Recently I’ve been getting a lot of queries about whether of not marine LED lighting systems can be the cause for radio frequency interference, more commonly known simply as RFI. The short answer is yes these LED systems can indeed be a source for RFI. That said, this requires a bit of further explanation. In my book Advanced Marine Electrics and Electronics Troubleshooting I devote chapter nine to a discussion of how to test for electromagnetic and radio frequency interference. This is important stuff because at a minimum this can be an annoyance to the boater on board and in the extreme it can cause havoc with the operation of some electronic equipment operating in the same frequency spectrum. That is the key right there, operating in the same frequency spectrum.
Now, the truth is the LED’s themselves aren’t really the cause of any interference, but the control circuitry that powers the LED’s can be the culprit. This has been most noticeable with certain dimmable light fixtures especially. Here in the US, the most vulnerable, common device impacted is going to be an FM radio on board. Tests and user reports from around the globe indicate that the interference frequency spectrum is in the 30-300 MHz range. FM radio runs in the 87.5-108.0 MHz range. In Canada, Europe and other areas around the globe where DAB (digital audio broadcasting) radio is available, it is also vulnerable as it runs in the 174-230 MHz spectrum. Better units available have incorporated sophisticated filtering electronics to mitigate this problem. So, my advice, before you drop the cash for LED lighting ask the question about any know interference issues and get definitive answers!