QRP... Getting Started

by... Jim Larsen - AL7FS AK/QRP #003

QRP essentially means you reduce power. As a definition, further defined by the Amateur Radio Club International (ARCI), QRP is operating your station at less than 5 watts output on CW or 10 watts peak power on SSB. (ARCI is the International QRP organization)

I have been involved with QRP since about 1970. From the beginning it has always been fun to work another station while running 5 watts or 2 watts or 50 milliwatts. More than fun... it is exciting!

At the April 1999 Anchorage Amateur Radio Club (AARC) Club meeting I will be presenting a comprehensive program titled "Why QRP?". The program, along with copious handouts and examples to touch and feel, will give you a very complete overview of QRP operating and equipment.

Simple QRP

One simple aspect of QRP operating that is often overlooked is that it can often be done with your existing QRO (high power) radio. In my case, I largely operate with my 100 watt Kenwood TS450S. One nice thing about Kenwood radios is they are capable of reducing power (going QRP) right from the front panel. My power can be reduced down to zero or up to 100 watts. I most often run from three to five watts.

Some radios will not tune down to less than five watts and often bottom out at 7-10 watts. You can still get a feel for QRP by running at these levels so don"t pass up the opportunity because you can only get down to 10 or 15 watts. Later you can learn how to enter into the ALC circuit and apply voltages to allow even lower settings.

QRP for the CW operator is an especially friendly place to go to improve Morse code. Many of the QRP operators prefer more modest speeds and are very willing to slow down to whatever is needed. As you improve, there are also high-speed operators who will move up in speed with you. I often operate from 15-18 wpm and feel no pressure to move up to high speed.

QRP Works

An example of what can be done was recently described by WE6W in his email to the QRP-L mail reflector, a major hangout for the QRP crowd. (More than 2500 QRP operators are subscribed and regularly communicate on this mail reflector.)

Subject: Pixie2:Nor-Cal to Acworth, GA at 400mW!
Date: Thu, 31 Dec 1998 03:43:39 EST
From: we6w@juno.com (Ed Loranger)
To: "Low Power Amateur Radio Discussion"

Oh my Goodness!! Was tiddling around playing with bias levels on the Pixie2 oscillator and heard KE4GBE calling CQ dead on 7040. As I listen to my soldering iron cycle between temps I thought, don't hear many '4' calls, so I called him!

Kaboom! WE6W? de KE4GBE ur 339 etc....

First code out the door was: WOW 400 mW, pwr 400mW QTH Santa Rosa, Name Ed, RST 579 KB4GBE de WE6W/QRPp KN.

Then he came back with a monologue and 'WI6W'. Oh heck, QSB is gonna lose him for me..... But he adds Call? WI6W??? call agn pse. BK And he got it right on the next exchange.

So I tell him it is a full transceiver, basic unit has 2 transistors..... He either fainted straight away, measured himself on the floor, or the QSB ended the excitement.

Folks, this wasn't over saltwater, we are talking 400 milliwatts for this one and over land!

Maybe we need a warning on these rigs:
"Frequent use causes increased excitability."
Non-users subject to fainting spells :)

Disclaimer: My pixie is homebrew, I'm not pushing kits here. Just sharing late-night joy of radio! Just about knocked me out of my chair to catch Georgia on 400 mW on 40 meters.



72, Ed WE6W QRP-Z#106 (72 is the QRP version of 73.)
Enjoying Ham Radio every day! Santa Rosa, CA.

How to Know QRP

So how do you know if you are QRP? I feel QRP is largely an attitude and a sincere effort to get under five watts. If you have no wattmeter then guess by turning your power control to near the minimum power output setting. A Yaesu FT-990 seems to bottom out at 7-10 watts at the zero setting. A Kenwood rig will turn down to zero so tweak the control up just a little from zero. If you have a wattmeter you can get close. Many power meters are not very accurate at the five watt level but you can get "close enough" and feel justified you are working to the intent of QRP.

Oak Hill Research QRP Wattmeter


One very nice method of knowing your power output is to build a wattmeter designed for QRP operation. Oak Hills Research (OHR) provides a wonderful QRP wattmeter kit. It has 10 watt, one watt, and 100 mw scales and is designed to be accurate to 5 percent of full scale. I have built this wattmeter and use it in almost all of my QRP operating to assure I am under five watts. I used it to assure I was 900 mw when I worked W5JAY in Arkansas QRPp 2-way (QRPp = less than one watt) last month.

