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Cost to RUN a repeater site?

Joined
Jul 13, 2014
Messages
57
Location
Central Texas
#1
I may set up a repeater on my property. Currently the repeater is in an area that isn't getting a lot of use and it was taken down a few years ago. The owner is willing to let it be moved to my place. I live on 100 acres just 1 mile from town, and a lot of the local hams have been asking about setting up a new repeater. We currently only have 1 vhf repeater and this would allow us to have a UHF repeater to help cover the hilly terrain in our area.
All of the equipment has been tested and shows to be working correctly. The current owner is traveling for work and will not be back for up to 2 months, so I am not able to ask him these questions dirrectly. He is currently working on a new film. My main question is, approximately how much does it cost to run a Repeater site? Im not so worried about routine maintenance, but more about what it costs for electrical for the repeater, does it need to be climate controlled to an extent, etc. It will be out of the weather inside a 12x24 building, but its not climate controlled. This building is my workshop and I don't know how safe it is for me to be working in there while its in operation. I am new to this and I am only involved because I have the property to put this repeater back on the air. Im just trying to find out what im getting into.

Thanks everyone for your help.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Sep 20, 2008
Messages
5,393
Location
In the 'patch
#2
I may set up a repeater on my property. Currently the repeater is in an area that isn't getting a lot of use and it was taken down a few years ago. The owner is willing to let it be moved to my place. I live on 100 acres just 1 mile from town, and a lot of the local hams have been asking about setting up a new repeater. We currently only have 1 vhf repeater and this would allow us to have a UHF repeater to help cover the hilly terrain in our area.
All of the equipment has been tested and shows to be working correctly. The current owner is traveling for work and will not be back for up to 2 months. He is currently working on a new film. My main question is, approximately how much does it cost to run a Repeater site? Im not so worried about routine maintenance, but more about what it costs for electrical for the repeater, does it need to be climate controlled to an extent, etc. It will be out of the weather inside a 12x24 building, but its not climate controlled. This building is my workshop and I don't know how safe it is for me to be working in there while its in operation. I am new to this and I am only involved because I have the property to put this repeater back on the air. Im just trying to find out what im getting into.

Thanks everyone for your help.
I don’t have a cost answer, but as to working in your shop while it is in operation, you will be fine. No safety issue at all, I would however, ensure it is on its own breaker.

Power consumption should be less than adding the consumption of an adult to your house hold.


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Joined
Dec 25, 2013
Messages
60
Location
Columbus, Indiana
#3
The spec sheet of the repeater equipment should provide the information on what climate control should be needed. This repeater, for example, seems to be designed to run without the need for extra heating or cooling: https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0833/9095/files/BCRRepeaterSpecsheet.pdf?17887393459448054123

Doing some quick math, that same repeater I just linked to shows that at the most, it is going to be using around 150W. At $0.12 per kilowatt hour, that's about $158 a year if it is used 24/7, which clearly it won't be.
Assuming you're talking about a similar sized repeater with low usage, you're likely only looking at a couple of dollars a month.

As for your safety concern, grounding is key. ARRL makes a book called "Grounding and Bonding for the Radio Amateur" that covers most of what you'd be concerned about. The RF exposure can be calculated as well, but as long as you're talking about having the antenna up on a tower, it is unlikely you need to be concerned about it. You can find more info here: RF Radiation and Electromagnetic Field Safety
 
Joined
Jul 13, 2014
Messages
57
Location
Central Texas
#4
All great information. I don't have the pictures of the repeater, so I cant currently look it up by model. I will ask and see if I can find out more as soon as available. That's not as bad as I thought it would be. I assumed it would be similar to running an extra light bulb all the time, but don't really know how everything works with it. Just because its 20 watts out doesn't mean it doesn't use more power than that. At least that's what my uneducated brain is telling me.

Thanks again everyone.
 
Joined
Sep 20, 2008
Messages
5,393
Location
In the 'patch
#5
All great information. I don't have the pictures of the repeater, so I cant currently look it up by model. I will ask and see if I can find out more as soon as available. That's not as bad as I thought it would be. I assumed it would be similar to running an extra light bulb all the time, but don't really know how everything works with it. Just because its 20 watts out doesn't mean it doesn't use more power than that. At least that's what my uneducated brain is telling me.

Thanks again everyone.
If it output 20w it will require a lot more than 20watts input power


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ko6jw_2

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
May 18, 2008
Messages
695
Location
Santa Ynez, CA
#6
There is the issue of coordination. You need to locate the organization in your area that handles repeater coordination. Very bad practice to just put a repeater on the air without doing this. May not be much or a problem in your area because it sounds like it has sparse coverage. In Southern California there is such a scarcity of repeater pairs that coordination is an absolute requirement. You should avoid interference to established systems and at the same time protect your investment.

