Smart Home

5 Reasons You May Want a Ham Radio at Home

Matthew Hughes 24-02-2016

Amateur Radio (often called Ham Radio) is a quintessentially geeky hobby. Essentially, it involves radio operators (called “hams”) talking to each other around improbably complex equipment over VHF and UHF frequencies.


This is a hobby that has an unfashionable reputation. But that’s totally undeserved, as becoming a “ham” has some serious practical advantages. Here’s why you should consider learning all about it.

Being Aware Of Local Emergencies

Knowing about a local emergency, like a multi-car pile up, can often mean the difference between spending hours stuck in a line of traffic or not. But finding out about them in time can be hard.

TV news is glacially slow to report on events at times, and social media can be a cess-pit of hoaxes and misinformation 4 Reasons You Should Never Trust Social Media You just got burned in an argument because, once again, you quoted something you saw on social media. Why does this keep happening? Read More .

Ham Radio is different. It’s both fast and reliable. You’ll be hearing about events from people who live near where they’re taking place, or are witnessing it from their automobiles, as many ham operators carry in-car handsets.



This is news you can generally depend upon, as it’s coming directly from people in your own community, who you’ll be able to trust.

But that’s just one side of it. Many government agencies use the same UHF and VHF frequencies used by amateur radio equipment in order to let people know about disaster and extreme weather situations.

The most famous one is run by the National Weather Service, which transmits automated weather alerts. You can learn more about it in the video above.

Stay Connected When Disaster Strikes

When Hurricane Sandy struck the Eastern seaboard of the United States, it caused an unfathomable amount of damage to the infrastructure.


Homes were without power for weeks How Residential Solar Power Kits Can Keep You Online During Outages While fossil-fuel powered generators are well understood, the same isn't true for residential solar power kits. There are thousands of products on offer, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Which ones are right for... Read More , and communications were severely disrupted. Some who found themselves in trouble were unable to contact the emergency services to summon assistance.

But one thing that the hurricane wasn’t able to disrupt was radio broadcasts. It is for this reason ham radio operators were so vital in keeping people safe during the worst of the storm.


In Connecticut, operators worked around the clock to protect their communities and liaise with emergency services, shelters, and the local Red Cross. Many left their homes and placed themselves in these places, in order to keep communications flowing.


Any licensed amateur radio operator can join groups whose job is to assist during emergency situations. One of the largest is the Amateur Radio Emergency Service, which operates in Canada and the United States.

But it’s not the only one, and it’s not just the United States that has them. Wikipedia has a pretty comprehensive list of active groups you could consider joining.

It’s A Skill To Learn and Maintain

You can’t just buy a radio set and become an amateur radio operator. Not legally, at least. Before you can start transmitting across the airwaves, you’ve got to get yourself certified and licensed. In the US, that’s with the Federal Communications Commission.



To do that, you’ve got to take some classes, or do some self-studying. These cover the essentials, like the laws in your country surrounding amateur radio broadcasts. But others are much more exciting, and explore the math and physics of ham radio, as well as basic electronics.

The entry-level FCC license (called a Technician Class License) is earned after the successful completion of a 35-question written exam. Exams are usually administered by local volunteer examiners. The cost can range from free, to a nominal fee that shouldn’t exceed $15.


If you love finding out how stuff works, and long to go back to learning about math and science in a classroom environment, becoming an amateur radio operator might just be for you.

There’s A Community

It sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But amateur radio is an incredibly social endeavor. I’m not just talking about talking to people over your radio, although that’s a huge part of being a ham.



There are also radio meet-up groups and social events you can attend in your area, as well as online communities that bustle with activity. The Amateur Radio subreddit, for example, has almost fifteen thousand users, and is full of people sharing their expertise, and bragging about their accomplishments.

Many tech-oriented communities can be toxic wastelands, full of internal conflict and politics. But the Ham one is different. They’re open to newcomers, and generally happy to help. This is something that’s cemented in The Ham’s Code:

“The ham is friendly. Slow and patient sending when requested, friendly advice and counsel to the beginner, kindly assistance, co-operation and consideration for the interests of other; these are the mark of the ham spirit.”

