QRP...LOW POWER COMMUNICATIONS
Elecraft KX3 FT-817ND with SignaLink USB and Z-817 Tuner Elecraft K1
The QRP Rigs at K5DZE
QRP AMATEUR RADIO - This page provides information about the radio activities at the station. I was first licensed as KN5DZE in Columbus, Mississippi in 1956. Since then, I have held Novice, Conditional, General, Advanced, and Extra Class licenses. Overseas operations included being licensed as DA1EZ in Ludwigsburg, Germany and HL9EZ at Camp Casey (Dongduchon), South Korea. Through the years, I have owned and operated numerous stations running large yagi antennas and a KW, to many rigs running 100 watts or less. In 2010, I came to the conclusion that my real enjoyment and challenge came from operating low power gear, so I sold my larger equipment and moved to make the station 100% QRP. My favorite modes are CW and PSK-31, both of which work out particularly well for QRP (low power operation).
While there does not seem to be a firm textbook agreement on what constitutes "QRP" operation, Most QRP enthusiasts agree that for CW, AM, FM and Data modes the transmit output power should not exceed 5 watts and this is the accepted power level to be considered QRP. For SSB operation, the maximum output power should be no more than 10 watts PEP. Having said that, we should note that a lot of QRP operators use only 2-3 watts power and some often use even less, sometimes operating with as little as 500 or 100 milliwatts (1/2 and1/10 of 1 watt)! Extremely low power of 1 watt or less is referred to as QRPp and as you can imagine, this provides a real challenge (and a lot of fun!) to any operator.
One of the really neat things about using QRP radios is that they can perform quite well in areas where more powerful rigs might be impractical or intrusive. This includes small apartments, condos, lake cottages, mountain retreats, camping trips, etc. QRP rigs have low DC power requirements and operating these small radios with batteries or a wall-wart AC supply and a correspondingly small antenna can provide many fun contacts without calling attention to their operations since these can be easy to set up and take down.
In addition to being a lot of fun, QRP set ups are very practical for emergency use. Having a complete HF radio station (to include batteries and an antenna) in a briefcase or "Go Box" can give you communications anytime, and anyplace should the need arise. Where necessary, these rigs can be set up and taken down in minutes.
Another neat thing about QRP rigs is that the average Amateur can have a 'stable' of rigs without spending a lot of money. The savings can be used to purchase several radios or better antennas instead of big radios. Rigs for the Shack, for camping, or portable operation can all be kept ready for use without having a fortune tied up in radios. Use these radios for Field Day operations, vacations, wilderness outings, survivalist operations, or emergencies. It is truly the Radio Amateur's Low Cost Option!
As mentioned, I am constantly surprised at how many stations I can work using just 2-3 watts on PSK-31. Using a Signalink USB Data interface, I lowered the power of my then main rig, a 100 watt FT-920, down to 5 watts or less and used it with a 284' loop antenna I had up at the time. It is no exaggeration to say that if I was a little patient, I could work most of the stations that I could hear. Truthfully, the really weak signals or rare stations did not always wind up in the log book (they didn't do that with 100+ watts either), but it was really fun to catch so many stations on very little power. Now, my primary rigs are an Elecraft KX-3, a Yaesu FT-817ND. and an Elecraft K1. (Check out the 'tilt base' and matching 'key base' for the K1 on the Projects page.). Lastly, I have a 1970's era Yaesu FT-7 given to me by N5JPX. These radios round out the current Shack at my QTH.
There are many QRP rigs available today and the low cost (particularly for kits and used rigs) make it quite affordable to simply add a QRP rig or two to your Shack's current equipment line up. In fact, the low cost makes it practical to have several different QRP rigs to operate at various times. For more information, read the "WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT QRP?" section at the end of this page, or read my Kindle Book, QRP, The Radio Amateur's Low Cost Option. (See the BOOKSHELF page.)
QTH: My location is Newnan, GA. Newnan is considered part of the Atlanta metro area and it is ~25 minutes southwest of the Atlanta International airport. Grid locator is EM73pi.
QSL: I QSL to Amateurs and SWLs for all cards received, or if I am requested to do so. No SASE is required. I QSL direct or via the bureau. (Sorry, but I don't use LoTW.) For DX friends, a QSL to me via the W5 QSL Bureau is fine. Let me know that you do want/need a card and I won't wait to receive your QSL, but I will immediately send you my card via the bureau. (I normally use the ARRL Outgoing QSL service unless asked to do otherwise).
Like most Hams, I very much enjoy getting and sending QSL cards. Your report will be most appreciated, and it will be immediately answered.
THE STATION AND CURRENT EQUIPMENT:
(Click on the thumbnail photos to see full size picture)
Elecraft KX3 (All band HF transceiver with built in ATU)
Yaesu FT-817ND (All band QRP HF/VHF/UHF)
Elecraft K1 (4 band w/built-in tuner)
Yaesu FT-7 HF Transceiver (A classic older QRP rig!)
