I got involved in another "discussion" on an Amateur Radio page on Facebook about QRP - again. The basic premise was that someone came on and mentioned that they finally made their first HF contact, after many months of trying with 5 Watts. Said person said that they " gave up on that for now" and that "A little more power was all I needed." It turned out that our intrepid new HF'er was using a 40 Meter dipole at a height of 16 feet. Immediately, a tsunami of comments followed, some good, some questionable. The one that caught my eye was:
"40M is not a band real well known for QRP operation. In fact it is most known for success with QRO (at or near legal limit.) Same thing applies for most HF bands (except 30M & 60M as required by law) and except during really prime conditions (not much of that lately.)"
Wait ....... what?!? To me, this is a red flag. You might just as well say, "The science is settled." Same reaction.
OK ....... first let's take care of some business. I know what you're going to say, "QRP is not for beginners!" Well, I do have to kind of agree with that, somewhat. Maybe not all beginners. When your anxious to get that first HF QSO under your belt, I would also advocate for using as much "nominal" power as you have at your disposal. So yeah, it was a good idea for our newbie to tweak up the power. I'll give you that.
So I answered the above comment with:
""40M is not a band real well known for QRP operation." ...... What? It most certainly is! In fact it's one of the two favorite bands of most QRPers."
Which got this response:
"Larry Makoski I know I haven't heard any lately.... When they turn it up to 100W+ no problem, maybe there's a hidden message there somewhere? What is your definition of QRP? Mine would be 5W or less."
OK - so here we go. "I know I haven't heard any lately". That's an odd statement to make. How would you know whether or not a signal you are hearing is a QRP or a QRO signal? Bingo! He had not heard any WEAK signals lately, so ergo - they all HAD to be QRO signals.
Weak signal = QRP and strong signal = QRO ........ got it?
No ....... I don't got it. So I responded:
"You haven't heard any lately? How would you know they're QRP? Because it's a weak signal? If that's your criteria, then you're dead wrong. Yes, QRP is 5 Watts or less on CW, 10 Watts or less on SSB. Signal strength has everything to do with propagation and antenna. Output power plays into it; but not as big a factor as the other two. I've worked 100 Watt stations that I've struggled to copy and I've worked 5 Watt stations that have blown the earbuds out of my ears. It's a whole bunch of factors that determine signal strength, not just raw power. And BTW, most serious QRPers will never even mention they're running low power. You've probably worked a bunch and never even knew it."
You would think more experienced Hams wouldn't jump to conclusions like this; but sadly they do. I guess that's part of this blog's missions - to educate ALL Hams that effective radio communications have more to do with antenna, propagation and band conditions than raw output power (alone). If QRP is not your "cup of tea" that's quite all right with me. No skin off my nose. But even as a QRO op, if you want the best signal you can deliver, look at your antenna and band conditions first. You needn't always empty your wallets for an amplifier. (Sorry, Elecraft!)
72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!