Imagine getting ready to leave your home on a sunny April morning, only to find that your garage door opener and car fob has stopped working. One may think it just a slight inconvenience. However, you then go outside to realize your not the only homeowner experiencing issues with their car fobs and garage door openers.
The above scenario sounds like the start of a Steven King novel. Well, this situation actually happened, and it was only last month – a mysterious frequency interference that affected most homeowners and motorists in North Olmsted, Ohio City. When this eerie, mystery interference first happened, it left homeowner dumbfounded. Frankly, the residents and city officials wanted answers, but this mysterious blackout lasted for weeks.
In fact, the root cause of this wireless blackout for garage door openers and car fobs wasn’t identified until city official arranged for specialist crews and garage door repair technicians to investigate the cause. So, in this article, we are going to tell you how and why this unknown force stopped some car fobs and garage door openers from working.
What or Who was behind the mysterious interference?
As homeowners, our lives have been made so much easier due to the advent of technologies. Nowadays, we are so dependent on “trivial” technologies, like our key fobs (you wouldn’t think we used to manually unlock cars). So, when we wake up and realize that changing the battery doesn’t fix the problem, or it does work in different areas, we begin to panic.
We have become somewhat dependent, and quite rightly, because technology like automatic garage doors makes our lives easier. So, when, we notice that there seems to be an issue or a fault, we are quick to seek the help of a garage door repairman for a quick solution. However, this mysterious force, which seems to impact many residents in North Olmsted, didn’t require a garage door repair or changing the battery in the car fob.
The situation became more perplex because it seemed that the wireless car fobs and garage door remotes just stopped working. Now, we can only imagine how eerie and uneasy it was to be in this bizarre situation. Arguably, it probably seemed worse than it was (which, we’ll get too), because it wasn’t an isolated malfunction. Moreover, this bizarre disruption actually went on for a few weeks.
At first, it seemed like homeowners just need a garage door repair service or replacement batteries. However, homeowners started to notice it wasn’t just them, and then, the reports to city official started to mount and that’s where the news also became involved. Soon, theories started to form, some more realistic than others. The WKYC local news channel started to follow up on these reports. What made this “phenomenon” so strange is that the fobs and garage door openers alike, would stop and start working sporadically. Worse, certain brands seemed immune to this interference. Likewise, the garage door openers would work perfectly fine at certain times of the day.
It comes as no surprise that North Olmsted homeowners were spooked. Imagine parking and locking your car at the grocery store, everything is working fine. But, then, when you’re driving back home, your car automatically locks. Eventually, the story gained more traction and caught the attention of the news channel and papers outside the local area. Like all unexplained mysteries, our natural reaction is to panic. Undoubtedly, the homeowners in North Olmsted were sent into a frenzy of confusion. At first, the city officials and residents couldn’t pinpoint the cause, but they all had theories. And, without spoiling the “big reveal” the actual cause probably didn’t make the top ten causes list.
The mysterious force stirred the conspiracy theorists who were quick to pin the blame it on the nearby NASA research facility. Other residents that spoke to WKYC felt it was caused by an incident at the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. Another theory, which the city official believed to be the cause was an electricity or telecommunications malfunction. Soon, identifying the problem was the number one priority.
The unknown can stir uneasiness and can make some people jump to more sinister conclusions. Especially, when we notice that we’re not the only homeowner having issues with our car fobs and/or garage door opener. Looking at it now, it’s quite funny how much havoc it caused. However, quite rightly, the city official initiated investigations, hired a specialist technician to investigate the source.
The city officials genuinely believed that it was the electric or telecommunication signals that were causing the blackout. So, let’s briefly look at the timeline of this mysterious interference to how they actually located the source. Well, to start, according to the New York Times, everyone was eager to locate the source of this interference, from garage door repair companies, volunteer investigators and budding radio enthusiasts all began to investigate the reported areas. Now, there’s no denying that everyone equally agreed that what or who was behind the interference, was the same frequency that many garage door openers and car fobs use. Like we said, in the end, it took a few weeks and multiple experts to identify the true source.
Late April 2019: City officials then received more than a dozen reports, according to WKYC that the mystery interference had also researched the neighbouring town, Fairview Park. Like North Olmsted residents, they were unable to use their garage door openers or car hobs.
May 2019: Once the reports mounted, a retired engineer was also recruited to survey the area, using a spectrum analyzer. This investigation didn’t lead to the cause of the problem.
