Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, TomL, who shares the following guest post:
Magnet Wire Vertical Loop Antenna
For those of you in a noisy condo like me, the environment does not give me many options. I was experimenting with a YouLoop on the wooden porch with somewhat acceptable results. For its size, it is an excellent performer, especially on the lower bands. Here is a very interesting review of the YouLoop, including close-up pictures of the innards of the phase inverter and 1:1 balun, by John S. Huggins. However, it is not waterproof and I was concerned about the ice and snow ruining it. I could tape up the connectors with waterproof tape but I also wanted something with a bigger capture area. A magnet wire stealth antenna might be just the thing!
I just happened to have a waterproof 1:1 ATU balun from Balun Designs that I was going to use for future Amateur Radio use whenever I get around to passing the next level test; it is total overkill for what I intended to use it for. It would make a good connection point and (this one) also acts as an RF choke as well. One can make a 1:1 balun by buying the right Type of ferrite core and winding it yourself. Here is just one idea from Palomar Engineers.
So I dusted it off, went to a local store to get a 100 foot spool of 26 gauge magnet wire and tested it strung up around my living room. It came out to be a rectangle about 42 feet in circumference. Results were usable. I expected lots of noise and there is a great deal across the bands, so only the strongest shortwave stations were received. However, I was surprised by how strong the mediumwave band was and good to listen to without an amplifier.
I am ambivalent towards trying to perfectly match the impedance since this is a broadband receive-only antenna and the impedance will vary greatly over MW and SW bands. And I don’t want to mess with a remotely controlled tuned loop since this antenna was destined for the outdoor porch. I tried a Cross Country Wireless preselector at my desk but had some mixed results. I later found out, by disconnecting things in series, that the preselector inline raised the noise level about 5 dBm, so I took it out for now. Perhaps it needs more internal shielding or the connecting cable is bad.
Polarization is an issue, too. I have read that most man-made noise (QRM) is vertically polarized, so why would I use a vertically oriented loop? Then I saw David Casler’s video on loop antennas where he explains that connecting a vertical loop antenna at the bottom or the top makes it horizontally polarized (connecting the coax on the side makes it vertically polarized). I never knew that! Horizontal polarization will mitigate some of the offending QRM as well as match the polarization of mediumwave band transmitters. Furthermore, I read that a horizontal loop will have poor signal pickup at low frequencies because it is not high enough off the ground, similar to a horizontal dipole. For now, a vertical loop connected to facilitate horizontal polarization is what I want.
A note about wire size. People make a big deal about it but those are mostly amateur radio people. Transmission depends on efficiency so things like wire size, skin effect, standing waves, and other things matter (see here, for example). With a receive-only antenna it is OK to use very thin wire. Resonance can matter if you want the last ounce of signal strength with an antenna tuner, like in high-Q type loops where the bandwidth is very narrow and you are using a multi-turn loop with variable capacitor and a pick-up coil of wire to the receiver. Comparatively, my simple loop is depending more on a single turn of wire, the aperture size, length of wire for its performance, and carefully isolating the feedline coax using RF chokes at both ends.
Here is one example of a strong station from Cuba I was able to record because WLW was off the air for some unexpected reason.
Radio Reloj, Cuba 870 kHz (At the end, you can hear WLW come back online with CBS news):
Side note about Radio Reloj on Wikipedia, the strange format seems to fit well with a totalitarian regime, including a “corrector” who “corrects the content/writing errors to meet the requirements”. Read the wiki link for yourself. Not a society I want to live in, thank you very much!
Example of 80 meter band performance – Greetings to a new person from members of the “Awful, Awful, Ugly Net”, 3855 kHz:
Encouraged by the results, I “installed” the magnet wire around the support beams of the wooden porch, wrapping it carefully to create a square loop. Holding it in place is a brick at each bottom corner since I am not allowed to nail anything into the Association-owned porch. The length came out to about 32 feet (8 feet per side), so I trimmed it and connected to the balun. I also added an RF choke at the Airspy HF+ input from Palomar Engineers which helped bring noise down a couple of S-units. That might not sound like a lot but by also shutting off the living room air filter and an AC switch with “wall-wart” AC power adapters on it, I was able to reduce the noise a little bit more. There is still a lot of noise from the neighbors, so it is not a perfect situation.
Here are two examples of reception with the outside installation.
Side note about the Radio Newsletter. I stumbled on it when using the YouLoop and found that some of the content is very interesting and informative. Of course it is geared mostly towards amateur radio but some of the news items are of general radio interest as well. It airs 1pm Saturday through 2am Sunday, USA Central Time. Obviously, many segments repeat during that lengthy timeframe and reception depends on propagation from Missouri.
