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Low Power Balun

Designed by: Charles Greene, W1CG

Kitted by: the NJQRP Club

Copyright 2002 by Charles Greene, W1CG and the NJQRP Club. All rights reserved.
W1CG Low Power Balun Kit 1
A Low Power 4:1 Current Balun Kit
by Charles Greene, W1CG

Over the last two years I have build, designed, tested and built many baluns
-- and have had lots of fun doing it! The perfect, tiny, low loss balun still
eludes me, however, but I keep on trying. One of earliest baluns I built just
happened to have good performance. So I investigated its design features,
improved its performance, rebuilt it using readily available materials, exten-
sively tested it and I am presenting it here as a construction project for all
homebrewers to enjoy.

INTRODUCTION coiled on a magnetic toroidal core or rod it is

The open wire balanced transmission line broader band than the uncoiled balun, and
is widely used on wire antennas in an at- the length of the transmission line is less. As
tempt to reduce losses and unwanted radia- there are balanced currents in the transmis-
tion from the transmission line and as a small sion line, the net flux in the core is zero, so
lightweight alternative to coax for portable high efficiencies can be achieved. (Ref 1, Chap
use. It benefits from a balun (BALanced to 1). A schematic of a 4:1 current balun is
UNbalanced device) to convert the unbal- shown in Figure 1A.
anced output from an antenna tuner to the In 1957, Ruthroff (Ref 1, Chap 1) used
balanced input of the transmission line. The the property that a potential gradient exists
operator who wants a small, lightweight balun along the length of a single transmission line
for back packing or fix station use for low to introduce the “voltage” balun. By con-
power or QRP operation doesn’t have much necting the wires so that the direct voltage
choice. Either he buys a large, heavy com- adds to the delayed voltage, a 1 to 4 voltage
mercial balun or else searches the Internet ratio is achieved. A schematic of a 4:1 volt-
for the design of a home brew balun, the age balun is shown in Figure 1B. The years
performance of which is unknown. To help following the introduction of the voltage
fill this void, this project concerns a small, balun saw its increasing use over the more
low power 4:1 current balun that is easy to complex current balun. It is only recently
build and has good performance from 160 that there is resurgence in use of the current (B)
through 10 meters. A 4:1 balun is a good balun due to its inherent advantages.
match for feeding an Off-Center-Fed antenna
and performs well feeding an open wire trans- There are two problems with the voltage Figure 1. Two types of coiled transmission line 4:1 baluns using ferrite or pow-
mission line, so that is the type presented. balun that limit its usefulness. Because its ered iron cores: (A) The Guanella or Current balun; a two core balun like the one
principle of operation depends on a phase described in the text is shown. (B) The Ruthroff or Voltage balun.
BACKGROUND shift in the voltage along a transmission line,
There are essentially two types of coiled the phase shift becomes inadequate to sus-
transmission line baluns using ferrite or pow- tain the voltage ratio as the frequency in- current to the load and increases losses. working into a high impedance load. For
ered iron cores. The first one was introduced creases. The second disadvantage is a result
The current balun operates on the prin- example, the balun described in this article
by Guanella in 1944 and is known as the of the first. In an attempt to extend the high
ciple of summing the voltages in each of four has a SWR of less than 1.08:1 into a non-
“current” balun. This balun consists of two frequency range, fewer turns are used until
coils, and eddy currents in the windings limit inductive load of 200 ohms from 700 KHz
coiled transmission lines with the inputs con- there is barely adequate inductance for suffi-
