I’d like to thank the SWLing Post Nation for their input re: my EMI/RFI issue (see: this previous post). It’s been a long 4-months and I’d like to share the results and outcome of my situation.
I will pick up where the last post ended and if anyone needs a review of the situation you can re-read the link to the original post in the previous paragraph.
At my expense, I hired an independent Master Electrician outside of the pool contractor. He and I reviewed everyone’s suggestions (I hope I’ve remembered to capture them all below but if not, rest assured it was fully explored and investigated). I have copied reader comments exactly as they left them back in October: Continue reading →
Every radio enthusiast or ham operator knows this definition – something we all dread. Electromagnetic interference – also known as radio-frequency interference when in the radio frequency spectrum – is a disturbance generated by an external source that affects an electrical circuit by electromagnetic induction, electrostatic coupling, or conduction (Source: Wikipedia).
I’ve been “off the shortwaves” (in fact, off ALL bands!) for a few weeks (a reminder to those who do not remember – I’m an SWL’er, I’m not a ham operator so I’m a listener only). Here’s my story:
My house was built in 2004 thus the home’s electrical is “modern era”. I’ve never, ever had a significant problem with RFI … except when the dishwasher is running (if it’s running, I have ZERO reception).
I didn’t want this (I acquiesced only in an attempt to become grandfather of the year), but an in-ground (vinyl liner) pool has been installed in my backyard (yeah, I’ve probably lost everyone’s sympathy with this statement). If it’s any consolation, construction started long before the summer and won’t be fully completed until [hopefully] next Spring (and what’s left of my yard is a disaster zone and something that will cost a fortune to mitigate – maybe I’ve gained back just a little bit of sympathy?).
Pools are required to be bonded (the process by which the electrical and metallic components of the pool are joined together with a wire to form a non-resistive path between the components. The goal of bonding is to connect, contain and prevent the transmission of any harmful electrical voltage to pool equipment, people and pets).
I’m not an electrician, but essentially the pool is grounded by a copper wire … and a copper wire “ring” encircles the pool (now covered by the concrete pool deck). The copper wire runs underground and resurfaces where the pump & filter are installed. That copper bonding/grounding connects to the remote master switch at the pump & filter (pictured here – note where the copper line connects to and grounds the unit):
Electrical power line(s) run underground from the pump/filter area until resurfacing just outside the garage wall where they enter my home’s main breaker box inside the garage.
There is an unfinished electrical component. A conduit was installed to add a pool light when the project is completed next Spring (see below), but at this point there’s nothing connected thus a “pool light” is not yet present.
Throughout the dig, installation of the steel walls, pouring the concrete bottom & steps, liner installation, the bonding, and covering the bonding “ring” with the concrete pool deck – all of this had zero negative effects on my SWLing.
Once the pool electrician connected power (connected the pump/filter) to the house, ALL radio bands were knocked out due to very extreme RFI. All bands – the complete spectrum (choose your letters … AM/MW, FM, SW, VHF, UHF – all bands).
I’ve easily spent double-digit hours trying to isolate the EMI. This is what I’ve done & discovered:
(1) Disconnected the pool grounding: no effect.
(2) [Only] Powered-off the two main breakers for the pool pump & filter: no effect (the pool equipment was tested, then the pool was winterized so nothing has been running).
(3) We used a handheld EMI detector over every inch of the interior and exterior of the house. Yes, there are sources but nothing to the level that should cause a radio blackout.
(4) Turned off the main breaker, all power to the house: this is the only thing that eliminated the EMI/RFI.
