/ Home & Energy, Technology

The energy-saving LED bulb that switched off the radio

An LED bulb lighting up the darkness

We get sent some weird and wonderful tales of products going wrong, but one story piqued our interest so much that we just had to send it to the lab to test it out. Can you help us shed more light on the mystery?

Last year we received this intriguing message:

‘I recently changed six halogen down-lighters to more energy efficient LED bulbs. Unfortunately when the lights were switched on, the DAB signal on my radio was wiped out!’

To try and figure out this conundrum, we sent a batch of cheap, generic 12V LED bulbs to our lab and found that when a digital radio was placed within a few metres of the switched-on bulbs the signal went fuzzy. When the radio was placed within a few centimetres of the LED bulbs, it cut out all together.

The plot thickens

LEDs are ultra energy efficient light bulbs that can last up to twenty years and have been hailed as the future of home lighting.

It seems our members are not the only ones who have had this problem. There are other accounts of LED bulbs affecting radios, with AVForums also collecting stories. Nick Tooley shared his experience:

‘I had the same problems with LED bulbs wiping out DAB reception and tried several types of bulbs, but to no avail.’

And it seems that the issue may not just be limited to digital radios – TVs may also be affected. After fitting LED down-lighters in his kitchen, Jackord noticed the following problem:

‘While the lights are much better, we then by accident noticed that the digital TV would not work (I was complaining that we had no reception at all, did not make any sense, began to think that there had been some sort of catastrophic disaster which stopped the TV stations from broadcasting…lol) then someone turned off the ceiling lights in the kitchen and, hey presto, on came the TV.’

Shedding light on cheap bulbs

So what bulbs are affected? We tested three 12V generic LED bulbs and we also compared them to branded 240V GU10 LEDs and some halogens. We found only a very minor interference with our radio signal. So at this stage, the issue seems to be limited to cheap knock-offs rather than branded goods.

We’ve only done preliminary tests on this problem, so can’t make any concrete conclusions on why this is happening or how widespread this bizarre problem is.

That’s where you come in. We need your help – have you had this problem? If so, please enlighten us in the comments below, including what model bulb you were using and where you bought it.

Comments
David Farnell says:
23 April 2013

I purchased a small DAB Roberts Ecolological 1 radio to use in our bathroom, it is not yet installed in there, but sits in our kitchen area, about 3 metres away from the bathroom LED light transformer. Every time the bathroom lights are turned on, the radio mutes or plays snippets of sound accomapanied by a sort of squelch. I installed 5 x 4W LED lights powered from a eSmart Germany Universal Transformator Leistung: 0 – 20W 1,67A DC12V AC90~250V IP67 dust- and water proof transformer unit.

I thought that the cause of the problem was more likely due to the 12V transformer unit in the ceiling, although I recently purchased an ARCH AC-DC Converter 20W unit and fitted it with a mains plug. When this is turned on right next to the radio, nothing happens, although it has no outward load.

I read with interest some of your reader comments about desk and bedside lamps causing problems. I have a computer keyboard 240V LED light that does nothing, neither does a 12V LED running off a non rectified voltage transformer in the base.

Two other Roberts radios are affected by the lights in the bathroom in a similar way.

Robin Caine says:
24 April 2013

Following my earlier posts I have now carried out some tests. I have an older DAB Radio adapter which tunes automatically to the 225MHz multiplex. I cut a tuned dipole, at least as good as an internal antenna, for this frequency and measured the DAB signal strength on a spectrum analyser, which gave a voltage of about 30 microvolts at the antenna terminals. When I switched on the LED lamps (12 volt MR16 replacements) in the ceiling above, the interefering signal was rather greater at that frequency, and consisted of pulses of noise sweeping across the DAB band and far out each side.

On connecting the receiver, it operated very well (free of errors and ‘garbling’) without the lights. Switching on the lights killed any reception at all, regardless of moving or swivelling anntennas.
I repeat that running the (MR16) LEDs from a Gelcel made little difference – it’s not the 240/12 Volt inverter/transformer (although the radiated noise does come from the 12V wiring).

There is no doubt that:
12V MR16 LED downlighters are incompatible with DAB, even when they meet EC standards.
The Mains powered GU10 type of the same wattage range are practically clean.
DAB is designed to work well on internal antennas and are meant to be a big improvemnet on VHF FM.
The powers that be, ie OFCOM, must resolve this issue by requiring higher field strengths for DAB, tightening the radiated emissions standards for switched devices. Given the obvious need to save energy, I suggest that urgent action is needed.

Robin

Thanks for the update, Robin. Where did you hear that DAB is intended for use with an internal antenna? My experience is that neither DAB or FM signal strength is adequate in many places, and often one will work where the other is inadequate.

Obviously there is scope to increase transmitter power but that could result in a different form of interference, caused by the radio signal.

