What does “duty cycle” mean?
I bring up duty cycle every time I hear somebody talking about making a repeater out of cheap Chinese mobiles and worse any type of handhelds. Duty cycle is the maximum time an amplifier may transmit within a five minute interval, expressed as a percentage, to avoid overheating. Suppose a mobile amplifier is rated at 30% duty cycle. This means that it may transmit for no longer than 1.5 minutes and must remain off for not less than 3.5 minutes. Some people forget that a repeater is transmitting for 2 or more people, duty cycle will be reached quickly if you get into conversation. More people in the conversation just amplifies the issue.
Once a radio reaches it's thermal design limits it will no longer be able to adequately cool the output transistors. Even if a radio is not hot to the touch the transistors are, in part because of the inefficient transfer of heat to the units housing or internal heat sink. The longer you exceed the duty cycle the more heat builds on the transistors, surrounding electronics and heat sink effecting it's ability to remain on frequency without spurious emissions. Exceed duty cycle long enough and you will need a new transmitter or radio.
I have tested a few Baofang and TYT radios on my service monitor without great results. All of the radios started deviating outside of the allotted channel bandwidth after simulated conversation at 50% duty cycle, the longer I allowed this the worse if got. Testing was done using an Aeroflex 2975 IFR recently back from the calibration lab.
GMRS is a tiny sliver of spectrum surrounded by the commercial land mobile part 90 service. It is important that any repeaters that are built or re-purposed are held to the highest standards and operated as to not cause any interference inside or outside of our allocated spectrum. I wont get into the part 90/95 debate but i do stand firm that non certified import equipment has no place on GMRS.