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Thursday, June 28, 2012

CFL Bulbs May Interfere With Your Garage Door Opener

With the economy being what it is people are looking at all of the appliances in their home and trying to find ways to cut costs. One cost saving measure is to replace the normal incandescent light bulbs in light fixtures and lamps with CFL (compact fluorescent lights). Although this may be good practice for your house lamps it's not such a good idea for your garage door opener. According to recent articles CFL light bulbs can cause interference with the radio receiver and remotes on the garage door operator.  The following was stated on the General Electric website:

Many electronic devices, such as radios, televisions, wireless telephones, and remote controls, use infrared light to transmit signals. Infrequently, these types of electronic devices accidentally interpret the infrared light coming from a compact fluorescent bulb as a signal, causing the electronic device to temporarily malfunction or stop working. (For example, your television might suddenly change channels.) Fortunately, this only happens when light is produced at the same wavelength as the electronic device signals, which is rare. To reduce the chance of interference, avoid placing compact fluorescent bulbs near these kinds of electronic devices. If interference occurs, move the bulb away from the electronic device, or plug either the light fixture or the electronic device into a different outlet.

GE states that you should avoid placing the CFL bulbs near electronic devices. This would most definitely include garage door openers since the light bulbs on a garage door opener are right next to the operators logic board and radio receiver. It's best to stick with the garage door manufacturers recommended incandescent light bulb and wattage to avoid having problems. Most openers can accept a 60w to 100w bulb but you need to check the recommended wattage because if the wrong bulb is installed it can burn or melt the light cover.

In the long run it wouldn't pay to replace the incandescent bulb with a CFL bulb. An equivalent 60 watt CFL bulb will cost between $6 - 8. You can purchase 10 or 12 incandescent bulbs for the same price. And with garage door opener lights turning off automatically after 4-1/2 minutes it's not like the bulbs are burning that long. You'll most likely only have to replace the bulb in the garage door opener once or twice in a 15 year span. So take that CFL bulb out of your opener and put it where it will actually do some good...in your family room lamp.

UPDATE: 07/12/12: It appears that one of the garage door opener manufacturers is paying attention to this apparent problem. Liftmaster/Chamberlain has addressed CFL bulb interference on their latest garage door openers: model 8550 and model 8360 DC-motor openers. They claim to have enhanced CFL compatible lighting available on these two models using a max 27 watts CFL bulbs. If I come across any other manufacturers I will be sure to make further updates.

UPDATE: 09/01/16: Genie has come out with an LED light bulb for garage door operators that won't interfere with the radio controls on the operator. Read more about the new Genie LED bulb HERE.


GE Website FAQ 
PDD Website


Unknown said...

I fail to see the connection between a garage door opener remote control receiver that utilizes UHF RADIO Frequencies (RF) but NOT infrared (RF) light such as that on most TV remote controls. Unless the CFL ballast is emitting RF, which would be illegal under both FCC and UL regulations, so using CFLs should be a non-issue regarding garage door openers!

Brian said...

You are right. I failed to point out that it's not the light from the bulb than can cause the interference but the ballast that the bulb uses that can cause the interference.
We have noticed this problem in garages that have florescent lighting and the ballast in the fixture has gone bad and causes radio interference. It's not always easy to find an interference problem with the garage door opener receivers.
Thank you for pointing out my error and hopefully clearing up any confusion.

Unknown said...

I'm totally disgusted with the remotes (371LM) on a newly installed opener. The previous Genie opener would actuate from 100 feet or more away so that the door would be open by ones arrival at the driveway. The Liftmaster 3585 has been a lemon other than its relative quietness, as so far three of five remotes refuse to work reliably. Even Liftmaster support tried to blame CFL's, but how on earth can a new CFL be at fault when it is OFF? My suspicion is on an inadequate receiver. If nothing else there should be an option for placing the receiving antenna closer to the outside wall or even on the exterior. The last remote that failed only works if one is within three feet of the receiver!

Brian said...

You're right - with the light off a defective ballast probably wouldn't cause interference. A more likely scenario - your old Genie opener was probably 390MHz frequency - the new Liftmaster opener is 315MHz frequency. Something that may not have interfered with the 390MHz is interfering on the 315MHz frequency by limiting the range. You could add a 390MHz radio receiver to your opener and see if that makes a difference.