Fred says:
2 May 2013

We had a bad thunder storm here earlier this week and noticed that our NOAH weather alert radio did not give any warning. The radio is located on a wide window sill in the kitchen area and gets very good reception. Later that evening another bad thunder storm arrived again with no response from the weather radio which we have mainly for tornado warnings.
After checking the radio and making sure it was set properly I placed it back on the window sill and turned it on test and discovered it was all static. I then tried to tune on all the weather NOAH stations and they all were nothing but static. I was frustrated at this point. About that same moment my wife turned off the kitchen lights which are 65 watt incandescent flood lights in the ceiling. Except for one LED which I just installed a week ago or so. When the lights were turned off the static on the radio disappeared and the station was load and clear. As soon as the lights were turned on the static appeared and the station was cut off.
This could be a real problem if a tornado alert is not picked up.
The Bulb is by UTILITECH PRO a BR30 indoor flood 650 lumens 2700K uses 12.5 watts item no.
0338929 model # UHLBR3012W27K

Fred

Claire Davies says:
19 May 2013

We have a very old music centre, but as soon as the ceiling lights were replaced in our kitchen, we now find we cannot use the radio at all. We are wandering around in stigian gloom while trying to cook. Should we cut ourselves, who can we blame>

I was horrified that the electrician, finding the fault at the time of installation, did not immediately take the d… things out.

David Farnell says:
19 May 2013

More information about the lights we are using:
The bathroom have 5 x Aurora 4W 12V MR16 Super Bright LED Light Bulbs|Warm White, 3000k run from a 20V transformer-circuit. We also have 240V LEDs in the kitchen, and used to have those in the bathroom. They do not seem to cause a problem. I purchased the Aurora LEDs to fit in the bathroom of a property that I let out and the first 4 bulbs needed to be fitted the correct way (as real LED electronic ones do), so I had to mark each connector with a blob of red paint. This was not needed with the later batch of Aurora LEDs. Another point of interest by another person on these pages suggested that the wiring could be an issue? Wouldn’t an earth screen help the cables?

I suggested screening on the previous page, since it is a fairly obvious solution. It would be interesting to know whether screening either the wires or power supply has an effect. Obviously it is vital that the earthing is done properly and cannot come in contact with the live/neutral conductors.

A reputable manufacturer points out that despite testing for compliance with EMC standards (e.g. CISPR15) the installation will be different from standard test conditions and EMI can result, coupled through the wiring or radiated from lamps/ luminaires for example. Their recommendations are to use a transformer/driver with good EMI suppression (so a reputable make), minimise cable lengths, use shielded cable (Belden), and add EMI filter/choke at input/output of transformer – e.g. EMC ferrites. I paraphrase this from their literature, but it highlights that even with quality components problems can result – so even more problems likely with poor quality components. Worth buying mainstream equipment if you can find it.

Most of the compact fluorescent lamps that I have seen have been branded with the name of a well known manufacturer or retailer. With LED lamps, there are numerous unfamiliar brands and Internet traders.

I am quite happy with my CFLs for the time being. If I do buy LED lamps I will go for known brands, purchased from an established retailer. Avoiding radio interference is one reason, but safety is rather more important to me. Thanks to Internet trading, a lot of dodgy electrical equipment is coming into the UK.

Tom says:
21 May 2013

Having read your article in the April 2013 edition of Which? entitled ‘Are your LED lightbulbs affecting your radio?’ I thought I should let you know that I have experienced this problem since replacing the spot bulbs in my kitchen some months ago. I have not received any reception for sometime on my radio and I’m thinking now that it may be the bulbs that are causing the problem. I get a constant loud buzzing/crackling noise and whilst I’ve tried many functions that I thought would solved the problem – this has not worked.

The bulb brand is; Diall 12v/40w and with code; MR16 1267/ R12 W26.

I hope this information helps somewhat in any future/further investigation you may wish to conduct.

I’m not in the least surprised by this and I don’t think that going on the basis of cheap bulbs being the only ones to cause this problem will be a very reliable way of avoiding it.

I had the same problem with CFL’s – big name branded ones included – more than 5 years ago with my TV – not just reception but also rendering the remote control signal inoperable. There is also a significant effect on wirless network communications between computers, etc.

I have reported this to Which? and added it to previous convo’s on a number of occasions but my findings have either been ignored or pooh-poohed.

As regular readers of my contributions to the various CFL convo’s will know, I’ve now converted almost everything back to tungsten lamps, which are readily available if you buy “rough service” ones and of which I have a huge stock.

Wavechange has often commented that the issue with all types of energy saving lamps, most especially CFL’s, is that the electronics are made to a price point (i.e. cheap – even in expensive lamps) and very compact, so that they can be thrown away with the lamp. If the electroncis were made to a quality standard and fitted in the fitting (like Thorn 2D lamps and the PL range) then many of the problems with CFL and LED lamps would be eliminated ……. possibly including this one, although this does smack more of RFI, in which case shielding (fitted in the lamp / fitting since this is the casue of the issue) could be a good solution (as Wavechange has already mentioned).

In my eyes all of these problems arise because energy saving lamps are not really fit for purpose and that is because they are designed and made so that they can be retro fitted to existing fittings and priced cheaply enough for their mandatory introduction not to have caused civil uproar over costs.

I’m still getting on fine with my CFLs, Dave. I did replace a couple of old ones with cheap spirals from Tesco, as previously reported, and they are doing fine. Despite my own success, I do appreciate that others suffer problems with CFLs having a short lifetime. From what I have seen, poor ventilation is a major reason for failure of CFLs and using them in enclosed fixtures or in unventilated lampshades is inviting problems because overheating of electronics (in the CFL cap) will shorten its life.

I may become interested in LED lamps when some brighter ones appear on the market and the price falls. I’m a keen radio listener, so thanks to this Conversation, I am not even going to buy a single LED lamp for the time being.