KDDR 1220 kHz, West Fargo, ND station ID (presumably “nighttime” power of 327 watts):
The shortwave bands are still a noisy disaster but signal levels are higher compared to the YouLoop. Only the strongest stations come in like WRMI, WHRI, Radio Espana, Radio Habana, and CRI. And I can hear the loudest amateur radio operators.
Just for grins, here is Radio Rebelde on 5025 kHz when band conditions were above average:
Another phenomenon I am looking into is the reception pattern of a vertical loop. Less than 1/10th wavelength, the null is through the center of the loop. At one wavelength, the null manifests in the plane of the wire loop. They are too close to phase them but switching between two directional loop antennas might improve reception depending on frequency. We shall see in the future.
At least for now, I have a decent mediumwave band which performs better than the useful CCrane Twin-Ferrite amplified loop antenna that was used in the (noisy) indoors, I can hear the 160 & 80 meter amateur bands better, and the reception of the strongest shortwave broadcasters are more predictable. Not bad for four dollars of wire!
Brilliant, Tom! Again, I love how you’ve not only made an inexpensive antenna, but you’ve even done it within your HOA regulations. You’re right, too: if you’re not transmitting into an antenna, it blows the experimentation door wide open! Thank you once again for sharing your project with us.
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Steve Allen (KZ4TN), who shares the following guest post:
Tracking Down Radio Frequency Interference
by Steve Allen, KZ4TN
I first noticed the RFI in late November 2019 as a steady buzz at around S9. It was present over most of the high frequency spectrum. I waited until the second week of December to see if you would end on its own, no such luck. I put an HF rig in my truck and started driving around the area to see if I could find a potential source. About a quarter mile from my home is a 161 KVA substation operated jointly by the Tennessee Valley Authority and my local electrical utility. When I parked in the driveway outside of the gated substation the sound of the interference was very strong and blanked the HF spectrum. I called the phone number on the gate and after an explanation of why I was calling I was connected to a fellow radio operator. I explained the situation and he said he would bring the issue to someone’s attention and get back to me.
A week went by and I didn’t hear back from the TVA. I called the person I spoke with previously and he said that the individuals that he spoke with questioned the validity of my findings. He was very helpful but said he didn’t have much clout with the TVA, RFI investigations were not his area of responsibility. I told him I would be happy to meet with someone from the TVA and show them what I had found. I also said I would contact my local electric utility and see if they had an RFI detector so we could eliminate their equipment. My initial contact at the TVA said he would keep trying to get someone to take this issue on and work with me to investigate. I said I would call him back next week.
I then called the local utility company and talked to someone there who was familiar with these kinds of issues. The local utility company owns the output side of the equipment at the substation. He told me he was going to perform an infrared (heat) inspection of their equipment at the substation mid January as part of their annual maintenance and will also check the low voltage utility lines near the substation. I told him that I didn’t notice this RFI until after they had a power outage nearby. He said he would try and get over earlier and check the power lines that run along the streets and look into the power outage history for this area.
All during this time I kept a daily log of the RFI including time of day, frequency effected and S unit level. I also logged the weather conditions. To eliminate the electronics in my house as a possible source I connected my transceiver to a 12 VDC battery and shut off the mains circuit breaker, the RFI did not change at all. I also visited the ARRL webpage that provide information on RFI including recordings of known RFI:
The ARRL is the best source I have found in finding and fixing RFI.
By December 27th, no word back from anyone. I assumed that they were off for Christmas but decided to write a letter to the TVA as a follow up to what had happened so far. In early January I received and email from one of the TVA engineers who said he would contact a field engineer who would contact me. The next day I received an email from the field engineer who said he was going to be in the area on another job but would meet me at the substation.
So, of course as soon as I am making headway with finding the problem the RFI diminished to the point of not being a problem. By this time here in Northeast Tennessee the winter temps are in the 40s and the humidity is lower. For whatever reason, the RFI ended. I met with the field engineer and we agreed that if there is no RFI there is nothing to search for.
Fast forward to August, 2020. In June and July I had been operating digital, mostly FT8. I usually had the volume control at zero and as it was summer I was doing no shortwave listening. One day I decided to tune around the bands and found that the RFI was back as strong as it was during December at S4-S9 from 2-30 MHz. I emailed the principal engineer I had previously been in contact with at the TVA and he told me he would contact another field engineer and that he would come to my house with an RFI locator and start a thorough investigation. The next day I received an email from the field engineer and we scheduled a time for him come over.
