Chapter 03: The Beginner’s Guide to
AC Electric Fields
In this chapter, you’re going to learn all about AC electric fields.
You’ll learn how and why AC electric fields occur and what you can do to lessen your exposure to these man-made EMFs.
We share some interesting ways that you can lower your levels from these in sleeping areas and other frequented spaces in your home.
What are AC electric fields, in a nutshell? The quick and dirty.
Learn more about AC electric fields and their possible dangers
Survey your home for EMFs: Hire an EMF Pro or DIY?
What are AC Electric Fields, In a Nutshell?
Below we give you the quick and dirty rundown on AC electric fields.
Electric fields are often the least know of the “four fields to forgo,” but certainly should be something to be aware of to provide you and your family the most natural sleeping quarters possible
In this chapter we tell you all about the sources that you should be concerned about.
What are AC Electric Fields, In a Nutshell?
In a nutshell, if you have energized electrical circuits, you have the presence of electric fields.
Learn More About AC Electric Fields
Interested in learning more about AC electric fields?
In this section we’ll go over some of the most common internal and external sources of electric fields you may encounter at home.
We’ll show you which ones are easy to avoid and the sources that are not.
A Bit More Explanation
When an electrical circuit in a home or business becomes energized the circuit produces an electric field.
AC electric fields are invisible, physical fields of electromagnetic radiation that are present if there is voltage01 and regardless if there is electrical current being drawn by devices or not. This means that it doesn’t matter if any devices or appliances are plugged in and utilizing the circuit’s electricity.
It’s rare to find a home or office that doesn’t have its electrical circuits on 24/7. With this consistency of energized circuits comes the consistency of the presence of electric fields.02
Unfortunately, electric fields can commonly travel 6-8 feet from these energized wiring sources. As many bedrooms are 10×10′ or 12×12′, there often isn’t much respite from these fields.
In addition to this, the many charging, electrical and extension cords found throughout a normal room can act as extensions for the home wiring and add to the volume of electrical fields present. More on this later.
Common Sources of AC Electric Fields
There are three common types of sources of AC electric fields:
A) external sources,
B) internal sources that you have considerable control over, and
C) internal sources that you have limited control over.
External sources are primarily electrical transmission and distribution lines. These can be effectively shielded through a variety of materials. Learn more about electric field shielding in our section below.
Internal Sources – Controllable
The second category consists of sources that are internal to the home that you can easily control.
Examples of these are light cords, plug-in strips, extension cords, and phone charger cords. These sources can be removed easily and we encourage people to do so.
Internal Sources – Limited Control
Lastly, internal sources that you have limited control over are primarily the electrical wiring within a buildings walls.
These can be mitigated through the de-energization of the electrical circuits, but this can often cause inconvenience and shouldn’t be done unless the circuit breaker box has been examined and determined to be safe by a licensed electrician.
Here’s a brief list of some common household sources of AC electric fields from all three categories:
- Overhead powerlines
- Buried powerlines
- Energized electrical circuits
- Computer peripherals
- Un-grounded, un-shielded cords (such as from lamps, extension cords, phone charger cords, alarm clock cords)
- Basically, a whole lot of cords
Many more examples can be found in our guide 199+ Common Sources of EMFs.
What Affects Electric Field Strength In Your Home
Remember, voltage is defined as “a measure of the difference in electric potential between two points in space.“
How natural and man-made materials in and around our home & office environment react to and conduct electricity.
Wiring, Cables and Devices
This includes the placement of wires, devices and cabling and whether any of the above are shielded properly.
How Far is the Source?
The farther the distance from the source of the electric field, the lower the field reading will be.
The Electrical Grid
Similarly to AC magnetic fields, AC electric fields are a result of the electricity delivered from the electrical grid. When your home or office is hooked up to the electrical grid the electricity is then distributed through your home through electrical circuits controlled by one or more breaker panels.03
When these electrical circuits are energized (capable of delivering electricity through the outlets in the walls), AC electric fields are present.