It’s Cheaper Than You Think

If you’re put off by the potential costs of becoming a “ham”, you’re going to want to pay attention here. In recent years, it’s become a much more affordable hobby. This is largely thanks to the deluge of cheap handsets that have flooded the market from the factories of Shenzhen and Guangzhou.

One Chinese maker of amateur radio handsets is Baofeng. They’ve done for ham radio what Huawei and Xiomi did for smartphones Why Your Next Android Smartphone Should be Chinese For years, Chinese smartphones have gotten a bad reputation, but here's why you should really consider getting one now. Read More , essentially lowering the cost to make them affordable for all. You can now get a hand-held radio for under $30.

BaoFeng UV-5R Dual Band Two Way Radio (Black) BaoFeng UV-5R Dual Band Two Way Radio (Black) Buy Now On Amazon $20.24

Admittedly, this lacks the features, customizability, and power of other, more expensive models. Indeed, many complain about the poor build quality of these devices. Despite that, they’re a great, affordable way for newcomers to enter the field.

Incremental steps forward in equipment won’t break the bank, either. You can get a much more potent radio for just under $200, and there’s a thriving secondary market of devices on eBay 5 Critical eBay Online Shopping Tips You Must Know eBay is different from Amazon and other shopping sites. Here are the critical eBay shopping tips you must know to succeed. Read More .

Are You Tempted?

Ham Radio is a great hobby to learn. It’ll introduce you to new groups of people, and will serve you well in times of need. Plus, it’s cheaper than you think.

To get started, check out the best walkie talkies and ham radios you can buy. If you’d prefer a free solution, you can turn your phone into a two-way radio with a walkie talkie app The Best Walkie Talkie App: Turn Your Phone Into a Two-Way Radio In search of the best walkie talkie apps? Here are some great two way radio apps for iPhone and Android. Read More .

Photo Credits: Ham Radios (Andrew Filer), Baofeng UV-5RA (James Case), Busted Yesterday (Steve Bozak), Ham Radio License Manual (Micah Drusal), License (Brett Neilson)  [Broken URL Removed]

Related topics: Geeky Science, Survival Technology.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

Whatsapp Pinterest

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Cliff Young
    March 24, 2019 at 5:07 am

    Ham radio is the most valuable means of electronic communication on the planet. They have their own equipment, most can whip up an antenna for just about any frequency out of wire, copper wire, fence wire, cat 5 cable, you name it in 30 minutes and operate off a 12 volt battery and be on the air in 30 minutes even if their antenna farm is completely destroyed. Oh and be capable of local, state, regional and worldwide communications without breaking much of a sweat.

    Some are the ultimate McGuyver, able to cobble a transmitter together out of a crushed toaster, a smashed DVD player and some tinfoil, and run it off of bent silverware stuck in a jar of lemon juice in order to communicate.

    If the missiles ever fly, and half the planet gets toasted probably the last and only form of long distance communication will be a few hams running cobbled together gear off a salvaged car battery getting charged by the car alternator baling wired to a board with a few bicycle gears connecting it to a homemade water wheel stuck in a stream somewhere.

    Hams do not do it because its easy, they do these things because they are hard and someone needs to do them.

    a ham.

  2. James
    October 2, 2018 at 5:48 pm

    I finally obtained my technician licence at 22 years old. In the beginning, I thought it would be difficult, Working with different formulas and learning how to figure out what frequencies belonged to each band plan, but after a few weeks, it got easier and easier. I learned a lot through the classes I was taking. I am a job corps student, and Ham Radio also counted as an elective credit towards my diploma which helped a lot. I Love hearing peoples stories about people that they have connected with in their own lives. Ham Radio is a great hobby to have and I wish I would have gotten it sooner. It is definitely a hobby I would recommend to everyone.