Getting people to use energy saving lamps – CFLs – meant keeping it simple. They had to retrofit – so into existing lampholders. Hence the need to package the control gear with the lamp because different lamp wattages needed different operating ballasts. However, separate electronics would be a much better solution as I also have said in other conversations – it can be made to a higher standard and is less wasteful. So called “intelligent” electronic ballasts are available that sense the lamp type (wattage) and adjust their characterisitcs accordingly, so why not build these as part of a lampholder, and you could then use the standard (gearless) CFLs that are used commercially.
You say cheap to avoid uproar over costs – have you looked at the prices of some LED lamps? Cheap is not the word, yet they presumably sell. Quite why the hype over LEDs beats me – they are not very different in real efficiency than CFLs, and who is going to take advantage of a 25 year life compared to a CFL’s 5 year?

Mike says:
6 June 2013

I feel that a rant about CFLs is a bit off topic, but I would like to reply to a couple of points. I’ve been using CFLs for many years but I’ve never had any trouble with interference with the TV remote. They do show some modulation of the light output at 30 to 80 kHz which I think is in the range used by some remotes as far as I recall (and a lot more at 100 Hz), but fluorescents have almost no IR output. The most likely reason for a CFL interfering with an IR remote control is that the IR filter is not fitted in front of the sensor – where it normally would be. Have you ever checked that? It should look like black or dark red plastic.

As for continuing to using tungsten light bulbs, suit yourself – rough service lamps are even less efficient than normal ones. I’m glad I’m not paying your electricity bill. The issue that I’ve had with CFLs is that some recent cheap ones have not lasted as long as they should. Personally, I think that LEDs have now reached a high enough performance at a low enough price to be worth buying. From this thread and my experience it seems fairly clear to me that MR16s are often bad for EMI and GU10s are usually good, so I don’t think that it’s necessary to avoid LEDs altogether.

CFLs operate off electronic ballasts at high frequency in the range 20-100kHz depending on the ballast manufacturer – but typically 40-60kHz. This keeps the inductors small and helps lamp efficiency.

Sharon Prinsloo says:
18 June 2013

I have just had 10 recessed lights fitted in my lounge ceiling. We put in led lights with a CE mark and it brought the digital radio to a complete standstill. I was really disappointed – I reported it to the electrician who suggested a bulb change. I was still expecting major disturbance, even if we were lucky enough to improve the situation. After the bulb change, there is absolutely no interference whatsoever. Ironically, the new bulbs do not have a CE mark. The only visible difference between the first lot of bulbs is that they had 4 little lights within the globe, and the new ones have multiple ‘globelets’ and about 28 yellow/gold squares in the face of the bulb. I am really pleased with the result. There is no company name on the bulb so I can unfortunately not recommend the bulbs by name.

CE marking is safety marking – compliance with EU safety standards. There to protect you from injury or an electric shock etc. It is surprising there is no mark – may have been on the packaging? Otherwise they will be illegal to distribute within the EU.

I would be interested to know if it is permissible to have a CE mark only on the packaging. I’m looking at small G9 halogen capsules that are clearly CE marked, so if it is possible to label them then it is very easy to relatively large downlighter.

wavechange, sometimes, because of the form or size of the product, it is impractical to put the 5mm (mnimum) high CE Mark on it. However, in general, it should be on the product – guidance is:
“•you must affix the CE marking to the product or to its data plate – if this is not possible or not warranted because of the nature of the product, it must be affixed to the packaging and accompanying documents”.

Sharon Prinsloo says:
18 June 2013

In the light of the above replies, for which I am grateful, I have had a closer look. The replacements do indeed have the CE mark, engraved on the silver outer of the bulb. I agree that having it on the packaging alone wouldn’t be acceptable. What I would like to see is the manufacturer’s mark on it, so I can buy some more of them when replacement time comes. I have to say these look to be of a better ‘finish’ than the previous ones which had the CE mark stamped in black near the neck of the bulb. I am still mightily impressed by the difference that the bulb change made.

Thanks Malcolm. That has helped me find the information on the gov.uk website – bookmarked for future reference.

Sharon – Your comment is really useful because it might give hope to others struggling with radio interference. Hopefully manufacturers and retailers will learn that we are not going to put up with second-rate products.

Myst says:
19 June 2013

A guess would be that the housing of the cheaper bulbs don’t shield the driver circuitry, so there is electromagnetic noise that’s interfering with the radio signal.

Harry says:
19 August 2013

I installed 7 x 6watt MR16 12v Led lights in my bathroom and was really pleased until I installed a KB Sound iSelct DAB/FM radio as well. The radio is a specific bathroom/kitchen radio that installs in the ceiling and all that shows is two speakers. The radio is controlled via remote control through a sensor in one of the ceiling speakers.

In common with many posts I have seen here I could have the radio on until the lights were turned on and then the radio would just go silent, turn the lights off and the radio comes back on again, it was comical for the first few times 🙂

The radio is supplied with a simple wire antennae of around 30cm. To get around the problem I made a simple DAB aerial that was on the end of 6 meters or so of coax. I had to make the aerial quite remote from the lights and also be careful where the cooax was routed, too close to the lights or the wiring and the radio reception would fail.

May radio is designed to be put in a ceiling void and unless you can get a coax for an aerial there the radio would be useless if LED lamps were used as well.

After having researched this on the net it seems that this is a substantial problem and buying a recognised brand of light isnt a guarantee of success.

