Quiet! I'm Trying To Work DX

Last year was my first serious venture onto TopBand...160 Meters. It didn't take long to get hooked. Not sure what draws me there. Maybe it's the challenge...really long antennas...tough receiving...a little less congested than the higher bands. It is a tough band to work. But as they say, "if it was easy, anybody could do it."

Every new DX contact was like Christmas. A real thrill... By the time late Spring rolled around I had 29 new countries. Needless to say I was anxious for this "season" to start.

Due to higher Summer/Fall static, it is pretty much a late Fall/Winter/early Spring band. I think it was about a month ago that I first tuned there for the start of this year's action. It was readily apparent that something had changed. I had some noise...and lots of it. S5 on the meter.

Now I don't have a receive array or huge beverage antennas so the signals are low to begin with. A high noise level is not a good thing. I was only able to hear the really "big guns".

Then all of a sudden, it was gone. And then it returned. Then it was gone. 20 to 30 seconds of noise...30 to 40 seconds of no noise. OK...a pattern...definitely man-made. Further investigation showed it there during the day also, albeit at a lower level.

At this point I remembered that one of the close neighbors had recently got a horse and built an enclosure..an enclosure with an electric fence. Great...

Randy, N1KWF, suggested looking at the ARRL site where there are audio and video samples of various noise sources. He also said I should look at the RFI Forum on Contesting.com.

I did learn that I should eliminate sources close...within the house. I powered down everything other than what I needed to run the radio. No change...

I looked at the various samples on the Internet. It didn't appear to be electric fence noise.

I posted a note to the RFI forum, describing the symptoms. It didn't t take long for the suggestions to start coming in. And they all had the same thing in common...street lights.

Neil, AE1P saw my post and responded directly. He told me that when leaving my house a few evenings before that there was a street light down the road that was flickering off/on. Probably a bad ballast or photocell, he said.

I took a walk down the road. Yes, the light was cycling off/on...and it was still daylight. And the cycle times were close to the noise pattern. Could it be that easy? I got the pole numbers and sent a repair request to PSNH.

A couple of days later I received a note that the light had been repaired. Success...well almost. The daytime noise was gone but was still present after dark. A quiet 160 band during the day is really not much help but this was a start.

Although there are probably only 2 street lights on our entire road, we do live close to a fairly large housing development. I headed up there one evening and discovered another malfunctioning light with a similar off/on pattern. Checking the AM band on the car radio showed a high noise level. And actually, in a straight line, this one was closer to my 160 antenna. Back to the PSNH website and another trouble report.

And now the rest of the story... Last evening, as I got everything ready for this weekends contest, I took a look at 160. I was copying several European stations with NO NOISE present. I waited a few minutes to be sure the off/on cycle hadn't changed. Still NO NOISE!! A quick trip verified that the light was fixed.

So a happy ending. I suspect that there will eventually be more issues. There are A LOT of lights up in the complex. But I'm pretty impressed with the quick response from Public Service and know they will attend to any more reported issues in a very timely manner.

Doug - K1ZO