(5) Multiple times, I’ve painstakingly turned-on one breaker at a time (isolating each circuit, on/off then proceeding to the next breaker). I’ve found that for whatever reason, extreme RFI returns (and is present) on these three circuits: (upstairs) Master Bedroom (my Listening Post), the other upstairs bedrooms (combined on another circuit), and the (downstairs) Family Room circuit. Note: Even if everything is unplugged on one of these circuits, just turning on the breaker introduces the extreme RFI (thus it must be coming from the breaker & not introduced from a device plugged-in). Ferrite chokes have been installed on nearly everything plugged-in to outlets on the three “trouble” circuits. I’m not saying the house was an RFI-free zone before the pool – but these three circuits only produced light-to-manageable RFI prior to the pool equipment being connected to the house’s main breaker box. After 6000+ days of living in this house with no significant RFI issues, I’ve been in a complete radio blackout with very extreme RFI since the moment the live electrical line was connected between my pool pump/filter and my main breaker box.
And before you ask: No, there have not been any new electronics, no new devices, no new appliances, no LED lights, and all big screen TVs and other notorious RFI unfriendly devices are unplugged – nothing new has been plugged-in or added to the household except for the pool equipment. There have been no new utilities in my area that could have caused a coincidental problem (no DSL, no fiber optic – nothing). I cannot see how this situ could be caused by a neighbor, because the problem ceases when my power is off. And “no”, I can’t move my Listening Post because even though the majority of the RFI is introduced over those three circuits, the entire house is impacted and it’s a complete radio blackout.
To reiterate, I had no radio-related problems during the entire construction (I listened to my radios as I pleased) and the problem did not start until the pool’s electrical line was connected to the main breaker.
Could the new wiring – at/inside the breaker box – be improperly shielded? Could something be touching(?) that shouldn’t be? Could something be loose inside the breaker box? The three circuit breakers that are introducing the extreme RFI are in close proximity to each other in the breaker box and in close proximity to the two new pool breakers – could there be contamination from one to another?
I don’t make it a habit to play with electricity. The pool company could frankly care less about my radio woes (it’s my problem, not theirs). My power company supposedly checked their utility line coming into my house (I didn’t see them here, but they said the problem is not on their end). And local electricians all essentially say, “[from their prospective] EMI sources are hard – if not impossible – to find”.
I have an electrician lined-up but we both thought it might be best to “put this out there” because someone may have an idea that he hasn’t thought of. Thus far, I’ve done almost everything myself that they stated they would do (minus opening-up the breaker box). I’m hoping to solicit ideas from the SWLing Post Nation before I put the electrician on the clock. And on the clock = $$$.
Thanks in advance for your input. If I can’t get this mitigated, a liquidation event may be in my future.
I decided to compose a post that ‘kills two birds with one stone’.
Almost every time a post appears here that states something like “Amazon its selling WXYZ Shortwave Portable for the lowest price I’ve ever seen”, I typically post a comment “doesn’t everyone use Keepa”?
Okay, lets kill the two birds:
Bird #1: Amazon (3rd party seller fulfilled by Amazon) started bundling the Eton Elite Field BT Radio, a carry satchel & the Eton Elite Mini 30-days ago (how do I know, I’ll explain that below with bird #2). The bundle was introduced at a price of $179.95. Frankly, given the street prices of the Elite Field with satchel & the under $25 street price of the Elite Mini, $179.95 wasn’t a great price. But at the time I start writing this post, 3-hours ago the price dropped to $139.00. That’s a pretty good price IF you’re looking to buy all 3 in this bundle (or even if you want the Field with satchel but choose to gift the Mini as a Christmas gift).
But this opportunity brings me to:
Bird #2: Keepa.
Click to enlarge the photo
Keepa is a great extension (pictured above loaded on my Safari browser). I have Keepa loaded into multiple browser applications. With Keepa loaded, I have a complete historyof Amazon pricing. All-time Amazon pricing! Take a close look at the graphic (click to enlarge).
Keepa tells me this item has been listed on Amazon for 30-days. It tells me the starting price was $179.95. It gives me a day-by-day graph of the Amazon price. It shows me that the price dropped to $149.00 on October 26th at 16:56 EDT. And it tells me that, 3-hours ago, the price dropped to $139.00.