its highest frequency. Therefore, more turns to 30 MHz. I tested a single core of this two
nected in parallel and the outputs in series. cient choking action to limit the primary cur-
can be added until eddy currents start to limit core current balun with the coils connected
The impedance ratio is 1:N^2 where N is the rent at the lowest frequency. Working into
operation at the highest frequency. The ad- as a voltage balun (shown in Picture 1) and
number of wires making up the transmission higher impedance makes matters worse as
ditional turns significantly increase choking checked its frequency coverage. The low
line. Two wires have an impedance ratio of the choking impedance does not change and
action at the lower frequencies, and the ef- frequency performance of the voltage and
four times and three wires an impedance ra- it becomes a smaller percentage of the total
fectiveness of the balun does not decrease as current baluns is similar, but the performance
tio of nine times, for example. Guanella also impedance. This causes too much of the
rapidly as that of the voltage balun when of the voltage balun starts to fall off above
showed that when the transmission line is wrong current to flow which decreases the 19 MHz. It has a SWR into a 200 ohm non-
2 W1CG Low Power Balun Kit W1CG Low Power Balun Kit 3
load), but the SWR was low down to 500 #22 wire harder to work with than the #24
KHz, which is well below the desired fre- wire, and any improvement in wire loss
quency. This indicates that the design should would be slight. However, I resolved to check
have fewer turns. So the next balun of the the loss of all three baluns during loss mea-
design had 13 turns. The 13-turn balun has surements, and use that as one of the criteria
an inductance of 101 uh and its SWR is low in selecting the wire size for the balun of
and is flat from 700 KHz to 30 MHz. design.
The wire size can be either #24 or #26 It is possible to construct a 4:1 current
enamel insulated wire. I constructed a balun balun by winding both pairs of windings on
of each, and their performances are essen- a single core. However, in my experience,
tially the same. The #24 wire is easier to the performance of the single core 4:1 cur-
work with and has slightly less wire loss, so rent balun is not as good as the two-core
that is what we will use. To verify the wire current balun. The SWR is high and is not
size to give 100 ohms for Zb, I wound a flat across the HF spectrum. Therefore, this
balun using #22 wire and measured its per- balun is wound on two FT114-43 cores (Fig-
Picture 1. A single core of the two core current balun ure 1A). Now that we have a preliminary
formance which was a little less than that of
with the coils connected as a voltage balun.
the other two. It had a somewhat higher design, we need to describe how to wind it
inductive load of 1.2:1 and higher above 19 SWR with a 200-ohm load. I also found the and then test its performance.
at the lowest frequency to choke off the pri-
MHz. In addition, Lewellen reported that mary current. For the 50 to 200-ohm balun,
his tests showed that the current balun has Zo should be 500 ohms at the lowest fre-
improved performance over the voltage balun CONSTRUCTION
quency. The inductance to produce this im-
under all conditions. (See Reference 4.) pedance at 1.8 MHz is 44 uh.
Parts List prevent marring the surface of the core. Lead
A PRACTICAL DESIGN Now we will pick a size. For ease in con- o 2 Ferrite toroidal cores, FT114-43 the long end of the wire pair through the hole
Some design guidelines are set forth in struction and for a small balun for portable
the current literature (Ref 1, 2) for building o 6-ft #24 NYSOL magnet wire and without twisting the wires pull them
use, we will pick a size of about 1-inch. In
high performance baluns. I will avoid the math order to get sufficient inductance (44 uh) we
o 6 4” nylon cable ties away from the core and cut them to the same
o 1-ft 3/64” heat shrink tubing length.
