How To Troubleshoot Problems With EMI

Updated on December 8, 2020
How To Troubleshoot Problems With EMI

Electromagnetic interference (EMI) can run rampant in facilities where large electrical devices operate in close-range and vast quantities, such as hospitals and other healthcare-based facilities. If left unchecked, it can pose a risk to critical medical equipment, including defibrillators, ventilators, and other life-support methods. To protect these vulnerable patients from harm, understanding how to troubleshoot problems with EMI is a necessity. Troubleshooting EMI isn’t easy, but by sticking to a proven method of investigation, you can narrow down the culprit. Keep reading to learn about the critical steps to EMI troubleshooting.

Identifying the Source

Starting the investigative process off right is crucial if you want to solve your problems with EMI effectively. First, you’ll need to gather the necessary information. Determine the devices that the interference is affecting and meet with everyone who operates said devices. The operators can provide you with better insight on the issue—they might even have a few guesses as to what’s causing the EMI.

Next, you’ll need to determine the source. Pay attention to the frequency of the issue. If it’s a sporadic occurrence, look to equipment that gets less frequent use. If it’s periodic or has a noticeable pattern to it, the culprit could be a device that the hospital uses more often. The most common culprits of EMI include but aren’t limited to:

  • Radio sources
  • Power disturbances
  • Electrostatic discharge

When necessary, you can conduct a power quality audit to analyze the efficiency of your systems.

Test the Source and Analyze Your Data

Another tip for how to troubleshoot problems with EMI is to test the possible source once you identify it. Some of the parameters you should measure and analyze are the EMI’s frequency, amplitude, time, impedance, and dimensions. By studying these details, you’ll be able to understand the interference and why the source is producing it. You’ll also need to determine the exact nature of your interference issues. There are four main possibilities: emissions, immunity or susceptibility, radiated EMI, and conducted EMI. Out of these, emissions are the most common reason for EMI test failure.

Modify the Current System

Now that you’ve identified both the source and nature of your interference problems, you’ll need to determine the best method of solving it. As you’re deciding how to fix these issues, consider factors like affected equipment and the electromagnetic environment, along with safety, installation, overall cost, maintenance, and the effectiveness of the potential solution. Before you commit to an outside solution, you can attempt to reduce or eliminate the EMI on your own. Some quick, easy solutions you can try include fixing any cables, the enclosure field, or the device’s circuit board.

If you can’t solve the problem through troubleshooting or simple fixes, you might need to turn to other methods. More permanent solutions to EMI include filtering, grounding, or applying shielding compounds to your devices. Once your fixes are in place, you can test your devices to make sure that you’re no longer experiencing noticeable amounts of interference.