Chapter 05: The Beginner’s Guide to
Learn about Dirty Electricity, its sources and its possible dangers.
Learn About Dirty Electricity →
Survey Your Home Levels →
Review & Compare the Results →
What Do Your Dirty Electricity Levels Mean?
Action: Reduce Your Exposure →
Resources & Case Studies →
Footnotes & Explanations →
Footnotes and other Errata
What is Dirty Electricity, In a Nutshell?
In a nutshell, dirty electricity is result of the the intentional manipulation of electricity (60 Hz AC) on external power lines and internal building wiring.
This manipulation is done by light bulbs, lighting fixtures, tech devices and appliances for energy savings and consumer applications.
Common Sources of Dirty Electricity
Some common sources of dirty electricity are:
– CFL/LED/Fluorescent/Halogen light bulbs
– dimmer switches
– plugged in chargers for tech devices
– solar or wind inverters
– smart meter communications
– over-the-wire ethernet connections
If you have the above items, you’re going to have the presence of dirty electricity.01
The good news, like with many sources of RF exposure, is that mitigation can be as simple as unplugging items and using alternative lighting sources.
We explain how to lower your dirty electricity exposure from these various items a little bit later.
An Overview of how Dirty Electricity is Created
A Brief Comment on the Term Dirty Electricity
The Building Biology profession has aptly renamed dirty electricity to “microsurge electrical pollution” or MEP. Pollution is a great descriptor of what occurs when the transient voltage is produced by these devices and appliances.
However, as dirty electricity is the most commonly used term when discussing the phenomenon, we’ll continue to use that going forward to limit confusion.
So, how is dirty electricity created?
As mentioned above, dirty electricity is the result of lighting, devices and appliances manipulating electricity for energy savings and consumer applications.
In pursuing product features and energy saving technology, product designers and electrical engineers have found 60 Hz AC electricity to be limiting. As a result they’ve come up with novel solutions to transform it, manipulate it or, effectively, chop it up. The ends justifying the means, if you will.
Unfortunately, the ends lead to the pollution of the current and the production of dirty electricity.
This pollution can be measured on the building wiring itself, but also produces RF radiation into the surrounding air.
Common ways dirty electricity is created:
01 – One common way DE is produced is when a device draws power in an intermittent fashion to achieve energy savings or consumer convenience.
As an example of the latter, modern dimmer switches work by turning the light bulb circuit on and off 120 times a second. 02 Each time it does this it chops up the alternating current and, in turn, produces spikes in its magnetic field, harmonic distortions and radio frequency bursts (i.e. dirty electricity).
An example of this used for energy savings can be found in the use of compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs.
Here’s a quote from an article in Scientific American:
However, modern, electronically ballasted CFLs refresh themselves at between 10,000 and 40,000 cycles per second, rates too fast for the human eye or brain to detect.03
02 – Another common way DE is produced is the transformation of AC electricity into direct current electricity or DC.
An example of this is a laptop computer. Laptop transformers, the large black/white rectangle connected to your power cord, transform the AC from the building wiring and turn it into the low DC voltages that the device components require.
This transformation of the current causes voltage transients or DE.
03 – Other devices have transformers that take the “low” AC from the building wiring and turn it into high voltage AC instead. An example of this would be a fluorescent lamp. This “ramping up” of the AC voltage also produces DE.
Below are two additional explanations of dirty electricity by BD Erickson04 and Magda Havas05 to help explain the DE phenomena.
Additional Explanations of the Complexities of Dirty Electricity
There is a high likelihood that most of the twentieth century "diseases of civilization," including cardiovascular disease, malignant neoplasms (cancer), diabetes, and suicide, are not caused by lifestyle alone, but by certain physical aspects of electricity itself.
Samuel Milham, MD, MPH06
Health Concerns with Dirty Electricity
As DE produces RF radiation in the 2 kHz – 100 kHz range, many of the health concerns with dirty electricity mirror many of the health concerns with radio frequency field exposure.
Visit Chapter 04 – What are Radio Frequency Fields? to learn more about those health concerns and the latest National Toxicology Program Cell Phone Study.07
Dirty Electricity and Sleep
The case for limiting your exposure to dirty electricity is similar to limiting your exposure to radio frequency fields.
As with RF fields, there’s a strong likelihood that dirty electricity is contributing to less restful, less restorative sleep.
Sleep and sleep hygiene is a complicated issue, but not using dimmer switches, limiting the amount of device transformers plugged in, using DE filters and replacing your CFL and LED lights is likely to improve you and your family’s sleep.
“Sleep is the best meditation."
– Dalai Lama
Dirty Electricity Health Studies
Below are two health studies of the non-thermal effects from dirty electricity. There are more in our section on EMF Health Studies.
Epidemiological Studies of Dirty Electricity
Power quality affects teacher wellbeing and student behavior in three Minnesota Schools
Power quality affects teacher wellbeing and student behavior in three Minnesota Schools. – Havas, M, Olstad, A. Sci Total Environ. 2008 Sep 1;402(2-3):157-62. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2008.04.046. Epub 2008 Jun 16.
Dirty electricity elevates blood sugar among electrically sensitive diabetics and may explain brittle diabetes.
Havas, Magda. “Dirty electricity elevates blood sugar among electrically sensitive diabetics and may explain brittle diabetes.” Electromagnetic biology and medicine vol. 27,2 (2008): 135-46. doi:10.1080/15368370802072075
How Dirty Electricity is Measured
Dirty electricity is measured primarily by using a Stetzerizer meter, a Greenwave meter, or an oscilloscope.
