Ham radio, despite usually being called a hobbyist or amateur radio, is a very useful method of radio communications. Non-commercial radio communications are called ham radio. You can set up your own ham radio with a license.
Ham radios can serve as the go-to setup during emergencies when cell services are cut off. They also allow for scientific experimentation and communication with people across the world.
These useful devices are, however, prone to getting interference in them. Interference can cause your radio to malfunction and greatly reduce the range of signals and quality of the sound produced. It may prevent reception altogether as well!
There are many reasons that your ham radio could be facing interference. We’ve compiled a handy guide for you so that you can troubleshoot these issues.
Table of Contents
Get yourself a license
The most probable reason that you might not be able to run your ham radio without interference comes in the form of being non-licensed. Ham radios often have to cross geographical boundaries. Typically, individuals tend to run them. That is why getting a license for your ham radio is necessary.
Most governments offer a methodology for registration. The government agencies also provide you with the times and frequencies. You are allowed to operate your ham radio within these times and frequencies. This would ensure that your operation is smooth and free from interference. Similarly, the government will not attempt to cut off your signals, since you would have already registered with them.
Using your ham radio outside of these times is a spectrum offense, which might be punishable under law. Thus, you should never use your ham radio without a license. You should also never use it outside of your allotted frequencies and times.
Change the frequency
Even though licenses are typically issued to ensure that there are no interferences, they might not set your frequency perfectly. This means that you might be facing interferences because of congestion. That means that there are a large number of users trying to communicate using the same frequency as you are.
Congestion will typically occur if a large number of people from the same area are attempting to use the same frequencies at the same time. Thus by shifting to a different set of frequencies or a radio spectrum, you can typically avoid congestion.
If your radio tends to have only occasional interferences, typically at the same hour of the day, then congestion is probably the culprit, and changing your frequencies at those times will help you undo it.
However, it is important to note that you should only operate within your licensed frequencies, even if they are congested. Otherwise, you might be held criminally accountable. You can also report congestion to your local Ham club or regulatory body, to get further assistance with this problem.
Correct any engineering fault
This type of interference will be the culprit if you have found yourself having issues with the ham radio right from setup. While most ham radios are engineered very accurately, some may have engineering faults. These are more likely to exist if you built your own ham radio right from scratch.
It is important to understand the type and positioning of the antenna to use, as well as the types of wires, receptors, and transmitters that you have employed. If any of these are incompatible with your build, you may find that the signal quality is simply inadequate.
Experts can typically provide you with the best advice on how to correctly remove any engineering faults. If you wish to remove any faults on your own though, you should start by researching if your components are compatible.
If any aren’t compatible with your ham radio, changing them should quickly remove any interferences and greatly improve your signal quality.
Remove electromagnetic interferences
While most experienced ham-radio-hobbyists already know how to deal with electromagnetic interference, if you’re new to the hobby, you may be suffering due to them. Electromagnetic interferences are unwanted signals that can enter your spectrum.
These emissions can be both artificial and natural. Depending on the type of interference, there are a few ways in which you can deal with them.
The first type of emission is artificial emission. A number of household items and objects can produce artificial emissions. These include wires, the television, and even an electric toothbrush.
Your first step would be to identify any such interferences. If turning off a particular electric component quickly enhances your signal, then you would know it’s to blame. Improperly shielded household wires can also cause interference.
In the case of wires, you should consider rewiring your house with properly shielded wires, that are both safer and have lesser emissions. If any other object is causing the electromagnetic emissions, then you may consider keeping them far away from your ham radio or turning them off while using your ham radio.
You should also consider upgrading your household item that is causing such interference. Newer electronics are designed to have reasonably low electromagnetic emissions, to ensure that they do not interrupt the radio waves. With improved electronics that do not cause disturbances to your ham radio, the signal quality can be enhanced greatly.
Improve your radio’s signal immunity
If you have already ensured that the emissions caused by your household items and wiring are low, then your interference problems might have ended. However, there is another factor to consider.
The electromagnetic emissions can come from sources external to you. This can include a neighbor or even natural sources such as cosmic noises.
These external sources can not directly be controlled. This means that you have to seek alternate ways to remove interference. Immunity, also known as selectivity, can aid you in this quest.
Immunity or selectivity refers to the ability of your ham radio to filter. A ham radio that has a good immunity can quickly filter out any unwanted signals and only let the needed signals through to your radio.
This quickly removes any unwanted electromagnetic noise. However, it is important to understand that this solution is not foolproof.
Very fine filtering could cause your radio to reject legitimate signals as well, so you have to keep the filtering somewhat wide. This means that some electromagnetic emissions may still seep through.
However, that is only likely to result in actual interferences if the emissions are really high, in which case you may have to relocate your ham radio.
Upgrade your installation
If all else fails, then you can always upgrade your ham radio installation to remove your interference troubles.
Better equipment can help you sort out your troubles in a lot of ways. For one, it can ensure that you can get finer and better filtering.
With the finer filters, you will find that electronic noises are greatly reduced.
Similarly, upgraded equipment means that engineering faults can be removed. Other than compatibility issues, engineering faults might be inherent to the materials you used in the installation.
These can include any known faults within the receptors or wires. With an upgrade, you can quickly eliminate such flaws since the newer models typically come with lesser flaws and better technologies.
Lastly, with the upgrade, you can greatly enhance the signal strength as well. This means that you may be able to get the signal that you want to receive despite any interference that might threaten it. This is particularly useful and ensures that your ham radio can deliver it’s best.
However, before you decide to upgrade, a few things should always be kept in mind.
For starters, any and all upgrades should be within the scope of your license. Your license governs acceptable architecture, and breaking code can lead to bad consequences.
You should also ensure that the upgrades you get are compatible and do not come with engineering faults. It will do you little good upgrading when you would simply be adding more flaws to your ham radio!
Thirdly, do factor in the costs. The upgrades might simply not be worth the amount of money they’ll drain.
Once you’ve ensured the upgrades are compatible, you can then get yourself fancy new equipment to get your ham radio running smoother than ever!
Ham radios are the 21st-century hobby, and a lot of people actively engage in them. Interferences are one of the common causes of trouble for anyone that has a passion for setting up their ham radio.
With our short guide, we hope that you were able to isolate the problem areas and quickly troubleshoot them. A lot of the fixes are surprisingly easy and cheap, and can quickly enhance the quality of signals that you receive.
If the problem still persists, we recommend consulting your local club or an expert. Ham radio clubs typically have experienced ham radio users that can help you out with your issues. Experts can help with the technical aspects of your engineering problems.
We hope that this guide was helpful to you. Happy ham radioing!