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Power level - What is the proper wattage for your setting.

What is the difference in walkie-talkie wattage?

Handheld two-way radios use between 0.5-5 watts of power to broadcast a signal. Business radios run between 1-5 watts depending on the model. Usually, a higher wattage allows for greater range and commands a higher price. Current FRS models broadcast at 0.5 watts. Many of those also broadcast in GMRS frequencies at 1 watt. FRS/GMRS radio users will need an FCC license, if their radios are used on the GMRS band.

You may see something labeled "peak wattage" on the packaging of some two-way radios . Peak wattage refers to the highest possible wattage for that radio, but may not reflect its actual, consistent operating power. A radio running at 1 consistent watt will, in some circumstances, perform better than a radio rated to 5 watts of peak power. All radios listed on are discussed in terms of consistent operating power.

Typically, a 1-watt walkie-talkie with an average number of obstructions in its path yields about a mile of coverage. Range increases by approximately 30-50 percent if you double power. So, a 2-watt walkie-talkie might broadcast within a range of 1.5 miles; 3 watts = 2 miles; 4 watts = 2.5 miles; 5 watts = 3 miles; and so on Actual distances may vary widely based on weather, UHF vs. VHF, etc. But these are good, general rules of thumb.

However, a 1-watt walkie-talkie broadcasting from a high vantage point (think radio tower on the top of a hill) could easily broadcast 10 miles if unobstructed. A lot depends the lay of the land.

For consistent coverage, if you anticipate using your walkie-talkies within a single building with an average number of obstructions or solid walls, or just need an outdoor coverage of a mile or less, then a 1-watt radio should be just fine for most needs. If you'll be talking between buildings or for up to 2 miles outdoors, then you'll want to buy 2-watt radios. Four and five watt radios cover still greater distances outdoors and between 350,000 square feet or 30 floors indoors. Beyond that, you'll need the help of a repeater, a mobile unit, or a base station to communicate further.

Try to keep in mind that there may be "soft spots" in coverage. A soft spot means that you may get great coverage in a building complex with a 1-watt UHF radio, but there may be trouble between the basements of building A and building C. If this is the case, and those locations are important, increasing your wattage may help. Considering the relatively low incremental cost of stepping up your wattage, it is generally best to review several radio types and purchase a little more wattage than you think you will actually need.

Again, communication may happen at much greater distances, but not on a consistent basis due to obstructions, weather changes, and so on. The key is to find the proper power level for your needs and get as close to 100 percent coverage as possible in your setting.