Want the average Amazon price over the last 90-days? Easy. What about the average Amazon price for the past 180-days? Easy – I get that, too (note: this item has only been listed for 30-days, so the 90-day & 180-day average pricing is the same).
Some of what I am telling you – re: the exact time of the price drop – is only visible when you’re [live] on the product page and you move your cursor over the graph (that info pops into view).
And here’s the best part: you can Manage Price Watches. What does that mean? I can set a target price and Keepa notifies me if/when the product’s price meets or goes below my target price (what I want to pay for it). I cannot tell you how many times I have had items with price watches set … and a few days … or a few weeks go by and <Ding>, I get an email notification that tells me my desired item has dropped below my target price. I set price watches for radios, tools, tents – even my contact lens solution! I Manage Price Watches for anything that can wait days, or weeks or even months to buy (I let the price dictate when I buy the item). Keepa even gives you 24-hours advance notice of an Amazon Lightning Deal.
In summary, this bundle is a pretty good deal as it includes two SW portables & a carrying satchel for the Field. But this also gave me an opportunity to show everyone how I use Keepa. I use Keepa for every item I view on Amazon. And if you look closely, there is an eBay link in Keepa … with a click of my mouse/track pad, I can compare eBay pricing to Amazon. If this item had ever been listed as “Used”, I could graphically track used pricing. Keepa also tracks Warehouse Deals & even the date, time & price of past Lightning Deals. Why would anyone not use this handy little extension? It’s like tracking a stock’s price history except I’m tracking a specific product’s price on Amazon.
But then again, if everyone did use Keepa … there’d be no point in readers sending Amazon deals to Thomas!
I have badgered people I know – mainly this site’s owner, our friend Thomas. Question: does Eton still plan to bring the Elite Satellit to market?
Image Credit: Eton Corp
I’ve posted here before (in the Comments section of more than one post) stating “I’ll believe it when I see it”.
Last week I emailed Eton Corp and I flat-out asked them if they could provide a “status update” regarding the production of this radio and “do you still plan to bring [this model] to the marketplace”.
Moments ago, I received this email reply:
Thank you for your interest in the Elite Satellit radio. Due to the global shortage of chips and the backlog of delivery of materials to our manufacturer, it is taking much longer to bring this radio to market.
Thank you for your understanding and patience,
This isn’t very definitive … it offers very little detail, and no expected release date – but – it appears this project (proposed new model) has not been tabled, has not been canceled. Seeing as how it’s November 1st … Christmas is less than 8-weeks away – well, this would be a good time to ask the question because surely I would think an imminent release date would be best for business.
As such, I guess I’ll stand-by my comments over the past 18-months … “I’ll believe it when I see it”. The optimist in me is happy the reply wasn’t an outright cancellation of this gorgeous radio!
If there is anyone out there with more information, definitive information, I’m sure the SWLing Post Blog Nation would love to hear it. For now, I guess those of us interested will continue to wait. And those among us who still have doubts, this group “will believe it when we see it”!
In keeping with a popular theme here – “radio in/on TV & movies” – I wanted to share the following that I saw on the Science Channel (part of the Discovery Network):
Show: What on Earth?
Originally aired 1/15/19
The above referenced episode has a segment on Cuban Numbers Stations – it’s at minute-45 in the 60-minute broadcast version with commercials.
Of course the show’s premise is “what’s this” so the segment starts out (as every segment does) analyzing a satellite photo and shapes (that turn out to be antennas). This segment is more about the “set-up” than the numbers stations themselves. It’s not really geared for radio enthusiasts but rather as something that may interest the general viewer – that there are active “espionage” Cuban Numbers Stations, when & why they started, and a brief mention of the arrests of what eventually became known as the Cuban Five.
The entire segment is only 5-minutes (approximately the same length as their “non-feature”, or minor segments).
