Site Owner & Radio Enthusiast
As well as defining what type of citizens band radio you need and what features it should offer, you must also ensure you have a system to power your device.
This means answering the question, “How many amps does a CB need?”
Amps, or amperage, is the rate at which currents flow through a circuit. It’s one of the primary units of measurement used for electrical devices. Different types of radios can require different levels of amperage based on their functionality and design.
Here’s what you need to know if you’re buying a CB radio for your home or car and need a better insight into the amperage required to power it.
Understanding Amperage in CB Radios
CB radios, or citizen’s band radios, are unique radio systems used more for communication than entertainment.
These two-way radios work like walkie-talkies or short-distance phones, allowing users to communicate through radio.
CB radios serve as both a transmitter (for sending messages) and a receiver (for collecting notifications). They offer a host of benefits to different users.
However, they’re primarily used to preserve the lines of communication between employees in a business environment.
With a CB radio, you can still communicate with your team even if you can’t access an internet connection or phone signal.
Like most radio systems, CB radios come in various shapes and sizes, with different features based on the make and model.
Most include a microphone, transceiver, squelch control, antenna, speaker, and chassis.
These components rely on a power source, such as your car battery or a set of regular batteries, to ensure the system can access the amps it needs.
The good news is that the average CB radio doesn’t generally require a lot of amps. Most use between 4 and 5 amps, depending on their functionality.
However, some can require as much as 8 amps, which can translate to quite a lot of power, particularly when most car batteries only have up to 70 amp-hours of capacity.
How Many Amps Does a CB Radio Need?
The amperage requirements of a CB radio can vary based on numerous factors.
As mentioned, CB radios come in many forms, from mobile CBs for vehicles to handset radios and base stations. Each product has its own specific power requirements.
However, it’s worth noting that CB radios are limited in terms of power in many parts of the world.
EU and US laws restrict CB radio power to around 4 watts when transmitting in AM mode or up to 12 in SSB mode.
There are formulas you can use to start calculating the potential amp needs of your radio. The most common formula is:
Amps = Watts / Voltage
If you’re running a 4-watt radio with 10 volts, your amp requirements would only be 0.4 amps. That’s not a lot of power.
However, just because a CB radio can only transmit (legally) at 4 watts on the AM frequency doesn’t mean it won’t use any other power.
Your CB radio might require electricity to power a screen and run different functions.
This means you could need anywhere between 2 and 10 amps to power your radio, depending on how you’re using it.
The easiest way to determine how many amps you’ll need for your CB radio power supply is to look at the manufacturer’s instructions. Most manufacturers will include an amp rating on their products.
However, it’s also helpful to consider:
- How much power your radio requires: Some radios require more power than others. For instance, a car CB radio, which is always on and running, will use minimal power in receive mode but require more electricity when you use it to communicate. If you’re not careful, CB radios can drain your car battery, so it’s worth checking how much power you use.
- How you’re using your power supply: If you’re buying a power supply for a CB radio, you may also be using the same system to power multiple devices. If your store powers multiple transceivers or other devices, it will need a higher amperage.
- Contingencies: Most radio experts recommend choosing a power supply with a higher continuous amp rating than you think you’ll need. This can reduce the risk of your power supply or radio overloading or overheating.
Can You Boost Power with CB Radio Amps?
One main thing that sets CB radios apart from other communication-focused systems, like ham radios, is their power restrictions.
By minimizing CB radios’ transmitting and receiving power, regulators reduce frequency congestion and other issues with radio waves.
However, there are ways to add power to a CB radio.
For instance, CB radio amps are transistor devices that boost your system’s performance by increasing signal amplitude and gain.
They increase the number of watts a system can use from between 3-4 watts to anywhere over 500 watts. This means an amplifier can improve your range and boost the amperage you’ll need from a power supply.
However, before you invest in an amplifier, there are a few things to consider:
- Current setup: While CB radio amps boost your system, a great antenna system may be all users need to improve their device’s performance and range. A longer antenna can increase CB radio performance without extra power.
- Wattage capacity: Some CB radios can only operate with a certain number of amps or watts. Before experimenting with your CB radio, you’ll need to check the manufacturer’s maximum wattage rating.
- CB radio usage: Whether you’re using CB radios to communicate via AM or SBB mode will often make a difference to the features you need in an amplifier. Most amplifiers should work well with AM mode. Still, users might need to adjust their radio carrier to prevent overdriving the system and the amplifier.
- Power supply: As mentioned above, the more watts your radio uses, the more power you need. Increasing the power of your CB radio means investing in a power supply with a higher amp rating and a more robust performance.
Perhaps most importantly, you’ll need to check the legalities around using CB radio amps in your region.
In many parts of the US and EU, it’s illegal for any CB radio user to increase their device’s power output. If an amplifier makes your radio exceed the guidelines set out by the radio authorities in your region, you could risk fines or jail time.
How Many Amps Does Your CB Radio Need?
As you can see, defining the number of amps you need to operate a CB radio can be more complex than it seems. The amperage required for your device will depend on several factors, from the style of the radio to its power supply and even if you choose to use an amplifier.
For the most part, the typical CB radio will only need a power supply of around 5-7 amps, even in continuous use.
However, you must carefully examine your radio system to determine your needs.
If you’re struggling to choose the proper power supply, always use the manufacturer’s amp rating for the radio to guide you.
Choosing a power supply with a maximum continuous amps rating much larger than your radio’s full amp draw.
Consider how you plan to use your CB radio and the power supply to keep it running.