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Storing Spare Radio Gear – Preparing for Long Term Storage 24 - October - 2012

Posted by k9zw in Amateur Radio, K9ZW, K9ZW Learned.
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Almost every one of us has some spare radio gear. Sometimes it is gear we would like to set aside and store for a “rainy day” or hoping that our youngsters might want it. Of course there is also gear set aside purely as back-up if our main gear took a lightning strike or was otherwise damaged.

I asked several preparedness types, a couple ex-military gear service techs, and looked around for other’s recommendations – all distilled into a protocol.

Step One – Selection and Completeness

Gear to be stored usually is working gear, though I do know people who set aside projects for the future. There are a couple points about selection that were pointed out to me:

Will it work in the future? No point in storing gear that requires a computer that is likely to be obsolete unless you store a working computer with it. Nor is there much sense to store a project without the needed spares if they are likely to be unavailable in the future.

Then pay attention to completeness – you want the gear, all accessories, critical spares, paper manuals, service/tech manuals if you can get them, consumables and printouts of support notes from the internet if they are useful. You want it all much like if you were shipping the radio to a remote Island where you would be setting it up without any outside resupply. Pay attention to special connectors – Molex variations come to mind – and any add-ons that can be found now.

The object is to have everything you need to get the radio up and going, AND take care of it, when you open your storage parcel years later.  Obviously be prudent – example,  I wouldn’t store oils/lubricants with the radio.

Don’t forget to really make sure what you store works well, and is up to snuff.  One ham I ran into sends radios in for full service and alignment before storage.  Really nice to get some of his gear when he decided he didn’t need everything he had stored.

The Dry-Wrap

Treat the radio like you were wrapping fresh room temperature meat. Bring the gear up/down to room conditions, clean and dry. Then wrap it twice in food grade paper. Butcher Paper and Parchment paper (used for baking) have been suggested. The idea is a pH neutral paper unlikely to take-up or give-off chemicals which could damage your stored radio.

The Piggy-Back

To the wrapped radio add the manuals, accessories and spares if being stored as one. Some units will be stored in partial units – which even at this stage would then be marked 1-of-4, 2-of-4 and so on.

The add-ons can be in their own paper or bags.

To these add several large desiccant sachets, which you should prepare by oven-drying them to a very dry state.

The First Vacuum Pack

Using Food Grade plastic, heat seal and vacuum pack everything. You do NOT need to crank the vacuum up high, just bring it down. Some preparers suggested pre-filling the plastic bag with nitrogen or CO2 from some dry ice.

Once you have some vacuum the heat seal the bags completely closed.  They shold not puff back out.

The Anti-Static Nod to Mr Faraday

Double wrap the vacuum pack with commercial grade aluminum foil (this is much heavier) or electronics industry anti-static conductive materials. Use conductive tapes if possible.

The Final Vacuum Packaging

The foil-wrapped unit is put into another Food Grade Plastic Bag and like the bag under the foil vacuum heat-sealed everything again.

The Importance of Labels and Instructions

Make sure to label the unit, and if you have any short instructions for storage or opening attach them.  I’ve put labels so they can be seen through the Final Vacuum Packaging as well as an outside label – hedging again the plastic wrap fogging over time.

The Box or Can Over-Packaging Question

At this stage advisors were split – several suggested boxed up the package in a storage box, and few wanted to store it in a metal garbage can out of EMP fears. There is no civilian authority to reference on whether EMP threats are real enough to protect against, and whether the double foil-wrap is enough protection without a metal casing.

Regardless of your personal decision, make sure you box/store the package in way that you won’t drop it when handling. No point in doing an awesome storage job to fumble the radio putting it on the shelf – or even having it walk off the shelf in tremors.

If you do some planning you can use the original OEM packaging, even if you have to include it inside one of the Vacuum Packing layers.

Duplicate, if Required

The saying is “Two is One, and One is None.”  This reflects the idea that you have a high likelihood of havinga working station if you have spares to swap in, but if your only unit goes down you are off the air.  The same applies to spares.  Consider if you want duplication of stored radio gear.

All this is a lot of work, but I am told that those with experience have found it worth the effort. The protected radio gear has a high likelihood of being servicable after lengthy storage.

73

Steve
K9ZW

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Comments»

1. Jonathan - 26 - October - 2012

This is actually a question I have had for a while so I am glad that you are addressing it. Wouldn’t the anti-static(aluminum foil) layer need to be grounded?

k9zw - 27 - October - 2012

A very good question Jonathan – and one without the firms answer.

The research gave three answers to the grounding question:

1). Yes you should ground a Faraday Cage. This line of thought is based on allow bleed-off of accumulated charges as soon as possible as a way to further protect what is inside the cage.

2). No you don’t need to, but if it have a ground that is ok too. These seems to be fairly common thought in the electronics manufacturing world. And obviously when someone ships you a new processor that conductive bag/packaging it comes in is never grounded.

3). and Never Ever Ever ground your cage lest you invite the EMP “demons” to feed up from the ground to your cage. The idea being the risk of grounding becoming the feed for unwanted charges outweighs the gains.

Having seen the devastating results when lightening feed UP from the ground into numerous pieces of expensive radio gear at a friend’s station, and noting the practical side of no-grounding except to bleed off accumulated static in manufacturing, and numerous ground-free secure cages (they may be prohibited from a ground connection lest they create a signal path, but we can only guess as that stuff is shared with us public) I lean to #3 of never grounding.

YMMV though.

Great question and thank you for taking the time to pose it!

73

Steve
K9ZW

2. Paul Coats AE5JU - 27 - October - 2012

Add to the manuals several sets of spare fuses. Be aware that the foam in a Pelican case often contains enough moisture to rust firearms after a period of being sealed up. The cases are fine, it’s the foam that’s the problem.

k9zw - 27 - October - 2012

Than you Paul AE5JU for reminding us about fuses. Ditto on the reminder that for long term storage materials that casual contact with metals and surfaces acceptable for short contacts may actually be harmful with contact periods of weeks, months and years.

I imagine it worth adding that printing your manuals on pH neutral paper with fade resistant rated inks would make a lot of sense.

One item overlooked in my write up that deserves a mention is the internal battery (often a button cell) in some equipment. If it is not soldered in, take it out and store a few fresh ones in their original wrap outside of the first vacuum pack. In the case of one amp the once internal battery was brought out to the back to a battery holder so it isn’t necessary to open the box when storing the unit.

Your gear may offer unique challenges that will require some thought & work to accommodate for long term storage.

Thank you again,

73

Steve
K9ZW

3. Prepper News Watch for January 2, 2013 | The Preparedness Podcast - 2 - January - 2013

[...] Storing Spare Radio Gear – Preparing for Long Term Storage « With Varying Frequency – Amateur R… [...]


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