Upon his arrival he connected his RFI locator to my vertical antenna and tuned across the spectrum. The locator immediately displayed the signal. He captured an electronic image and said that he could now drive around the area and try and find a match. A hour and a half later he called and said he was unsuccessful and wanted to come back and make sure the signal was still present. Sure enough, it still displayed on his locator and he was puzzled why he could not find a similar signal while driving the area. He said he would send a copy of the recording to the TVA engineer and get back to me.
A few days later I heard back from him and he wanted to come over again and make another recording. I believe after discussing this issue with his supervisor he was going to use a different method of searching the area. After a couple of hours I received a phone call from the field engineer telling me that he thought he had found the source of interference. Using a parabolic antenna he had found two different utility poles that appeared to have defective lightening arrestors on them. Both are within a quarter mile of my QTH. These poles are the responsibility of the local electrical utility not the TVA. He said he would contact them and follow up with me in a few days.
In a couple of days the interference was very low to nonexistent. Shortly thereafter the engineer contacted me saying the local utility company had completed the repairs and wanted to know if the interference was still present. I said I hadn’t hear it in a couple of days and I would get back to him if it returned. A couple of weeks later I received an email from the field engineer detailing the incident, what he had done to locate the interference, and what was done to repair it. In his email he stated the service was provided at no cost by the TVA Right of Way and Elizabethton Electric Department through TVA’s Comprehensive Services Program (CSP). I am so appreciative of the Tennessee Valley Authority. The airwaves are now free of manmade interference and I am looking forward to another winter of operating and listening to shortwave radio. Here in the 21st century there are so many electronic devices that are capable of causing RFI. I am very thankful that my station is RFI free (for the time being).
Steve Allen, KZ4TN
Thank you so much for sharing your story, Steve. Only recently, we posted Emilio’s article about tracing interference to poorly made switching power supplies. Thank you for sharing how you approached your local utility company, in your case, to resolve your RFI!
Very encouraging! Readers note that you don’t always have to live with persistent RFI. If you know the source isn’t coming from within your home, sometimes it’s simply a matter of getting your local utilities company to investigate.
Thank you for sharing this, Jeremy. I can guarantee that if the TV was emitting enough noise to interfere with broadband, it likely also affected the HF, MW, and LW radio bands!
What baffles me is the amount of time it took for the engineers to track down the source in such a small community. A skilled RFI engineer would have likely discovered what was causing the noise by looking at the spectrum analyzer–quite often the signal shape and frequency are indicators. In addition, a little signal “fox hunting” could have proven useful. With that said, noises aren’t always easy to locate and can travel along unexpected paths.
I certainly don’t blame the resident for remaining anonymous!
Many thanks to SWling Post contributor, Emilio Ruiz, who shares the following guest post:
Apprehending an RFI-generating monster!
At the beginning of the year, I was sad because, at home, an awful RFI noise appeared. The next few months the noise increase until S9!!. Day and night my receivers and my feelings were so dampened with this terrific RFI–only the lower Broadcast Band (900 to 540 Khz) was relatively immune to it.
Yesterday, we had a storm and the mains electricity service went off, so I connect a 12 volt battery to my RT-749b military surplus transceiver and the received signals were very clean like the “good old days”.
(Above: Listen W1AW loong distant from my QTH in Chiapas Mexico).
When the power electricity come back on, so did the RFI too!!
(Above: W1AW gone)
Remembering the recently publish post in SWLing Post about RFI, I did some testing by
cutting the electricity to my home (the main switch) and the RFI was gone!! So I discovered the RFI lives in my house–not in the outside wires!!
I put batteries in my old shortwave portable radio and searched (like Ghostbusters) all outlets contacts, one by one, connect and disconnected each device.
And I found the guilty party!
Exhibit A: The Mitzu laptop power supply
On December 2019, the power supply of my son’s laptop broke, so I bought a cheap substitute.
The RFI produced by this little monster could be heard at a distance of about 200 meters from my QTH!!! (Much like an old transmitter spark gap–!)
Even this cheap power supply apparently featured ferrite toroids on the wire but turns out it is fake!! It was only a plastic ball!
Exhibit B: Fake toroids!
The wires were also not shielded. No doubt one of the worst switched-mode power supplies I could have purchased.
Exhibit C: The Mitzu RFI generator wire without shield, only pair wires!
I found a old Acer power supply with same specs and I replaced out the RFI monster one.
And now? The shortwave bands are clean again.
