Thursday, April 27, 2017

My somewhat annual rant about power.

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!


  1. Brilliant post!

    I'm afraid there's little point arguing with those types of folk. The problem for their take on radio is that they do not specify anything relating to mode.

    How about reaching VK with a manpack (whip) vertical using WSPR at 200mW, or maybe JT65 or 9 at 1W? I suppose they would say that is not real radio.

    The best way is to write about your QRP achievements, knowing those who understand will read, and those that don't understand won't.

  2. LOL, QRP 5W (or less) will never get you 100 dxcc in 100 days....impossible. I proved it and I,m shure I could do it with just a dipole. 40m is great for example especially QRP...73, Bas

  3. Hi Larry, 40 meter is a perfect band for QRP. Maybe 160 meter will be tough, but that's a matter of lacking a good antenna. (For me) This kind of discussions will always be, I am afraid. 73 Paul PC4T

  4. There is currently a thing on QRP-L that "life is too short for QRP" In 95 I was recuperating from a heart attack and wanted to work 30 meters. My TS 520 didnt have WARC. My wife bought me a MFJ 9030 and I was working the world with a low diopole and 3 watts. No one told me that QRP was supposed to be hard ha ha ha de PAul N0NBD

  5. Anonymous1:38 PM

    We QRPers have access to information non-QRPers just don't. They hear us working, and unless we TELL them we are QRP, they just think we have a FB signal. We are all getting reports of 559, 579, 599 from ops all across the country (or even DX) while QRP, so we routinely get evidence. I've learned NOT to tell people I'm QRP, because my 579 sometimes suddenly becomes "449 with QSB" if I mention it. Hi hi. Here's a Reverse Beacon screen capture after a recent sprint, using a "compromise" G5RV up 35': If people can't hear me, they need a better antenna!

    Mark, K0NIA