WARNING! Digital/ Electronic ballasts can get you busted! The A.M. radio test!

Discussion in 'Indoor Growing' started by ATL HYDRO, Dec 23, 2011.


    ATL HYDRO Active Member

    Ok guys I recently had a pretty close call that could have easily been avoided if I was more informed, so my goal here is hopefully that a mod help me get this post stickied so more people can view it and prevent the problem that I had to face recently.

    Let me start off by telling you the situation and a little about my setup. I have 2 different digital ballasts running 600 watts each. You can switch them from mh to hps by changing bulbs. I bought both ballasts on eBay for under $200 each from different sellers, and they are both different brands. THESE BALLASTS ARE WHAT CAUSED MY PROBLEM. This isn't due to the fact that I didn't do research, the information just wasn't available because it is a little known problem that isn't talked about much on these forums.

    So here is what happened:
    One day I'm surfing the internet and my internet connection goes out. I look outside and there is a truck belonging to my cable internet provider working on a power line, so I wasn't really alarmed. . . . . . .UNTIL I GOT THE KNOCK ON MY DOOR!
    The cable technician told me that there was a major disturbance in their cable line coming from my house that was affecting the service of my neighbors and was eating bandwidth and causing signal to get lost in my house. He brought me to his truck and showed me a graph on his computer. He told me that "There is something major going on in your house," and asked me if I had messed with any cables recently or done anything major in the last few days. I just told him the first thing that came to my mind which was that I had an electrician in my house recently and he might have messed something up. When he went back to his truck I had my wife run downstairs to my grow room and turn off the lights, rip up my plants, take down the lights, and throw everything in rubbermade totes. My room is a sealed room built into my basement that is hard to see the door unless you are looking for it. Anyhow, by the time the technician came back from his truck he asked if he could come in and trace my cable wire to make sure that a loose cable wire wasn't causing the problem. I let him in and he came in my basement (right after I smoked a bowl down there, mind you. I also had my wife spray some lysol disinfectant down there to mask the scent). He did find that there were some cable splitters and old wires from where I used to have cable tv but now I only need one wire for my cable modem since I am using Satelite for my tv now. He fixed the cable so that only 1 line was running in my house with no splitters. He then went back to his computer in his truck and said "Well, I don't know if it was something you did or something I did but the problem is fixed." He left shortly after that and for the rest of the night no amount of weed or beer could calm me down from how nervous I was. The man was a foot or two from my grow room door. The good news is I was only one week into this grow and I didn't lose much except I did pay $100 for 10 seeds and I was growing 8 at the time. All it takes is one loudmouth technician see something illegal in your house and you could be toast, so I consider myself lucky that I was actually home at the time of day he showed up and that I handled the situation swiftly and decisively. Just think about it, this guy gets paid to drive around and look for strange radio frequencies. Couldn't a cop use the same technology to bust you with if you aren't careful?

    What I've learned since this close call:
    While this was happenening and after it was over with I did a search online of "grow light cable interference." If you do this you will see MANY forum posts and websites showing people who have had this problem. What was actually happening is the digital ballasts I had were sending out MASSIVE AMOUNTS of radio waves which interfere with RF, or radio frequency. I also found out that some ballasts do come with RF shields. I do not know if these shields remove 100% of the radio interference or not, all I know is my ballasts must not have had RF shields installed. I also learned that cables and electronics in your house, and even sometimes in your neighbor's houses can be affected by the emissions of digital ballasts. It can even cause service interruption or bad service to your tv or your neighbor's tv while the lights are running. A post I read in a different forum was saying that he thought it was funny that the neighbor was complaining to him about the crappy tv reception between 8am and 8pm, which was the exact time when he was running his lights.

    It's a good thing there is a way we can test our ballasts:
    Finally, I want to share with everyone the test I found on the internet that can be used to confirm if you are getting RF interference in your grow room. If you know an electrician he may have access to some kind of RF meter that tests frequencies, but don't worry you don't need that. All you need is a radio with the capability to be set to A.M. I call this the A.M. radio test.
    You can use F.M. radio for the test as well, but A.M. is affected much more noticeably and therefore is better for the test. All you have to do is bring your radio to your grow room and plug it in. Then set it to A.M. and find the clearest station possible. Once this is done, turn on or plug in your digital ballast. If your ballast is one of the bad ones then the radio station will immediately get very fuzzy. The brighter your light gets as it powers up the more it will make the station turn into static. You can do the same test by turning on the radio next to your closest active cable line and then turning on the ballast, then you can see if the RF interference can reach your cable wires and alert the company that there is a problem. If your radio stays clear then you have nothing to worry about and be glad that you bought a quality product.

    In conclusion:
    I have since sold my digital lights on eBay and gone with 100% cfl grow lights. I would prefer to use my digital lights but why risk it when you can get similar results and use way less power with cfls. If you or anyone you know uses digital ballasts, please tell them about this problem and have them do the A.M. radio test. What happened to me could happen to anyone, except this time you wouldn't be home, or you would be out of air freshener, or the technician could see your room and report you. I know this post is pretty long but I thank you for reading it and I welcome comments from people who know more about this problem or want to know about it. Hopefully I have helped someone here. Take Care, -ATL

    racerboy71 bud bootlegger

    i don't understand why you sold the digital ballast and instead of simply getting an older style magnetic ballast and be rid of the problem, you went clf?? seems to be a bit idk the word, but it seems you went a lil beyond what was really needed to rectify the situation imo...