(Video: Testing my Kenwood R-600 rx with Radio Exterior de España… plugging and unplug the Mitzu monster RFI generator).
So I wanted to share what happened to me, so perhaps it can be useful for other SWLing Post blog friends.
Watch these little switched mode power supplies from all devices in your home. Replace them if you detect RFI levels that harms SWLing. Consider disconnect all devices (vampire consumption–or phantom loads) if not in use; the radio waves and electric bill will be grateful to you!
WOW! What a difference! Emilio, that was great investigative work on your part. It’s as if that switching power supply was specifically designed to create RFI! No shield and fake toroids? That’s just criminal in my world!
Thank you so much for sharing your story. Hopefully, this might encourage others to investigate and apprehend their own local RFI monsters!
(And by the way, Emilio, I love that RT-749b military transceiver!)
Radio Waves: Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio
Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers. To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’sRadio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Paul, Michael Bird, William Lee, Rob PE9PE, and the Southgate ARC for the following tips:
The Southern African community will soon enjoy digital audio broadcasts, thanks to an initiative lead by a South African based entity, Thembeka & Associates that has taken the lead in implementing the much anticipated interactive radio solution.
This was announced by the Secretary-General of the Southern African Broadcasting Association, SABA, Mr Cecil Jarurakouje Nguvauva, following the conclusion of initial agreements between the participating entities. Welcoming the digital radio solution to the SADC region, Nguvauva emphasised the need for rural communities to be engaged fully in the developmental agenda of the respective African governments if the planned development is to add value to the lives of the most disadvantaged members of our society.
Chief Executive Officer of Thembeka & Associates, Madam Thembeka Kaka has hailed this initiative a huge success for the continent and a dream come true for her institution. Madam Kaka added that as a member of the National Committee on ICT Chamber Accessible Broadcasting for People Living with Disabilities, she has passionately driven this project for a long while. Madam Kaka added that “Following the announcement of the Policy Directive that has introduced Digital Sound Broadcasting by the South African Minister of Communications & Digital Technologies, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams in July this year. I have since realised that greater opportunities have emerged for the broadcast industry as a whole. And this initialises an evolution of radio broadcasts going forward,” she stated.
Sentech’s Meyerton Radio Shortwave site in South Africa will carry the Digital Sound Broadcasting Shortwave Transmission from the broadcast centre in Southern Africa to the rest of SADC countries.
For the initial stage, only six countries are earmarked for the coverage, before it is rolled out to the rest of the SADC Region. The targeted countries are Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zambia and South Africa. The rapid deployment is planned to work alongside the existing analogue radio service, which will seamlessly transition to a fully-fledged Digital Radio transmission in SADC. The receivers to be deployed will have the capabilities to receive and transmit both Analogue and Digital radio signal on FM and AM.
The primary purpose of the initiative is for governments and various newsmakers to urgently provide vital information to all citizens, especially the rural, remote and marginalised vulnerable communities. The outbreak of COVID-19 has amplified the need for this undertaking, that has highlighted risk areas in our various communities. Particular emphasis will be given to the following sectors in the respective communities: Education Sector; Health Sector; Socio-Economic factors; Gender issues; Youth & Disability.[…]
This article interrogates the well?known phenomenon of western broadcasting to the Soviet Union from the little?known vantage point of the audience’s sonic experience and expression. I use the example of the BBC’s main popular music program in the late USSR, Rok posevy, with its remarkable presenter, Seva Novgorodsev, to explore fundamental questions about the who, how, and why of listening to the so?called “enemy voices.” The popularity of Novgorodsev’s show, I argue, is best understood in the context of the Soviet soundscape and, in particular, of longstanding Soviet media practices, including radio jamming and Soviet ideologies of the voice. Novgorodsev’s Rok posevy presented listeners with a powerful alternative sociocultural space, one that promoted models of authority and community very different from Soviet norms and, indeed, antithetical to Soviet norms.[…]
In Sweden the Swedish Electrical Safety Agency may ban the sale of optimizers used in Solar Panel installations due to the high level of RF Pollution they produce
A translation of an SSA post reads:
The Swedish Electrical Safety Agency wants to remove optimizers that spread interference. “It should be easy for the electrician to do the right thing.”
– We want to remove all solar cell products that spread disruption from the market. It should be easy for the electrician to do the right thing, and if you choose CE-marked gadgets and follow the manufacturer’s instructions, the system should be nice, says Martin Gustafsson, who is an inspector in market control at the Swedish Electrical Safety Agency. reports of disturbing solar cells. In addition to radio amateurs such as Anders Ljunggren, the mobile operator Telia is among those affected . The Swedish Electrical Safety Board has made inspection visits to disturbing facilities, and carried out a market review of optimizers and inverters from eleven different manufacturers.
