Lights affecting radio reception

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Old 11-14-18, 11:04 AM
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Lights affecting radio reception

Hi, just joined this forum hoping to get an answer to something that's completely confounding me. We recently moved into a 6 year old house. In the attached garage are 2 florescent lights installed when the house was built (not a DYI) We have a radio in the kitchen that gets good reception but if the garage lights are turned on the reception fades to almost zero. The voltage at the outlet is 120V and doesn't change when the lights are turned on. I've added an antenna to the radio and replaced both light fixtures with no effect. We have a refrigerator and freezer in the garage and when they are both running there is no effect on the radio. Anyone have an idea as where to start looking at this problem??
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Old 11-14-18, 11:07 AM
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Welcome to the forums.

New style electronic ballasts used in fluorescent fixtures can generate a lot of noise that will mask reception. CFL bulbs also generate hash. Now I've noticed that some LED bulbs will also generate hash that interferes with radio reception.
 
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Old 11-14-18, 11:14 AM
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Thanks for your response. I know they can sometimes interfere and have seen it before but this doesn't seem the same. The interference I've seen before was a noise in the radio, this the signal just fades out to where it's barely audible. Like I said this has me completely stumped.
 
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Old 11-14-18, 11:17 AM
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I agree with PJ. It's very likely the fluorescent ballasts are generating a lot of RF interference. While any of them can do it, the cheap ones are worse than the good brand name commercial ones. My first step would be to replace the fluorescent fixtures or at least the ballasts with a different brand. If the lights are on any sort of dimmer or motion sensor that could be making the problem worse, so perhaps try a standard light switch.
 
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Old 11-14-18, 11:18 AM
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I should have asked..... is this AM or FM ?
 
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Old 11-19-18, 09:31 AM
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PJjmax - the problem is on FM.
The lights aren't on a dimmer or motion detector just a switch. I've replaced both light fixtures with new ones, same problem. If you plug the radio into a different circuit nearby the no problem. I can have the radio on in the car with the antenna 3 feet from the light and it doesn't pick up any interference. The radio isn't a cheapie either I bought it when we lived in a rural area and had problems getting reception. It worked great there even without an antenna. Maybe I'll try swapping them out with some LED fixtures and see if that helps. One thing that just occurred to me could because the kitchen outlets are GFIC protected be a factor? I can't imagine why that would make a difference but...
 
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Old 11-19-18, 04:26 PM
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It appears your ballasts are conducting RF energy into the that branch circuit, enabling the wiring itself to be the culprit antenna. Technically, its called "conducted RFI" and there are strict limits. You can change ballasts, you can install ferrite in the fixtures, you can move the FM radio to a different branch circuit, or you can use an outside antenna, high and in the clear.

I would tend to change the ballasts with a different make; look for both a CE and a FCC mark on the ballast itself.

Also, there are two levels of RFI compliance. Class A and Class B. Class B is the better, and is the standard for residential equipment.
 
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Old 11-19-18, 11:24 PM
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I agree that EMI coupling into the power line is the cause of your issue. I would be curious to see what effect a ferrite bead would have. That would be a very simple and cheap solution. Is this a high end radio (if thats even possible)? Curious as to why you would choose to replace the light fixtures and not just try a different radio. Or plug it in somewhere else.
 
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