  3. Tony
    May 5, 2018 at 8:16 pm

    Good article. To anyone wishing to obtain certification it is not difficult to pass the exam to achieve technician class. FCC and the ARRL both provide study guides. In Canada we have Industry Canada guides. I live in VE5.
    I got my license in 1987. Great absolutely great is the only way to describe my first couple years. I lived radio. I do not consider myself a geek. Radio is a challenge. Any geek can listen but to transmit and have others listen to you... That is far from being a geek. We need more 'hams' . so get with it guys and girls !
    I will help if i can.

  4. David Wilkins
    March 29, 2018 at 12:53 am

    As a former Navy radar tech I have always been interested in ham radio. I want to get certified.

    • Tony
      May 5, 2018 at 8:03 pm

      Then Just Do It

  5. Doug Plummer
    March 5, 2018 at 12:41 pm

    I am a Community Emergency Response Team member and I hope ham radio will be helpful.

    • Tony
      May 5, 2018 at 8:00 pm

      Ham radio is a tremendous assist in emergency situations. But it is critical to keep in mind for the amateur network to work it needs to have an emergency power supply at the ready. Local communication on vhf for instance relies heavily on repeaters. No power to the repeater equates to Zero communication. The amateur radio network Urgently requires an infusion of new thought.
      And 73

      • Doug
        May 11, 2018 at 4:01 pm

        Thanks Tony. I am wondering though, in an emergency with say a few Skywarn operators out and about, plus another 4 or, 5 hams from around town operating on battery powered HTs aren't they going to be able to communicate in simplex and not be using the repeater systems? Again, localized emergency with local emergency management office operating in the EOC I have to believe that the repeaters one of which is analog and another digital are not the real weak link in in VHF communications just because of a temporary power outage. At least not locally.

        • tony
          May 11, 2018 at 9:19 pm

          Good points Doug. Ham radio is definitely a plus.
          Simplex mode suffers from limited range though.
          We do need an infusion of new ideas.

  6. Prasanth
    February 11, 2018 at 1:07 pm

    Hi i live in india and i am 13 years old my question is: can i use ham radio and still do schooling or is it advised to do so.

  7. Mike
    September 24, 2017 at 10:53 pm

    Start Here:
    Google ARRL, the American Radio Relay League
    This site will show you how to get started in Amateur Radio

  8. Joaquin Repollet
    September 22, 2017 at 11:41 pm

    Hi I'm seriously thinking about becoming a ham operator. I live in CT. Can you help me start?

  9. gary
    September 13, 2017 at 12:46 am

    i would love to learn but dont know how to start

    • Tony
      May 5, 2018 at 7:51 pm

      Start with the basics. I believe the FCC and the ARRL will provide you with a study aid which will prepare you for the exam. Just get on the, air, legally of course, and advance from there. I got my license in 1987. It was hard work but we appreciate most what was hard-gained. 73 to you and good luck
      From a ve5 amateur

    • Eugene
      May 19, 2018 at 2:04 pm

      Look on arrl or for any clubs in your area. They will likely be excited to introduce you and help you get started.

  10. Brooks A. Mick
    July 31, 2017 at 2:47 am

    76 years old, interested in ham radio since Boy Scout Days, Just decided last month to get licensed. Passed Tech exam yesterday. Scored 100%, But should have since “studying” for 68 years. Ordered transceivers and antenna yesterday, looked up local repeater data, should be on the air in 1-2 Days. Mostly this is for safety reasons, as I am not a gabby type.

  11. Mike
    July 23, 2017 at 6:41 am

    Going for my Technician cert next weekend, and plan to follow up with my General a couple months later. I've picked up an inexpensive Baofeng handheld (HT) transceiver to listen and get the hang of things before I can actually broadcast, and have been pleasantly surprised by the quality of such an inexpensive radio, as well as the diversity of conversations and topics out there. I look forward to plugging into the local nets as well as being of service to my community during weather emergencies as well as more social events.

  12. Frank
    July 12, 2017 at 7:36 pm

    Re: the video above, "National Weather Service Alert Radio Controller":

    My first thought was "Keith Emerson's Arp".

    Carry on ...