Good Luck

martin steel says:
16 September 2013

I have 9 led lights in my kitchen some where £10 each others were £6.I could manage with them in summer but now winter is coming and I need the lights on during the day I really could do with a solution to eliminate radio interference.When I switch the lights on both DAB & FM reception virtually disappears.
Both lamp manufacturers said they had never heard of this before which I find hard to believe!

Doug Evans says:
4 October 2013

I have noticed a whole other class of problem with these bulbs – I use an HMDI box to transmit TV around the house using the mains: as soon as I switch on the GU10 bulbs that are on the same circuit it destroys the signal on the mains, so the TV cannot be watched. Switch the lights off and the TV signal comes back( NB no external aerial is involved). So these bulbs also seem to put interference on the mains

Doug, Electromagnetic interference can be both radiated from the LED circuit and transmitted down the wiring. I reproduce part of a comment I posted above which may help you to improve your LED circuitry:
A reputable manufacturer points out that despite testing for compliance with EMC standards (e.g. CISPR15) the installation will be different from standard test conditions and EMI can result, coupled through the wiring or radiated from lamps/ luminaires for example. Their recommendations are to use a transformer/driver with good EMI suppression (so a reputable make), minimise cable lengths, use shielded cable (Belden), and add EMI filter/choke at input/output of transformer – e.g. EMC ferrites. I paraphrase this from their literature, but it highlights that even with quality components problems can result – so even more problems likely with poor quality components. Worth buying mainstream equipment if you can find it.

Andy says:
4 October 2013

I’ve got news for you, Doug – your HDMI box is just as guilty of polluting the mains supply as your lamps are! Shoving digital telecom signals onto the mains wiring is asking for (and causing) trouble. Because domestic mains wiring was never designed to carry such signals it radiates strong radio interference and it is also at the mercy of other devices which use the same trick. These thins should never have been allowed to come to the market in the first place. A proper wired connection using the right type of cable is the only reliable way.

The problems with DAB radio and LED lighting are symptomatic of a much larger issue that is only now beginning to emerge in the public consciousness. All electronics generate fields, some more than others. How our electronics cope when exposed to those fields has produced a dedicated arm of electronic engineering called Electromagnetic compatibility (EMC).

In the UK there is a raft of Standards which are in place to ensure that electrical and electronic items do not interfere with each other. That system is broken because the organisation which is charged with policing it in the UK is also broken: Ofcom – the Market Surveillance Authority with responsibility to ensure that goods which claim compliance with the European ‘interference’ Standards do in fact meet those Standards.

The light emitting components in LED lighting are by their nature low voltage; individually these small components would run off a battery. To make them compatible with the 230v mains a transformation needs to take place otherwise the components would burn out in a fraction of a second. That transformation is accomplished by a circuit called a switched mode power supply (normally shorted to SMPSU). This circuit, by its nature, produces radio interference. How much depends entirely on the circuit design and whether correct filtering components are fitted. The miniaturisation needed to make viable filament lamp replacements places a challenge on the designer to achieve the necessary compromise between cost and compliance with the Standards required to be able to sell goods in Europe. In any event there will always be some interference and if like Mr Pearson’s LED light, that equipment is connected to the electrical mains, the mains itself becomes a conduit, ferrying the interference around the building indiscriminately.

The trick is to make sure that the interference is not of a magnitude which prevents radio equipment from operating as intended – and this is the central premise of the European (and UK) “interference legal regime.” The real problem is that Ofcom refuses to take its statutory duty seriously and places a much higher regard on its public image. In recent years we have seen Ofcom bury reports which demonstrate products fail to meet the Standards; and on at least one occasion, the Information Commissioner had to force Ofcom to release the report.

We regret to say that your experience is the thin end of the wedge. We are now seeing reports of broadband speeds also being adversely affected for the same reasons the DAB radio was rendered impotent. Products like LED lighting and powerline networking require close scrutiny due to the commercial pressures to make a viable product. Until Ofcom ceases its infernal meddling with soaps and takes its spectrum management responsibilities seriously these problems will continue to multiply exponentially.

You can read more on interference issues and you can join in and ask questions to people in the know on the forum (http://interference.org.uk/forum/)

All electrical and electronic devices sold within the EU must be CE marked. Applying this mark is a statement that the product has been type-tested and complies with the relevant standards; these include those relating to EMI. EMI standards do not guarantee no interference, because it is very complex and involves evolving technologies, such as LEDs; but it is the best current way of limiting EMI effects.
Reputable manufacturers will perform the testing properly. However, there are others, or importers of products from outside the EU, who will apply the mark without the appropriate testing. This is very difficult to police. I have suggested before that the EU Trade Associations (Lighting Industry Association in the UK) have everything to gain from exposing these poor products to protect their own manufacturers’ interests. They can only act if defective products are reported to them, or picked up by them in random testing. I do not think Ofcom could possibly have the resources to do this – their role surely should be to act against manufacturers or importers of defective products when they are given the evidence.
I believe EU consumers associations could help by reporting non-compliant products, collected from conversations such as this.

Gerry says:
4 October 2013

Ofcom isn’t exactly strapped for cash.

There’s absolutely no reason why Ofcom cannot prepare a rigorous testing regime and outsource its implementation to an appropriate organisation. They shouldn’t just doze until the problem has become so widespread that their slumbers become disturbed by complaints.