For those of you that are interested in learning more about how electricity is distributed from power plants to your front door, please see Appendix 01 – The Electric Grid. Electricity was transformational for our society and it’s interesting to understand the delivery process.04
"When you turn on a breaker, it is like opening a spigot for a garden house. Now you have 80 pounds of pressure in the garden hose, yet you haven’t squeezed the nozzle. In the same way, when you turn the breaker on, you have 120 Volts of pressure in the circuit at all outlets, and when you plug in a lamp, it is like adding a six-foot length of hose and moving the nozzle to the end of it."
– Oram Miller
Building Biologist and Electromagnetic Radiation Specialist05
Health Concerns with AC Electric Fields
There’s no current, open and shut epidemiological study that conclusively proves that AC electrical fields cause harmful biological effects. However, there are multiple studies that detail the possible risks of being in proximity to excessive man-made electrical fields.
We link to many of these on our EMF Health Studies page.
We do know for certain that electric fields can create electric currents in and around the body that are detectable with a body voltage meter.
Unfortunately, the human body makes an excellent antenna for these fields and perpetually energized homes and work environments mean most occupants are being inundated with electric fields throughout the day.
We all would do well to reduce our exposure during the daytime hours, but it’s the constant torrent of electric fields during the night that Building Biologists view as especially problematic.
At a minimum, it’s likely that having electric fields oscillating around you at night will affect the quality of your sleep. As we’re all well aware now, sleep is an incredibly important restorative time for humans (and pets) and its disruption can be a catalyst for health problems.
Building Biologists advise limiting your exposure to AC electric fields out of precaution for family members, especially younger ones, and for the likely betterment of your sleeping cycles.
Getting enough sleep makes us better family members, friends, lovers, drivers, writers, cooks, and pretty much everything else that is of importance in our lives."
– James G. Stavridis
AC Electric Field Health Studies
Below are two studies of the non-thermal effects from AC electric fields.
There are much more in our section on EMF Health Studies.
EPIDEMIOLOGICAL STUDIES OF AC ELECTRIC FIELDS
One of the more interesting studies on the effects of AC electric fields is an occupational study that claims a higher incidence of leukemia in electric utility workers. Found in the American Journal of Epidemiology, it’s titled “Leukemia following Occupational Exposure to 60-Hz Electric and Magnetic Fields among Ontario Electric Utility Workers.”06
Another interesting study is Dr. Martin Pall’s research into the effects that electric fields may have on the cellular level and the activation of voltage-gate calcium channels. The study was published in Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine and is titled “Electromagnetic fields act via activation of voltage-gated calcium channels to produce beneficial or adverse effects.”07
In this same vein, here’s an interesting article in Scientific America about cells’ bioelectrical communication.
Recap of Possible AC Electric Field Health Concerns
Leukemia in High Risk Occupations
Read more about this in the Ontario Electric Utility Workers study above.
Voltage Gated Calcium Channels
Read more about this in the Martin Pall study found above.
Also known as EHS. While RF radiation is often believed to be the main cause of this, ELF AC Electric Fields may be a contributing factor.
Melatonin & Sleep Disruption
The theory goes that magnetic fields may lead to less melatonin production and result in poorer and less regenerative sleep.
How AC Electric Fields are Measured
A field strength meter is the tool used to discover and measure electric fields. Measurement is done in volts per meter or V/m.08 There are many meters on the market that can measure electric fields.
Additionally, many of the meters on the market are dual-use or triple-use and are combined with gaussmeters (for magnetic field measurement) and RF meters (for radio frequency measurement).
Another way of measuring electric fields is by using a body voltage meter. Learn how to measure electric fields with a body voltage meter with our Guide How to Use a Body Voltage Meter (coming soon).
Learn How to Measure Electric Fields
We’ve gone over why you’d want to measure electric fields.
Now let’s go over how these man-made fields are measured.
