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KA2DZT - Serious interference from neighbor's new solar array. Part 97 ?




 
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Author Topic: KA2DZT - Serious interference from neighbor's new solar array. Part 97 ?  (Read 946 times)
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steve_qix
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« on: August 11, 2019, 04:34:56 AM »

I talked with Fred KA2DZT yesterday, and one of his neighbors has installed a solar array.

Fred is experiencing SERIOUS interference on 75 meters from the installation.

He is trying to rectify the situation - the neighbor is apparently being somewhat recalcitrant.  The supplier of the equipment (I forget which company it is) has an FCC ID.

What is the legal situation here?  My guess is that it's not allowed, as the device is creating harmful interference - but I'm not completely sure - as politically, anything is possible (like a special exemption, etc.).

Would responsibility fall with the homeowner, or would the manufacturer / supplier be on the hook to fix the problem?

Any useful information would be helpful.  I will relay this to Fred.

Thanks !!!  Steve.
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« Reply #1 on: August 11, 2019, 06:47:41 AM »

Steve...   The responsibility rests with the "operator", who would be the neighbor.  There is no exemption for interference with licensed stations.  The manufacturer has responsibility in that they made, or more likely imported, the equipment, likely from China.  The FCC symbol may well be a lovely fiction as EMI testing is done, if at all, by the manufacturer who self certifies the stuff and paints on an FCC compliance mark, as well as a CE mark to get them into the EU countries and appear to have credibility.
The trouble comes with enforcement.  The FCC has few resources and little interest in protecting Radio Amateurs from this sort of interference.  Rather than contacting the FCC, we are encouraged to get in touch with the ARRL and get a little packet of information to show to the offending neighbor.  The neighbor, who paid large money for the shiny new solar installation wants nothing to do with the ARRL stuff.  The installer  knows nothing of it and just wants to get the stuff screwed to the roof and move on to the next paying job and the supplying company plays dumb (or may even be dumb). 
Eventually the FCC might be cajoled into sending the neighbor a form letter.  But the thought that a white truck with gummint license plates and a squad of G-Men will arrive on scene is a quaint fiction.  If you can get a response from them it will likely be "Take a number...". We hams are pretty much toast unless the neighbor can be convinced that the multi-thousand dollar array on the roof and in the basement is faulty, and that they should do something about it.  We used to be a country where laws meant something, but now we are an electromagnetic wild-west, and our government views Amateur Radio as an antiquated nuisance.
The best one can hope for is a lightning strike or a fire, but I suppose then insurance will cover the enighbor's loss and they'll just put up a bigger array, with more racket.
A few days ago, I posted a piece about the amazing NanoVNA untis that we can get from China for about fifty bucks.  They are little miracles.  But China is also killing our country by selling boatloads of noisy phone chargers, washing machines with noisy electonics  and other consumer equipment, and  of course solar arrays with controllers where the "certification" and EMI testing is a lie.  And the FCC has just given up on the taxpayers as we hams are pretty much the only ones who suffer enough to complain..  As hams, our only recourse may to be to build or acquire active noise cancelling in the receive antenna chain using phase and amplitude cancelling with a "noise" antenna pickup.  These can be effective until someone in our own household gets some new humdinger gadget from China that spews RF into your own cozy environment.
There is an RFI group that worries about these problems almost daily, but solutions seem slow incoming.
http://lists.contesting.com/archives//html/RFI/
73 de Norm W1ITT
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Jim, W5JO
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« Reply #2 on: August 11, 2019, 08:43:10 AM »

Check to see if you have interference on your AM radio.  If so, file a complaint in writing to the FCC, they pay more attention to that, in an official capacity, than ham interference problems.  I had an interference problem and filed a written complaint.  It generated a phone call to me by FCC personnel who asked for more information.  He wanted to know how I knew where the interference originated and what kind of equipment I use to listen and to find the problem.  He then asked that I log the problem for a week and send to him.

After sending the log to him, he made a call to the offender and within a couple of weeks the problem disappeared.  They pay far more attention to AM radio complaints than amateur.
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WD8BIL
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« Reply #3 on: August 11, 2019, 09:56:21 AM »

To add to Norm's post; Manufacturers cannot self certify for FCC compliance. There must be EMC data/reports from a certified EMC lab proving compliance. The manufacturer is require to present this data upon request. If there is an FCC I.D. number on the product it means it contains a radio that transmits, most likely BLE, WiFi or 900 MHz, used to monitor or control the system.

This would not be a licensed product  so FCC Part 15.207/15.209 would govern operation. As with ALL Part 15 devices, it must except and must not cause harmful interference  from/to a licensed station.