and the theory and just use some approxi- will need a material with a mid range perme-
mations as practical guidelines. As can be ability. We can not use low loss powered Tools 4) This is the first turn. Each time the wire
seen from Figure 1A, when working into a iron material with permeability in the range n Vise (recommended) passes through the center is counted as one
balanced load, each pair of windings sees half of 1 to 75 because we cannot get enough turn. Place a 1/8” length of heat shrink tub-
the load Zl: 100 ohms for a 50 to 200 ohm n Large soldering iron or solder pot for in- ing over the wire pair where it passes around
turns of #24 or #26 enamel insulated wire on
4:1 balun. For best matching and power trans- sulation stripping the outside of the core to hold the wires
a 1-inch core for an inductance of 44 uh. A
fer, the Zo of the coiled transmission line ferrite core of type 43 has an initial perme- n Heat gun closely together. Do not twist the wire, how-
should equal the load, 100 ohms. The for- ability of 850 and reasonable efficiency, and ever, if the wire is inadvertently twisted it
n Common shop tools, including wire cut-
mula for transmission lines can be used to it is enamel insulated for a greater voltage will not affect performance. See Picture 3.
ters, needle nose pliers, utility knife, and an
determine the wire size for close spaced wire. breakdown safety factor. Using the formulas ohmmeter. 5) Continue winding 6 turns spacing each
(I have found that the impedance of the trans- in the Amidon data book (Ref 3), we find pair about ¼” on the outside. Pull the wires
mission line wound on a toroidal core is ap- n Optional: Antenna SWR analyzer and a
that 15 turns bifilar wound which will easily tight and form them over the edges of the
proximately 80% of that in air). Close spaced 200 ohm 1/2 watt non-inductive resistor.
fit on an FT114-43 core will produce an in- core with your fingers. Use a 1/8” length of
#24 or #26 enamel insulated wire will pro- ductance of 136 uh. This is higher induc- Construction Steps heat shrink tubing every time the wire pair
duce the desired impedance, and can be used tance than required but it will improve the 1) Cut the wire into four 18” lengths. Cut crosses the outside of the core and heat shrink
in a low power balun without danger of insu- performance of the balun when the load is thirty approximately 1/8” lengths and two it. At the completion of 6 turns, adjust the
lation breakdown. Actually some of the fer- higher than 200 ohms. The question is what ¾” lengths from the heat shrink tubing. wire spacing until the sixth turn is 180 de-
rite material toroidal cores are enamel insu- the high frequency limit is. grees from the starting point.
2) Lead a cable tie around the core and one
lated which increases the voltage breakdown
The only way I know to determine the end of the wire pair about 3” from the end 6) For the seventh turn, lead the wire through
safety factor.
high frequency performance for sure is to and tighten it. See Picture 2. the inside of the core back to the starting
A second guideline is that the minimum build the balun and measure it. The high fre- point. Place the ¾” length of tubing on the
3) Clamp the core in the vise. Some people
impedance of the inductance of the coil quency performance of the 15-turn balun wire pair where passes through the center of
wind toroidal cores without a vise but hold-
formed by the wound transmission line on started to fall off at 10 meters (SWR started core and heat shrink it in place. Start winding
ing the core in a vise allows one to use both
the toroidal core Zo should be ten times the to increase into a non-inductive 200-ohm back around the unused portion of the core.
hands. Use a cloth on the jaws of the vise to
impedance of the input transmission line Zi
4 W1CG Low Power Balun Kit W1CG Low Power Balun Kit 5
Picture 2: Lead a cable tie
around the core and
one end of the wire
pair about 3” from the Picture 5: One com-
end and tighten it. pleted core.