I know it’s available free On Demand via Dish Network & is likely available for free on other services. Again – this won’t enlighten anyone who already knows there are “Cuban Numbers Stations”, but it is nice to see shortwave radio on mainstream “educational” TV programs.
Since the demise of my Sony ICF-SW100, I’ve decided to do some AM Dx’ing. A few years ago I purchased a Sangean PR-D15 as my dedicated “AM Dx Radio”. Despite owning it for a few years, I hadn’t yet really put it through its paces.
Note: My 1994 Gründig Yacht Boy 400, with its 150mm (5.9″) ferrite rod antenna, performs splendidly on AM and until this purchase, the YB400 was the radio I grabbed for AM Dx.
At the time of my purchase – if my memory is correct – the other models I had considered were the CC Radio 2 (now discontinued), the CC Radio 2E (it was a relatively new release at the time), and the Original CC Radio EP (now discontinued & replaced by the CC Radio EP Pro).
Admittedly, part of my decision was based on cost. At the time, the CC Radio 2 & 2E were priced over 2x the cost of the PR-D15 and the CC Radio EP was $15-$20 more when shipping was added. Besides the cost, I chose the PR-D15 based on a few things I had read online. But the aspect that really appealed to me is the 200mm (7.9”) Ferrite Rod Antenna and that compared favorably with the C. Crane offerings (yes – ferrite size isn’t everything, but it is an important consideration). So after having read online comments (reviews, discussion boards, etc.) about the PR-D15, I felt very comfortable with my decision and it wasn’t based on cost alone.
Frankly, I don’t really care how well my AM radio performs during the day (I hope this isn’t sacrilege). Why? During the day whether I’m in the car, working in the garage – whatever – I’ll typically stream my favorite station (NYC) via radio.com on my iPhone so I can pause, rewind, or pick-up where I left off. Until my Sangean PR-D15 can do that, I prefer to daytime stream. My “hobby” of AM Dxing is in the evening – to relax and have fun (and isn’t that what a hobby is supposed to be?). Keep that in mind as I reveal my results.
I intended to do my AM Dx Nighttime Test in one night, but I was getting so may stations that I had to extend it over two nights. I started each session around 8PM and they lasted until 11:30PM – 12AM (over 7.5-hours of testing on consecutive nights late this week). I had my PR-D15 on a lazy susan turntable and I had two nearby laptops – one to aid as an AM Station locator and the other I used to stream. Stream? Yes – to count as a recorded station I had to get a positive station ID. However, many radio programs are syndicated. Syndicated radio (and ESPN radio) can go on seemingly forever between station IDs. If I didn’t get a station ID within 15-minutes, I used the second laptop to go to the web site of the station I believed it to be to “listen live” to see if the radio and the stream matched-up (luckily live web streams are slightly behind live terrestrial radio so the IDs were easy). Often by the time I had given-up and gone to my 2nd laptop, I’d finally get an on-air station ID. I just didn’t want to waste too much time on one station and miss other stations.
Since my test extended for 2 nights, on night two I quickly dialed-through nearly all of the stations I confirmed on night one to make a quick re-confirmation they were still audible on the 2nd night.
Since I captured so many stations, I was overwhelmed trying to finish and thus I feel this test is still incomplete. My wife typically ends all of my radio playtime (my man cave is a “sitting room” off the side of the master bedroom & there is no wall – no door – so it’s completely open). But my wife and my step-daughter have a weekend out of town in mid to late March. And that means I can stay up all night and do one non-stop test session. Is it bad to say that I cannot wait to be alone?
My QTH is ~ 35-miles east of RIC (Richmond, VA) Airport. The tables below (broken into three files) are my results. Some frequencies have multiple station IDs – since when turning the radio and nulling signals, sometimes one station disappeared and another jumped onto the dial. If/when I post an update of my all-nighter, I’ll add another column to the spreadsheet to include the transmitter strength for better context. It should also be noted that I recorded straight-line distances & not driving distances (via an online straight-line/GPS calculator).
