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Ask Dave: New LED lights are causing weirdness on my TV

Dear Dave,
I changed all the ceiling lights to LED and now find while watching OTA (over the air) TV, many of these lights will cause pixelation and loss of signal. I’m wondering if there is a filter or other solution to this problem. Thank you. —Ira, 2006 Monaco Dynasty

Dear Ira,
We did extensive upgrades on a 2006 Monaco Dynasty for the RV Repair Club. If memory serves me correctly, several of the ceiling lights were the longer fluorescent tube type, right? You state that you replaced all the ceiling lights with LED bulbs, so I would assume it was a combination of older incandescent bulbs and fluorescent.

Not all LED lights are created equal

There are a few things we learned in our replacement of bulbs over the course of these bulbs becoming available in the market. I researched several brands starting with those that were sold at the RV shows I was doing seminars at in NC and CA. At the time, you had to purchase the entire fixture, which was about $40-$50, so most RVers would replace one or two a year. Then replacement bulbs hit the market and I got a lot of feedback from show attendees that they were having issues with bulbs burning out immediately and low or fluctuating light.

I remember a time at Winnebago when the fluorescent light fixture would interfere with the older non-digital TVs in the units. We would recommend a filter that was available at Radio Shack. I can’t remember the model, but an RF filter comes to mind…

I researched LED lights and bulbs and came across a company called M4 LED out of California. The research they havd done and the quality of the products are very impressive. It seems every LED light typically uses the same chip. However, there is a difference in the quality and construction of the other materials.

Cheaper bulbs use fiber paper for housing in LED lights

Many cheaper bulbs use a fiber paper for the housing similar to the material in a tissue box to hold the chips. While it works in a residential setting with climate control and no vibration, it just doesn’t hold up in an RV application. You want a metal housing that will last.

The biggest concern is polarity. The M4 LED bulbs are non-polarity specific, which means it doesn’t matter how the fixture is wired. Why is this a big deal? The unit we upgraded had half of the light fixtures wired incorrectly! With the old incandescent bulbs, it did not matter. With positive to the bottom point and negative to the casing, or switched—it worked either way as it made the filament “glow.”

So why were the fixtures wired wrong? I remember my first job on the line years ago as an inspector watching the kid pull the green and purple wire from under the cabinet and grabbing the light fixture which had a white and black wire. He would hook the wires up without regard to the correct wiring and if they worked, it was good. It didn’t matter which wire went where!

Diagnosing TV issue

So, to diagnose your TV issue, I would start by isolating what lights might be interfering with the digital signal. I assume you are using the original Over The Air (OTA) antenna on your rig, which was most likely a Winegard crank-up model that we commonly called the Batwing.

This antenna was designed for the old analog TV signal but will also work for a digital signal, just not as well. It has far less range and needs a full signal strength; otherwise, it will pixelate and turn off. Make sure the booster is working and turn all the lights off to see if you get a good picture. If the situation continues, it’s not the LEDs, it’s the antenna and signal strength. You can upgrade with a Wingman addition or replace it with a Winegard Rayzar model easily. Check out the upgrade here.

Hopefully, you have upgraded the TV from the original tube-type TV to a newer flat screen model. If not, your old TV will still work on a digital signal as all TVs brought into the U.S. as of 1996 were required to have a digital tuner. It’s just the flat-screen TVs have a much more efficient tuner and can handle HD signals, as well.

Figure out which light is the problem

If you get a good TV signal with all the lights off, then you have isolated the problem to the lights, but which ones? Typically there are at least two ceiling lights on each switch so I would take all the bulbs out and replace them one at a time to see if you can recreate the pixelation and isolate which bulb or fixture it is. While you have the bulbs out, it would be a good time to test for proper polarity just in case.

As you can see, there are several variables when it comes to signal strength and interference. Taking these steps will help isolate the issue and hopefully solve your problem.

Dave Solberg is a leading expert in the RV industry and author of the “RV Handbook” as well as the Managing Editor of the RV Repair Club.

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Arnold A Chamberlain
2 months ago

H Dave,
I upgraded my incandescent light to LED some years ago. I had the old spade type bulbs in my truck camper. The first LED light I tried was rated for 12V and should have worked well. It only cost me $1.50, but unfortunately, it did not work well. It got extremely hot when in use. The next replacement LED bulb I tried was rated as 11V-23V. That bulb, purchased on ebay for $1/bulb, worked perfectly. It looked like a paddle with the LEDs on one side. It gave out a copious amount of light, had the spade type connector, fit my existing fixtures perfectly, and did not get at all hot. I have since purchased enough bulbs to convert all of my old lights to LED. That was 7 years ago and the lights are still working great. As an aside, the fan on my power converter never even turns on when I am just using the lights. This was not the case with the old incandescent lights. The take away I see here is to make certain to buy lights that are adaptable to a variety voltages.

Drew
2 months ago

Incandescents worked for decades and still do.

Dean
2 months ago

I ordered ferrite core snap filters from Amazon. Did the trick for same tv issue as described. Just click fit them over the wires in two light fixtures and problem solved.

tom
2 months ago

What Radio Shack? They are gone, gone, gone. Now, just a place with cell phone trinkets.

volnavy007
2 months ago

Would another thing to check might be where the cable for the TV antenna is located relative to the lights? There was a problem with running network cables near fluorescent lights back when networks were new (remember token ring networks?). Extra shielding was needed for the cables if fluorescent lights were nearby.

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