  13. Mark McQueen
    July 12, 2017 at 6:53 am

    Have become very interested, need alternative, backup, communication

  14. Willie J
    April 14, 2017 at 9:42 pm

    I am very interested in this. I read a book years ago about a family that had one and I remember thinking i wish my family had one. Now over 30 some years later and the idea of having one has still peeked my interest. I am looking into it. Getting older has its things that stink. But know I can do this without begging my parents and being told no.!!! LOL. Here's to being 50 something

  15. Debbie
    February 23, 2017 at 7:23 pm

    Im not a sociable person per se, but if you would ask y daughters they would totally disagree... who? Mommy? Not sociable? And what would follow would prob. Be uncontrolled laughter.... having said that, ive always wanted to learn about operating a ham radio....always curios, but never really having the time... now that my kids are older, perhaps now, i can find the time....many thanks for your article

  16. Brett
    January 8, 2017 at 3:43 pm

    Please properly credit or remove the picture of mine from your site.

    • Nix
      August 9, 2018 at 4:47 pm


    • Nix
      August 9, 2018 at 4:47 pm


  17. Jeff Dahn
    September 23, 2016 at 11:13 pm

    I actually found out about amateur radio through the Reddit forum you mentioned. For me, it has been more than a hobby. It has been a life saver. I am a former Chief of Police who fell chronically ill and disabled. Unable to work, depressed and bedridden, I stumbled on the amateur radio forum on Reddit. Interested in the posts, I made an inquiry of the users there and in the ham spirit, eight people replied to me, giving me advise and suggestions on where to get more information, how to study, etc. One person sent me a study guide. Another sent me a radio! In two weeks, I became certified at the General level (middle of the three). This was in 2013. Today, I am an Extra Class (highest level), a certified Volunteer Examiner (VE), which authorizes me to along with at least two other VEs, administer exams and licenses for other amateur radio operators. I also many times host as net control for the weekly radio net for our club. These actives, and others not here listed, allow me to still help, serve and communicate with others despite the limitations imposed upon me by my illness and disabilities. I love amateur radio! - Jeff Dahn - KB3ZUK - Rockville, Maryland

    • Glen
      December 31, 2016 at 9:48 pm

      That's awesome. I'm in the same boat with disability and need an activity. Was a vol fireman but no more. Great to hear your story, I'm going for Tech and General this January.

    • Debbie
      February 23, 2017 at 7:27 pm

      You guys are true heros and if i may add, real men in every sense of the word

    • Ted
      May 11, 2017 at 7:05 pm

      Hi Jeff,
      Just read your post and has to comment. I was a police officer, EMT, vol fireman, and has hobbies of scuba diving, off road motorcycles, etc. Thought of ham radio when I high school but didn't do anything until Dec of last year. I was also in the IT field after I had a back injury and almost 5 years ago my back finally gave out after 20 years from an accident.

      I was looking for something I could do as a hobby instead of watching TV. Saw the TV show frequency and remembered about ham radio. Took my ticket in the beginning of last Dec. Just took my general test Saturday and passed. I'm glad I found the hobby is great for people that happen to be disabled and not able to get around as easy.

  18. Dave
    July 15, 2016 at 2:40 pm

    A uddy of mine and I are interested in getting good our license, but haven't found a place to take the test, etc. We live in South Dakota. Any ideas?

  19. Carol Rivermoon
    April 24, 2016 at 4:06 am

    I'm a "new Ham", having passed my Tech exam about a month ago. I've been a SKYWARN storm spotter off and on for the past ten years or so, and since moving back to Iowa in 2005 I noticed a lot of crossover between the local Hams, ARES and SKYWARN. A kindly local ham lured me in with a "package deal" which included study materials, a one-day class and my first radio (a Baofeng) at an unbeatable price. Now there are several dozen more new Hams around here, and a couple of my classmates have already taken and passed their General exam ! I'll be going for mine later this year.

    As I'm more of a computer and A/V geek than a radio building geek, even though I worked in broadcasting professionally for some years. So I'm beginning to experiment with Echolink, which lets Techs make connections all over, just like the "big boys". I also plan on joining ARES and, of course, having fun at our local club's upcoming Field Day. It's fun, people are friendly, and it's providing me more geeks to talk to. What's not to like ?

