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November 2, 2019

Failing garage door openers mystify local neighborhood

Photos/Don Del Rosso
John Frederick reprogrammed his remote controls and “got them working again, but not the keypad on the door. It’s going to cost $50, $60 (for a new one). So, I’m not a happy camper. Somebody’s got to mitigate it.”
Jay Sinclair talks with neighbor John Frederick in Olde Gold Cup, where 60 homeowners have reported suddenly non-working garage door openers.
It’s like going back to the ’50s, where you got to get out and manually raise your door, if you want to get in and out of the garage. I don’t know what’s going to be done to get this fixed.
— Olde Gold Cup homeowner Jackie Fincham
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
When more than 60 remote-controlled garage door openers recently went on the fritz at Warrenton’s Olde Gold Cup subdivision, homeowners blamed it on something in the air.

Like scores of other neighbors, her wireless system failed about two weeks ago, recalled Jackie Fincham of Black Sweep Road.

“I used to be able to open my garage door out here on the street at my next door neighbor’s driveway,” explained Mrs. Fincham, 70. “I could come up the street and push (the remote button) in the vehicle and the garage door would open.

“Then, I noticed it wasn’t opening until I got closer and closer to the house. And then it got so it wouldn’t open at all.”

A few homeowners in adjacent Silver Cup Estates also have noted garage door opener problems, according to Betty Compton, who coordinates Olde Gold Cup’s Neighborhood Watch group.

As of Oct. 30, “there have been over 70 OGC and/or Silver Cup residents who have reported as being affected by the ‘frequency interference’,” Ms. Compton wrote in an email to the subdivisions’ residents.

Ms. Compton gave a list of affected homeowners and their comments to the Warrenton Police Department.

Olde Gold Cup has 214 homes and Silver Cup Estates, 55.

“We’ve got bunch of people working different angles” on the matter, Interim Police Chief Tim Carter said.

Because Silver Cup Estates lies just outside town, the Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office continues to assist residents there who have garage door issues, Chief Carter said.

The source of potential radio-frequency interference, also known as electromagnetic interference, that may have disabled door openers remained unknown as of Friday, the chief said.

But, “we don’t have any reason to believe there’s a criminal element” involved, he added.

In an Oct. 25 email to Ms. Compton, the chief wrote: “While I understand this problem can be confusing and maybe even alarming to residents, there are a myriad of reasons it could be occurring, most all of them innocuous. Radio-frequency interference is a common problem in populated areas, and the potential sources of the problem are too numerous to count. A methodical approach to discovering the source of the problem should be taken.”

Among other things, Chief Carter recommended homeowners check the batteries of affected garage-door devices and reset or reprogram them.

Potential RFI household sources range from doorbell transmitters and toaster ovens to heating pads and touch-controlled lamps.

Some residents wondered whether activities at the federal government’s secure and secretive Warrenton Training Center, just northwest of the subdivisions, could be a factor.

Flustered and eager for answers, Mrs. Fincham called her “garage door-opener man.”

“He said, ‘Do you live near a military facility? And I said, ‘Yeah, I’m just off the mountain from the Warrenton Training Center’. And he said, ‘That’s your problem’.

“He said evidently something up there is going on with the frequency that’s interfering with the garage doors down here.”

Still, so far as she can tell, nobody can pinpoint what has paralyzed the door openers, Mrs. Fincham said.

He and his staff at least twice have talked with training center technical and command-level people about the situation, Chief Carter said.

“They don’t believe there’s anything going on up there that would cause this,” Chief Carter said.

But the training center has agreed to help the police department and the sheriff’s office try to resolve the problem, Chief Carter said.

Using a wall-mounted, push-button control mounted in her garage, Mrs. Fincham still can operate the door because “it’s on the hard line.”

But that means a big run-around, she said.

“It’s like going back to the ’50s, where you got to get out and manually raise your door, if you want to get in and out of the garage,” Mrs. Fincham fumed. “I don’t know what’s going to be done to get this fixed.

The responsible party — whomever that might be — should cover the cost to make things right, she said.

“Somebody’s got to do something. I pay taxes. I pay a homeowners’ association fee. I’m on a fixed income.”

John Frederick moved into his Olde Gold Cup home at Black Sweep and Equestrian roads 15 years ago.

Both of his remote garage door controls quit almost two weeks ago, Mr. Frederick said.

After reading the garage door system’s manual, he “reprogrammed” the two devices, the retired federal government worker said.

“I got the them working again, but not the keypad on the door,” said Mr. Frederick, 74. “It’s going to cost $50, $60 (for a new one). So, I’m not a happy camper. Somebody’s got to mitigate it.”

His and Mrs. Fincham’s homes have the original garage door systems.

Older ones could be vulnerable to interference, Chief Carter said. That doesn’t mean he advocates homeowners replace them, he stressed.

