Monday, August 12, 2019

After a hiatus of over 2 months due to "life" happening, we were finally able to set up our radio for a bit at our favorite mountain camping retreat.

I ran a simple end fed wire through the trees (low to ground), mainly as a receive antenna.  I did not transmit at all this session.  Around 3:30 I was pleased to hear an Arkansas "Parks on the Air" activation on 20 meters, and then a BOOMING station from Slovenia pulling in DX contacts from North America.  I must have had the antenna situated in my favor as I heard him very clearly, though seldom could pick out the US stations in the weeds.. although I could just make out NC, PA, TX and CO to name a few.

A bit later as 20 meters died off, 40 picked up and I was able to hear a LOT of activity... made me want to pull the wire antenna and set up a dipole as I had on previous outings.  But, I didn't as I was really more interested in shaking out some of my bugs from a couple months of inactivity.

Besides.. something interesting happened, that proved to be a good lesson.  I initially plugged the radio into my DIY battery pack.  It had worked flawlessly on all previous tests.  It fired up, displayed a 13.7V charge and we were in business... however, I glanced over after a minute or so and saw it was already at 11.8V, and that was just with receive.. no transmit.   After about 5 minutes, voltage dropped too low and the radio cut off.  Did all of my cells just die?  Very unlikely.  There had to be a power drain in there... I suspected a short for it to drop that rapidly.  No smell and no noticeable heat when I checked.

I then plugged in my solar panel... it wouldn't open the charge gate at all.  Hmmm...  I tinkered with the solar charge controller, and when I plugged it into my Bioenno battery, it began to charge it.  So.. Solar panel was good.  Charger was good.  This pointed to the BMS (Battery Management System) board wired to the LifePO4 cells.  They are inexpensive.. and reputed to fail.  This one did after maybe a dozen uses.  So....   I have TWO on order (roughly $7/each).  I will wire one, and carry the other as backup.  THIS is the weak point in my system, that could take everything down had this been an emergency setup.  I need to consider a better solution.

BTW.. I did plug in my "store bought" Bioenno battery and continued my session.  It hardly drew any current and after a lot of receive, the battery was barely drained (13.7V down to 13.4V).

So.. though I had a redundant power supply.  I really need to consider redundant components in key areas.

My radio setup with my DIY battery and solar panel.
That "what's happening?" look hobbyists often get.
Simple end-fed wire antenna.  Max transmit is only 20W.

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