I was impressed that I successfully captured three Iowa stations. And though I find it almost unfathomable, I truly believe I was on the verge of successfully logging a station in Sandy, UT which is over 2000-miles away (there are only six stations assigned to the 1640 frequency, and given the content I [barely] heard, all indications are that it was KBJA)!
I also believe I captured at least one Super-Clear Channel station from Mexico, but unfortunately I just couldn’t successfully verify the station ID. I hope to have a future opportunity to add it to my list.
My ultimate goal is to: (1) compile & maintain a spreadsheet of every AM station that I am able to successfully ID; and (2) maintain a record of the most AM stations I was able to ID in a single one-night, non-stop session.
Despite being somewhat incomplete, I’m impressed by my results. I’m interested to see what you think so please post your comments below!
I should note that my results are strictly off the internal ferrite antenna – no external antenna, no passive loop antenna was used to enhance any signal.
To save column space, please click on each table below. A larger & easier to read image will open in a separate window or tab (depending upon your browser setting).
WARNING: due to the graphic nature of these photos, those radio enthusiasts who love the Sony ICF-SW100 may want to look away. Parental Discretion is advised.
Guest Post by Troy Riedel
Some of you may remember my recent lamenting regarding the unexpected loss of my beloved Sony ICF-SW100 posted on this blog. The Medical Examiner opened the radio’s chassis last week. The manner of death is rather obvious, but what caused it? Before I reveal my research, allow me to quicky remind you of the context to the situation.
Due to a medical emergency, I “deployed” for two months to tend a remote farm (one of the few benefits was being able to drive a tractor – a kid from my generation grew-up dreaming of piloting heavy construction equipment and farm implements). I traveled there with two shortwave portables: the Sony ICF-SW100s and the XHDATA D-808. After a long day of work, shortwave radio was my only mode of relaxation during my extended period of solitude.
I had always used Eneloop nickel metal hydride (NiMH or Ni-MH) rechargeable batteries in my SW100. I’m not a physics nor a chemistry major (the closest knowledge I have is enough atmospheric physics to have once been a moderately successful synoptic weather forecaster & aviation weather briefer in the military). As such, my education doesn’t directly correlate so I offer an advance apology for my overly simplistic and layperson synopsis of the specific cause & manner of death of my SW100.
I think we all know that a battery is “energy stored inside of a small container”. And energy is heat – measured by random motion (random motion is directly proportional to heat meaning as motion increases or decreases, the heat generated by the motion will do the same).
NiMH & Lithium battery cells have an alkaline electrolyte, usually potassium hydroxide (potash). The electrolyte serves as the catalyst to make a battery conductive by promoting the movement of ions from the cathode to the anode on charge and in reverse on discharge. The electrolyte is sensitive as it has to be to promote charging & to generate power. And the heat that’s produced by the battery can be dangerous because as we previously discussed, a battery is a “closed” container that stores energy … and if we think about it, so is a bomb, right?
Well, the term closed is slightly misleading and not 100% correct. A rechargeable household battery has a vent which acts as an exhaust. This vent allows excess heat to escape. If you Google image search “NiMH battery anatomy”, there are two ways to vent heat. On Panasonic Eneloops and most commercial household batteries, the vent is the rubber puck (disk) under the positive button tab. This disk seals the internals (thus the term “closed”) while also permitting excess heat to [generally] safely vent. Some manufacturers actually have multiple exhaust openings (holes) around the button top that act as vents. Regardless of how it’s done, these batteries do have an exhaust or venting system.
