If you’ve been experiencing problems with your garage door opener remote unit – sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t – and can’t track the problem down, you might look to the type of lights you’re using in and around your garage for the culprit.
The heart of the problem lies in the control circuit that provides the long life that LED (light emitting diode) lights are known for. LED lights get their efficiency from something called pulse width modulation, or PWM, which turns the light off and on more than 15 times per second. The energy savings comes from the fact that the light is actually on for only half the time. You don’t realize that the light is off part of the time because of the phenomenon of persistence of vision.
Government guidelines for LED manufacturers require these control circuits to operate on frequencies between 30 and 300 MHZ. By coincidence, most garage door opener remotes have been assigned frequencies between 288 and 360 MHZ.
One large apartment building began receiving complaints of non-functioning garage door openers around Christmas time. The problem was eventually traced to a Christmas light display that included a large numbers of LED lights. Every time the Christmas lights were turned on, the garage door openers went haywire.
Some problems have also been reported when homeowners switch from incandescent light bulbs – can you say “old school?” – to fluorescent lights, also known as CFLs (compact fluorescent lights) in their garage. Some garage door dealers have begun to steer their customers away from using either LED lights or CFLs, despite the cost savings versus traditional fluorescent lights.
Products like garage door openers, radio-controlled toy cars and similar low powered devices with limited range are classified by the Federal Communications Commission as “license free spectrum or bands.” In short, this means that they are very loosely regulated and therein lays the problem. Manufacturers are basically on the honor system when it comes to controlling the frequency emissions of these products.
But sometimes even the best-designed products can cause unintentional problems from signal leakage outside of their intended use. This is why the airlines have a very strict policy of having all cellular phones turned off prior to takeoff. And why gas stations request that you refrain from using your phone while gassing up.
Customers at a large shopping mall recently reported problems with unlocking their cars with their remote key units. With the help of a hand-held receiver the problem was eventually traced to a nearby restaurant, which was operating a wireless order placing system. Go figure!
What’s the solution? Either change your type of lighting or change the brand of bulbs you are using. Starting with a different brand of bulbs would probably be the least expensive way to go. Some of the cheap, foreign-made bulbs seem to the worst culprits, so try a name brand of bulbs. If that doesn’t solve your door opener problems, you might have to switch to a less efficient incandescent lighting setup.
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