We’ll also help you decide whether you should hire an EMF professional or do the measurements yourself.
Let’s get started:
Surveying Your Home: Contact an EMF Pro or DIY?
AC electric fields are not especially problematic to test for and there are reasonably priced entry-level field strength meters that can give you a decent approximation of your electric field levels. We’ll go over some of these below in our DIY EMF section.
As with other EMF measurements, the benefit of hiring EMF consultants is they will provide extensive experience and training, professional-grade meter accuracy and will help you determine and move forward with an appropriate EMF mitigation program.
Mitigation and shielding expertise is an advantage of hiring an EMRS or BBEC for the electric field or overall EMF. They often know contractors and electricians that have experience providing these types of services.
DIY EMF surveying, with the help of this guide, is less costly, but may take longer and be out of the comfort zone for some people. There’s also no reason that you can’t do some of the work yourself in concert with EMF consultants, too.
Most EMF consultants will have reasonable hourly phone consultation rates. Here are some remote EMF consultants if you’re interested and don’t have a local professional.
To better appreciate the pros and cons of contacting an EMF professional vs. doing-it-yourself, please see our page titled, “Contact an EMF Consultant or DIY?“
DIY – Selecting a Meter to Measure AC Electric Fields
As previously mentioned, AC electric fields are primarily measured using a field voltage meter or a body voltage meter.
Measuring properly with either can give you an accurate assessment of your magnetic field exposure, which in turn allows you to draw up a mitigation plan.
One of our recommended entry-level AC electric field meters is the Trifield TF2 EMF meter. Read our review of the Trifield TF2 in Appendix 05: Recommended EMF Meters.
The Trifield TF2 and another other entry-level alternative (the Cornet ED88T) can be seen below.
DIY – How to detect AC Electric Fields with an EMF meter or Body Voltage Meter
Please visit our individual pages to learn “How to detect AC Electric Fields with an EMF meter” (coming soon) and “DIY – How to use a Body Voltage Meter to detect AC Electric Fields” (coming soon) to learn how to survey your home or work for electric fields.
DIY – Worksheets to Use When Taking Electric Field Measurements
We offer printable PDFs of worksheets to record your electric field measurements and other EMFs to those readers that support our cause by purchasing a PDF or kindle version of the Beginner’s Guide to EMFs. It makes a great gift for those family members that may be unaware of what EMFs are or how the fields may be affecting them.
Please consider supporting this worthy cause by purchasing this EMF Guide (PDF, Kindle or eReader) or providing us with a small donation.
Review Your Electric Field Measurements
Okay, so you’ve taken electric field measurements or had an EMF pro do it for you.
So, what do these readings mean?
Next, we’ll give you international and domestic standards from which to compare the electric field readings.
Let’s dive in:
Understanding the results of your AC Electric Field study
Below are the Building Biology guidelines for electric fields in sleeping areas. You can read the original PDF here.
The good folks over at Safe Living Technologies also have an Education section with Building Biology and International EMF Guidelines that you can download and use as a reference.
It’s important to note that these are specific recommendations for sleeping areas. The Building Biology field views bedrooms and sleeping areas as especially important due to the restorative nature of sleep. As such, the guidelines are some of the most conservative you’ll come across.
Learn more about the Building Biology profession and their guiding principles.
Take Action to Reduce Your Electric Field Exposure
You’ve taken measurements and reviewed the results.
Now it’s time to take action.
In this section we’ll give you some actionable tips on how to lower your exposure to AC electric fields.
Let’s get started:
Take Action: Reduce or Eliminate Your Exposure
Taking action in reducing you, your family’s and your pet’s exposure to AC electric fields often takes the form of five steps:
a) creating distance from external electric field sources
b) de-energizing electrical circuits at night
c) removal of cords and computer peripherals
d) creating distance from internal electric field sources
Creating Distance from External Sources
The electric fields from close proximity power lines or electrical substations are far less onerous to shield against than their magnetic field counterpart, but a simple way to lower exposure is to create distance.
