Sunday, January 29, 2012

That's Just Cold!

January 2012 Monthly Temps at KL8DX - KL8SU's QTH
2012 has started off with some pretty cold temperatures. Alaska has been breaking lots of weather related records this year. This includes total snowfall and of course the bitter cold. Due to our somewhat elevated location, we don't see the deadly cold temperatures that some due around us. It's hard to believe what even a 1,000 feet of elevation will do for temperatures. With that said, since we are above and south of the town of Healy, they see some bitter cold temperatures there. When Sean, KL1SF lived in Healy, I could always check his weather station and it was not uncommon for his station to be showing 10-18 degrees colder than ours. There is truth to that rumor that cold air sinks. We have had been under the influence of high pressure here in the interior that has kept us clear and cold. The downside of this is the cost of heating our igloo and keeping the lights on. I know, in a previous blog or two I was complaining about the wind. Truth be know, I will take the cold over the wind any day. I don't have to worry about the cold blowing my tower over.

Even though Alaska is one of those oil rich states, our fuel costs here are some of the highest in the country. We use heating oil to heat our house and garage. We also use propane for our stove and hot water heater. Propane is delivered out of Fairbanks, which is 2 hours north of our location. Heating oil is delivered from a company in Nenana, which is an hour north of here. We received deliveries this last week and propane was $4.599 per gallon and heating oil was $4.215 per gallon. Propane can be a challenge as propane's boiling point is -44F. So anything colder than that, it will not make gas and our propane appliances won't function. Thankfully our heating oil blend keeps flowing at that and much colder temperatures.

Electricity is bittersweet here. When we lived in Ohio, it felt like any wind or storm would effect our power by knocking it out. Here in our part of Alaska, the infrastructure is outstanding. As an example, we receive wind gusts exceeding 60 mph here on a regular basis and the power does not even blink! The downside to this is our current price (which just went up in January) is that we pay $0.2366 per KWH.  

In looking at our weather station data above, the difference between the high and low January temperature shows 78.7 degrees. Our high temperature was just a few degrees above freezing. So needless to say, when our temperatures are this cold for this long, it has a lasting effect on the wallet. Fixed costs are obviously a priority, so my amplifier, which is in dire need of repair, will not likely see use again until mid to late summer. Just to ship it back to the factory (one way) will be roughly $125.00 - $140.00.  I could have $300 invested even before the factory cracks the case.

Just like winter is tough on the budget, solar winds can be tough on the bands. Living so far north, geomagnetic activity can hamper signals dramatically. Lately, I have "tuned the bands" and not heard even one station in the evenings. It's been very hard to even work the daytime high bands with just 100 watts. Then factor in a few DXpeditions that are going on right now, I could really use the AMP for a bit more horsepower. But, every squirrel finds a nut someday, right?  I was excited to work VP6T on 15 meters a few nights ago. Thankfully once again, there is not much between them and me but open ocean. I still had to make it through the pile-up and I was excited to hear them come back to me! Determination pays off.

I had high hopes of working some QRP the last few weeks but the band conditions have made it rough to even work with 100 watts. But like the weather, better days are ahead. You gotta take the good with the bad. Just like living here in Alaska,it's still worth every penny. I'm thankful that we (my wife and I) have jobs in today's economy but I'd much rather be living paycheck to paycheck in Alaska than on easy street in some place and I did not want to live. I know that this lack of propagation will end before long and I will once again hear strong signals on 10 meters. When we lived in Ohio, I could normally find activity on some band during the day or evening hours. But, it's worth a few propagationally challenged days to live here in Alaska. Even when I open up that large heating bill or tune the bands and not hear one station, I just remind myself of how lucky I am to live and play here in Alaska. 


  1. Hi Phil, I would expect you would use wood to heat. Isn't that more economical, or is it too dangerous? I can imagine tune over the bands and hear nothing. When I come home from work and finally have a few minutes late in the evening I don't hear that much either except for some european ragchew on 80m. But it is nothing compared to propagation in Alaska. Well everything has another side and just like you wrote it's well worth it. BTW winter is just arriving here, we have -7C. 73, Bas

  2. Bas, we are looking forward to spring in about 4 months for sure. We do burn some wood yes, but only on the weekends when we are home to tend to the fire. Nothing like a good warm heat from a blazing woodstove. Almost better than DX'ing...almost!