RCI-2985DX (For 10m operation and Beacon monitoring)
MFJ-901B Antenna Tuner (For 10m rigs)
Icom R-71A LF/HF Receiver
MFJ-956 Antenna Tuner (For R-71A on LF/HF)
Yaesu FT-7800R (144/440 MHz)
LDG Z817 QRP Auto tuners - Used with the FT-817ND
SignaLink USB (For PSK31 operations)
MFJ-482B Grandmaster Keyer
Palomar VLF Converter (Sometimes used with the R-71A)
HTX-100 (10m Transceiver used as a Beacon)
SW-1 40m CW transmitter board, a Super Tuna transceiver kit with 40m, 30m, and 10m modules, and a new Pico Keyer Plus kit.
Uniden BC-355C VHF/UHF Scanner
The 'DZE BOX' (Key to Rig Patch Panel-See PROJECTS page for details.)
ANTENNAS - At the current QTH, my primary HF antenna consists of a Parr End Fedz. I am working on other antennas to fit at the new QTH. I also have Hamsticks for 40, 20, 15 and 10 meters mounted on a modified photo tripod.
(See my Antenna page for more info on these and other antennas.)
TRAIL FRIENDLY RADIO (TFR) DESK STAND - Rigs like the Elecraft KX-1, PFR-3A, HB1B, or MFJ-9200 series are great little radios for field work, the Shack, or for portable use. In the Shack, I prefer having a small stand that will tilt such rigs upright for easy viewing and access. If this sounds interesting to you, look on the PROJECTS page at how I solved this issue simply and inexpensively. Also on the Projects page, check out the really neat $10 mini amplified speaker system. A surplus Soviet CW key mounted on matching cherry base (like the Desk Stand), works nicely with the QRP rigs.
A SPY RIG IN A BRIEFCASE - Well, maybe it's not a real spy rig, but it would have surely been perfect for the OSS or MI-6 back in the day! Today, it is perfect for Hams to have as a complete HF CW station in a regular briefcase for the lake, hotel, as a Field Day station, or as an emergency rig. Look at how I assembled it on the Projects page. This information is also available as an article in the JUNE 2011 issue of Monitoring Times magazine.
"WATERING HOLES" FOR QRP: Like water holes in the desert, these CW Calling freqs are where many QRP Ops gather and its also where you can listen and snag all kinds of QRP contacts. The freqs listed here aren't all of the QRP freqs, but these CW freqs will get you going. NOTE: If you run much power over 5 watts or so, please stay well off to the sides and away from these freqs so the true QRP rigs and the QRPp flea power ops (less than one watt output), can be heard and not be covered up. Listen a while and get the hang of it, turn your power down and then dive in. Hope to catch you there!
80 M -
40 M - 7.040 -- QRP CW (also check 7.060)
30 M - 10.106 -- QRP CW
20 M - 14.060 -- QRP CW
17 M - 18.096 -- QRP CW
15 M - 21.060 -- QRP CW
12 M - 24.906 -- QRP CW
10 M - 28.060 -- QRP CW (Beacon band is 28.200 - 28.300 MHz and it can tell you if the band is open and to where.)
WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT QRP ? QRP isn't for everyone I guess. Some ops sneer at low power and sadly, they can be down right condescending and discourteous if you even ask for a contact. Fortunately, most non-QRP ops are very pleasant and seem to get almost as big a kick out of working low power stations as QRP ops do running their gear! Over the years, I have run everything from several Collins KW rigs with big antennas to you name it. Like a lot of other Hams, now I seem to have returned to how I first began. When I began as a kid back in the 1950's, I ran 20-25 watts with a Heathkit AT-1 (remember that one?). I used a Windom antenna with an antenna tuner built in a coffee can (thanks to Jack W5WQQ). My receiver was a shiny new National NC-98. I had a blast with this set up! Today, another fun way to operate is put a QRP rig in a brief case and take it where ever you go. I find the challenge of working folks with 3-4 watts or even less to be a lot of fun! Taking a rig to the lake, on a camping trip, to a park, or to the mountains can be most enjoyable. If you are a hunter, you might compare QRP operations to hunting with a handgun or bow rather than with a rifle or shotgun. It takes a lot of skill, you don't shoot as often and you may not get something with every shot, but it's a lot of satisfaction when you do bag something. In QRP, skill is always a key ingredient since you don't have a lot of power to help force your way through to make contacts. Another thing I find neat is that for QRP DXCC and QRP WAS equivalent awards, you don't need QSL cards... you just need a well maintained logbook! The QRP folks giving the awards take your word that you made the contacts you said you put in you logbook! Hey, it's nice to be trusted...and after all, Ham Radio is just a hobby! Well, all this is just my opinion of course, but I know it is shared by many. Why not try QRP in your operations at home or for portable work? You may find it brings back the real excitement of those first QSOs, or in working all states, all continents, and DXCC all over again.