“They take advantage of a gap in the standard and instead hide behind a general EMC standard.”
The report is not complete yet. However, one of the conclusions is that a number of manufacturers of interfering products have chosen not to use the standard developed for photovoltaic products, but which has not yet been harmonized by the European Commission.
– They use a gap in the standard and instead hide behind a general EMC standard, which does not make any demands on the dc side. This makes our evidentiary situation difficult. But if the disruption problems are not solved, the products can be banned from sale, says Martin Gustafsson.
Ham Radio operators have enjoyed making contact with the ISS for many years. The holy grail has always been talking to ISS astronauts on FM simplex (145.800) — but those can be rare chance encounters. Ham radio operators have also enjoyed slow-scan television (SSTV) broadcasts and APRS packet radio via the ISS digipeater. Now we get to work the world’s most expensive FM repeater thanks to the new InterOperable Radio System (IORS) installed on the ISS.
The InterOperable Radio System (IORS) replaces an ancient Ericsson radio system and packet module that were certified for spaceflight over two decades ago. The 5 watt HT that was aboard the ISS was getting worn out after many years of use. The Ericsson radio looks like something from a 1990s episode of Cops.
The new IORS was launched from Kennedy Space Center on March 6, 2020 onboard the SpaceX CRS-20 resupply mission. It consists of a custom space-modified Kenwood D710GA transceiver and an ARISS-developed multi-voltage power supply. The equipment was installed by NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy (KF5KDR).
New Kenwood D710G ‘Space Flight Edition’
The radio now being used is a Kenwood D710G and was engineered specifically for space flight. JVCKENWOOD USA and the ARISS worked closely to modify the D710G. The upgrades were performed by JVCKENWOOD and include:
Output power is hardware limited to 25 watts for the safety of the International Space Station
Custom firmware and menus tailored for operation onboard the ISS.
Higher output/high-reliability fan to allow continuous repeater operation.
Continuous fan operation is an important feature in space for the reliability of the radio. There is no convection in microgravity, so all heat-generating components need to be cooled by moving air or conduction. If the radio burns up, there isn’t a Ham Radio Outlet down the street to grab parts.[Continue reading the the full article at K0LWC’s blog…]
Our good friend Rob Wagner (VK3BVW) over at the Mount Evelyn DX Report has posted an excellent article on how to deal with man-made radio interference (QRM/RFI) in our homes and neighborhoods. This has been a frequent topic here on the SWLing Post (indeed, as recently as Thursday).
Mount Evelyn is a semi-urban, semi-rural location, about 45 kilometres east of Melbourne, the southeastern part of Australia. When we retired eight years ago to this lovely mountain region known as the Yarra Ranges, noise levels on the shortwave bands were quite manageable. At times, it might rise to perhaps an S3, but hanging a variety of antennas cut for a mix of bands and erected in different directions certainly allowed for some flexibility and control over the local man-made noise.
Previously, we lived in a highly urbanized environment where 24-hour S9 noise levels prohibited any SWL or Ham activity from home. But moving to more spacious living at Mount Evelyn allowed me to drag out the radios, string up those wire antennas and really enjoy again the hobby that was such a part of my youth.
But over the past 12 months, I have noticed an increase in local man-made noise around here. The level of general electrical hash on the bands has increased markedly. At certain times of the day, the S-meter is rising to between 5 and 7. And it is not always predictable when the noise levels will rise and fall.
A few weeks ago, the local electric company decided to do a major overhaul of some power poles and wires in an area not far from here. So, the entire region was without power for about seven hours. Fantastic, I thought! I’ll hook up the Yaesu FTDX3000 to the 12v sealed lead acid battery and do some daytime DXing right here in the shack in a totally noise-free environment. Once the lights went off, I fired up the rig and tuned the bands in search of weak signal DX delights.
Err….well, not to be! Indeed, the results were somewhat underwhelming! It was disappointing just how much man-made interference was evident on the shortwave bands, even though such a large area around Mount Evelyn was without power. The hash was still registering a steady 3 on the S-meter. Certainly, it was better than when the mains power is in regular operation. But in the past, when the power had been off, the noise dropped right away, and battery-powered DXing from the radio shack was a real pleasure. But alas, not on this occasion!
So, I began thinking about why this was so. What is going on here?[…]