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A neighbor ham user recently started doing something that causes very noticeable feedback/buzzing in AM radio as well as any device that uses a wired microphone (such as a gopro with wired mic).

Before I approach this individual, I'd like to make sure what the interference is. Are there any cell apps or other equipment I could use to document (record levels, or at least plot what frequencies and dates/times) the disturbance?

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    $\begingroup$ I think the most important thing to use is a clock. That is, record the times when the interference starts (I know, hard to do at times) and when it ends and even the way it behaves with starts and stops over a period of time. Unless the interference is due to something continuous going on inside the ham's equipment, the interference should not be continuous but have breaks (starts and stops) due to the nature of ham radio communication. Hams still keep log books (usually computer based) so this date and time information is the best evidence for identifying the source. $\endgroup$ – K7PEH Jun 26 '15 at 14:30
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    $\begingroup$ And, the second most important thing is a recording of the interference itself. After the ham operator is convinced it is him causing the interference (due to the information of dates and times) he will want to know what it sounds like to give him hints to the problems. It could just be that high power is overwhelming your very poorly engineered electronic equipment. Take no offense, almost all commercial electronic equipment found in homes today is poorly engineered to protect from RFI. $\endgroup$ – K7PEH Jun 26 '15 at 14:33
  • $\begingroup$ @K7PEH Why don't you post that as an answer? $\endgroup$ – Kevin Reid AG6YO Jun 26 '15 at 14:46
  • $\begingroup$ @KevinReidAG6YO Answered. But, I added more info. $\endgroup$ – K7PEH Jun 26 '15 at 15:06
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I think the most important thing to use is a clock. That is, record the times when the interference starts (I know, hard to do at times) and when it ends and even the way it behaves with starts and stops over a period of time. Unless the interference is due to something continuous going on inside the ham's equipment, the interference should not be continuous but have breaks (starts and stops) due to the nature of ham radio communication. Hams still keep log books (usually computer based) so this date and time information is the best evidence for identifying the source.

And, the second most important thing is a recording of the interference itself. After the ham operator is convinced it is him causing the interference (due to the information of dates and times) he will want to know what it sounds like to give him hints to the problems. It could just be that high power is overwhelming your very poorly engineered electronic equipment. Take no offense, almost all commercial electronic equipment found in homes today is poorly engineered to protect from RFI.

When some neighbor approaches me about interference the first thing I ask is when -- that is, the date and time of the interference. Usually the answer is vague (like, "this morning") but with one particular neighbor, even the vague answer was sufficient for me to claim that I was not operating. I actually showed her the detail of my log book to demonstrate my proof that I was not operating at the time.

It turned out that this neighbor saw my antenna on my roof so any problems or unusual activity of her TV set (her complaint) were blamed on me.

Another neighbor complained of my CW signal coming through his stereo system speakers. Now, I believed this complaint right off because he could almost copy the signal himself being a former (years ago) radio operator in the Navy. It was only occurring when my power was above 1000 watts and since he was next door likely a near-field interference. I put a number of ferrite RF chokes on his speaker cables and that solved the problem.

By the way, today's modern TV sets are fairly immune to RF signals unless they are really close to the signal's near field. For example, at about the 700 watt level with CW, I can often turn my TV set on (well, I have since fixed that problem). The problem was the attached DVD player. The signal came over the DVD player power line plug and then turned on the DVD player. With my configuration, when the DVD player turns on, the HD TV set automatically turns on and switches to that HDMI port even if there is no DVD in the player. Fixed again by using about a dozen small wraparound style ferrite RF chokes on the power cable to the DVD player.

If the interference is not due to a local ham radio operator, some other likely sources could be commercial equipment known to be RFI sources like: Plasma TV sets (some vendor's), Fish Tank heating regulators, Wall-wart style switching type power supplies, Exercise treadmill!! [Also a light dimmer. These are notorious for wiping out a section of a band(s)] My neighbor two doors down from my house has an exercise treadmill that can put a 40/9 signal on my receiver's S-meter.

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  • $\begingroup$ Since you started out prefacing this answer by saying the fault is typically very poorly engineered electronic equipment, what's to stop this operator from shoving that in my face if I bring detailed occurrences of interference (along with a recording of what it sounds like)? Sounds like hams have the "law" on their side, and this allows them to be a nuisance (or create cost/expenses) for neighbours, with little recourse other than court. That can get expensive for both parties. $\endgroup$ – a coder Jun 26 '15 at 15:18
  • $\begingroup$ Hopefully, your ham radio neighbor will be very responsive. Why? Because, all ham radio operators (hopefully all) know that their transmissions can cause interference -- more so today than at any other time because there are more RFI "targets" in the typical house today than ever before and they are not as immune to RFI (not like old tube-based equipment) because of the solid state computer chip nature of today's electronics where sometimes a strong cough could cause interference. For the two neighbors that I have caused RFI, I have personally fixed at my expense (using RF chokes). $\endgroup$ – K7PEH Jun 26 '15 at 15:27
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    $\begingroup$ @acoder Well, there's general politeness, and also there's an ethos of being helpful to one's community — the big things being emergency response and other communication support, but the little thing being helping one's neighbors, especially as in this case where it's a problem they wouldn't have otherwise. Of course, you can't rely on this attitude, but I'd strongly recommend not starting out with an adversarial approach. $\endgroup$ – Kevin Reid AG6YO Jun 26 '15 at 15:31
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If it is from the ham, I would expect the following characteristics:

It would be intermittent, only happening for a few seconds to a minute at a time. Hams generally communicate in a conversation with modest length monologues, so the interference will probably come and go a bit like that. Also, it'll probably be only a few hours per day - even if he's retired and plays radio all day, he'll change band or mode and the interference will stop.

It would either be a series of clicks or crackles, or something like very distorted speech. Buzzing isn't as likely, but it's not impossible.

It would be at shortwave frequencies. If you have an all band shortwave radio, try to isolate it by tuning around these most likely frequencies: 14.0 to 14.35 MHz, 21.0 to 21.45 MHz, 7.0 to 7.3 MHz. Do this without extending the antenna, so you only hear strong local signals. Finding a smoking gun there doesn't guarantee that he's the problem, but it is more likely.

It will affect equipment with long wires more than short wires.

Try to find a piece of electronics that is consistently affected, and keep notes about the duration and times.

Do start out on a friendly tack. Most hams would not like to cause interference even if we're somehow allowed to, we're aware the hobby is a bit fragile and requires careful management of our image. It may be that all of your equipment is just too sensitive to his perfectly legal radio transmissions, but it's also possible he has something wrong, which could land him in real trouble, so he'll probably listen to you.

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