Mark Nesfeder moved to his Olde Gold Cup home along Starting Point Court in 2003.

Mr. Nesfeder, 61, got rid of the original garage door system four years ago, after he learned replacement parts no longer existed.

“That was the sign it was time to upgrade.”

The new one works like a charm, unaffected by whatever plagues his neighbors’ garage door systems, the retired Federal Aviation Administration air traffic controller said.

“Normal operation.”

Mr. Nesfeder, a consulting firm employee who trains air traffic controllers at Vint Hill, has no iron-clad theory about what crippled some of his neighbors’ garage door openers.

“A unit that was made 20 years ago is now more susceptible to other types of interference that wasn’t around then? I don’t know. There’s a lot more stuff here now.”

The Olde Gold Cup Homeowners’ Association will meet at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 7, at the Warrenton Police Department at 333 Carriage House Lane. A police department member will attend, Chief Carter said.

Contact Don Del Rosso at or 540-270-0300.
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FalconDad · November 4, 2019 at 7:26 pm
It would too funny if this is being caused by all the new roofs (like 10 plus) that we’re just completely replaced in Silver Cup, Olde Gold Cup and Stonelea Estates due to hail damage. All within the last few months. The timing makes you wonder. Peak Roofing did one house and used Home Depot shingles. Freedom Roofing installed most of the others and used some other premium grade builder shingle. Maybe the houses are acting like big dome shaped antennas now 😊
Freestate Steve · November 4, 2019 at 6:20 pm
A few years back we had sporatiic issues with our broadband internet. To the credit of the provider they came out and investigated but unfortunately found nothing. My son - a HAM radio operator was able to monitor the signal and could see it cutting in/out, but we could never locate the source of the disruption. Working inside the house about a week later, I heard a loud pop outside and the house. When the temp started to rise inside, checked the A/C unit and found a capacitor had blown. After installing a new one we experienced no more interference issues. I mentioned this to a retired Navy EE and HAM friend and he told me that he had heard that corroding bolts on the ships can sometimes interfere with radio signals. Let's face it, we take it for granted that the vast majotity of our infrastructure "just works" more often than not.
crc60 · November 4, 2019 at 11:32 am
"If you go to it will show you the 36 radio frequencies"

This doesn't cover the NTIA segments...

Refer to the "Orange Book" for the big picture...

Page 16 covers the band in question...

"The military agencies use selected portions of the 380-399.9 MHz band for trunked and mobile radio communications networks, primarily for non-tactical applications such as military base security."

The 388.15 MHz P25 "trunked" master signal you hear interfering with 390 MHz Part 15 garage door openers is 100% legit. As garage door remote systems are not primary users of this band segment, the homeowners must accept this interference and fix it at their cost.

If the base decides to shut this new system down for the homeowners' benefit, they are doing them a favor.
Truepat · November 4, 2019 at 6:44 am
If you go to it will show you the 36 radio frequencies that are assigned in Fauquier County and who they are assigned to. When I was in charge of Logistics for Federal security contracts up and down the East Coast, the radio frequencies I obtained had to be clear of door openers etc., I little known fact is that Canada forbids our radio frequencies to cross the border......
JDwarrenton · November 3, 2019 at 3:21 pm
I've come to believe that the Warrenton Training center & the Federal Government are not good neighbors.

1st, years ago, they contaminated the site, creating a recognized "brownfield". Most of the homes surrounding the WTC are on wells, and many of the pets in the area die of cancer.

2nd, the gun range sounds like a war zone in the mornings, often with fully automatic weapon fire going on for hours.

3rd, they built a large data center that emits a loud droning noise day and night into the surrounding countryside.

4th, they recently began construction to more than double the size of the data center, and in the process ignored the effects on the environment. The result will be even more noise next years when it delivers. And BTW, the Federal government does NOT have to follow local zoning or noise ordinances. Zip, nada, none.

And 5th, now this. Interference with nearby appliances. My house has been affected too, and I live over a mile from the WTC.

But don't expect them to give a .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

crc60 · November 2, 2019 at 11:00 am
For all those suggesting something needs to be done to address this issue, you're correct - it's likely on you and your pocketbook. If your garage remote system shares frequency space with licensed commercial, amateur or allocated government services, you shall accept all the pitfalls that come if and when they legitimately transmit at or near a frequency your receiver listens. Garage remotes (and lots of car remotes by the way) dare to use frequencies such as 315 MHz, 390 MHz, and 433 MHz... all legal, but secondary uses that bear the risk of having to accept legitimate interference. In other words, if you start having problems if a new system comes online (hint 388 MHz), it's your problem, not anyone else's. Contact the maker of your door opening system for assistance. This isn't their first rodeo concerning this exact topic.
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