Archive for March 2016

Is Your Household Ready for Ham Radio?

If you haven’t heard of Ham radio but you want to know more, you’ve come to the right place.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ham radio is a rewarding mixture of fun, public service, friendship and convenience; amateur radio can bring you this and much more. Although no one is really quite sure where the term “ham” came from, most assume it comes from the first syllable of the word “amateur.” All in all, the amateur radio society is composed of people who enjoy communicating with each other using a wide frequency spectrum and a variety of types of wireless transmitting modes. There are over 675,000 amateur radio operators in the United States and more than 2.5 million around the world, so once you get involved, you’ll have plenty of people to talk and listen to.

Is Ham radio for you? That depends- do you like to communicate with others wirelessly and experiment socially and with technology? Are you willing to do the paperwork necessary to become a licensed amateur radio operator? If so, you may be ready to communicate with others in your county, across the country, and maybe even in outer space.

But how does it work? Amateur radio DJs (called “hams”) use a wide spectrum of frequencies to communicate, and non-hams can then listen to those frequencies using their own receivers or radio scanners. The frequencies allocated to hams are managed by the FCC for amateur use; their allotted frequency range tends to start from just over the AM broadcast band all the way up to the microwave region (in the gigaherz range). There are even ham bands tucked in the frequency range that goes from above the AM radio band (1.6 MHz) to just above the citizens band (27 MHz). These bands are often called “short-wave bands”, in reference to their short wave radio frequencies. While FM radio stations and TV stations use frequency modulation to transmit radio waves and therefore can only broadcast out to a 40 or 50 mile range, short-wave frequencies are said to “bounce” off the ionosphere from the transmitter to the receiver’s antenna- that means short-wave bands can actually broadcast at long distances.

hammSome ham radio operators aren’t trying to broadcast anything nearly as complicated as music- there are a few out there still using Morse code. Others use their voice. Then there’s those who use digital modes of communication and ham radio modems to allow that communication to reach various networks.

While a more professional radio DJ might broadcast out to 1,000 listeners, Ham radio DJ’s tend to conduct two-way conversations with another ham or even a group of hams in an informal “round table” not unlike an internet chat room. The hams may be from the same town, state, country or continent, or they may even come from a mix of any of these. Hams even form into networks, called nets, at predetermined times and frequencies in order to exchange messages. Some even exchange emergency information in case of disasters when cell service may not longer function. Wouldn’t you like a HAM radio set up in your next home?

Should You Get a High-Efficiency Dryer?

Nowadays, energy efficiency is a major factor when it comes to choosing a new home appliance. However widespread green ethics may be, it’s true that technology has taken time to develop to the point that it’s actually cost effective to purchase a resource saving device (which is when the real change is going to start happening). We’re getting close to the point that some appliances, like water-saving washing machines and energy-efficient water heaters, have started to completely beat out any of their less efficient market competitors. Are dryers the next appliance to make the list? Read on to find out.

high efThere is such a thing as a high-efficiency dryer, and the appliance’s efficiency is directly based on its ability to remove moisture from clothes using a given amount of electricity. This is generally measured in terms of how many pounds of clothing can be dried per kilowatt-hour (kWh). A number of factors affect a dryer’s efficiency, including how wet the clothes are to begin with, the air temperature inside the dryer (it works best when it’s like an oven┬áin there, the humidity inside the dryer (which is prone to change as clothing dries) and the air flow across the clothing.

All dryers manufactured in America have to meet particular minimum efficiency requirements set by the Department of Energy. For a dryer to be labeled as energy-efficient, they must exceed those standards. You’ve probably heard or EnergyStar, the program that ensures that energy-efficient appliances are properly certified. According to EnergyStar, for an dryer to have the energy star label it must be at least 20% more efficient than a regular dryer.

And to have a dryer that’s 20% more energy efficient than the standard is actually kind of a big deal, energy-savings-wise. The dryer is the second largest energy consumer after the refrigerator, so limiting its sap of electricity is going to make a difference in your utilities bill.

Unfortunately, there’s a fair amount of ground to cover before a dryer earns that EnergyStar label. All dryers in the U.S. today use practically the same amount of energy, to the extent that Energy Star doesn’t even rate clothes dryers; it’s just a waste of time at this point in dryer technology. Until Energy Star finds a cost effective model that is at least 20% more efficient than standard models, it won’t be rating any dryers any time soon.

maytagAnd yet, surely you’ve seen dryers and even washer/dryers be advertised as energy efficient. GE, Maytag, Kenmore and Whirlpool have all claimed that their dryers are valued for their efficiency.

However, this is almost always the case with washer/dryers, in which case the washer part of the washer dryer is actually the highly efficient half. Engineers have figured out how to make washers use much less water and electricity to perform the same job, but the dryer is likely still pretty similar to one purchased decades past.

That said, there are a few models developing in Europe that might turn a few energy-efficient dryer-lovers’ heads. These are generally outfitted with heat pumps and sold in Europe.