De-energizing Bedroom Electrical Circuits at Night
For safety reasons, we always recommend that these be mapped out by an EMF specialist or a licensed electrician.
Following that, our recommendation is to purchase and have a licensed electrician install a remote cutoff switch. These allow each bedroom occupant to remotely turn off the surrounding circuits prior to going to sleep.
Read more about this on our Remote Cutoff Switch page (coming soon).
Removal of Ungrounded/Unshielded Cords from Sleeping Areas.
We recommend removing all two-pronged, unshielded cords from areas adjacent to the bed. This includes bedside table lamps, extension cords, alarm clock cords, phone charging cords and wireless charging pads.
We recommend using cordless alternatives adjacent to the bed and moving the other necessary items across the room.
Creating Distance from Internal Sources
Simply create distance between the sources and your couch, reading chairs, beds, office desks and any where else family members or pets spend time.
In our guide, 199+ Common Sources of EMFs in Your Home, we go over the items in your bedroom, office and family rooms that may be causing excessive exposure to AC electric fields.
Shielding AC Electric Fields
Shielding electric fields can be achieved through a few different ways, such as grounded canopies.
To learn more please visit our section on AC Electric Field Shielding (coming soon).
In Conclusion: Case Studies, Resources, & Footnotes
Below are some final thoughts we have on AC electric fields
There’s also some interesting AC electric field resources below.
We’ve included a few case studies that EMF Experts have experienced in the field. These make for an interesting read, as well.
Lastly, we’ve added all the footnotes from the chapter.
Stories from EMF Specialists – EMF Case studies
We’ll have these up shortly.
Many of these experts are available for remote EMF consulting via Telephone/Zoom/Facetime/Skype and can be extremely helpful in locating problematic areas of electromagnetic exposure.
EMF Resources – AC Electric Fields
To learn more about EMF research and epidemiological studies, many dealing with AC magnetic fields, please visit Chapter 20 – EMF Learning Resources (coming soon).
A Final Note on AC Electric Fields
AC electric fields are often referred to as the forgotten member of the Four Fields to Forgo, but are an important part of any EMF survey.
Many bedrooms and offices are awash in elevated electric fields and, at a minimum, it’s likely to be making people feel fatigued.
Please view our guide, 199+ Common Sources of EMF Exposure, to learn about many common, household sources of AC electric fields.
AC Magnetic Field Chapter Notes
01 – Voltage and Electric Fields
Voltage is another way of saying electrical potential or, more simply, the availability of the electricity.
02 – Field Strength
This can vary greatly with the type of electrical wire used. For example, residential homes that have unshielded, non-metallic building electrical wire and device cords will experience higher field levels most of the time.
03 – Circuit Breaker
Here’s a basic explanation of how the circuit breakers in your panels functions.
04 – The Electrical Grid
The manner in which electricity is produced and distributed, so that you can watch your TV or effortlessly heat you home, is an interesting process. We cover it in our Appendix Page: The Beginner’s Guide to the Electrical Grid. (coming shortly)
05 – Oram Miller
Oram’s website Create Healthy Homes is a wealth of information into all facets of EMF exposure and how to mitigate those risks. Highly recommended.
06 – Ontario Hydro Workers Study
Anthony B. Miller, Teresa To, David A. Agnew, Claus Wall, Lois M. Green; Leukemia following Occupational Exposure to 60-Hz Electric and Magnetic Fields among Ontario Electric Utility Workers, American Journal of Epidemiology, Volume 144, Issue 2, 15 July 1996, Pages 150–160, https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordjournals.aje.a008902
07 – VGCC Study
Martin Pall; Electromagnetic fields act via activation of voltage-gated calcium channels to produce beneficial or adverse effects, Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, Volume 17, Issue 8, 2013, Pages 958-965, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3780531/#
08 – V/m or volts per meter
Also known as Newton per Coulomb, N/C
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Beginner's Guide to EMFs
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