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Thread: Navigation Lights

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  1. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Sunnyvale, CA
    One thing to be very careful of is radio frequency interference (RFI) produced by many LED lights. The LEDs themselves aren't the culprit, it's the switching power supplies incorporated into the lights to allow operation over a wide voltage range: often 9 to 32 volts. It turns the LEDs into "all band transmitters."

    There really aren't any standards for RFI emissions from LED lights here in the US. We've got FCC Rules Part 15, but the FCC is too afraid of the screams of "jackbooted government thugs" from Tea Party Deregulation Nutcases to enforce it on the multitude of companies selling LEDs. The Europeans are ahead of us in certifying LEDs, so if the light has a "CE" emblem on it, it's likely to be much quieter than anything sold here in the US of A. All the stuff is made in China, but the Europeans make sure they add a 3 cent capacitor to kill the noise.

    After installing an LED on your vessel, try this test. 1) Tune in a weak station on your VHF, the weather frequencies are a good choice. Pick a weather station that is weak. Now turn on your LED. If the station suddenly disappears or is covered by static, you've got a noisy LED that may prevent you from hearing stations on your VHF when you really need to. If the LED is really noisy, it might also wipe out your cell phone in a weak coverage area (like out on the water). Then you've got a choice: lights, radio, but not both.

    I overheard a fisherman at Pillar Point testing the VHF radio one night recently: "Radio check, radio check." People were responding, but he kept on calling. I walked over to his slip and said: "Hey, nice LEDs on your boat. Real bright. Good for picking up crab pots in the dark. Got rid of those old halogens, did you? You wanna turn those LEDs off a minute and do another radio check?" That worked. He couldn't hear the Harbormaster responding from 300 feet away with the boat's massive LED array powered up. Thereafter ensued a 10 minute conversation about RFI and LEDs.

    I've been a licensed commercial radio operator for 40 years and I can't express in words how aggravating it is to see the radio spectrum being wiped out by cheap LEDs. Pretty soon, only the Europeans will be able to use their radios.
    Last edited by pbryant; 11-26-2013 at 07:33 PM.

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