RFI, or Radio Frequency Interference, is something we should all beware of. As a ham radio operator and grower, I am privileged enough to be able to experiment with, research, and learn from both of my passions. It has come to my attention recently that a few acquaintances of mine have had their grow operations discovered because of this culprit. I will go into detail about a few things that we all can do to remain undetected.
RFI is all around us, when we get in our cars, turn on our computers, our televisions, or get a text message. Have you ever been listening to the radio in your car, heard a blip blip blip noise and KNEW you were about to get a text message or phone call? Those small blips you heard were RFI and in theory should not have been able to be picked up on your car stereo. One of a few things happened there, either the antenna or stereo on your car was not shielded properly from the factory, or your cell phone is operating on a frequency they are not exactly assigned. Sometimes it is COMPLETELY on accident and typically goes unnoticed.
But how does this apply to us growers? We don’t use stereos, ham radios, or cell phones in our grow stratos, how does any of this apply to us? How would our grows become detected because of RFI? Let me go into that information now. Here in the USA specifically, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) regulates the airwaves. Everything from stereos, walkie talkies, and anything that can transfer voice communication wirelessly through the air has to go through the FCC first. This also goes for anything that can interfere with that communication. For virtually all products produced 100% in the USA they adhere to the strict mandates that the FCC imposes upon them, meaning that they have been thoroughly and rigorously tested and do not have any major impact on wireless communications and have gotten the “FCC seal of approval” which is usually just a little gold sticker with “FCC” emblazoned on it. CHINA however, does not have to adhere to those standards. In order to be imported, they in theory would first have to get approval but China has ways around everything. By generalizing their shipping manifest to something as simple as “Light products” they can circumvent those FCC regulations.
An acquaintance of mine just had to destroy some plants for security reasons, as law enforcement had been tipped off to the grow. They were tipped off because of RFI in the area. RFI can be pinpointed with something as simple as an AM radio tuned to an off station and some headphones. Just listen for the interference to increase and decrease and you can find the source with relative ease. There are even handheld meters that can do the same, which some police agencies are now acquiring. The grows can be tipped off because through my testing the ballasts for MH and HPS lights which used to be magnetic are now electronic, typically from China, and give off pretty substantial interference. LED lights imported from China as well, although less, do also give off decent interference as well. So there are some things we will all need to do to protect ourselves in the future.
But stratos, how can we protect ourselves from this RFI you speak of? How can we avoid detection? It is simple my fellow friends and growers. I essentially live in a cage. A cage you say? What are you some kind of animal? No, a FARADAY cage. When I move (which I do often) I always remove the drywall and install copper mesh along the studs of the building, top and bottom. I do this to eliminate RFI from jacking with my radio bench, little did I know it would also secure my grow. Because my radio bench is inside a copper tomb basically, I have to run my antenna outside to get signal. HOWEVER no signal can come in, and no interference can leave thanks to the copper mesh all around me. I had no idea RFI was an issue until my friend brought it up to me that they had to destroy some plants and had to relocate completely due to detection caused by RFI. Which led me to investigate ,with my radio setup in my car, how different lights would affect them. I still have to see at what distance they affect, but I CAN CONFIRM that within 15 - 20 feet they do give off a noticeable amount of RFI which can lead to detection if not remedied.
Take my word for what it is worth, but just know that this can potentially be an issue for all of us if not taken care of. Hope this was informative post and helps a few of you out. Thank you, and as always have a nice day. Happy growing my friends.