Picture 3: Balun core

in vise showing Picture 6: Completed
heat shrink tub- two-core 4:1
ing on outside balun.
of windings.

Picture 4: Balun core

Picture 7: 14 turn ver-
with six turns sion of balun in
showing cross-
watertight enclo-
over on the sev-
sure for installa-
enth turn. tion at top of Off
Center Fed an-

(Full resolution color images available online at (Full resolution color images available online at
6 W1CG Low Power Balun Kit W1CG Low Power Balun Kit 7
See Picture 4. Continue winding six more, and shrink it. Using the ohmmeter, identify
equally spaced turns and adding a 1/8” of the other end of this wire and shrink a 1/8” TESTING
heat shrink tubing on the outside of the core piece of tubing on it too. Now you have
for each turn. (Note: Reisert, W1JR, used identified both ends of one wire, which we
tors to each end or place the balun in an placed in the insulated container and low
this winding technique with the “crossover” will use later to hook up to the second core.
enclosure of your choice. The completed power applied with the same power on-off
in his 1:1 balun. Ref 2. The purpose of the This completes one core. It should look like
balun is shown in Picture 6. Picture 7 shows cycle and its temperature rise measured. I
“crossover” is to facilitate connection of the the one in Picture 5.
a 14 turn version of the balun mounted in a ran the test of the resistor several times with
input wires on one side of the balun and the 10) Wind the second core and mark the wires watertight enclosure with a strain insulator different power levels until the temperature
output wires on the other side. It has no identically to the first. for mounting at the top of an Off Center Fed rise of the resistor matched the temperature
electrical significance.)
11) Temporally connect the two cores as fol- antenna. rise of the balun-under-test. Then power to
7) When done winding, the final turn should lows: On the input side, connect the two the 12-watt resistor is the same as the power
Tests consisted of measuring the induc-
be about 180 degrees from the starting point. marked wires together and the two unmarked loss of the balun-under-test. Efficiency is
tance of the windings, SWR tests, loss tests
There should be six turns on each side count- wires together. The 50-ohm input connects 100% X power-loss / power-applied.
and on-the-air tests using antennas with bal-
ing every time the wire passes through the to these two wire pairs. On the output side anced feed lines with high SWRs. The most For the reactive load tests, the large balun
center as one turn. The crossover through connect one marked wire to one unmarked interesting tests were the efficiency tests. was replaced with a Johnson KW Match-
the center counts as an additional turn but wire.The 200-ohm output goes to the two The efficiency tests consisted of measuring box. The 200-ohm output of the balun-un-
not one of the six on each side. Using a cable unconnected wires. Measure balun SWR us- the temperature rise of the balun in a vacuum der-test was connected to the balanced out-
tie clamp the wires loosely to the core. Ad- ing an antenna analyzer with a 200-ohm non- insulated thermos container with both a re- put side of the Matchbox and the Matchbox
just the spacing evenly until the two cable inductive resistor connected to the 200-ohm active and a non-reactive load and comparing 50-ohm input was connected to the calibrated
ties are 180 degrees from each other then side and the antenna analyzer 50-ohm out- it to the temperature rise of a resistor. Short dummy load. The Matchbox matching and
tighten the cable tie. Cut the finish ends of put connected to the input side. If you can’t lengths of RG-174 coax and a miniature 200- tuning controls were adjusted for as high an
the wire to the desired length. get the use of an antenna analyzer, connect ohm transmission line served as the input/ impedance as could be read on the Autec
8) Strip a part of the insulation from about the balun to your transceiver through an SWR output leads passing through the top of the VA1 antenna (715 ohms) on the balanced
¼” on the end of each of the wires. Place the meter, and reduce the power to the minimum container to the device inside. A thermo- wire side of the Matchbox. In other words,
large soldering iron in the vise with the bevel and turn the rig on for a short time to get an couple with its own connecting wires lead- the Matchbox was used in reverse. Power
of the tip horizontal and form a blob of sol- SWR reading without burning up the 200- ing to a meter was used to measure the tem- was applied in a similar manner to the non-
der on the tip. Thermaleze and Nysol wire ohm resistor. The SWR should be in the range perature. The source of RF power was a Ten reactive load tests and the temperature rise
will strip in this blob of solder, but it helps of 1.1:1. If not, check your connections. Tec Triton IV transceiver which can produce was compared to the temperature rise of the
to have a bit of bare wire to better conduct 12) Now you can secure the two cores to- power from zero to 100 watts. A RF Power/ 12-watt resistor as in the non-inductive tests.
the heat to start the stripping process. Insert gether using the two remaining cable ties and SWR meter was used to measure output Results of the efficiency tests are shown in
the end of the wire to be stripped into the solder the wires. It’s a good idea to first in- power output of the transceiver, and an an- Table 2.
blob of solder and move it slowly through sert a piece of paper between the cores with tenna tuner was used to tune the output of The tests were fairly repeatable in that
the blob. Add more solder to tin the stripped a hole in the center for the cable ties. Alterna- the transceiver during high SWR tests. The several runs of the same power gave tem-