Unfortunately Ofcom is a totally toothless watchdog that’s far, far too close to the industries that it’s supposed to regulate.

I hope we’re not going to have a rash of QR codes as avatars on this site. As first user, Wavechange should have his integrity protected from imitation, passing-off, and any other form of interference.

There is already a rigorous testing regime prescribed by international standards. It would be quite impossible for an organisation like Ofcom to test every lighting product that can potentially give rise to electromagnetic interference. On the same argument they would have to test every other electrical product of any kind. It is not only a national issue, but an EU one.
if you want a national organisation to independently test for EMI, then you should equally ask other public organisations to test against the European safety standards that a huge variety of products must comply with. Another impossible task.
The purpose of manufacturers providing certification to show they comply with all these standards (EMI and Safety – and many manufacturers have their own test facilities, or employ test houses) is to arrive at a practical system. Inevitably rogues will cheat and they are the ones to pursue. There are plenty of examples in this conversation of possibly non-compliant equipment. What action has been taken to investigate these?

“There is already a rigorous testing regime prescribed by international standards.”

Unfortunately, testing is not actually necessary because approval can be achieved by means of the design note procedure. In this, the manufacturer simply shows by theory that the device complies with the requirements. In many cases the theory is more akin to wishful thinking! With OFCOM taking a relaxed approach to the problem, manufacturers can get away with almost anything – and often do.

I have said on many occasions that there is a need to split the responsibilities of OFCOM so that regulatory aspects, including enforcement, are completely separate from all other aspects of the operation. At the moment, OFCOM gives more attention to the promotion of the market than to anything else.

A Technical Construction File is required to demonstrate compliance with relevant standards to allow the CE Mark to be applied. This often necessitates testing. You are quite correct in that it is Self Certification – this applies to all CE Marking. This method relies upon the integrity of manufacturers and in the case of the reputable ones, works well. To have all the products involved independently tested would overwhelm the test houses. The key is to police this system effectively – Trading Standards in this country. This requires potentially defective products being reported by consumers, trade bodies, and so on. TSOs usually require multiple complaints before they act. Consumer Groups can play a significant part, I believe, in bringing suspect products to the attention of TSOs, and to the Trade Associations. It does not appear to be within the remit of Ofcom.
On the specific question of EMI, even products that comply with standards can produce interference – largely because the actual installation (cabling and runs for example) may well differ from the test conditions, or the apparatus interfered with may be more sensitive to EMI (e.g. because of an inadequate aerial). Furthermore, product development usually is ahead of standard development and new unforseen situations can arise.

Gary M0PLT says:
4 October 2013

Those of us that have been involved in the fight against Power Line Technology know only too well that Trading Standards are powerless to act in the case of non-EMC-compliance. In the UK the body responsible for enforcing EMC law is the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), with Ofcom their chosen body to act as Market Surveillance Authority. Trading Standards defer to Ofcom for “advice” on non-EMC-compliance, and Ofcom tell them it’s all OK. Members of UKQRM have experienced this on numerous occasions when dealing with dodgy Switched Mode Power Supplies and the illegalities of PLT. Trading Standards have tried to go after suppliers for non-EMC-compliance, only to be told by Ofcom to clear off. By their inaction, Ofcom’s failure to enforce the law is encouraging manufacturers to lie on their Declarations of Conformity and flood the market with junk electronics. This will continue whilst the regulator for EMC compliance is beholden to the department for business and their mantra of “no barrier to free trade”.

Gary, I (and I’m sure others) would be interested in the source of the comment that Ofcom have told TSOs they have no problem with EMC. Who is collecting reports of potentially non-compliant equipment to present to the authorities?
Who loses when non-compiant products flood the market? The reputable manufacturers. So one party that should be interested is their trade association (and others throughout Europe). Have they been involved by complainants?

If your electronics are supposed to minimise interference and they don’t, why don’t you sue the manufacturer or retailer in the small claims court? You might as well if Ofcom won’t do anything. And why not ask your MP to do something too?

Thank you John. Perhaps imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I appreciate your sense of humour, though it is apparent that someone does not.

llandl says:
7 October 2013

interference.org.uk you’re the site admin? How many of you are there from your site and others like it?

Have you tried using the advertising code 3.3 Marketing communications must not mislead the consumer by omitting material information. They must not mislead by hiding material information or presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner.

Material information is information that the consumer needs to make informed decisions in relation to a product.

It’s there on the CAP website

So you guys can make ASA complaints about anything that makes interference. TVs and leds. It can be on manufacturers websites and shops and supermarkets websites and leaflets. But have evidence before you make your complaints

Which? super-complainant to the RESCUUUEEEEEEE!

Hopefully as there is no doubt that if OFCOM are as useless as they appear to be they need a kick up the **** . They are only going to react when forced to and with the pressure on everyone to reduce waste and electrical consumption this is a problem that will only grow bigger.

[Stars pre-loaded in consideration of the moderators]

Ofcoms activities are laid down by Parliament. They can do no more and no less. As far as I can see this does not include details of equipment. See http://www.ofcom.org.uk/about/what-is-ofcom/

OFCOM apart from suggesting the BBC is remarkably uninformative on its web sit – useless comes to mind again. Have they not heard of LED Bulbs and problems ? I quote the advice here:

Radio .
What causes radio reception and interference problems?

