Quaradoodles from the Land of Magic

Wilson, W4BOH

I’m really no less busy, but have used quarantine as an excuse to do a few fun things. Do you have a Kill-A-Watt, the great little $25 power meter. I do, but it’s been used almost entirely for measuring current drawn for various devices. But wait, there’s more! It does the obvious frequency, voltage, current measurements, but also POWER FACTOR (cosine of the phase angle between voltage and current). AND CUMULATIVE CONSUMPTION since last started.

© 2024 photo by W4BOH, OCRA Inc

Here’s the tie to Covid: When I really think ahead, I can imagine power blackouts, short or long, leading to thoughts of generators to run things around the house. Of course there’s been lots of generator talk concerning Field Day too. So what’s my main concern about power? The weather is so nice that HVAC is not of interest. It’s too much load for to support for very long anyway. Next comes BEER! I like warm beer, but the same fridge also keeps our hamburger, bacon, etc., so it’s very important. Well, we just got a new fridge, a Frigidaire.  

BTW, are you old enough to remember when lots of people called any fridge a Frigidaire? That’s the reward for being early to a big market. I don’t remember not having a fridge, but I vividly remember neighbors who didn’t and, most interesting, the old man who drove an old wagon, pulled by an old horse, through our neighborhood. Houses using ice had a little sign they hung by their front doors to tell the iceman how much to leave. He would carry the ice in and put it in your icebox, if you wanted. He had bags of coal too. We kids would go along and chat with the old guy and eat ice chips from the bed of the wagon. I don’t think there was a sanitation grade on the wagon.

The previous fridge was a Whirlpool, a mechanical mess and a power hog. Maybe they are better now, but I wouldn’t bother with them. Getting back on track now…. Would it be practical to run the new fridge from a generator and/or batteries? YES, since it runs at an incredible low current of ONE AMP, 120Watts! Now, that’s way low power for any generator (although the inverter models idle down pretty well) and the efficiency of gasoliine use would be poor. So what to do?

There are lots of inverters available these days and even real sine wave models are reasonably priced. I don’t know, but a 500W model would likely handle the 3A or so starting current of the Frigidaire. SO what does the Kill-A-Watt tell us, besides the one Amp running current? I ran a 100 hour test period, four days, during recent temperate weather, with the kitchen running around 70 degrees F most of the time. Over the 100 hours we used 5KWh, so the average load is 50 Watts and the running time was 40 hours. That’s about 1.2KWh/day, costing about $55/year around here. And how does that relate to batteries? It’s almost exactly the rated capacity of the big AGM batteries we got from Adriano last year, 120Ahr at 12VDC.

But you don’t want to run your batteries all the way down, so we can think of two batteries we recharge once a day.. The problem then is to choose a reasonable charge rate and charger. A conservative charge rate of C/6 would be 20A per battery or 40A needed from the charger. That’s only about 500W, still low, but better. The Honda 2200W generator claims to use 0.17 gal/hr at 1100 W. That’s 21,250 BTU from gasoline to make 1.1KWh or 3750BTU of electricity. An efficiency of 18%, gas in to electricity out, NOT SO GOOD. Let’s call it 15% at lower load. Making electric heat from gasoline is NOT a good thing! Assuming we can get 15% at 500W (wildly optimistic), we need 11350 BTU of gasoline to make our 1700 BTU (0.5KWh) of electricity. That’s about 0.1 gallon! It’s also about a beer can full.

That seems too good to be true, to me, but it’s what the numbers say, if Honda isn’t lying. It’s 20 cents, if gas is $2/gal and you’re getting about 6 cents worth of power, if you got it from the grid. That shows that you can’t beat the power company, unless you get some PV panels! And don’t forget, you’ll have to run like that for 5 hours to get your batteries back up, costing you about a buck. What ho, that’s $365 for a year, versus the $55 running on the grid, but your beer is cool and your steak doesn’t spoil!

And we neglected the $1000 for the generator and the $200 for the inverter, but we won’t charge for them, because we need them for Field Day!

Or you could run off the 12V battery in your Prius, but that recharge would be much less efficient.

Now, I did this quickly, for fun, so feel free to point out my errors. There’s some rounding and some assumptions, so we’re looking for 25% accuracy, at best. If I’m in that range, I’m happy, but I still worry about the Honda claim.



OCRA Membership Meeting, September 10, 2018


Sixteen members were present, with three people taking exams.

Treasurer Report:

Balance continues to be strong.  Currrent membership is at 78, with 23 needing renewal, and one expiring this month.

Seventeen new members have joined since January.


Dan (KR4UB) brought the latest Southeastern Repeater Association (SERA) repeater journal, providing a listing of repeater frequencies and other relevant information. The SERA was founded in 1971 as the North Carolina FM Repeater Association Inc., when a group of state repeater owners got together to form an organization designed to assist in coordinating, providing communication & technical information, and bringing together all amateur repeater owners into one united body.

RepeaterBook applications are available for Android and Apple devices.  The applications are helpful to identify local repeaters during travels.