Obviously the cost of repeaters varies a lot. I am the trustee of two repeaters. One is at a USFS site and is absolutely free to us. The other is at a municipal site and costs us the exorbitant sum of $1 per year. I'm involved with another repeater at a prime mountain top site. Fortunately the owner is a ham and doesn't charge us rent. Friends of mine have taken down repeaters in the Los Angeles area when rent on rack space went into the thousand dollar per month range. Site owners make big bucks off of cellular and business interests. Hams can't compete.

You can always set up a club repeater and collect dues to offset the cost. Incorporate as a non-profit and be able to take donations.
 
Joined
Dec 23, 2010
Messages
385
#8
Simply, with out being all scientific. Well mostly because with out detailed info of the repeater it is impossible do be exact.

Temperature- no need for an air-conditioned building. You might consider a fan to ventilate the building if it is and issue. Most modern equipment handles temperature fine, especially commercial gear.

Electrical cost- you will not even notice a change in your bill, the repeater pulls very little while receiving. The average usage would likely be less than a desk top computer being on all the time.

RF radiation- it is a non issue with the antenna up on the tower.

One person mentioned coordination, YOU do not have to worry about coordination if it is NOT your repeater call sign on the repeater. If it did have your call on the repeater, it is not a big deal to get it changed. It would not be a big deal to run uncoordinated as long as you did not cause interference to a coordinated system.
 

ko6jw_2

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
May 18, 2008
Messages
695
Location
Santa Ynez, CA
#9
Simply, with out being all scientific. Well mostly because with out detailed info of the repeater it is impossible do be exact.

Temperature- no need for an air-conditioned building. You might consider a fan to ventilate the building if it is and issue. Most modern equipment handles temperature fine, especially commercial gear.

Electrical cost- you will not even notice a change in your bill, the repeater pulls very little while receiving. The average usage would likely be less than a desk top computer being on all the time.

RF radiation- it is a non issue with the antenna up on the tower.

One person mentioned coordination, YOU do not have to worry about coordination if it is NOT your repeater call sign on the repeater. If it did have your call on the repeater, it is not a big deal to get it changed. It would not be a big deal to run uncoordinated as long as you did not cause interference to a coordinated system.
Yes, by all means use the other guy's call sign. He's out of town a lot and he won't care. Who's the control operator? No need to worry about that either. Except, well, it's on your property and you are the control operator. Repeaters don't have their own callsigns unless they are operated by a club which has a call sign. Then the repeater has a trustee.
 
Joined
Mar 15, 2010
Messages
1,015
#10
The cost of electrics will be dependent on the equipment used and power output. For example, if the repeater is a older model the power supply might be non-switching. While these power supplies are very robust and last forever, they are also very inefficient and consume a lot more power even at idle. It's the same reason transformer wall bugs are a thing of the past and replaced by switching wall bugs, more efficient. You can tell by the heat generated by the wall transformer even when nothing is plugged in on the other end... wasted electricity.

I've got some GE MASTR II and some early MASTR III's with transformer power supplies and I want to say they draw close to 300 watts at idle. That can be fairly significant for the home electric bill given it's 24/7 and depending on your rates. Def find out what the repeater is and/or power supply.
 
Joined
Mar 15, 2010
Messages
1,015
#12
I have some Master IIs and the power supply design is similar to the old Motorola Micor repeaters, very reliable but power hogs. The OP really needs to find out what equipment he has before anyone can estimate the operating costs.
I remember back in the day we had to modify boat loads of 250w MASTR II VHF repeaters with top mounted fans on 6ft cabinets. They used 2 120w PA's phased together with 2 of those big ol' power supplies. It got so hot in the cabinet just from the power supplies extra ventilation was needed.
 
Joined
Jul 13, 2014
Messages
57
Location
Central Texas
#13
I will try and address as many questions as I can. The building is in the process of being insulated and I will eventually have a window unit put in there. More for my comfort during the warmer months than anything else. I was told that the repeater owner has already contacted the Texas VHF-FM Society to verify that there is no problem with the Band Plan for this area. The repeater is being moved approximately 15 miles from its last location. I will have to have the pictures sent to me as soon as I hear from him. I do not currently know which call sign will be used for the repeater as we will actually be discussing setting up a new club on tonights local net. We are trying to set a club up if we have enough people in this area who want to participate.