Radio speakerBoth analogue radios (i.e. those that pick up broadcasts on the FM, MW, LW or SW frequency bands) and digital radio sets (e.g. DAB) need a good aerial to guarantee the best sound quality.

If you’re quite far from the nearest transmitter it can be difficult for radio signals to go through thick brick or concrete walls, so you might find that putting the radio on a window sill with the aerial near the window glass can help.

If the radio is close to an electrical device with a large motor (for example, a washing machine or fridge-freezer) this can also cause interference.

Try moving the radio from room to room to see if the reception problems improve or worsen.

If you’re using the radio’s built-in aerial, see if your radio allows you to plug in an external aerial. Most high street electrical shops will sell a desktop FM aerial which may allow for better reception.

If you have a rooftop TV aerial you may also be able to connect this to your radio. A qualified aerial installer can help with advice. The Confederation of Aerial Industries CAI) keeps a list of accredited installers.

More information on radio interference”

It is hard to think that adding a sentence or two on new lighting potentially being a cause for interference would be beyond OFCOM.

dieseltaylor – I agree, adding a warning about LED circuits would be useful. But the original suggestion was Ofcom test all such products. I do not believe that is either practical nor within their terms of reference. However, if it is otherwise I would be interested to know it.

martin steel says:
4 October 2013

I have 4 Auraglow GU10 at £10+ and 5 unbranded GU10 at £7 ea.My Denon DAB radio is completely wiped out and the FM stations are garbled.I have put up with this in the summer but now winter is approaching I am thinking of putting the Halogen lamps back in and binning the LEDS .
I wrote to Denon to ask their advice and they fobbed me off with “speak to an aerial specialist”!I am really disappointed with the outcome and am advising friends not to change to LEDs if they like listening to radio.
(my wife liked the halogen lamps much more as they give off a much warmer tone)
Martin

Gerry says:
4 October 2013

Denon didn’t fob you off. The interference is not their fault.

Either you need to remove/suppress the interference or, as they correctly suggest, you need an external aerial to deliver sufficiently interference-free signals to the receiver.

Would you say that Ford had fobbed you off if you complained to them that it was far too foggy to see the road ahead in your Focus?

The victim is under no statutory obligation to remove the interference. The supplier of equipment which fails to meet the essential requirements has supplied goods which “are not of satisfactory quality.” The Sale of Goods Act prevails and in EVERY circumstance the purchaser (victim) is entitled to a refund or replacement due to this defect.

In all circumstances it is not lawful for a person or equipment to prevent radio equipment from operating as intended. This is enshrined in multiple laws, the Electromagnetic Compatibility Regulations (2006), Wireless Telegraphy Act (2006), Communications Act (2003) and can be tracked back to Treaty under the Radio Regulations of the ITU ch.15.

Please desist from giving incorrect advice.

I think what Gerry meant was that it is not Denon’s problem and that it’s not Denon’s responsibility to fix the problem. The customer (victim) is the only person who can take the next step, because only they know what the product is, where it came from and what the problem is. The customer (victim) now needs to remove the LED bulbs and then take appropriate action such as returning to store under sale of goods act and demanding a refund, taking them to Trading Standards and attempting to get trading standards to take on the manufacturers and distributors or pursuing the matter in court (or any one of a number of other options) QRcode person is correct that it isn’t the customer (victim) who has to fix the fault, but it is the customer (victim) who has to instigate a process to get it fixed.

Several of us, certainly me in a very ‘loud’ way, have been complaining to Which? for several years now about CFL, LED and other so-called energy saving lamps and their myriad of problems which make them a hopeless replacement for tungsten filament lamps, but Which? is only interested in trotting out rather dubious stats about how much energy they save and towing the government line of “there is no alternative”. If Which? was actually doing it’s job and being the “Consumer association” they would have already instigated relevant processes to deal with these problems on behalf of the likes of Martin Steele and we might by now be seeing some progress.

Wavechange hs regularly pointed out that the greatest technical barrier to the issues experienced with CFL’s and LED lamps is the crazily badly made and miniaturised electronics – if these were made to a decent standard many of the problems, quite possibly including interference, would be things of the past.

Incidentally, though drifting slightly off topic I must admit, due to recent changes in our town centre, I’ve found myself looking in “pound shops” and so on which I never expected to do and I’ve been both surprised and impressed to see how many are selling shelf upon shelf upon shelf od good old fashioned tungsten filament lamps in wattages from 40 to 250 including 60, 75, and 100 in vast numbers.

Doesn’t seem to me that this farce of obliging us all to switch to CFL or LED is working very well so far ……….

The other problem is designing lamps and other items where electronics has to operate in an environment that is too hot for reliable operation.

Interestingly, the mains voltage LED lamps where compromises may have to be made to cram everything into a small space seem to create fewer problems with interference than 12V LEDs. I assume that the wiring is helping radiate the interference in some cases.

Gerry says:
4 October 2013

@ Dave D

Exactly, there’s very little that Denon can do about interference radiated in free space by LED lights or any other device, any more than Ford or Rolls Royce can stop fog forming in front of your car.

I wasn’t too sure to whom interference.org.uk’s comments were directed; the indenting on the Which? convo doesn’t make it clear. It can be read both ways, but I prefer to assume it was in response to Martin Steel, i.e. that the LED manufacturer rather than Denon is the culprit.

