Sunday, December 26, 2010

New Ham Radio Setup - A Short Checklist

After we got the ICOM IC-7000 connected and powered up, my father-in-law/elmer suggested a few best practices.

1. Turn the transmit power down. This is good for a few reasons. If you don't have a good match to the antenna you might burn out your finals. When you are doing basic testing, you don't need to push max power into a dummy load.

2. Set the microphone gain. It is always a good idea to make sure you aren't too hot into the mic. The other hams will let you know if you "need to back off the mic." The IC-7000 has an ALC (Automatic Level Control) to smooth out the peaks. (We actually transmitted into the dummy load to adjust the settings - see #3).

3. Transmit into a dummy load. My father-in-law brought his Bird Wattmeter along with a MFJ Dummy Load and we connected it to the radio. We watched the meter and checked that the expected output matched what the meter was reading. The Bird can do forward and reflected power readings, so you could calculate SWR if you like. We got good readings during our testing - 5W out looked like 5W on the meter.

4. Check the SWR on the antenna. He also brought his MFJ-259B SWR Analyzer, so we used it to check our work on the dipoles and the ground plane install. You'll want to make sure your power is turned down, the frequency is clear, and that you are transmitting within your privileges. An ideal transmission line would have a 1:1 SWR. On the 10M and 20M, we were close to 1:1.5. The 15M wasn't as good as of a match. I need to play with the length, but I've not had time. Of course, I've not tried to do much on HF, so it hasn't mattered a whole lot.

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