Chapter 06: The Beginner’s Guide to
What is Dirty Electricity and is Dirty Electricity Dangerous?
In this chapter, you’re going to learn all about Dirty Electricity.
You’ll learn how and why dirty electricity occurs and what household items and electronics produce these man-made EMFs.
We also share what you can do to lessen your exposure.
What is dirty electricity, in a nutshell? The quick and dirty.
Learn more about dirty electricity and its possible dangers
Survey your home for DE: Hire an EMF Pro or DIY?
What is Dirty Electricity, In a Nutshell?
Below we give you the quick and dirty rundown on dirty electricity.
Dirty electricity isn’t as well known as some of the other “four fields to forgo,” but certainly should be something to be aware of.
What is Dirty Electricity, In a Nutshell?
Dirty electricity can come from a multitude of internal and external sources.
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.
Learn More About Dirty Electricity
Interested in learning more about dirty electricity?
In this section we’ll go over some of the common internal and external sources of dirty electricity you may encounter in and around your home.
Some of these sources are sure to surprise you:
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).
Another 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
That’s a lot of chopping up of the electrical current!
02 – Another common way DE is produced is the transformation of AC electricity into direct current electricity or DC.
An example of this is would be 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 electrical current causes 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
4 Common Household DE Exposure Sources
Some CFL, LED, fluorescent and halogen light bulbs can produce dirty electricity.
These are notorious producers of dirty electricity.
Chargers for Tech Devices
These can produce dirty electricity when plugged in.
These components of solar electric power systems can produce a large amount of dirty electricity.
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“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 dirty electricity 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 4 – 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
Learn How to Measure Dirty Electricity
We’ve gone over why you’d want to measure dirty electricity.
Now let’s go over how DE is measured.
We’ll also go over whether you should hire an EMF professional or do the DE measurements yourself
Let’s get started:
Testing 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 there expertise and experience.
Some EMF consultants use more-advanced, comprehensive oscilloscopes to test with, but all will be able to help you formulate a plan to reduce your DE levels throughout your home.
DIY EMF surveying 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 if you want to consult after-the-fact.
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?“
How Dirty Electricity is Measured
Dirty electricity is measured primarily by using a DE meter. Stetzerizer meters and Greenwave meters, are popular models.
A more advanced oscilloscope may be used by EMF specialists. You can also purchase and learn to use an oscilloscope if you’re feeling more adventurous and want to take the time to learn the intricacies of the device.
The process of taking the readings on a DE meter is simple. It’s 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. This will help identify circuits and DE sources that cover several rooms.
DIY – Selecting a Meter to Measure Dirty Electricity
The big difference between the Stetzerizer meter and the Greenwave meter is the units of measurement: Stetzerizer Unit vs. Volts per meter.
As mentioned, 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 DE with a Meter
Stetzerizer or Greenwave meters are quite easy to use, but if you’re having issues, we always recommend searching “How to use + DE METER YOU PURCHASED” in both Youtube and your preferred search engine.
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.
Review Your Dirty Electricity Measurements
Okay, so you’ve taken dirty electricity measurements or had an EMF pro do it for you.
What do the DE readings mean?
Next, we’ll give you international and domestic standards from which to compare your dirty electricity readings
Let’s dive in:
Understanding the results of your Dirty Electricity measurements
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 whole home’s electricity would be something to consider.
Take Action to Reduce Dirty Electricity Exposure
You’ve taken dirty electricity 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 dirty electricity.
Let’s get started:
Take Action: Reduce Your Exposure
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 and switches
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. If interested you can read more about this here.
In Conclusion: Case Studies, Resources, & Footnotes
Below are some final thoughts we have on dirty electricity.
There’s also some interesting dirty electricity 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 – Dirty Electricity
A Final Note on Dirty Electricity
While some of household appliances and external sources can be problematic, reducing 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 Field 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.
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
The Beginner's Guide to EMFs - Chapters
Preface - Homepage & Table of Contents
Introduction - Why I Wrote This
Ch. 01 - What are EMFs?
Ch. 02 - What are AC Magnetic Fields?
Ch. 03 - What are Radio Frequency Fields?
Ch. 04 - What is 5G?
Ch. 05 - What are AC Electric Fields?
Ch. 06 - What is Dirty Electricity?
Ch. 07 - The EMF Field Guides
Ch. 08 - Step-by-Step EMF Guides
Ch. 09 - EMF Testing; Hire an EMF Pro or DIY?
Ch. 10 - EMF Consultants Near You
Ch. 11 - DIY EMF Testing
Ch. 12 - EMF Meters for DIY Testing
Ch. 13 - DIY: The Best EMF Meters of 2021
Ch. 14 - What the EMF Test Results Mean
Ch. 15 - Taking Action
Ch. 16 - EMF Shielding Guides
Ch. 17 - Final Thoughts - Moving Forward
The Beginner's Guide to EMFs
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