Gerry says:
4 October 2013

@ Martin Steel

You might find that powering the Denon via a mains filter will solve the problem if the interference is mains borne.

See my comments on 24 March 2013 on Page 2 of this thread.

Mike says:
4 October 2013

Energy saving light bulbs are not a ‘hopeless’ replacement for tungsten. I’ve used CFLs for years, and have switched the kitchen, bathroom and hall to LEDs recently. I’m not saying that they are perfect and I’m not a supporter of the government’s half baked energy policy, but energy saving lighting works quite well for me. I’m not going to try to stop you going back to tungsten GLS if you must, but they have problems too. They are four or five times more expensive to run. Standard bulbs don’t last very long and ‘long life’ bulbs aren’t much better and are even less efficient. The very high base temperature can damage the lamp holder and cables. I don’t like the warm orangey light, but some people do, so that’s 50/50.

I don’t want to repeat myself, but it’s simply not true that all LEDs cause EMC problems. And it’s not true that all mains LEDs use switch mode power supplies. It is a real problem that there are some bad products on the market, and that no-one is doing anything about it, but returning to 19th century technology is not the answer.

Some of us have never stopped using tungsten GLS and have an ancient stock of them that is likely to outlast my lifetime. To date the life span of CFL’s and LED’s that I’ve tried has been so short that tungsten GLS lamps easily outlive them (indeed in my dining room the 250w Tungsten GLS is actually over 30 years old and still working – you watch it blow tomorrow now I’ve said that!) and whilst it’s absolutely true that GLS bulbs do get very hot, when you have all brass lampholders there isn’t much harm can be done. CFL’s are no better with regard to heat, which is almost certainly the reason they fail so prematurely.

All that said, whilst I’ve no objection to old tech, the real answer, as endlessly discussed on various convo’s, is to make the new cfl’s, LEDS, etc actually work properly, then they’d be a good idea.

the fact that badly made new lamps upset all sorts of other things illustrates the point.

Gerry, you are quite right – if you purchase defective LED circuitry that interferes with your DAB radio, then you need to remove it to solve your radio problem and replace it with quality LED circuitry.
“Interference” is also right in that the supplier of the defective LED equipment should refund or replace it with conforming devices. Their product should also be reported (but who to who can take effective action?) as being potentially non-compliant (I say potentially because, if you look back at previous posts, the installation layout used, if it differs from the test conditions, can allow a technically-compliant product to still produce unacceptable interference).
Neither advice is incorrect.
The key to this problem is surely how defective LEDs (and for that matter CFLs) can be prevented from entering the market, or reported and action taken if they do. I have not seen a practical solution offered to this that can be agreed upon. What do you, Which?, think should be the solution?

Peter says:
4 October 2013

To some of us it is quite clear that Ofcom has a function to protect the Electromagnetic Spectrum from interference, on their website they say :-

“It shall be the principal duty of Ofcom, in carrying out their functions;
(a) to further the interests of citizens in relation to communications matters; and

Ofcom’s role includes securing:

the optimal use for wireless telegraphy of the electro-magnetic spectrum;”

It does not say they have to test every piece of electronic equipment, that is the job of the standards and test house people, but where a device or type of device is clearly in breach of the basic common sense concept, (which is enshrined within the EMC law), “that no device shall cause another device to suffer interference such that it cannot function as it should”, then they Ofcom should be on the case and fix it. That is how it used to be years ago, if the thermostat on your central heating interfered with next door’s television, they the Radio Intereference Service would tell you to fix it, or indeed they would fit the required suppresion components themselves.
The problem is quite simple, there is so much equipment causing interference, that to do a proper job of tracking it down and clearing the issue, would take hundreds or thousands of Ofcom field staff, and would then fall foul of their other ‘hat’, that of ensuring free trade across the EU.
So it is assumed (as others have suggested) that they have been told by the top peoples to pretend to be the ‘3 monkeys’ “Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil”.
I have to say that in some of their departments they do indeed do ‘what it says on the box’ and are very helpful, the trouble is that the interference job is in the ‘too difficult’ tray.

There are many CFLs and LEDs that do work properly – widely used in commercial applications and domestically. Generally it is the cheaper makes of unknown provenance that cause most problems. Safer to buy from the well-known reputable manufacturers. I have CFLs (GE and Philips) in most rooms – decent colour, long life and no interference. LEDs in the kitchen (John Lewis branded) do not produce any interference either.
I see that some new build housing uses 4-pin CFL lamps with a separate ballast built into the lampholder – so you have a cheaper lamp with no electronics to dispose of, and a separate electronic ballast that is hopefully less of a design compromise. A pity more CFLs are not sold this way.

Most of my CFLs are made by Philips and they have lasted very well. As an experiment I bought a couple of cheap Tesco spirals and they are performing very well too. I just make sure that they are well ventilated to keep the electronics cool.

Thanks for letting us know about the CFLs with separate ballast, Malcolm. This will help keep the electronics cool. The manufacturers of domestic light fittings should have done this 20 years ago because it works well in non-domestic environments.

\\robin says:
5 October 2013

> Author: wavechange wrote:

> Interestingly, the mains voltage LED lamps where compromises may have to
> be made to cram everything into a small space seem to create fewer
> problems with interference than 12V LEDs. I assume that the wiring is
> helping radiate the interference in some cases.
>
Absolutely right Wavechange

Conducted emissions, that is, those which radiate from the wiring connected
to the device, are proportional to the current flowing – voltage makes no
difference.