If the owner will not co-operate, a letter to the FCC explaining the situation containing the owner's name and address is in order. The FCC will first contact him by mail informing him of the complaint and requiring him to work with Fred to rectify the problem within a certain time period.

If he refuses Fred will have to document all his efforts to work with the owner and request the FCC issue a turn off order until the system is compliant.

It really sucks having a neighbor that will not be co-operative.
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« Reply #4 on: August 11, 2019, 12:14:44 PM »


I talked with Fred KA2DZT yesterday, and one of his neighbors has installed a solar array.

Fred is experiencing SERIOUS interference on 75 meters from the installation.

He is trying to rectify the situation - the neighbor is apparently being somewhat recalcitrant.  The supplier of the equipment (I forget which company it is) has an FCC ID.

What is the legal situation here?  My guess is that it's not allowed, as the device is creating harmful interference - but I'm not completely sure - as politically, anything is possible (like a special exemption, etc.).

Would responsibility fall with the homeowner, or would the manufacturer / supplier be on the hook to fix the problem?

Any useful information would be helpful.  I will relay this to Fred.

Thanks !!!  Steve.

An article in QST documents the great lengths it took to tame a noisy Solar Edge PV system. Solar Edge splits the electronics between the roof and ground. Others put it one place or the other. The article is "Can Home Solar Power and Ham Radio Coexist?", April 2016.  If Fred's neighbor has a Solar Edge system (they are popular), that article might be useful in convincing the neighbor that there actually is a problem, that the installer and vendor need to fix it, and show them what it takes, a lot in this case.


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« Reply #5 on: August 11, 2019, 01:42:20 PM »

Here's the Yelp page for solar companies in North Brunswick, NJ. A strongly worded caution about the problems that their installations cause to neighbors (in violation of federal law) might get their attention.

https://www.yelp.com/search?find_desc=Solar%20installation%20Companies&find_loc=NORTH%20BRUNSWICK%2C%20NJ
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« Reply #6 on: August 11, 2019, 04:40:08 PM »

Test the susceptance of the system. go QRO.
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« Reply #7 on: August 11, 2019, 05:29:47 PM »

I happened to know a guy who had a similar situation a while back. He indicated to me that it was important to know that modern electric meters are reporting their readings via radio - and that they are poled devices which must be able to receive a signal from the control station in order to respond.

My friend told me that when a meter doesn't respond to poling, the electric company's first response is to send a tech out to check if the meter has been bypassed or otherwise tampered with, and that a couple of trips like that will almost always result in a threat to disconnect the commercial power.

The key, apparently, is to somehow coordinate the meter coming back online with the home-owner shutting off his solar system while the power company tech is there. He told me that timing is not that critical, since the power guy is going to take credit for solving the problem as long as the meter starts working while he's there, and he'll tell the owner of the solar array to leave the solar plant off-line until it's fixed.

Of course, if the 75 meter noise doesn't stop when the sun goes down, the neighbor might have invested in a full-time battery-powered system, so he might feel he's able to tell the power company to go ahead and do it - but the first rainy week will cool his self-righteousness and lead him to ask for help from his nearby radio expert.

Of course, you'll have to take this all with a grain of salt: you know how hams sometimes tell tall tails when they're trying to impress their friends, and my friend might have been talking about someone else that I didn't know. It really is a shame that some parts of our government feel entitled to think that their only important job is to look good to their bosses instead of actually doing their job, but it's human nature that they'll get real interested in looking better when their bosses ask questions, so perhaps your buddy's first stop should be the offices of every elected official who is currently seeking higher office.

I hope I've been clear: you know how hard it is to convey the subtext of a complicated technical problem.
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« Reply #8 on: August 11, 2019, 05:40:26 PM »

    Well, Being the owner of a 5KW solar inverter that was advertised as Class B compliant, I can assure you that it never saw any compliance testing.   This is an American made PV Powered PV4800.  It completely obliterated any and all radio communication up through the low end of the FM broadcast band, and harmonics of the Ethernet board were visible through the UHF TV spectrum.  I asked them for some information and a possible radiated and conducted test results that they had done to achieve their Class B status. I received nothing from them.

   So in my former career as a compliance engineer for Digital Equipment Corp, I decided to go back down memory lane. Brute force filtering of the AC out and DC in leads took care of 99.5% of the issues from the broadcast band up. They had the most rudimentary of line filters on the AC side (single common mode L and a pair of Y caps) and nothing on the DC side at all. The Ethernet leakage was not easily solved. It was rectified by installing a wireless bridge into the solar inverter so now all that was sticking of the steel case was the 2.4GHz antenna. I added some finger stock to the NEMA enclosure to try to tighten up what should have been a shielded enclosure.