To summarize thus far, rechargeable batteries vent excess heat (whether generated during use or during charging) from the top of the battery. Venting heat during charging is critical because as well all know, one does not want to overheat batteries during (re)charging. This is why everyone should use a smart charger. A smart charger is one that monitors the energy level of the battery and shuts-off when it reaches capacity (I learned that capacity is defined differently by different manufacturers but all seem to shut-off somewhere at 90% or greater). I remember the portables that were released maybe 10-15 years ago that introduced charging inside the radio. The very early models were not smart, the user had to either program how many hours you wished to charge the battery/batteries or the radio itself was programmed to charge for x-amount of hours regardless of whether the batteries needed to be charged for that long (you could very easily continue charging for hours after the battery attained 100% capacity – a very dangerous situation for your valuable radio!). Thankfully most newer radios, except the inexpensive “no-frills” radios, have smart changing technology. Regardless, I have never been a fan of using my radio to charge batteries as I’ve always felt this is too dangerous because the process produces heat and I do not want [excess] heat generated (or vented) inside of my radio!
There are typically more shipping restrictions, more transportation restrictions with Lithium batteries than there are for NiMH batteries (I’m sure most people have noticed shipping restrictions when buying electronics regarding the shipment of Lithium batteries – and if shipment is allowed, it’ll cost more to ship because Lithium batteries cannot be shipped via all modes). Lithium (3.7v) & NiMH (1.2v) batteries are essentially the same technology, except Lithium generates more “power” aka “more heat” (3x the voltage) and are thus much more sensitive to heat (including environmental heat) .
In doing my research, I found a slight conflict regarding the stability of NiMH batteries in storage. Some manufacturers warn that NiMH batteries should not be stored in temperatures over 30C (86F) while others list 40C (104F) as the threshold. What happens above this threshold? The electrolyte catalyst is activated, and the battery will generate its own heat (heat that must be vented).
At this point, I’m sure you can see where this is going. I had two NiMH batteries inside of my SW100. The two stacked batteries increased the inherent risk (in a worst-case situation, two batteries would create & release/vent more heat than a single battery). I was in a hot environment, I lacked air conditioning for most of the time, and I had a long drive of nearly 300-miles to/from my location at the start & the end of the two months I was there. My SW100 was apparently put into peril when it encountered environmental [ambient] temperatures that exceeded the Eneloops threshold (30C? 40C?). And this caused the NiMH Eneloops to heat-up beyond normal, vent the excess heat, and thus “melt” part of the PCB and the back case of the SW100.
This did not happen during normal storage of my radio in my temperature-controlled house, but rather it happened in the adverse environment I temporarily subjected the radio to.
Yes, I know … think what you want (but please don’t say it). User error. I should have known better. It was my fault. It was dumb. Yes, yes, yes & yes answer those four statements. I know, I know …
There are three positives to this:
(1) I learned a painful albeit valuable lesson;
(2) Maybe others can learn from my folly; and
(3) Parts to maintain these classics must be salvaged. I donated my radio (including the AC adapter) – it’s not a total loss and it still has value as a “parts radio”. My SW100 is now in the hands of a skilled, master technician who might be able to save the life of another (or multiple) SW100 radio(s).
My loss just might be someone else’s gain? I take comfort that my radio may live on (as an organ donor) to potentially provide years of enjoyment for someone else.
I have picked-up a few of my other shortwave radios since my initial post (PL-390, PL-880, XHDATA D-808, Satellit 750) & I have started listening again.
And I did have surgery a couple of weeks ago for the physical injury I sustained while tending the farm (my ICF-SW100 wasn’t the only casualty during this period of time). After a frustrating 2+ weeks, I’m starting to make progress with my physical healing. And now that I have a definitive answer on the manner & cause of death of my SW100, I’m psychologically healing from that as well.
UPDATE after my initial post:
I neglected to make the following statement: one can debate whether the excessive heat being vented caused the PCB & case to melt, or if the vent(s) in one or both batteries failed, or if the battery heated-up too quickly & too much for it to safely vent? The only thing I do know: the batteries exhibit no physical damage or defect so the exact mechanism of the the excessive heat will remain unknown.
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