It seems likely therefore that the mains voltage devices will be better
because the current flowing will be for the given number of watts and only
one twentyeth of the current flowing to a 12 volt device.(240V/12V). This is
born out by my experiments reported in April, in which MR16 LEDs still
interfered when powered from a 12 vo;t battery.
For clarity I should restate that the current times the voltage makes the
power in watts, so the voltage ratio is 240 to 12, and so the current ratio
will be 12 to 240, ie the CURRENT will be 20 times greater, and it’s the
current which causes interference.

Recent comments note that in the EU rules interference is allowed up to a
certain level and everything must be able to operate in the environment that
produces – typically 30uVolts of signal. (However, everthing needs much
greater immunity from transmitters – but that’s off topic)

My simple measurements show that the MR16 LEDs produce only the allowable
levl of interference at the statutory distance of 10 metres. Putting your
DAB set right under the kitchen lights is NOT ALLOWED FOR!! ( I believe the
BBC and others pushed DAB on the grounds that it doesn’t normally need a
roof aerial – but this probably would cure the problem)

But since the politicains can’t even be bothered to enforce the laws they
signed up to in Europe and again when the Stautory Instruments came before
the British Parliament, we’re not likely to get any help there on tightening
up, -eg by notching the DAB frequencies.

Only the broadcasters have the punch to get DAB past this debacle.

The government must decide whether they want energy saving AND DAB and give
BIS and Ofcom the clout they need to enforce EMC legislation, not this
feeble “complaint-driven” idea which has strangled the plot so far.

A good palliative by the way is to fit EMC collars to the 12 Volt wiring
close to the LED – you might balance the circuit back to the mains inverter.

Robin

John Dalton says:
5 October 2013

@malcolmR : Are the John Lewis LEDs in your kitchen 240V or 12V types?

John, it’s a 240v ciruit into a power supply operating 4 LED strips beneath kitchen cupboards. I believe IKEA do a similar version.

John Dalton says:
5 October 2013

Is it this 60 pound one
http://www.johnlewis.com/john-lewis-bright-lynx-led-lighting-strip-kit-set-of-4/p231571459
that doesn’t interfere with your DAB radio?

John Dalton says:
5 October 2013

Might be useful to other people if you put a review on the JL website under this product to say it doesn’t interfere with your DAB radio. Spread the word!!

John Dalton says:
5 October 2013

Is it this 60 pound one john-lewis-bright-lynx-led-lighting-strip-kit-set-of-4/p231571459
that doesn’t interfere with your DAB radio?

John, the Lynx, yes. I took the view that whilst it might be more expensive from JLP than similar products if there was a problem with operation, durability or interference I would get a good service from them. To back this up I bought a halogen “light bar” also for the kitchen supplied with an unknown make of TH reflector lamps (Fuxing). One failed very quickly which I reported to JLP as a comment, not as a complaint. By return I had a voucher for £10 and an apology.
I installed the LEDs under kitchen cupboards and tried our Pure DAB radio as close to the power supply and LED strips as I could get – the only interference, as would be expected, was on switching on the LEDs, none thereafter.

Bob Purbrick says:
5 November 2013

I have two sets of those John Lewis £60 http://www.johnlewis.com/john-lewis-bright-lynx-led-lighting-strip-kit-set-of-4/p231571459 under unit lights in my kitchen and they completely obliterate FM radio with a loud hash throughout the band. I have just ordered a set of Maplin filters, but I am not optimistic!

Bob, I too have a set of these under kitchen cupboards in a line. When I first installed them I checked them with a Pure DAB radio as close to the LEDs and the driver as possible, with no hint of interference or loss of reception. Seeing your post I’ve just tried another inexpensive Pure FM/DAB alarm radio and again no loss of reception or any interference anywhere near the circuit on FM or digital. Incidentally I think IKEA do the same LEDs but half the price.

As has been mentioned various times, signal strength is an important factor when considering interference received via the aerial. It is one reason why it is difficult to offer useful advice to anyone who just wants to buy LED lamps and be sure that they will not have problems.

In the early 80s I had considerable problems with interference on FM when using my expensive Hacker radio, caused by CB radio users. It annoyed me that was no problem whatsoever with cheaper radios. The interference was being picked up by the radio circuitry and not via the aerial. In cases like this, even having an external aerial would not help.

My signal strength is not great – I did check when testing.

John Dalton says:
5 October 2013

I had trouble with MR16 bulbs in the kitchen interfering with (no, drowning completely in white noise) my FM radio. I tried putting the wire from the transformer coiled round ferrite rings at both ends, hoping to filter out the transmitted radiation. It didn’t work. But cupping my hand over the transformer box itself showed some improvement. I have several 240V LED luminaires including a 16 LED 9W strip light I got from Lidl for under ten pounds and one generic 4W GU10 from Toolstation and none of these interfere with the radio, even only a foot from its aerial.

All the MR16’s I’ve tried have caused FM interference, and I’ve tried a lot! I managed to return them all and get full refunds including all the postage, though most of the vendors resisted. The easiest to return were the ones I got through Amazon (third party vendor but order fulfilled by Amazon) – one thing you can say about Amazon is that they make returning defective goods very easy. Maybe if everyone did this Amazon would stop listing them – that would send out a message!