I bought a house that had a lot of fluorescent lighting installed. The kitchen has four fixtures with 2 42" bulbs each. The front bathroom has a fixture. The garage has 12 fixtures. The shed has 8 fixtures. There are a lot of them.

But I get a buzz in my electronics. Buzz on my computer. Buzz on my stereo. Et cetera. I have gotten around it on the stereo with a power conditioner. I think putting all the lights on one circuit will be troublesome since I think it would require rewiring most of the house.

Is there anything I can do myself without hiring an electrician to do major work?

  • Does it occur only when they are plugged into the same circuit as the lighting? Or any time they are in close proximity to the lighting? Aug 17 '10 at 20:00
  • Does everything buzz when all lights are off?
    – Ron
    Aug 19 '10 at 1:06
  • It doesn't happen when all the lights are off. I did isolation testing and the buzz occurs when any light ballast is on. How would I check if they were on the same circuit? Is there some kind of tone emitter like I use for network cable? Aug 20 '10 at 16:24

Can you isolate the problem to any specific lights? Of course, obvious question, but if all the lights are off does it go away? Does the buzzing get louder as you turn more lights on?

It's possible that this is caused by older magnetic ballasts (which themselves typically buzz). You could try replacing just the ballasts with electronic ballasts, just be sure they are equivalent and pay attention to the difference in wiring. It may also mean that you need new bulbs, as you may not be able to find an electronic ballast with the same characteristics, but that's not maybe not terrible since T8 bulbs (1" diameter) are supposed to be better and more readily-available than T12 bulbs (1.5" diameter).

  • Yes it's any fluorescent light ballast. Aug 20 '10 at 16:25

Fluorescent lights emit Electromagnetic Pulse. This is likely affecting your electronics.

Related article:

Richard Box, an artist-in-residence at Bristol University’s physics department, was one of the first people to discover the phenomenon. He describes it below:

A fluorescent tube glows when an electrical voltage is set up across it. The electric field set up inside the tube excites atoms of mercury gas, making them emit ultraviolet light. This invisible light strikes the phosphor coating on the glass tube, making it glow. Because powerlines are typically 400,000 volts, and Earth is at an electrical potential voltage of zero volts, pylons create electric fields between the cables they carry and the ground. Box denies that he aimed to draw attention to the potential dangers of powerlines, ˜For me, it was just the amazement of taking something that's invisible and making it visible,' he says. ˜When it worked, I thought: ˜This is amazing'

  • Not sure about the first. I thought I read somewhere that Tesla discovered that right after the invention of the flourescent light tube. I seem to recall something about him sticking a bunch of tubes in the ground under the early power lines and having the tubes light up? Anyone else know for sure about that? Aug 20 '10 at 13:03

Holding a cell phone next to a powered speaker can cause the speaker to play the data that the phone receives periodically from a cell tower because the wires act as antennas. I wrapped the battery module for my old Bose noise quieting headphones with tin foil, and the really loud buzzing from my phone stopped.

I have seen more electronic equipment come with a power cord that includes a toroidal choke or ferrite bead inductor that helps eliminate some of the buzz that might leak into a device by way of the various wires connected to it. What you may need to do is add ferrite beads to you AC power cords, and perhaps improve the RF shielding to some of your electronics gear.

  • I did try ferrite beads and they weren't strong enough to remove the buzz. Moving the equipment onto a UPS seemed to isolate it though. Aug 20 '10 at 16:26

I had this problem in my very old house - it actually burned out my stereo. Some circuits were showing the buzz and others were not. I had to test them by plugging my television and my stereo into different circuits before everything worked.

i never did fix it- i think in my case it came from through the step down transformer which is pretty old.

in my case i would get the buzz whether the kitchen floursecents were on or off.

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