  I really have no noise issues from the unit now. It has been reliable for the almost 8 years that i have owned it producing some 51MW of electricity. There are two more years left on it's warranty, but if it did die while under warranty everything could be easily removed showing no signs of "tampering"

  That being said, the local convenience store 1/2 mile away installed a very impressive parking lot array as well as full roof top coverage of all the buildings. They are using Sunny Boy Inverters. You can pull up listening to AM radio on a bright beautiful sunny day and tune the AM broadcast band from end to end and hear no interference. So it can be done if the manufacturer wants to. PV powered no longer makes household inverters to my knowledge. You can find them on closeout on the internet.

  Alot of the micro-inverter arrays seem quite quiet.  The problems of LED lighting, switch mode wall warts of unknown origin, ovens, stoves, washing machines and every other computer controlled appliance in this world has just elevated the background noise floor to rather ridiculous levels.  The old mechanical timer washing machine made no EMI, and seemed to wash clothers just fine, or maybe just go back to the washboard in the stream Smiley

  Good luck with the noise issues. They can be solved!

Steve

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« Reply #9 on: August 11, 2019, 11:33:13 PM »

Steve,

Thanks for starting this thread.  I need all the help I can get.

The system is a Solar Edge system.  Two inverters with DC lines coming down from two groups of solar panels.  The DC lines are in PVC conduit.  Seems most of the noise comes off the DC lines.  The inverters are 12ft from my driveway so I able to get near the system for testing.

The noise seems to be up to about 5mhz.  I have a ricebox set up in my garage connected to one of my antennas.
75M is full of interference from 3.5mhz to 4mhz.  40M and 20M are clean, no interference across both bands.  160M and the BC bands have the problem.  The interference occurs in areas of the bands, so it is not uniform across the bands.  3875 is clean but 3885 the noise is there and increases as you go up to 3900 and above.  Going down from 3875 the noise appears from 3860 down to about 3840.  The noise appears in clumps like this across the whole 80-75 band.  Areas of the band that are clean and areas with high noise levels.

For some strange reason I have not seen my neighbor since the day they began the solar install some 5 or 6 weeks ago.  Don't want to knock on his door,  I'm hoping to catch him outside in mid morning when the interference is at its worst.  I have a SW portable along with ricebox to let him hear the problem.

I want to file a complaint with the FCC but haven't had any luck trying to find the right way to do this.  I've been on the FCC site but couldn't find any info on how to file this type of complaint.

Need some help.

Fred
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« Reply #10 on: August 12, 2019, 02:12:12 AM »

...
The system is a Solar Edge system.  Two inverters with DC lines coming down from two groups of solar panels.  The DC lines are in PVC conduit.  Seems most of the noise comes off the DC lines.  The inverters are 12ft from my driveway so I able to get near the system for testing.
...
Fred
KA2DZT
The SolarEdge systems have "optimizers" under the panels on the roof. These are switching DC-to-DC converters that take orders over the DC line from the inverter on the ground. So the DC line isn't just DC, it's DC + control signals. Every one of those optimizers as well as the inverter is a potential source of EMl.

This is in contrast to the systems Steve, KB1VWC, and I have which have no electronics on the roof. The only potential source of EMI is the inverter on the ground. His was noisy but easily filtered. Mine are quiet. It's also in contrast to systems that do all the work on the roof with a micro-inverter per panel or panel pair. They send AC down from the roof. My neighbor has a system like that, 40 panels with Enphase micro-inverters. It's quiet.

The QST article is about a ham who has a SolarEdge system installed on his house. He worked with the installer to quiet it down by installing ferrites on the interconnects under the panels and re-routing the wiring so it became more like a transmission line, less like an antenna.

 I wonder if we could get the ARRL interested in the topic. SolarEdge is huge, the top supplier of module level electronics. Their systems are popping up everywhere and may be surrounding us with noise. BPL deja vu.
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« Reply #11 on: August 12, 2019, 05:36:33 AM »

I have 2 neighbors with Solar Edge systems, and I have not encountered any significant interference from them.  They both were installed last year. The closest solar panels are less than 100 feet broadside from my 80/75/40 inverted vee dipole.  The other installation is over 200 feet broadside across the street from my antenna.  I have seen how that system was installed.  The inverter is located immediately adjacent to the house main power panel, which in turn is located, as is usually the case, in close proximity to the short 100 amp service feeder below the meter on the far end of the house.  As far as I can tell, all the wiring from the panels to the inverter is contained in steel conduit, apparently grounded and bonded.  The panels are located on the roof of an attached 2 car garage facing the street and my house.  We have overhead AC utility (Eversource) power in the neighborhood.

