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Do LED lights make your home or office WiFi connections act up?
We probably wouldn’t be taking this question seriously if it wasn’t being asked by real people. But it does come up a lot, and there’s plenty being said about it.
You’ll hear this with individuals claiming that their Christmas lighting might be sinking their browser download speeds, and folks at online forums talking about their streaming cracking up when their lights are on.
This isn’t just one of those outlandish stories that get pushed to the fore by ‘less informed people’.
There are enough complaints about LED lights and their interaction with internet connections to merit a close look at what’s really going on.
So, do LED lights actually crash your browsing speeds?
Here’s our answer: it depends on what you mean when you’re talking about ‘LED lights’.
We’ll admit that this isn’t a satisfactory answer. But it should tell you that this issue is more complicated than the question itself suggests.
This article should help lay out the whole thing and make it plain enough for you to understand.
First, we will explain why it’s even possible for lights to interfere with WiFi.
Then we’ll see what situations in which this might happen, and suggest remedies to ensure that your LED bulbs and fixtures coexist and function smoothly with your home or office internet setup.
How Lighting Could Disrupt Your WiFi
WiFi communication happens through radio waves. But radio waves are part of a broader group of waves, which also includes microwaves, infra-red, ultraviolet rays, and gamma rays, all of which are located on the electromagnetic spectrum.
Sometimes, these waves get in each other’s ways. So you’ll find, for instance, that microwaves interfere with radio waves.
If you’d like to see a live display of this interference, try testing out your internet close to a microwave oven.
Even TV and radios suffer from this interference.
Connect an old-style shortwave radio to electricity, and you’ll hear a buzzing sound that all but swamps the signals from the radio stations on that band.
So there’s some truth to the claim that incandescent and LED light bulbs can trip up WiFi connections.
This explains why in the United States, the FCC has specified acceptable standards for LED bulbs which include that they should not have WiFi disrupting characteristics.
But here’s the crucial bit that makes this whole thing complicated: LED lights seldom cause these connection slow-downs directly.
For a significant interruption to happen, the disrupting wave should have a strong electromagnetic field.
While LED lights shine brighter than most other lights, they can’t generate a field strong enough to trouble your WiFi.
They might exert influence if there are many of them, but still, it’ll require a number and combined brightness that we wouldn’t regularly have on anyways.
In summary, the lights themselves don’t pose any problems for the most part.
It turns out that it’s the electricity feeding these LED lights that cause most of the disruption you’re likely to hear about.
When electricity pulsates through the cords connecting the LED lamps to a power source, it creates an electromagnetic field. But single isolated fields can’t do much either.
Your internet begins to act like a clown when there are several of these cords with electricity running through them at once. They could create a field strong enough to do things to your radio, TV, and WiFi connections.
But are do these interference reports more common with LED lighting, and not with other kinds of lighting?
The answer could vary with each circumstance. For a great many cases, the cause seems to arise after LED bulbs are used to directly replace halogen bulbs.
AC transformers which have been designed to carry the large loads from halogen lamps may not take on the lighter loads from LED lamps without causing some interference with its output.
While bulb designers and manufacturers are able to plan for wattage, luminosity, and color rendering, they can’t really do the same for AC transformer adaptability with respect to possible interference issues. That’s something they just have to leave to electricians and consumers.
How Do You Tell if Your Lights are Messing With Your WiFi
If you have the sneaky feeling that your lighting might occasionally be slashing your browsing speed (or even if you don’t), you can do this little check to find out if your suspicion (or curiosity) is founded.
Switch on your LED lights, and turn on your WiFi. Start browsing on your WiFi in the room in which the lights are on. Then check the browser speeds, and record what you see.
Repeat this process with the lights switched off. Record the browser speed.
Run this test a few times over, both for lit and unlit conditions. Compare the results from both conditions. Or compare their averages.
If there’s a significant reduction in speeds in lit conditions from those observed in the unlit state, then you probably have an interference issue.
Remedies for LED Lights Slowing Down WiFi
Here are some things you could do to keep both your LED lights and WiFi working for the greater good, without going to war with each other in the process.
Use a LED Bulb that’s Compliant
As we’ve already mentioned, there are recommendations and restrictions on LED bulbs which might cause interference with WiFi in the United States.
If you’re buying these bulbs, you may want to check that they’re FCC compliant.
Of course, things get a bit more difficult if you’re buying from an international dealer from a country that doesn’t have (or doesn’t enforce) such regulations. But you can still request for evidence that they meet the standards where you are.
Also note that it’s one thing to pass a regulatory test, and quite another to function as something that’s passed such a test in real-world situations.
It’s possible to purchase bulbs which are certified by the FCC for instance and find that they still disturb your WiFi connections.
This might be because the conditions in your home or office (where you’ve installed the bulb) differs markedly from the test situation set up by the regulators when they examined the product.
On the whole, going for compliant bulbs will reduce the likelihood of buying a lamp that slows down your connection.
Replace Your Transformer
Remember what we said about AC transformers?
You could replace them with transformers having a better EMI (Electromagnetic Interference) suppression, to reduce the power of the field created by the electricity. You may also add ferrite EMI filters or chokes at the input-output of the transformer.
However, this remedy is mostly only applicable to low voltage LED lights.
Use Shorter or Shielded Cables
Shortening your electric cables would be one way to reduce the potential size of the field the electricity pulsing through them could generate.
Turning to shielded cables could work too. They are cables with one or more bundles of conductors insulated by strands of copper or a layer of conducting polymer.
The shield reduces radiation from the electricity pulsing through the cables and prevents it from affecting devices situated close by.
You will want to keep both your WiFi and LED lighting. It first helps you stay connected to the world beyond your immediate environment; the second saves you up to 90% on electricity bills.
They won’t clash most of the time; but when they do, you know how to handle the situation. You now have the important troubleshooting tips you’ll need at your fingertips.