All good information and thank you for giving me many things to think about. I will update as I get more information.
 
Joined
May 6, 2019
Messages
36
Location
Niles, IL
#14
I may set up a repeater on my property. Currently the repeater is in an area that isn't getting a lot of use and it was taken down a few years ago. The owner is willing to let it be moved to my place. I live on 100 acres just 1 mile from town, and a lot of the local hams have been asking about setting up a new repeater. We currently only have 1 vhf repeater and this would allow us to have a UHF repeater to help cover the hilly terrain in our area.
All of the equipment has been tested and shows to be working correctly. The current owner is traveling for work and will not be back for up to 2 months, so I am not able to ask him these questions dirrectly. He is currently working on a new film. My main question is, approximately how much does it cost to run a Repeater site? Im not so worried about routine maintenance, but more about what it costs for electrical for the repeater, does it need to be climate controlled to an extent, etc. It will be out of the weather inside a 12x24 building, but its not climate controlled. This building is my workshop and I don't know how safe it is for me to be working in there while its in operation. I am new to this and I am only involved because I have the property to put this repeater back on the air. Im just trying to find out what im getting into.

Thanks everyone for your help.
A look at the cost per kilowatt/hour on your electric bill is where I'd look first--the repeater itself doesn't eat much electricity. Some kind of climate control would probably be a good idea; take a look at some parts specifications for I.C.s & capacitor to get a feel for operating temperatures for standard component types (or the repeaters' owners manual, if it's store-bought).
73 DE WB9YBM
 
Joined
Jul 13, 2014
Messages
57
Location
Central Texas
#15
Well, just a quick update.
After looking over our contract for a cell tower that is going out here, we will have to move quickly if we are going to set this up.
The contract states that whatever towers are currently on the property take priority for interference. I really don't see how my current tower, or this repeater could cause any issues, but I would rather nip it in the bud now so that they cant cause problems in the future. If its already operational when they show up to install the cell tower, then its grandfathered in and they have to work around any possible RF issues. However, if they have already installed their tower, any issues this may cause with their equipment is totally on me.
I really don't see how this is an issue seeing how we aren't allowed to cause any RF problems anyways according to FCC. But I digress. I would rather beat them to it. So, hopefully the timeline will move up or we can come to a quick decision on if we are going to move it out here or not.

Note: For those who are going to jump on here and tell me to just put my stuff on their tower, as much as I would LOVE to do that, and have looked into it extensively, we couldn't come to what I thought was and acceptable agreement when I wanted to put my personal gear on there, much less a full repeater. They added a bunch of requirements, that I understand were in place to cover their butts and rightly so, but it was going to cost too much for me for personal use.
 
Joined
Dec 19, 2002
Messages
7,780
Location
Wichita Falls, TX
#16
I really don't see how my current tower, or this repeater could cause any issues
It depends on the quality of the components and the quality of the installation.
It might appear to be fine by itself but in a high RF environment it could generate intermod on frequencies used by others at the site.
 
Joined
Dec 18, 2005
Messages
448
#17
I have a friend who runs GE mastr II's UHF & VHF with 220 linking ,They have been up and running for 40 years , his rack is in his mobile home and the antennas on tower, he is retired disabled from GE engineer ,he has all the bells and whistles both audio messages & ID ,CW ID, SAME weather alerts,Auto patch ,Automatic tail tone change to CW WX during SkyWarn activations,runs the ARRL big news show everyweek ,echolink node,and he recently restarted a full time international link with an analog & DMR system in Canada. he and a couple other guys built the controler themselves ,the only problem currently is the supply of old 486 computers is getting thin ,so having spares to drop the controller in ,has become a must. He doesn't want a club this is his baby,he built, services,supports and maintains the entire thing on his social security income. The time he sees the highest electric bills are summer when he runs his A.C. the monthly bill for the house goes up to about $220 his average normal month is just south of $80 dollars .running a good repeater is less expensive then most people think ,they key thing is always having a control op withing range (thanks to DTMF control codes that can be any of us ,that are trusted & reliable ) we do sometimes have to turn the machine off or change the PL tone ,due to moron with a baofeng that we have not caught yet ,but hes doing the same jamming over on PD so hes not long to be .

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Joined
May 6, 2019
Messages
36
Location
Niles, IL
#18
It depends on the quality of the components and the quality of the installation.
It might appear to be fine by itself but in a high RF environment it could generate intermod on frequencies used by others at the site.
I think that might be why at least at certain sites they require circulators to be installed in the antenna system.
 
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