall Sprint – 0800 local – 1400 local, Oct 8
- SKCC Weekend Sprintathon – 1200Z, Oct 8 to 2400Z, Oct 9
- Scandinavian Activity Contest, SSB – 1200Z, Oct 8 to 1200Z, Oct 9
- QRP ARCI Fall QSO Party – 1200Z, Oct 8 to 2359Z, Oct 9
- Pennsylvania QSO Party – 1600Z, Oct 8 to 0500Z, Oct 9 and 1300Z-2200Z, Oct 9
- Arizona QSO Party – 1600Z, Oct 8 to 0600Z, Oct 9 and 1400Z-2359Z, Oct 9
- FISTS Fall Unlimited Sprint – 1700Z-2100Z, Oct 8
- PODXS 070 Club 160m Great Pumpkin Sprint – 2000Z, Oct 8 to 2000Z, Oct 9
- North American SSB Sprint Contest – 0000Z-0400Z, Oct 9
- UBA ON Contest, CW – 0600Z-0900Z, Oct 9
*Information taken from the ARRL and WA7BNM Contest Calendar
- 2016 Wichita Area Hamfest – Wichita, KS
- ARCOS SWAPMEET & COOKOUT – Shreveport, LA
- HamEXPO – Belton, TX
- Last Chance Tailgate – Plymouth, MN
- MBARC Fall Fest – Fishkill, NY
- Red Rose Repeater Association Hamfest – Brownstown, PA
- Rock Hill Hamfest – Rock Hill, SC
- San Diego Ham Fest – Lakeside, CA
- Valley Disaster Preparedness Fair – Granada Hills, CA
- VETTE CITY HAMFEST – Bowling Green, KY
- Florida State Convention (Melbourne Hamfest) – Melbourne, FL
- Pacific Northwest VHF Society Conference – Bend, OR
- Alpena Swap – Alpena, MI
- BARA Fall Hamfest – Township of Washington, NJ
- Helena Hamfest – Helena, AL
- Kitsap County ARC Hamfest 2016 – Bremerton, WA
- LaGrange Hamfest – LaGrange, GA
- Parkersburg/Wood County Hamfest – Mineral Wells, WV
- Randy Griffin Memorial Ham Fest – Morrilton, AR
- SwaptoberFest 2016 – Logan, UT
- WCLARC’s 39th Annual Hamfest – Leesville, LA
- CARAFest 2016 – West Friendship, MD
- HOSARC Hamfest – Queens, NY
- Maysville Hamfest – Maysville, NC
- SEWFARS Swapfest – Hubertus, WI
Amateur Radio Credited with Helping Injured Cyclist
Members of the Huntsville Amateur Radio Club (HARC) in Alabama had a role in getting help for a Louisiana cyclist injured in a September 17 group ride in Madison County, Alabama.
A representative of the sponsoring Spring City Cycling Club told WHNT-19 News that a number of riders, including Brian Guerrero, fell as a motor vehicle was passing in the opposite direction. The club spokesperson said it was unlikely that the motorist caused or contributed to the accident, and an investigation continues. The club praised the action of first responders and first aid from fellow cyclists — a trauma surgeon and a nurse.
“Their actions in first aid and in directly calling for MedFlight likely saved his life. Huntsville Amateur Radio Club volunteers were instrumental in coordinating the communications amongst event organizers and volunteers, emergency personnel, and law enforcement. We extend our gratitude to law enforcement, first responders and HARC for their able and quick response to this terrible incident,” the club said.
Guerrero remains hospitalized in Huntsville. — Thanks to WHNT-19 News
Momentum Building to Urge Senate Passage of the Amateur Radio Parity Act
The response to ARRL’s call to action urging the support of US Senators for the Amateur Radio Parity Act, H.R. 1301, has been gratifying — although the campaign continues. More than 50,000 e-mails have been sent to Capitol Hill viaRally Congress, and all 100 US Senate members have been contacted. The League continues to encourage members of the Amateur Radio community who have not yet done so to reach out to their two US Senators seeking their support. Just where things stand with respect to the bill’s future in the US Senate is not yet entirely clear.
“As of this moment, we have no date set for action by the Senate,” said ARRL Hudson Division Director Mike Lisenco, N2YBB, who has been deeply involved in promoting passage of the legislation. “The Senate will adjourn the September work period soon and members will return home to campaign. If we do not achieve consideration before they go into hiatus, we will have to wait until they return after Election Day.”
On September 12, the US House of Representatives approved H.R. 1301 on a voice vote under a suspension of the rules, culminating many years of effort on ARRL’s part to gain legislation that would enable radio amateurs living in deed-restricted communities to erect antennas that support Amateur Radio communication. The bill calls on the FCC to amend its Part 97 rules “to prohibit the application to amateur stations of certain private land-use restrictions, and for other purposes.”
Shepherded by ARRL, the overwhelming grassroots support for H.R. 1301 from the Amateur Radio community was credited for getting the bill through the US House, but it faces significant obstacles to passage in the US Senate. The earlier U.S. Senate version of the bill, S. 1685, no longer is in play, and the Senate is expected to vote on the version of H.R. 1301 that the House adopted this month. The vote came after ARRL worked with the Community Association Institute — which represents homeowners associations — to develop language that both organizations could support.
