Monday, 3 April 2017

Outdoor LED lighting, targets and M0XVF's philosophy

There was an interesting article in RadCom, the magazine of the Radio Society of Great Britain. In the April 2017 edition the regular EMC column dealt again with LED lights. This EMC column is usually excellent and full of ideas on how to sort out various interference issues.

I have had problems with rf interference from LED floodlights, one a generic LED movement sensitive fitting, and another LED conversion for a halogen bulb.
This generic LED motion and light sensitive fitting radiates a lot of RF
The LED replacement floodlight bulb radiates particularly badly on the 10 metres band, though I have another one of a slightly different design which causes no problems for me at all.
This generic LED replacement for a Halogen R7 bulb radiates strongly in the 10m band

One item in that RadCom article caught my attention. In previous articles a generic LED flood light had set the bar for the author's ire - it was very noisy on the amateur bands. This month he tested an Osram LEDvance floodlight and found that it passed his tests and produced very little rf interference.

I took some heart from the news that this Osram had passed this test. I needed to replace a 28W compact fluorescent (CFL) bulkhead light and move it to take the place of a faulty bulkhead fitting which also had a CFL bulb installed. I decided to try a different Osram light - a NOXlight.
Osram NOXlight 6W LED motion and light sensitive fitting which causes no problems (so far)
It is not for me to say in a general sense, as I have no specific test equipment. I can only comment for the bands and situations I use. So far the NOXlight fitting is causing no problems at all. Beware though, as I do not use HF much below 10m, and I am not listening on UHF at all (apart from 70cms FM). For that reason I cannot recommend the Osram brand for every situation, though this one seems to work for me.

As a general rule, up to now I have been avoiding LEDs and sticking with CFLs. I have not yet had any problem with CFLs. My experience with LEDs has been that two of them were not OK and one of them was OK, but those were generic items bought on EBay. With generic items, or those with unknown branding, you just do not know what you are buying.

It appears that Osram lights are twice the price of generics, but I will be trying some more. It may well be that other branded LEDs are suitable for use near amateur radio stations, for example Philips make some interesting fittings which I may try indoors. But in my experience the cheap generic ones sold on EBay seem to be pretty hit and miss.

Once I had fitted the Osram NOXlight, I moved the CFL bulkhead fitting from there to replace the other faulty one.
TAMLIGHT 28W CFL bulkhead fitting beside my mast supporting the 6m beam

The TAMLIGHT 28W "2D" CFL is now located right beside my 6m mast. This is a sensitive location, as the same mast supports my 40m dipole. I am pretty confident that the CFL will cause me no problems. It was fine in the other location. In fact, I have bought another 28W 2D CFL to replace another faulty bulkhead fitting.

So why am I bothering with LEDs if I am so happy with CFLs? Well, in Europe it is getting harder to find CFL bulbs, especially to replace halogen tubes in floodlights. The supply has more or less dried up as LEDs claim to be "energy saving" (though many pollute the radio spectrum). The neater looking fittings are now automatically supplied with LEDs (the NOX light looks a lot neater than the TAMLIGHT!!!). Attractive fittings cannot be found unless you are willing to accept LEDs. Then again, CFLs are not very suitable for movement sensor use as their operating life is reduced if they are regularly used with on/off cycles of less than about 15 minutes. My motion sensitive lights have much shorter "on" times, so the CFLs need more regular replacement, and they also use about twice the energy of LEDs.

I have stuck with CFLs as the obvious choice for low rf interference light use. Indoors we have no LEDs at all. Outdoors I have been forced to use a few LEDs which are not very good, but the Osram light shows that if I choose the right one I might be OK.

My next task will be to experiment with some LEDs indoors to see if I can get satisfactory results there too. You can bet that they will be branded items, and no doubt more expensive too.
I had an interesting QSO recently with Jeremy, M0XVF. Jeremy is one of those many operators who is not far from me (133km), but one I cannot work due to the Ayton Hill cutting off that part of the radio map. However, I have managed to work him by Aurora and meteor scatter in the past, and this time by tropo during a short lived enhancement.

Jeremy said that he does not collect squares and regards all stations as DX. He seems always ready to have a good chat on the radio.

After the QSO I thought a bit more about Jeremy's philosophy. I also like a good chat, but I like collecting my squares too. This was a useful reminder that radio need not be a competition. Sure, I want to test my equipment and operating methods. I want to make sure that I can reach as far as possible. But I do not wish to sacrifice the joys of this hobby by turning it into some constant competition to collect DXCCs and squares.

I like Jeremy's approach and I think that I should take it to heart.
So, in the spirit of cherishing the joys of the hobby, and still refusing to enter competitions or apply for awards, I have been doing my annual review of what has been and what I can hope for next year.

Now, thanks to Gabriel's VQLog, I have a better guide to my performance judged by those pesky squares and DXCC entities.

6 metres = 241 squares and  48 DXCC entities (4 continents).
4 metres = 186 squares and 38 DXCC entities (2 continents)
2 metres = 92 squares and 19 DXCC entities (1 continent)

I only had the figures for 4 metres last year. It is likely that both the 2m and 6m figures under estimate what I have worked, but let us just take them as being correct for now.

On 4 metres I managed to work 18 new squares and 4 new DXCC last year. That was particularly nice as some of the new ones, like Andorra, are hard to find. Despite having been heard in Asia, I still have not worked a station in that continent on 4 metres. The possibility of working the American continent seems to have returned with at least one Greenland station back on the 4m band. My best 4m dx is unchanged at the Canary Islands. Tantalising DXCC targets remain for next year, including several Central Asian states, Capo Verde and The Dodecanese. I can only wish Sweden and Germany (which already have certain stations active from time to time), plus France and Switzerland, would give general access to the band, plus of course Italy might return next year.

On 6 metres most progress was made by collecting squares via meteor scatter. There were two nice multi-hop Es openings and W3CP became best dx at 6452km. There is scope for more multi-hop Es next year and I would be especially keen to make some progress towards the East. I suspect that I may have missed the small number of Russian stations which appeared on 6m over the past year.

2 metres remains my Cinderella band. I am sure that I have worked more squares than this, but I cannot be bothered to plough through the ancient log books to find them. Yes, I want do more but other things always take precedence. I missed the chance to work EA8 and EA9 which were both heard in Europe, either of which would have been a new continent as well as a new square. Ah well, better luck next time.

I am not going to set any target for 10 metres this year. Band conditions seem to be what you might expect during solar minimum.

So that is what my targets look like taking account of my new found doubts about counting squares and DXCCs at all. I want to try to steer a centre path. I need to measure what I am doing to check that I am on the right lines, but I do not want to take that too seriously.

Thanks Jeremy


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