wire. You can also use a solder pot if you tively, you can cement the two cores together output of the balun under test was connected perature rise results within a few percent.
have one. using silicon seal. It’s not necessary to use to a calibrated dummy load through the im- The heat loss was very low and temperature
9) Place one of the 1/8” pieces of heat shrink Q-Dope to hold the wires in place. The Q- pedance matching device. Figure 2 is a block readout accuracy was very good and its pre-
tubing over one of the wires at the start end Dope reduces the Q somewhat and makes diagram and Picture 8 is a photograph of the cision was 0.1 degree-F. The heat rise method
repair difficult. You can now attach connec- test setup, showing most of the equipment is independent of all other losses in the sys-
used. tem. The limiting factor is ability to read the
For the non-reactive efficiency test, the power level accurately and hold it for the
200-ohm output of the balun was connected required time. The calibrated dummy load/
to the 200-ohm side of a large commercial wattmeter has a readout precision of two
4:1 balun. The 50-ohm side of the large balun decimal points, but it could not be used ex-
was connected to the 50-ohm calibrated cept to check the accuracy of the other watt-
dummy load. Fifty watts was applied for a meters when applying power to the balun
period of 10 minutes then reduced to zero and the 12-watt resistor.
for 10 minutes to avoid overheating the trans- The temperature rise of the balun in air is
ceiver finals, then back on for 10 minutes. insignificant during normal operation and is
The temperature was allowed to stabilize hard to detect without a temperature-mea-
for 10 minutes then measured. Then a 12- suring instrument. The temperature rise of
watt 50-ohm non-inductive resistor was the balun in air using 100 watts CW for 10
8 W1CG Low Power Balun Kit W1CG Low Power Balun Kit 9
minutes with a 200-ohm non-inductive load SUMMARY
was 7 degrees-F at 7.1 MHz and 15 degrees Here is low power balun that everyone
F at 28 MHz. With the 715 ohm reactive can build that gives reasonable performance
load used for the above efficiency tests the over a wide impedance range for the entire
temperature rise in air was 16 degrees-F at HF band, 160 to 10 meters. The efficiency
7.1 MHz. of the balun is less when operated into a high
The losses include I^2R and eddy current impedance reactive load and at higher fre-
losses but are predominately dielectric and quencies, as was expected. The efficiency of
increase as the voltage gradient across the the balun can be improved by using a lower
windings increase. The best efficiency is permeability, less lossy core material, but
attained when the load impedance is 200- the size of the core would need to be in-
ohms. If the impedance load is extremely creased to achieve the desired inductance.
low, I^2R losses increase, decreasing effi- This larger balun would be able to operate at
ciency again. As shown in table 1, the effi- a higher power level, and would no longer be
ciency when operating into a non-reactive a small, portable, low power balun.
200-ohm load is 97%. The loss is 3% or REFERENCES
0.12 dB. A loss of 0.12 decibels is insignifi- 1. Sevick, J., “Transmission Line Transform-
cant compared to other losses in an antenna ers,” Nobel Publishing Corporation, Atlanta,
system, however, at 1000 watts 30 watts GA, Fourth Edition, 2001.
would be dissipated in the balun which is 2. Sevick, J., “Building and Using Baluns
sufficient to burn up all but the larger baluns. and Ununs,” CQ Communications, Inc.,
The efficiency of the balun operated into the Hicksville, NY, 1994.
714-ohm reactive load is 94%.
3. Amidon Associates, (no title data book),
OPERATION Costa Mesa, CA, Jan., 2000.
I have operated the balun at 100 watts
CW and SSB with my W3EDP and G5RV 4. Lewellen, J., “Baluns: What They Do and
antennas that have high impedances on some How They Do It,” The ARRL Antenna
bands with barely perceptible heating. For a Compendium, Vol. 1, American Radio Relay
limit, the wire and heat shrink tubing are speci- League, Newington, CT, 1985, p 157-164.
Figure 2: Block diagram of test setup. fied for a maximum temperature of 130 de-
grees C, and the Curie temperature (the tem- CONTACTING US
perature at which the ferrite material loses 1) Please be sure to check the online web
magnetic properties) is also 130 degrees C. pages for this project at the NJQRP
For a rule of thumb, don’t operate the balun website at We of-
if it is too hot to touch. The voltage break- ten post additional information about the
down specification of the wire or core insu- kits, construction feedback from users, er-
lation of 500 volts will be exceeded if the rata, application notes, et.
impedance exceeds 2500 ohms. (There is a 2) For technical questions, please contact
voltage breakdown safety factor of two in the designer at:
the design but this is for the situation where Charles Greene, W1CG
there is a scratch in the insulation). By all 115 Aaron Avenue
means avoid the current node of an open Bristol, RI 02809
wire transmission line at any power as the 3) Any other questions concerning this
impedance can reach several thousand ohms kit may be directed to the NJQRP
at this point, an impossible condition for Club:
any balun. As a suggestion, operate the balun
Dave Porter, AA3UR
for a few minutes then check its tempera-
647 Middle Holland Road
ture. If the balun is hot to the touch, reduce
Holland, PA 18966
power or move the balun to a lower imped-
ance point on your transmission line.
Picture 8: Test setup showing some of the equipment used.

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