Unlike gaussmeters, electric field or RF meters, these meters are actually plugged into the home or business’ electrical circuits receive the readings.
The process of taking the readings is simple. If you have a Stetzerizer meter or Greenwave meter, measuring the dirty electricity in your home is as easy as plugging the meters into a wall socket.
It’s helpful to make a drawing of your house and then mark down the measured levels to get a full picture of the dirty electricity in your living environment.
Surveying Your Home: Contact an EMF Pro or DIY?
Dirty electricity is not difficult to test for and there are reasonably priced DE meters that can give you a decent approximation of your dirty electricity 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 and will help you determine and move forward with an appropriate EMF mitigation program.
The main advantage of utilizing an EMRS or BBEC for the dirty electricity survey is some use oscilloscopes to test your home and all will be able to help you formulate a plan to reduce your DE levels throughthat they can help pinpoint any potential wiring errors or any excess current coming from water pipes or other utility lines and then communicate these issues to an electrician.
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 Dirty Electricity
Using dirty electricity meters is very straight forward as you simply plug them into the electrical sockets. The big difference between the Stetzerizer meter and the Greenwave meter is the units of measurement: Stetzerizer Unit vs. Volts per meter.
You can also purchase and learn to use an oscilloscope if you’re feeling more adventurous.
See the the section below or visit our EMF Meter Reviews page to learn more.
DIY – How to Detect Dirty Electricity with a DE meter
Please visit our page “How to Detect Dirty Electricity with an EMF meter” (coming soon). We’ll go over how to use your Stetzerizer or Greenwave meters and give you some information on oscilloscopes.
DIY – Worksheets to Use When Taking Dirty Electricity Measurements
We offer printable PDFs of worksheets to record your dirty electricity 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.
Compare the Results
Understanding the Results of Your Dirty Electricity Survey
Below are the Dirty Electricity guidelines from the manufacturers of the Greenwave and Stetzerizer meters.
These will give you a ballpark idea of the desirable levels in each room of your home. Especially focus on the areas where you and your family spend the most time.
If the levels are especially elevated, filtering the electricity will be something to look at.
Take Action: Reduce or Eliminate
Taking action in reducing you, your family’s and your pet’s exposure to dirty electricity often takes the form of five steps:
a) removing problematic light fixtures
b) replace your CFL and LED bulbs
b) unplug your computers and electronics
d) filter rooms with high DE levels
e) install a full home filter
Removing Problematic Light Fixtures
Dimmer switches are a very common dirty electricity source in homes. Dimmer switches work by chopping up the electrical current, which causes dirty electricity. Building Biologists recommend that you remove these and replace them with standard light switches.
Replace Your CFL and LED Light Bulbs with Incandescent Bulbs
The ballasts and drivers within CFL and LED light bulbs manipulate the electrical current and cause dirty electricity.
To eliminate these sources, Building Biologists recommend that you replace these with old-school incandescent light bulbs. You can purchase these here.
Incandescent bulbs aren’t as efficient and do burn out faster than the other options, but you won’t have the dirty electricity issues.
Unplug Your Computers and Various Electronics When Not In Use
The power transformers in power cords and tech devices themselves can be causes of dirty electricity. When not in use, it’s recommended to have the devices unplugged.
Our guide, 199+ Common Sources of EMFs in Your Home, goes over some of these items in your bedroom, office and family rooms.
Filter Rooms with High Dirty Electricity Levels
Install a Full Home Filter
If you have high dirty electricity levels throughout your home, possibly from external sources, it may be a good idea to have an EMF professional and certified electrician install a whole home DE filter such as the Satic Power Perfect Box. They aren’t cheap, but if interested you can read more about this here.
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 – Dirty Electricity
To learn more about EMF research and epidemiological studies, many dealing with Dirty Electricity, please visit Chapter 20 – EMF Learning Resources.
A Final Note on Dirty Electricity
While some of household appliances and external sources can be problematic, mitigating a large portion of your dirty electricity exposure can be as simple as replacing some of the switches and bulbs in your home and utilizing DE filters.
This is the low-hanging fruit that can make a significant difference in your exposure and is especially important in sleeping areas.
Please view our guide, 199+ Common Sources of EMF Exposure, to learn about many common, household sources of dirty electricity.
Dirty Electricity Chapter Notes
01 – Dirty Electricity: AKAs
Dirty electricity is also known as microsurge electrical pollution, high frequency voltage transients, chop, EMI, etc…
02 – Dimmer Switches
How Stuff Works has a good description of the ins and outs of dimmer switches.
03 – CFLs and Scientific American
Read the article here.
04 – BD Erickson Video
This video helps explain the complexities of dirty electricity from several engineering viewpoints. View the video here or watch it on YouTube.
This isn’t an endorsement of Satic products (we haven’t utilized their products in any capacity, so we can’t speak to those), but is here solely for educational purposes.
05 – Magda Havas Video
Dr. Havas is a leading researcher on biological effects of non-ionizing frequencies in the electromagnetic spectrum.
Read her extensive research here.
06 – Dr. Milham
This is a quote from his fascinating book, Dirty Electricity: Electrification and the Diseases of Civilization.
You can purchase the book here.
07 – National Toxicology Program Study
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Beginner's Guide to EMFs
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