Will we soon have more RFI noise to deal with?
Our local electrical supplier, BC Hydro, says it may begin installing thousands of light emitting diode (LED) street lights across the province this summer.
The utility currently owns and maintains approximately 95,000 streetlights around the province, roughly 30 per cent of all streetlights in British Columbia. Most of the ones attached to BC Hydro's electricity poles are high pressure sodium (HPS) lights.
Hydro says: "LED lights are known to last longer, are brighter and render colours significantly better than HPS lights."
The transition to the energy-saving technology could lead to cost savings of 50 to 70 per cent for the smaller communities who rely on the utility's public lighting, according to the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM).
As taxpayers we're certainly in favour of lower costs but, you have only to run a Google search to learn that, in other areas, Amateurs have expressed concern that these lights may contribute to an increase in RF interference across the spectrum., specifically in the HF bands (below 30 MHz).
In some cases this is apparently due to inadequate shielding, poor quality, or lack of components to reduce noise, but it is generally agreed that the electronic power supplies in LED street lights can be the culprit.
Here are some of the story links:
ABC News Toledo, OH
RAC, are you monitoring this?
Shortly after this story appeared on our blog page, Keith Whitney VE7KW, RAC Director BC & Yukon, responded. It shows that RAC has taken notice:
I appreciate your concern, but would like to make a couple of points.
"No person shall manufacture, import, distribute, lease, offer for sale or sell any radio apparatus, interference-causing equipment or radio-sensitive equipment for which technical standards have been established under paragraph 6(1)(a), unless the apparatus or equipment complies with those standards."
It is to be assumed that a public utility would be compliant.
- RAC monitors this through the RABC (Radio Advisory Board of Canada) EMC Committee.
- The relevant regulation is ICES-005 Lighting Equipment last updated in December 2018 which sets limits on conducted (HF) and radiated (VHF) emissions. Note the LED limits are lower than the Gas Discharge (Sodium light) limits.
- Section 4(3) of the Radio Communications Act states that
My personal experience indicates this is not a major problem.
Nothing in the field of EMC is guaranteed and this will merit ongoing monitoring. I would encourage people with access to an SDR to take a wide band “reference noise spectrum” now for comparison later. It would be particularly useful if they turn off their house power to prove that the noise source(s) are external.
- I follow the RSGB EMC reports and am not aware that approved LED lighting has been identified as a problem.
- I do a lot of contesting from VE7SCC which uses LED lighting almost exclusively in the shack and monitors for noise with an SDR. The site (Riverview Hospital) changed over to LED street lights about 18 months ago with no noticeable noise increase.
- I have just come from V3T (Belize) where the 80 through 15m noise levels were some of the lowest I have seen despite the entire resort using LED lighting as well as the Town we overlooked using LED street lamps.
~ 73 Keith VE7KW
RAC Director BC and Yukon
March 11, 2020 - More Good News:
Here’s my experience with LED street lights.
While working in my front yard last week, I noticed a contractor’s vehicle with lift crane parked in the street, while some work was being undertaken at the street lamp fixture. When the contractor moved up to my QTH, I spoke with him and asked him what he was doing. He was very friendly and advised that he was changing out the sodium mercury lamps for LEDs. When I expressed my concern about this because I had been hearing stories of RFI from LEDs affecting HF reception, he asked me what I knew about it. I told him briefly that I was no expert, but would welcome the opportunity to do some testing before and after turning the LEDs on. He agreed readily. I am very fortunate to be in a low RFI neighbourhood, with virtually S-0 noise on 20m and up, and only S5 noise on 40m, and I hope to keep it that way.
So I did 2 things:
1) Turned my beam to point directly at the installation with the receiver on 20 m; and
2) I brought out my 80 m “Tocko” foxhunt receiver.
I was pleasantly surprised to find no change on the receiver noise level, and no response when pointing the foxhunt sense antenna at the lamp, either before or after the LEDs were turned on. I will continue to monitor to see if anything changes but at least at this time, I find no reason to complain about the LEDs on our street. Both the contractor and I went away happy.
~ JB VA7XB