    ATL HYDRO Active Member

    I didn't just go cfl, I put in the equivalent of 2000 watts and i'm now running half the power I was before. Really?!?! That's all you have to say about my post?

    Feelinit Active Member

    I had this exact same thing happen to me. They put a filter on my line so my Internet just stopped working. They said there was interference coming from my home.

    Thankfully I fixed the problem and everything is good now.

    Bottom line is I had an old cable line in my grow room, that was not being used and was only a foot or two from my ballast.

    After being pretty sure I fixed the problem they came back checked the line and told me there was no more interference.

    I still have my digi ballast, and me and the neighbors have had flawless cable since.

    OP you have some balls letting the cable guy in your house. My wife got the call from the cable company and immediately called me. The cable company was ready to come over an inspect I told her he'll no. Thankfully I put 2 and 2 together and found the problem.

    We orig called the cable comp cause the filter they put on the line took away our Internet access, so we called them to see what's up.

    No more cable in my growroom.

    Feelinit Active Member

    Great idea about the AM radio although all digi ballasts will interfere if close enough to the line. Just keep you cable lines away from your digi ballasts. Ya a magnetic ballast would have been fine.

    ATL HYDRO Active Member

    Thanks feelinit. Yeah trust me I didn't want him coming in but I knew we just concealed everything in the room and the guy was pretty forceful about wanting to trace the line. I am pretty sure he thought I was stealing cable or something fishy like that.

    As far as the other guy suggesting I go magnetic, wouldn't I have to buy separate ballasts for my mh and hps, meaning 4 ballasts for my tiny grow room. No thanks. My buddy has the hook up on all electrical supplies and he loaded me up with cfls and reflectors for DIRT CHEAP and came over and ran power from my box for free. cfls are fine for me.

    ATL HYDRO Active Member

    When I ran the A.M. radio test from about 12 feet away from my grow room (where the closest cable line is), it made the radio crackle just as loud as it did from inside my grow room. Something about my ballasts were giving off way too much frequency.

    Feelinit Active Member

    Since I run saltwater aquariums and my garage is full of aquarium shit, I just told the guy I got a new ballast for my coral tank, and I figured that was the problem since it was new and I had never run digi just magnetic until now. Oh and my tank is right next to my cable box......

    I was trippin a bit though

    but no way in hell is the cable dude getting near my growroom!

    wheels619 Well-Known Member

    in all honesty i feel u over reacted and screwed the pooch on this one. lol.

    Feelinit Active Member

    what kind of ballast? just curious

    Was your cable line open ended? Mine was a live open connection just sitting next to the ballast. I have a feeling, a completely hooked up and shielded line would not receive as much interference, but thats a guess.

    Cable line is now in the next room over about 15-20' from my ballast now. It has been at least 6 months since I heard from the cable people.

    Glad it all worked out

    ATL HYDRO Active Member

    Better safe than sorry is my philosophy. I have kids and a family to take care of and support, and honestly it costs me way more to buy weed than to grow it, otherwise I wouldn't even risk it. But yeah I killed 8 feminized purple kush babies and tore my room apart, but I didn't get busted and I won't get busted in the future from cable interference, so I feel fine about my reaction and change of light.
    smokey mcsmokester

    smokey mcsmokester Well-Known Member

    Good thread man... My tv is just below my ballast seperated by a floor and I don't have a drop of interferance...That's scary though...

    TruenoAE86coupe Moderator

    Good read, good info +rep. Now only if i had a radio i could take down there.....
    I would have never let the ass hole in the house though, not without a warrant, and since hes not a cop thats gonna be tough. Always remember that it is your home and you can decide when someone can come in. Just .02 though.
    As far as the cfl grow, pics or it didn't happen, i want to see a 2000 watt cfl grow (in action prefferably)

    Feelinit Active Member

    I can respect that, but I think you will end up getting rid of those CFL's eventually.

    ATL HYDRO Active Member

    One ballast was siegeng, and one was mtn gearsmith. They were the cheapest 2 I could find on eBay, go figure.

    Feelinit Active Member

    ok I have a nextgen if anyone cares

    ATL HYDRO Active Member

    It isn't a 2000 watt cfl grow, it is around 2000 equivalent. The two main lights are 200 actual watts, or 800 watt equivalent each. I haven't started growing with them yet as I had to order more seeds since I wrecked my last ones.

    Feelinit Active Member

    and it was not cheap...just goes to show that more pricey ballasts do this as well.....

    Grumpy' Active Member

    Quality shielded cables wires will prevent this. One thing you can do if you are giving off interference is to get some brass screen and use it to make a shield if it's an issue. On just about all electronics it even mentions that the item may transmit and recieve rf interference. This is usually only an issue in older homes, as newer home have better coax cables for HD devices, which are shielded.
    cannakis likes this.

    TruenoAE86coupe Moderator

    My thoughts exactly

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