Then AT&T, the local cable company joined the search, as well as FirstEnergy (the local energy provider. According to WKYC, each company worked tirelessly to discover the cause of the mystery interference until a TV Repairman joined the search. The situation was understandably becoming infuriating, due to erratic nature. As we said, some brands seemed immune, sometimes they would just seem dead. This erratic behavior led this TV repairment to come up with the somewhat amateur theory that the cause was domestic vs. import (according to the source of the fobs).
This theory wasn’t anywhere close to the root cause. In the end, this curious TV repairman aided with his testing equipment identified that one house was giving off an extremely strong signal. The resident of this home is an electronics enthusiast and inventor – and it was his invention that was causing the mysterious frequency interference. As we said, the source was far less sinister and quite funny, once it was discovered. Correspondingly, WKYC and the New York Times are in agreement that this inventor/homeowner had created a homemade warning system. It has been reported that this man wanted to generate a system that would alert him if someone entered his home, while he was working in the basement. Although this device is very useful, it was also causing the disrupted frequency.
Once revealed, this innocent device was transmitting a 315-megahertz radio signal. Surprise, surprise, this is the same signal that is used by garage door openers, key/car fobs, as well as many short-range radio applications. One of the city councilmen, Chris Glassburn, was possibly quite happy to announce to the North Olmsted residents that the mystery had been solved. He said to the New York Times: “He has a fascination with electronics,” and also added adding that this homeowner has special needs and would not be identified to protect his privacy.
Surely, the conspiracy theorist was disappointed to find out that the cause of all this havoc was a homemade battery-operated device, which worked by switching a light on and off. Likewise, were certain that many North Olmsted homeowners were happy to learn that they didn’t need a garage door repair company.
Although this mysterious frequency interference might seem like an isolated issue, it is often why many homeowners feel that they need a repairman or garage door repair service. Now, this situation had a widespread impact, but did you know that certain devices in your home can interfere with your garage door opener?
What is RFI?
RFI simply stands for “Radio Frequency Interference.” Now, you may not be too familiar with this term, but it has now been used for nearly a century. Moreover, due to the advent of consumer and commercial devices, it’s not uncommon for some RFI with your devices, including garage door openers.
What can cause frequency interference?
Here at Champion Garage Door Repair, we strive to remain up to date with the latest regulations, innovations, and developments for automatic garage door openers. We’re always happy to help our customer if a problem arises with their garage door opener. Still, we like to keep you in the loop, as to why these frequency inter-references happen, and how to prevent them.
According to the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) rulings, is that all garage door openers need to operate on limited power. However, limited power often means a limited range. As invaluable as garage door openers our when it comes to making our homes more efficient and secure, they’re sadly at the bottom of the pile when it comes to licensed transmitters, remotes or radio controls. Essentially, the frequency should not interfere with other devices, which is why the innocent inventor who caused a neighborhood interference had to stop using this device. Although these devices are not permitted to interfere with large devices, they still share the same frequency spectrum for many short-range transmitters. In this case, a homemade battery powered intruder-alert device.
Since these devices should operate under “Low Interference Potential Devices” Class License, it is inevitable that they will share the same spectrum. So, let’s start by looking at a few of the devices that may cause interference with your garage door opener (apart from the homemade device, mentioned earlier).
As we said, we’ve become heavily reliant on our handy devices, like garage door openers. So, when a problem happens, we want to fix it quickly. Hopefully, if you have an issue with your wireless device, car fob or garage door opener, it won’t be like the earlier mystery interference. Generally, you can see if you have any wireless devices installed that could be disrupting the frequency. Likewise, you can have such interference with your neighbors’ devices.
How can you reduce RFI?
There are several ways that interference can be reduced. Generally, when it comes to garage door openers, it’s ensuring that you use a professional garage door service to minimize this from happening.
First, you have to identify what is causing the interference. The location of the garage door openers signal may be blocked by some of the other devices in your home running on the same frequency. Surprisingly, changing remotes can prevent this inconvenience.
However, if there is a new frequency, then you may need to speak to a garage door repair service to relocate your receiver or fit a plastic casing. Generally speaking, the new technology has limited these RFIs from happening, particularly with our garage door openers.
The Bottom Line
This has been a different article, slightly amusing but it does highlight an issue that many homeowners with garage door openers tend to experience. However, if you’re tired of your garage door opener working sporadically, or the mechanic seems to be slowing down, as a reputable garage door supplier, we can troubleshoot any automatic garage door system available on the market and solve any type of malfunction related to it.