Two of the keys at K5DZE
One other thing about QRP...CW is a mainstay for QRP work. That is just a fact. If you enjoy CW operation then QRP is a natural for you. Likewise, if you want learn CW and/or get more proficient at it, QRP is a great way to get there. However, CW is not all there is to QRP!
SSB is very much in the QRP mainstream and it is great fun. In one afternoon, I worked 23 countries in less than 3 hours during the ARRL DX phone contest running under 10 watts SSB with an SG-2020 and a G5RV antenna at 25'. Plus, have you tried the digital modes? Wow! You can truly work the world with QRP digital modes such as PSK-31 using 2-3 watts of power. It is really amazing how many DX stations operate PSK-31 and how many of them you can work with just a couple of watts on PSK-31. I now work PSK-31 as a primary QRP mode along with CW, and I am well on my way to casually working QRP/PSK31 DXCC just for the fun of it!
For more information about QRP, use your favorite browser and look up "QRP" and QRP related subjects on the Internet. On the bands, go to the QRP "Watering Holes" on 40 and 20 Meters as noted above and listen to the ops that congregate there. Fast CW, slow CW, strong signals and weak-hard-to-copy signals are all there to catch as part of the fun. Likewise, use the established PSK-31 freqs and you will find a host of QRP stations there. (Its hard to tell QRP from non-QRP stations on PSK!)
Today, there are many really high quality assembled QRP rigs available so you don't have to build your equipment if your aren't up to it, or if you just don't want to take the time to do so. Not too long ago, Amateur's had to scratch build most QRP equipment, but today there are many nice QRP rigs available on the used market. (BTW, basic QRP kits are generally pretty easy to build!) One thing you will surely note is that new QRP gear costs much less than the bigger rigs. This is particularly true about the great QRP kit rigs which are fun and very capable. This lower cost makes it easier to have a number QRP rigs to use at different times for different uses.
There are several good national and international QRP Clubs and some neat QRP sites for you to browse around. Here are just a few links:
http://www.qrparci.org/ (QRP Amateur Radio Club International)
http://naqcc.info/ (North American QRP CW Club) (Free to join!)
http://fpqrp.org/index.php (The Flying Pigs QRP Club, International W8PIG)
http://www.qrpme.com/ (Fun QRP rigs)
http://www.fix.net/~jparker/wilderness/sst.htm (Imagine this rig in a military looking OD color scheme or in Cammo paint or self stick vinyl , or a bright, shiny Red or maybe even a bright Yellow or emergency orange. ! Quite a conversation piece!)
http://www.tentec.com/categories/Amateur-Radio-Equipment/Transceivers/ (A long time maker of QRP and high powered rigs, their low cost 1 band, 2 band and 4 QRP rigs are certainly among the best.)
http://www.elecraft.com/ (Makers of very high quality QRP equipment from backpack rigs to multi-featured station rigs.) If you think all QRP rigs come in Altoid tins or tuna fish cans, check out the Elecraft transceivers. Particularly the K1, KX1, K2, K3, and KX3. These are really state of the art rigs.
UPDATE: Check out my new Kindle Book, QRP, The Radio Amateur's Low Cost Option for even more detail on QRP. (See the BOOKSHELF page or Amazon Kindle.)
While CW is really great for QRP work, low power operation using the PSK-31 digital mode can be very surprising for its effectiveness. Using only 5 watts as my maximum power and usually running less into a loop antenna, I worked all states and 60 countries on PSK31 in about a 90 day period. While this is certainly not exceptional, it was surprising to me because it was so easy with just a casual approach using very low power. On PSK-31, I worked a number of stations that were running 1-2 watts and a few that were under 1 watt who were also using simple antennas. The implications of this capability are striking for those Amateurs who cannot put up a big antenna or run a 100 watt rig for fear of getting the 'antenna vigilantes' or 'condo police' after them or for fear of causing interference with neighborhood stereo and TV sound systems. If you live in an apartment, condo, or other antenna/radio restricted area, consider a low power rig like the FT-817ND, a Signalink USB interface, and use an antenna like a Hamstick on a short tripod or a PAR ENDFEDZ antenna. I bet you will make a LOT more contacts using such a set up running PSK31 than you thought you could and you will have a blast!
Should you wish to contact me via email about anything on this website, I can be reached at 'my call sign at ARRL dot net'.
Okay, again thanks for checking out my QRP page... I hope to catch you on the bands!
QRPARCi - #10625 FISTS - #10636 SKCC #642