    73's all !

    Carol R, KE0IKD

  20. John Mehalick
    March 4, 2016 at 10:16 pm

    Also the nets,that are on daily HF, VHF and UHF you can find out what is going on!
    W3MTP John

  21. Richard Myers
    March 2, 2016 at 9:24 pm

    de AD4VS, a great posting. Thanks for doing it.

  22. DUG
    March 2, 2016 at 8:29 pm


    • william
      March 12, 2017 at 2:57 pm

      Why choose just ONE band? Depending on what interest you in the HOBBY, you have all sorts of different modes and means to get out a signal and get back a possible new life-long friendship. We have a 10 meter net on 28.383 every night here in SW Georgia. Everyone is welcome to join in (when the band opens up). We have and AREAS Net every Sunday at 4pm on our local repeater (146.820 tn:110.9) and another 2 meter net on Monday evenings at 9pm. If those are not available to you (due to not being in the area), you always have Nets on 20 meters (14.300 usb) and 40 meters (7.251 lsb) and other nets on 75 meters at night. Then there is just the general rag-chew all over the bands, country chasing, county/state chasing. Then also, Amateur Radio Satellites to try for. Lots to do.

  23. Serena
    March 2, 2016 at 1:47 pm

    We made ham radios in 6th grade. I don't remember much beyond coiling copper wire around a toilet paper roll. Our teacher was licensed and all kids looked forward to the project. (And even looked forward to learning morse code just to get licensed also.)

    March 1, 2016 at 4:38 pm

    The first paragraph says 'using VHF and UHF frequencies".....

    The greater majority of operations take place on the HIGH FREQUENCY bands from 1.8 to 29.7 mHz, not on VHF/UHF.

    The HF frequencies are best utilized in emergencies for longer distance communications and for simply 'chatting' with other hams all over the world!

    Don - N8DE
    Licensed for over 60 years!

  25. Bil Munsil
    March 1, 2016 at 4:34 pm

    Is one of these you?

    KD9EYC Matthew C Hughes Hartford City IN
    KE5QPS Matthew C Hughes N Richland Hills TX
    KG4PTW Matthew R Hughes Lynchburg VA
    KG7OYT Matthew A Hughes Sierra Vista AZ
    KJ4EMY Matthew K Hughes Independence KY
    VA3FET Matthew Hughes NORTH YORK ON

    Bil Munsil
    Mesa AZ

  26. rst599
    March 1, 2016 at 4:16 pm

    The Morse Code requirement was dropped for the entry-level Technician license in 1991, which resulted in a boom of new Tech licensees. The previous requirements to be able to receive 13 words per minute for General Class and 20 wpm for Extra class remained until 2000, when it was changed to 5 words per minute. In 2007, the code requirement was dropped for all license classes, which resulted in another mini-boom particularly among those upgrading to the higher classes.

    Ironically, Morse Code activity on the air has only increased since the exam requirement was eliminated, especially among those who are active in radio sport (contesting) and those who enjoy very low power (five watts and less, called "QRP") communication on the worldwide-reach shortwave bands. Most hams transmit with about 100 watts on these bands.

  27. alan
    March 1, 2016 at 6:36 am

    Isn't is interesting how so many MakeUseOf articles have just become advertisements for Amazon?

    • Jack
      July 2, 2016 at 1:48 pm

      What I was thinking and do not rely on those cheap Chinese radios in a emergency.Save up some money a buy a decent radio please.

  28. Dezone
    March 1, 2016 at 4:12 am

    There is a large Ham radio antenna that was left in the attic of this house that we bought a couple of years ago. I think this would be great to actually use it and teach the kiddies the how things work piece as well. I used to have a lot of fun with the CB radio in my car and a few friends. That was also a few years back when we were all dialing into the internet.

    • Kathy Weber
      February 8, 2017 at 3:47 pm

      Since you guys found the antennas in the attic you should have the kids watch the movie "Frequency". It's great!