The Oak Hills Research WM-2 was designed specifically for the QRP operator. The unit operates from 300 KHz to 54 MHz. It will measure forward and reflected power at QRP levels down to 5mW. You can select from three full scale power ranges of 10W, 1W or 100mW with an accuracy of 5% of full scale. A rear panel switch allows you to select the internal 9V battery or external power jack for the operating voltage. The WM-2 now uses a very high quality American-made 3" meter movement with a large easy to read scale. The meter circuit current drain is typically 1mA, making it great for portable use. The wattmeter can be left in-line permanently with very little loss. The kit is supplied with high quality Amphenol SO-239 connectors. The WM-2 is easy to build and align. The alignment consists of setting three voltages with your digital voltmeter. A source of RF is not required for alignment. The completed wattmeter measures (HWD) 4 1/2" x 3 1/2" x 4" and weighs 16 oz. The kit is complete with cabinet, high quality silkscreened and masked PCB, all components and instructions (less 9V battery).

OHR can be contacted at 20879 Madison Street - Big Rapids - MI - 49307; Phone: (616) 796-0920 - 24 hr. Fax: (616) 796-6633 Send mail to OHR: qrp@ohr.com

EMTECH Tuner and LED SWR Indicator


One other QRP accessory that enhances operation is an effective QRP antenna tuner. One such unit that can be used both at home and in the field is the EMTECH ZM-2 Z-Match Antenna Tuner. Good for up to 15 watts, this kit also incorporates a unique LED SWR Indicator designed by N7VE. This LED SWR system can also be built as a stand-alone unit from parts around the workbench or from Radio Shack (Frigid North). (http://qrpkits.com/swrindicator.html )

** Visual SWR Indicator ** Tunes wire antennas such as -- Random, Long, Short ** Tunes balance fed antennas such as, Loops, Deltas, Dipoles, Verticals, V's. ** Tunes (from field reports) gutters, window frames, swing sets, and -- bed springs? ** Tunes out coax fed antenna mismatches to make the radio happy. ** Does all the above at 80-10 meters, and usually much faster than other ATUs. ** 15 WATTS MAX! This is an evening project for many, maybe two evenings for others. It is very easy construction, via pictorial drawings. All parts are furnished, including a stick-on panel layout as shown. The big knobs are provided for vernier tuning because the ZM-2 tunes so sharp. One large toroid to wind using a unique method that is fast and extremely easy. One small toroid to wind. Wire is furnished. Kit is complete, no other parts to try to find. Size is 5-1/16" x 2-5/8" x 1-5/8".

EMTECH can be contacted at: EMTECH; 1127 Poindexter Ave W; Bremerton, WA 98312 Send mail to KC7MAS: emtech@steadynet.com

QRP Wrap Up

In this first of several QRP articles I have discussed very basic concepts of QRP and QRP techniques that you can try with your current rig. As you move further into QRP you may wish to build your own monoband or multiband QRP rig, many of which are available as kits. Future articles will address more details of QRP and QRP kits. The program in April will fill in even more information.

If you are in a hurry for more please check the following Internet URL (addresses) or have a friend look them up for you.

QRP-L Message Archives ... http://www.kkn.net/archives//html/QRP-L/
Oak Hills Research ... http://www.ohr.com/
EMTECH ... http://emtech.steadynet.com/
Small Wonder Labs... http://www.smallwonderlabs.com/
Wilderness Radio... http://www.fix.net/~jparker/wild.html
American QRP Club - AmQRP ... http://www.amqrp.org/
ARCI ... http://www.qrparci.org/

AL7FS was orginally licensed as WN0LPK in March 1965 (WA0LPK from 1965-1985). Jim is a member of AARC and SCRC and he has participated in HF from 160-10 meters (CW and SSB), packet, satellite, 6 meter, UHF, VHF, ATV, EME (2 meter WAS #36), DX, and QRP. QRP has lasted the longest and the strongest - 1970 to the present.

Permission is granted for reproduction of this article if it is used as written (or changes agreed to by author) and credit is given to the author. Email is found on my home page.

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