Rally Congress makes it easy to generate letters to Senators in support of The Amateur Radio Parity Act. The entire process takes just a couple of minutes.
“So it is critical that ARRL members continue to write their Senators,” Lisenco urged. “To those who have already written, thank you! If you haven’t done so already, please do so today. We can only do so much. After that, it becomes the responsibility of the membership to participate.”
According to the amended bill provides, “Community associations should fairly administer private land-use regulations in the interest of their communities, while nevertheless permitting the installation and maintenance of effective outdoor Amateur Radio antennas. There exist antenna designs and installations that can be consistent with the aesthetics and physical characteristics of land and structures in community associations while accommodating communications in the Amateur Radio services.”
More information on The Amateur Radio Parity Act is on the ARRL website.
ARRL Outgoing QSL Service to Raise Rates
Although ARRL believes it’s important to maintain the long-standing tradition of the ARRL Outgoing QSL Service as a membership benefit, increased administration costs will require an increase in rates, in order to keep the Service available and viable.
“The Service has been a member benefit for decades,” an ARRL statement said. “Since its official formation in November 1976, tens of millions of QSL cards have been shipped from ARRL Headquarters to Amateur Radio QSL bureaus of other national societies worldwide. At one time, this benefit offered a safe, reliable, and inexpensive way to exchange QSL cards for a fraction of the cost of the postal service. What Amateurs saved in financial cost, however, was made up for in time; it could take months, or even years, to send and receive a QSL through the bureau.”
Effective November 1, the rate for 1 ounce of outgoing QSLs via the Service will increase to match the 1 ounce USPS international postage rate. As of September 2016, this rate is $1.15 per ounce — about 10 cards. An additional service fee of $7 will be charged per individual transaction, to cover administrative costs.
ARRL said QSLing is very different now, and, while postal services are generally more reliable than in years past, international shipping costs have risen significantly. “With the advent of the Internet and online QSL confirmation services such as ARRL’s Logbook of The World, fewer and fewer paper cards are being exchanged,” the ARRL statement observed.
Calling the Outgoing QSL Service “a significant tradition in the world of Amateur Radio,” the League said it’s committed to keeping that tradition and service alive for members who enjoy using it. “We are committed to ensuring our members will be able to send their QSL cards through the Service for decades to come,” the ARRL statement concluded.
Amateur Radio Volunteers on Call during Major Puerto Rico Power Outage
Amateur Radio volunteers went on alert following an afternoon explosion on September 21 at the Aguirre Central Power Generator in Salinas that left some 1.5 million residents of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico without power. ARRL Public Information Coordinator Angel Santana, WP3GW, said that as Wednesday evening wore on, the most sought-after item was ice, followed by potable water — which depends on electricity to power the pumps that deliver it. The outage also resulted in traffic jams from non-functioning signal lights. The governor of Puerto Rico has declared a State of Emergency.
“On the Amateur Radio side, the VHF/UHF linked repeater system of the Federación de Radio Aficionados de Puerto Rico (FRA), an ARRL-affiliated club, was the main source of information,” Santana told ARRL. “As soon as the situation began, lots of mobile and portable stations got on the air from east to west to report on the power loss, and ham radio was among the first to report the explosion, as smoke was observed soaring toward the sky.”
According to FEMA, the fire at the Salinas switching station caused the island-wide power generation plant to shut down as a safety precaution. FEMA reported on September 23 that power had been restored to nearly 950,000 customers, with complete power restoration expected late in the day. FEMA said 305,000 customers were left without drinking water due to the loss of power to pumping stations.
FEMA said that all critical facilities were operating on back-up generators, and airports, police stations, and water plants were “expected to receive first priority as power is restored.” The agency said telecommunications were operating normally.
Santana said the eastern side of the island was covered by the 145.110 MHz repeater in Cayey, the western by a machine on 145.290 MHz, and in the center by the 146.830 MHz from the FRA. Repeaters on 70 centimeters became the main network for any emergency or health care traffic, Santana said.
A routine Wednesday VHF net made it on the air as scheduled, and most comments and messages involved local situations as well as information about an October 9 FRA event. “Other repeater systems were on the air as part of a regular monitoring schedule, and some were active with normal conversations,” Santana said.
On HF, Antonio Santiago, KP4IA, in Toa Alta was on the air from his energy-efficient home. Santana said KP4IA was “the main source of what was happening even before the situation got to the mainland news services,” checking into nets on 20, 40, and 75 meters and relaying information about the situation to other amateur stations on the mainland.
Santana said local schools remained closed on September 23 and public services were to resume at 10 AM, as power and water service is returning gradually.
“There are still Autoridad de Energía Eléctrica (AEE) customers who are without electricity,” Santana said. “Two cellular companies had problems. There was at least one death because of generator emissions and a few vehicle accidents. Kudos to the police personnel directing traffic.”
FEMA said untreated wastewater and sewage were being discharged into spillways, hospitals were running on back-up generators and cisterns, and buses are being used to move passengers as the light-rail system is down.
NASA provided a view from space, showing how Puerto Rico appears at night with full power as well as how it looked during the outage.
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73 de Curtis, K5CLM