  29. Otis
    February 29, 2016 at 1:38 pm

    "Many government agencies use the same UHF and VHF frequencies used by amateur radio equipment in order to let people know about disaster and extreme weather situations."

    Not exactly right. Generally no one other than Hams transmit in the Ham bands. Wx alerts are in their own band that some Ham radio can receive and other than that I can't think of any other services that broadcast near these frequencies.

    • Matthew Hughes
      February 29, 2016 at 9:20 pm

      Ah, good to know!

  30. Anonymous
    February 28, 2016 at 3:09 pm

    Several years ago, Kentucky had an ice storm. huge electric towers collapsed. there was nothing local running.
    No gas, no phone, no cell phone, no internet. just ice. well, the ham people helped law, fire and utility people coordinate and communicate in order to restore our county to this century.
    When the world turns suddenly primitive, the ham operators are there providing emergency communication services.
    Ham radio does not require infrastructure. We are completely self reliant. All we need is the ionosphere, and a radio. We don't need towers, or anything like that. Also, the propagation or the way signals bounce changes, so it is always different.

    One would want to take up ham radio as a hobby:
    1. Because chat doesn't require the skill of working the grey line
    2. Because Facebook doesn't require the same skill as working 200 countries with 5 watts or less
    3. Because the first thing to go down in the event of a natural disaster is the local cell phone system
    4. Because there is something magical about bouncing a signal off an aurora, the moon, or meteor scatter
    5. Because talking to astronauts is damn cool
    6. Because we have our own satellites
    7. Because we have our own section of the internet,AMPRNet
    8. Because we are allowed to modify radios and try new technologies.
    9. Because of the international camaraderie
    10.Because you may like electronics
    11. Because you may want to help in cases of emergency, when everything goes down except for your radio
    12. Because you like competitions
    13. Because you'd like to talk to ISS
    14. Because you'd want to reach distant lands with the shack you made yourself
    Anyway, Matthew covered the details in the article very well! Kudos to you for such a informative article.

    • Anonymous
      February 28, 2016 at 3:12 pm


    • Matthew Hughes
      February 29, 2016 at 9:16 pm

      Cool story! Thanks Arpit.

  31. Roger Gardner
    February 25, 2016 at 11:45 am

    i posted this on our ham club facebook page. thanks for bringing that info up. i have been a "ham" since 1987. again thanks.
    "73s" KA9ZFB

    • Matthew Hughes
      February 29, 2016 at 9:20 pm

      Thanks Roger

  32. Charlie
    February 24, 2016 at 3:36 pm

    Morse Code is no longer required for any Amateur Radio license.

    • Matthew Hughes
      February 24, 2016 at 6:55 pm

      Hey Charlie,

      Where are you seeing morse code? I don't remember mentioning it, and I can't see it mentioned in any revisions.

  33. Anonymous
    February 24, 2016 at 2:10 pm

    At least for entry level license one no longer needs to proficient in Morse Code.

    • Matthew Hughes
      February 24, 2016 at 6:54 pm

      Hey! Where are you seeing morse code? I don't think I mentioned it in the article, and I can't see it in any revisions?

      • Anonymous
        February 24, 2016 at 7:13 pm

        Once upon the time Morse Code proficiency (transmitting and receiving) was required for all Amateur Radio Licenses. It was an impediment for many an aspiring ham. I was one of them. I knew the theory forwards, backwards and sideways. I could build a receiver, a transmitter and an antenna from scratch. But when it came to Morse Code, I was all elbows.

        I don't know when the Code requirement was dropped but it was between mid-1970s and recently. Mid-70s was when I lost interest in ham radio and moved on to other hobbies.

      • Anonymous
        February 26, 2016 at 11:42 pm

        I think they are just pointing it out because you didn't. Don't take offense.

        • Matthew Hughes
          February 29, 2016 at 9:17 pm

          Not taking offense! I was just worried I'd made a mistake! Thanks so much! Really cool story. :)

          Dragonmouth, you should totally get back into Ham. Get a cheap Baofeng and see if it's still how you remember it.