Don’t Take Any Static: The Issues with Electromagnetic Interference of LED Lighting

Over the past ten years, LED products have taken the lighting world by storm. They are flooding the market, but not all of them stack up. This is true especially when it comes to their ability to mitigate electromagnetic interference.

Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) is often referred to as ‘static’. It is a disturbance to an electrical circuit that is generated by an external source. Depending on the strength of the disturbance, EMI can account for a small degradation of a circuit’s performance or can completely inhibit its function altogether. These EMI disturbances can affect everyday products such as cell phones, remote controllers, two-way radios, emergency call devices, TVs, and even hearing aids.

EMI is not caused directly by LEDs themselves. It is generated by the high frequency at which LED drivers operate. The driver is a device required for LEDs to produce light and thus an integral part of every LED light fixture and bulb.

So, why not just reduce the frequency of the LED driver to avoid these electrical disturbances? Sadly, the high frequency of the driver is a critical factor in maintaining the extraordinary efficiency and longevity that have made LEDs the current king of the lighting industry. The good news is that most reputable LED manufacturers are aware of the issue and have modified their designs to include EMI filters to limit the unwanted emissions produced from their products. The downside is that there is very little regulatory enforcement when it comes to EMI in the lighting industry. Also, EMI filters add to the total manufacturing cost which can lead low-priced LED lighting manufacturers to simply disregard the issue in order to remain the preferred choice of the everyday consumer.

As cheaper LED products become more widely available, consumers are highly encouraged to do their homework before making an investment in LED lighting…talk to your local lighting distributor, call a trusted lighting designer/engineer, or speak to the lighting manufacturer directly to learn how they are mitigating EMI in their products.

To learn more about this issue or to further discuss the latest advancements in LED lighting, please contact Jennifer L. Harrington, PE, LC, LEED AP at or (814) 237-2180.