You’ve probably never thought about electromagnetic interference (EMI), but that doesn’t mean it can’t affect you through your electronic devices. EMI manifests itself as interference in function or communication, causing a device to lose a signal, perform poorly, lose data, or fail entirely. EMI can affect numerous devices in your home, including televisions, cell phones, radios, computers, routers, and other devices, leading to minor inconveniences to major damage.
While most electronic devices possess some degree of EMI shielding, it still pays to assess any potential sources of EMI in your house and eliminate or avoid them. Here are some common sources of electromagnetic interference (EMI) in your home to watch for.
Whenever you start a vehicle or other device with an ignition system, you’re generating a momentary electric spark. This spark produces electromagnetic waves of energy that can interfere with radio waves and the like. The effect is usually temporary, but it still pays to protect devices by keeping them away from ignition systems.
While not generated within your home, there are sources of EMI in the universe that can occasionally reach you and affect your devices. Commonly, rain, snow, thunderstorms, and other forms of precipitation carry electric charges. The sun produces solar flares and solar magnetic storms that can reach through the fathomless emptiness of space just to mess with your phone calls and Wi-Fi. Even other planets emit EMI, but they generally aren’t a huge threat to service or data.
Have a raft of computer monitors in your office or gaming room? You may have noticed an occasional ripple or shimmying effect. That’s brought on by the monitors being placed too close to one another; the EMI generated by each one affects the others. Give them some room, and you’ll see a quick improvement.
Sometimes, even with shielding, a device is its own worst enemy. Inherent EMI happens when one part of an electronic appliance interferes with another. Even with shielding of each component, this is possible. There’s not much you can do yourself, but if the interference continues, have a professional look at it.
Among the common sources of EMI in your home, don’t forget microwaves. A source of nuclear radiation and a threat to pacemakers (at least according to urban legends), microwave ovens can have a bad effect on routers and cell phones. Most of the energy a microwave creates stays inside the device, protected by shielding to concentrate the waves on preparing the food. But on occasion, and especially if a device is too close, the microwave will scramble any signals the device is sending or receiving. Make sure they get along by keeping them far apart!