I heard Fred mention that his neighbors installation used PVC conduit on the panel to inverter wiring and was surprised at that, perhaps using PVC vs. steel conduit is part of the problem.

I would think of hat discussing the problem with someone at the ARRL would be helpful.  Maybe Bob WB1GCM knows who to contact.

The only noticeable EMI I have been encountering on 75 of late here is what sounds like
ignition noise from an idling vehicle engine, except that it is continuously present and constant in pulse rep rate. It is only an issue during low atmospheric noise and low signal levels during the daytime.  Also similar to an oil burner ignition system noise, but constant vs. cyclic.  It may well be something here in the house, has not been much of a bother, have really not tried to figure it out yet.  

Worst EMI I had here was from our old XFinity cable modem power supply, when it was replaced a while back, the noise floor from the BC band through about 5 MHz dropped
about 20 dB!
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« Reply #12 on: August 12, 2019, 08:44:37 AM »

PVC on the roof screams cheap!  As a homeowner I'd go for. Blood if they tried I stalking it on my house.

PVC conduit has its place, but not where sun can catch it.

SolarEdge out in California is passe now. People are ditching them for less expensive systems.  But, they are the creme de la creme as to power production.  You do get what you pay for, and it pays itself back quickly.

To quiet that system down, they are going to need to install ferrite on the DC side (panel inputs to the optimizers) as well as the outputs.

Then the same thing in the inverter side.

And get RID of the plastic.  PVC conduit has a definate lifespan in the sunlight, and in a year or two will look like total crap.


But, good luck.  Any electrical contractor that used PVC on a solar install is going to be the cheapest possible guy out there.

As a side note, in the contesting rfi list it was recently discussed that the panels themselves can also cause rfi.  I'm not sure the medium, but so. E guys a lot smarter than I discussed it and did come to the conclusion it is possible.

Also, solaredge has optimizers built into their most expensive panels. So just because you don't see them doesn't mean they aren't their (I say this because you can install a solaredge inverter with no optimizers.  Rare, but I've don't it)

Good luck my friend.  Another route you can take is if it obliterates the am broadcast band, get the local am stations involved.  They really don't like losing listeners, and there is also a public safety aspect.  If you can't hear the emergency broadcast, how will you know to get in the bomb shelter?


--Shane
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(ex solar installer in California.  Thank God I got out of that business!)
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Jim, W5JO
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« Reply #13 on: August 12, 2019, 09:43:41 AM »

To file a complaint about interference to your commercial AM radios use the following.

Federal communications Commission
Audio Division
Media Bureau
445 12th Street S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20554

In your initial letter document well what the interference is, how you found it and what you used to locate the problem.  Also you will need to contact the owner before you file the complaint about the interference and ask for cooperation to fix the problem.  This is not to say you are responsible to pay for changes or repairs, but that you have explained the problem.  From what I read here you have a lot of information to share with the owner.

Good luck.
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« Reply #14 on: August 12, 2019, 02:06:54 PM »

Pleased to hear from Chris that not all SolarEdge systems are a problem.  Perhaps a lot has to do with how they are installed.
Pleased to hear from Shane that they are falling out of fashion. I imagine it's because a few extra watt-hours can be just as easily obtained by a few more panels which are inexpensive now.

Here's a video by W6HDG and KQ6RS demonstrating  the noise coming from a SolarEdge system. They use a small DF loop made out of a racquet ball racquet. It's very effective. Near the end of the video after a tangential discussion about the construction of loop, they mention that SolarEdge was very cooperative in fixing the problem. At least I think SolarEdge was the reference when they said "they." Took the panels off. Put on ferrites just as Shane suggests. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xLKq0hgKn9o

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« Reply #15 on: August 12, 2019, 10:21:53 PM »

I talked with Fred KA2DZT yesterday, and one of his neighbors has installed a solar array.

Fred is experiencing SERIOUS interference on 75 meters from the installation.

He is trying to rectify the situation - the neighbor is apparently being somewhat recalcitrant.  The supplier of the equipment (I forget which company it is) has an FCC ID.

What is the legal situation here?  My guess is that it's not allowed, as the device is creating harmful interference - but I'm not completely sure - as politically, anything is possible (like a special exemption, etc.).

Would responsibility fall with the homeowner, or would the manufacturer / supplier be on the hook to fix the problem?

Any useful information would be helpful.  I will relay this to Fred.

Thanks !!!  Steve.



