Shedding light on problems

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In yesterday's post Troubleshooting, I described a problem I was having with my garage door opener. It just suddenly stopped working. Nothing I could think of would explain it. One day it worked, the next it was dead. I tried everything I could think of. Nothing helped. Everything I tried only deepened the mystery. And this pattern I just described, that of poking around the obvious low hanging fruit solutions without results is as far as many of us are skilled at going. Take hum in our systems, as an example. One day we have a quiet system, the next we have hum. Maddening as it is, we try all the obvious cures without fixing the problem. It's really frustrating. What needs to happen is a step-by-step routine of troubleshooting that I will endeavor to teach you in these next few days.

But what happened to my garage door opener? To understand that I must give you a little backstory.

As some longtime readers know I am building a home theater in the basement. It's been quite the project. It is nearly done. Some of the last steps are to install lighting in the room, controllable from a central dimmer control. Against my better judgment I acquiesced to the use of DC LED lighting and this is where the trouble started. Let me say up front that LED lighting is not at fault. The efficiency benefits of LED lights are incredible: a 9 watt LED outputs the same light as a 100 watt incandescent. There simply isn't any debate over the efficacy of the LED technology. But powering the LED is another story. Because LEDs are diodes they need DC to power them. Unfortunately, what comes out of our wall sockets is AC, which then needs to be converted for the light to operate. The simplest and cleanest way to convert the AC into DC is with a small built-in power supply for each light. Unfortunately, duplicating many power supplies is expensive, so installers tend to choose one large power supply for many LED lights. And if this power supply isn't built well, trouble is the next step. And that's what happened.

All power supplies, all dimmers, spew varying amounts of RF when performing their duties. Turns out because of the close proximity of my theater to the garage, the RF released by the DC power supplies is enough to overwhelm the garage opener and disable it. Turn the theater light on, garage door ceases to respond. Turn the lights off, works like a champ.

Okay, here's the deal. How did I figure this out? Is it because I am so smart? I think we know the answer is NO since it's not the case. Believe me, I pulled my hair out trying to figure this out before I turned to my trusty troubleshooting routine. Going back to basics, giving in to following protocol is what saved me. I don't know about you, but as a male I would rather figure it out myself before reading a manual, looking at a map, or turning to protocols. I can't tell you the number of hours wasted driving in circles before I gave in and pulled the map out or stopped for direction. This is no different.

Tomorrow I'll walk you through the process and show you how to apply this knowledge to your setup.

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Paul McGowan

Founder & CEO

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