LED Lights In The Shack

Utilitech Pro Soft White LED Bulb


A recent posting by Phil, KO6BB, to Yahoo Group's ndblist, described his recent search for some LED lamps to replace the CFL's in his shack / radio workbench area. If you have been wondering how much RFI that LED lamps might be producing, you may find Phil's findings of some value.






"Recap  

I had a 60W equivalent CFL in the floor lamp directly over my operating position. I'd tried a 100W equiv one but it was extremely noisy! Also a couple CFLs in the ceiling lamp.

This is a floor lamp with a crookneck at the top and a triangular metal
shade reminiscent of the old style desk lamps, bulb is horiz to the
floor. I've used it for years and like it because it places the light
directly over the operating position work area (keyboard, radios etc).
The actual bulb was about 4.5 inches from the front of the Softrock SDR
receiver (in a plastic case), with the base of the lamp (where the
electronics are) about 7.5 inches (somebody asked about the distances).

This coupled a LOT of RFI directly into the SDR, visible on the
waterfall. For best results when recording and having the light on I'd
slip a 60W incandescent lamp in place of the CFL. The lamp is also
about 16 inches above the operating table, and when listening to ANY
portable radio on the table, if it was in the AM or Longwave band and
using the built in loopstick antenna, got a LOT of RFI from the lamp
(unless the lamp was off ;-)

So today I went down to Lowes (we have a Costco, but I don't have a
card) and looked at their LED lamp offerings. As I expected they had a
large variety of them, from a low cost 3 pack for ~$9.00 for 60W units
to about $18.00 or so each (Sylvania). From what I read here I wanted
to avoid the REALLY cheap ones as some reported them to be 'noisy'.
Also, I wanted to put a 75W equivalent unit in the one over the
operating position, and a pair of 100W equivalent units in the ceiling
lamp. All three had CFLs, and if I walked around the radio room with a
portable radio and the ceiling lamp on I could hear it's 'hash' anywhere
in the room. . .

The ones I settled on were a brand I'd never heard of, "UtiliTech Pro"
soft white, 75W for the bench and 2 100W ones for the ceiling. They
were what I'd call "mid-priced", $8.98 for the 75W and $9.98 for the
100W ones.

Specs:

75 W one draws 12W and gives 1100 Lumens.
100W one draws 16.5W and gives 1600 Lumens (the pair in the ceiling
should then be 3200 Lumens if I calculated right).

How low is the RFI to my Radios?

75W one over the bench:
NO trace from the lamp electronics visible in the SDR waterfall at
all. With a portable radio on the bench-top, NO audible RFI. Put a
portable radio up to the "bulb" part (light area) and with no station
tuned in can't hear ANY RFI. Move the portable to the base area of the
lamps there is SOME RFI, but I won't be putting the radio that close to
the lamp, move it a couple inches away and the noise disappears.

100W ones in the ceiling lamp, NO audible RFI in the portable when
walking around the room, RFI just barely perceptible right next to the
light wall switch that turns the lamp on, again, audible IF I put the
radio right up to the base of the lamps, not a likely real-world scenario!

Upshot? 

Based on the sample of three that I bought and the almost
non-existent RFI from them I'd consider the UtiliTech Pro lamps to be a
good product and suitable for use in the radio room. I consider them
good value for the ~$30.00 I spent for three."

I don't see these being sold here in Canada but I may be mistaken. If you have tested anything similar (other brands / models), please let me know and I will add it to Phil's helpful information.

KO6BB's website can be found here, along with some of his homebrew equipment.
Steve McDonald, VE7SL, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from British Columbia, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].

8 Responses to “LED Lights In The Shack”

  • jack va3jfw:

    i use the bulbs from TSC..the brand is TCP…i have no issues with these bulbs…and..they are cheap[with a coupon] they average about $3.00 but just before christmas they were on sale for$.99 cents i have changed all the bulbs including cfl in the house except for the few i cannot reach…there is a noticeable difference in the hydro bill…i also use 12 volt LED bulbs in my shack in case power goes out..i have eight solar panels….. i am never off air…

  • KC5DPJ Bill:

    Thanks for the informative article. I’ve been curious about the LED’s and now I know they won’t cause any noise in my shack so I’ll go by Lowe’s and check them out.

  • Ed VE3EAH:

    I’ve converted all of my interior lighting to LED and have noticed a considerable drop in rf noise. Previous lighting was a mix of some incandescent and a lot of cfl. At $0.23/kwh for electricity, it was a no-brainer.

  • Larry KG4ZAR:

    I have some of the cheaper(60 watt $11.88/4pack) LED bulbs from our local Lowes in my shack. While I have not done the testing Phil has done I do know the RFI has greatly decreased since I replaced the CFLs with the LEDs. I’d guess the RFI dropped 75% after the LEDs were installed. An added bonus is the LEDs are brighter and there does not seem to be any “warm-up” lag in colder temps. (The end of the house where the shack is sometimes drops below 60*F during the winter) and the light from the LEDs seems brighter than the CFL bulbs. Overall I’m quite pleased and will soon be replacing all the lights in the house with these LED bulbs.

  • Steve VE7SL:

    I gather that not all LED bulbs are quiet. If anyone has found particular brands / models to be noisy, it would be good to know so they can be avoided. Most noise, if there is any, will probably be down in the LF region…below 200kHz, so many non-LF’rs might not notice this. Is anyone seeing noise on LF from these?

  • Chad - KJ4VYI:

    I also picked up the utili tech brand ( think its just a private label brand only lowes carries ) replaced all the bulbs in the house, after picking up 2 packs of 60watters and 2 packs of 40watters and seeing the results. I went back and got all that i needed to replace just about every light in the house ( cf or inc that could be changed ) thats 31 lights and from what the package reads im only using 372 watts when all the lights are on, thats gonna be a great savings on the electric bill, now i just need to save up for the led replacements of the 13 of the GU10 bulbs that need replacing to led

    awesome that it has lowered the RFI floor as well !!

  • Steve VE7SL:

    Excellent Todd! Glad to hear that things are quieter for you now.

    Steve 73

  • LED lights:

    thanks for this useful article. LED lights has greater advantages than other light bulbs, at least I know now that LED lights are good for shacks.

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