Once I have located the interference source I notify the neighbor or company that the emissions coming from their location are unlicensed emissions whereas I am a licensed operator and their equipment is interfering with licensed communications.

I then try to work with them get their emissions under control by getting the equipment type, model, and serial number.

I then write a letter or script for the person owning the equipment so they can discuss it with or send it to the eqpt. manufacturer. That usually gets a resolution.

If the neighbor is stubborn or recalcitrant, then I tell them what I will be doing and the complaint goes to the FCC.

There ARE quiet controllers and inverters out there but most installers are using cheap Chinese stuff with no EMI/RFI filtering whatsoever.


Phil
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« Reply #16 on: August 12, 2019, 10:24:02 PM »

Optimizers - MPPT controllers. A computer-controlled switcher that always runs the panel at the load that gives the most wattage from it, whether in sun or shade. 10 years ago was hot tech. Today all should be so-equipped just to be competitive.

Maybe it's a bad installation, missing ground, mistake from the installers.

Hope you can get it sorted out so everyone is happy and don't have to be pushy to resolve it.


interference on your AM radio? A station itself will make a bigger stink than anyone else if they think you are missing the one-hour infomercial paid programs because of the racket.

"Digital Equipment Corp"
We're not worthy!! The finest computers ever made, unhackable at DEFCON9. But an old VAX can raise a ruckus in the aether at home if it's not installed properly. (those are not RF certified for home use)
https://archive.org/details/IWantYourVax
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« Reply #17 on: August 12, 2019, 11:14:37 PM »

Fred, I'm glad you are on AM Fone and found this thread!

I was trying to figure a way to get all of the good information that folks have posted here to you.  I didn't know you used AM Fone.

So good, I think there's a lot of great stuff here in this thread, so you should be able to get the issue mitigated.

By all means, do contact the neighbor directly before contacting the FCC.

Regards,  Steve
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« Reply #18 on: August 12, 2019, 11:16:29 PM »

I live on a city lot where 75 meters would be completely unusable with all the noise if it weren't for my SDRplay. One mouse click and all that noise goes away.

$130 alternative if nothing else works...

Jon
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« Reply #19 on: August 13, 2019, 05:25:05 PM »

Just a couple of cents worth ..

Part 15 ("Class A" and B"") Emissions testing is divided into Radiated and Conducted tests.

Radiated Emissions tests begin at 30.0 MHz  and go beyond 1 GHz.
Conducted tests begin at 150 KHz and end at 30 MHz.

Conducted  emissions tests only measure emissions that are conducted from the device (or system) under test,   into the AC power mains connecting cables.

The DC side of PV power systems do not directly connect to the grid,   so emissions on the PV cables is only tested to the extent that those emissions come out of the inverter's AC grid connections.

SO,   IMO,   this is a bit of a glaring hole in the effectiveness of FCC emission testing,   for those of us who rely on HF communications.   EU standards may not have similar oversights in the standard test methods for the MF and HF spectrum,   do not know.

Devices that use MPPT techniques,   are switchers,   but their emissions can usually be effectively reduced by toroidal common-mode chokes on the DC side,   where the PV connections are made,   and by using metal conduit (etc),  to contain noise currents.

Off grid battery-based systems often use MPPT Charge Controllers  (solar battery chargers),  which are usually fairly noisy/very noisy in the MF and HF ranges,   even though they often comply with FCC B Radiated standards.  But these MPPT  CCs   can usually have emissions tamed fairly effectively using metal pipe for PV runs,   and CM chokes at the usual places.

Just some Opinions,   FWIW,  YMMV,   ...     Vic

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« Reply #20 on: August 14, 2019, 07:58:39 PM »

Fred- please contact me at my qrz.com email address. I have direct contact info for your local FCC enforcement people.
73
Chris
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« Reply #21 on: August 16, 2019, 11:58:14 AM »

Finally was able to talk to my neighbor about the interference problem from his solar system.  Told me that he was going to call the solar company about the problem.  He also told me that he had some other issues with the solar installation.

We'll see what if anything happens.

Fred
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« Reply #22 on: August 17, 2019, 08:38:47 PM »

Maybe you can offer some input on his problems to jointly put pressure on the installer
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« Reply #23 on: August 18, 2019, 10:36:03 AM »

In the meantime you can make a noise canceler. Really quite simpel. I have one to cancel the noise of HV lines and found that it also works nice to cancel the noise of a LED light of a neighbor.. Fortunately, mother nature did kill the LED light during a heavy thunderstorm.
If you do so and it works, don't tell your neighbor that you found a (partly) solution.
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