Have another Meal (HAM)

Wilson (W4BOH) has offered to host a family friendly, fall cookout of burgers and dogs in October.  You should have received an email via the group.io list serve.  If you did not receive an email, but are interested in attending, please let Wilson known. Please bring vegetables and desserts to share.

Green Bank Telescope

Dan (KR4UB) is planning to revisit the Robert C Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT) in Green Bank, West Virginia.  The Green Bank site was part of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) until September 30, 2016. Since October 1, 2016, the telescope has been operated by the newly separated Green Bank Observatory. The telescope honors the name of the late Senator Robert C. Byrd who represented West Virginia and who pushed the funding of the telescope through Congress.


The Green Bank Telescope operates at meter to millimeter wavelengths. Its 100-meter diameter collecting area, unblocked aperture, and good surface accuracy provide superb sensitivity across the telescope’s full 0.1–116 GHz operating range. The GBT is fully steerable, and 85% of the entire local celestial hemisphere is accessible. It is used for astronomy about 6500 hours every year, with 2000–3000 hours per year going to high-frequency science.

Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES):


Steve (W3HAL) stated OC Emergency Services has requested that OC ARES/AUXCOMM volunteers be on standby for probable activation to support evacuation shelters due to forecasted flooding, high winds and power outages. Details are pending updates on Hurricane Florence’s path and timing and probably won’t be available until late Wednesday or Thursday morning.

The typical scenario would have one or two shelters plus the EOC opening, with a team of two ham radio operators per site for two 12 hour shifts per day.  That would require 12 volunteers each day.

As always, the first priority is to make sure your family is safe and prepared for the storm, as mentioned on Saturday’s ARES Training net.  Meanwhile, evaluate your availability to deploy on Thursday, 09/13 through Saturday, 09/15.  If you think you might be available, depending, on how the storm actually affects our area of course, please email me directly so I can get a rough idea of how many volunteers might be available.

Volunteers would need to be registered in the AUXCOMM database to deploy to the EOC.  For shelters, at least one on the team would need AUXCOMM registration and the second could be an ARES volunteer.

And one final reminder to log into the AUXCOMM database and verify your contact info is still valid, if you haven’t done so recently.   https://www.auxcomm.us/db/nc/  (Ignore the certificate error notice)

Please contact Steve w3ahl@att.net for further information

Hog Day:

Hillsborough Hog Day may be postponed or cancelled due to Florence.  Please check the website for up-to-date information.

Boy Scouts Jamboree:

Jamboree-on-the-Air, or JOTA, is the largest Scouting event in the world. It is held annually the third full weekend in October. JOTA uses amateur radio to link Scouts and hams around the world, around the nation, and in your own community. This jamboree requires no travel, other than to a nearby amateur radio operators ham shack. Many times you can find the hams will come to you by setting up a station at your Scout camporee, at the park down the block, or perhaps at a ham shack already set up at your council’s camp.

Martin (KA5JUJ) shared how one creates a cantenna, a tin can waveguide for WiFi.


Baofeng handheld radios are popular in the amateur radio community as inexpensive, entry level HTs.  Future OCRA membership programs including learning more about repeater operations, programming a Baofeng, and overcoming “mic fright.”


OCRA Membership Meeting, August 13, 2018


Treasurer Report:  Dan (KR4UB)

Club balance was reported.

Dan created a new attendance sheet.  He also went through old club records to capture the date members joined.  There are many current members who helped establish the club in the early 1990s, when the club was called the Orange County Wireless Pioneers.  Steve Jackson (KZ1X) was the spark plug for establishing the club.  The first meeting was in the community room of OWASA.  Anyone with club records, please let Dan know. Dan will scan and add the content to the site, which will help preserve club records.

Dan has a repeater still occupying space in his basement.  The current repeater market in Durham and Alamance is rather saturated.  However, as Chatham County is growing, so is the need for communication towers.  Nick (KA1HPM) mentioned that the county is planning to install several new towers for 2020.   There may be opportunities to relocate the repeater to a tower in Chatham County for amateur radio and CERT usage.

Field Day results:

While radio propagation was sketchy, we were able to accumulate 2000 more points this year over last.  Every station, minus 80 meters, was able to increase their score, with digital exceeding last year by over 1000 points.   This year’s numbers will change slightly as Dave (W4SAR) thoroughly combs the combined log to eliminate duplicate contacts, fix broken exchanges, and eliminate broken exchanges that cannot be made good:

For more detailed information on Field Day, we encourage you to read the July 2018 DFMA newsletter. https://www.dfma.org/TheLink/2018/Link1807web.pdf

Show and Tell

Steve (KZ1X) was cleaning out an old radio box and brought in a Micron SWR field strength meter, which may have been purchased as the old Radio Shack in University Mall.  The Micron measures the amount of signal transmitted by your antenna system, and a signal pattern can be plotted by taking readings around your antenna.  The meter covers 3 to 30 MHz and can handle up to 1KW.

He also brought alligator clips with magnifier glass used for splicing wire and adding connectors.

Dave (KW4XL) brought in several 3D printed products, including a raspberry pi hotspot case and working crescent wrench.

The next membership meeting is scheduled for Monday, September 10.  Hope to see you there!