Recommended List of EMF Meters and Instruments
For those of you who would like to take your own measurements of EMFs in your home or office, I have put together the following list of recommended affordable EMF meters and instruments that will give you reliable readings of the various EMFs that we consider to be potentially harmful. Naturally you can spend much more money than you would need to purchase the meters I recommend below, and if your budget allows this, you should certainly do so. More expensive meters don't have the limitations that some of the meters below do have, however the meters mentioned below will give you accurate readings for home use.
These are the recommendations of Oram Miller, BBEC, EMRS. While they are based upon the meters and instruments generally recommended by the International Institute of Bau-biologie and Ecology (IBE), the list below is not specifically endorsed by the IBE.
This page last updated January 8, 2015.
To view videos in which Oram shows how to use
To take EMF measurements in and around your home, you will need four different instruments to accurately measure the four different EMFs that the building biology profession recognizes:
Once you have gathered your instruments, you will want to know what we consider to be safe exposure levels to these EMFs. Our profession has developed safe exposure guidelines since 1987 in Germany and they are now in their seventh revision. These Building Biology Evaluation Guidelines were developed specifically for sleeping areas, and they are broken down into four levels of concern for the first three types of EMFs listed above (the German building biologists did not develop safe exposure guidelines for "dirty electricity," but I give those values below).
The four levels of concern are "No concern," Slight concern," "Severe concern," and "Extreme concern." Since these standards are quite stringent for the vast majority of our clients, including most electrically hypersensitive (EHS) people, we feel comfortable getting most of our clients out of the "Severe concern" range. Only the most highlhy EHS people need to try to achieve getting into the "No concern" level, a goal that is generally not easy or is impossible to reach.
For the vast majority of people, getting somewhere into the "Slight concern" level will be quite healthy for them, as these levels are on a par with the general consensus for EMF exposure among non-industry EMF experts and researchers around the world. For instance, the "Slight concern" level for AC magnetic field exposure in the building biology profession is 0.1-1.0 milliGauss (mG), while the generally accepted safe magnetic field exposure level according to most experts is 1-2 mG.
To download and print out the building biology safe exposure guidelines, click here. Generally speaking, the safe levels we try to achieve are less than:
These are the ideals. It will be a challenge to achieve these safe levels in some circumstances, and easy to achieve them in others. I discuss how we can help you do that after describing the meters and instruments used for each type of EMF.
AC Magnetic Fields
Magnetic fields are considered by us to be the most serious type of EMF, but fortunately, with the exception of magnetic fields from overhead power lines, they are generally localized to only certain parts of the house and are the least common of all types of EMFs. However, when you find them, you must deal with them because they are the most harmful EMFs we deal with. I say to clients that magnetic fields wear you down, causing a depressing influence on the immune system, compared to electric fields, which wear you out and rob you of a good night's sleep. Magnetic fields cause a serious influence on your vitality and are known to be carcinogenic.
Magnetic fields are caused by:
1. Overhead power lines, for which there is nothing you can do; if the levels are consistently above 1-2 milliGauss wherever you measure in certain parts of your house, you must move where you sleep to another part of the house where they are lower, or, if that is not possible or the readings are high everywhere, you must consider moving altogether.
2. Electric current on the grounding paths of your electrical system, including the water service supply pipe and cable TV cable sheathing. These can be completely eliminated by installing a dielectric union and proper grounding to keep you in code; by using a non-metallic water pipe material if you are building new; and by installing a ground loop isolator if you have current on your cable TV cable sheathing.
3. Wiring errors on branch circuits in your walls, floors and ceilings, which need the services of an electrician who works in conjunction with one of us to trace and repair. These, too, can be completely eliminated.
4. So-called "point sources" of magnetic field exposure, including transformers and electric motors. Fortunately the magnetic field around these sources, while high close in, drops off by the inverse cube law, meaning it decreases quite rapidly, usually within a foot or so around most sources. Unsafe levels are only seen within 1-2 feet around most plug-in transformers and within 3-4 four feet around a refrigerator when the compressor motor is running. Electric clock radios have a field of 1-2 feet due to the transformer inside (or 3 feet if the hands move around a dial, due to an electric motor). Electric wattmeters and breaker panels have a magnetic field of 3-4 feet due to separation of conductors inside of them.
I suggest that you read my article on magnetic fields on my website here, found on the Articles on EMFs page, before you begin measuring magnetic fields. That way you will have a clear understanding of what they are, how they are produced, how they affect human health, what we consider to be the safe levels (compared to what electric utilities and governmental agencies around the world say is safe), and what we do about them. You will find our building biology safe exposure guidelines on my website by clicking here. Generally the consensus is to have magnetic fields below 1-2 milliGauss (mG), and as close to or below 0.5 mG in sleeping areas, where possible.
To measure magnetic fields, you have a choice of purchasing single-axis or triple-axis Gaussmeters. You can also purchase meters that only measure magnetic fields, and meters that measure magnetic fields and other types of EMFs, so-called "combination meters."
With triple-axis Gaussmeters it does not matter what orientation you hold the meter in to give you an accurate magnetic field reading. This is because it has three bars within it placed in three different orientations, and the readings from the three bars are calculated together by the meter to give one composite number (a "True RMS" Gaussmeter).
With single axis meters, on the other hand, there is only one measuring bar within it, meaning you have to orient the meter the right way to get a meaningful number. Therefore, if you happen to get a high magnetic field reading in one orientation and then rotate the meter 90 degrees off axis, the needle or digital reading will drop, even though you have not moved the meter away from the source. Thus, if you choose to use a single-axis Gaussmeter, you must be careful to orient it in all three orientations wherever you are measuring to avoid missing an elevated magnetic field. See below for more on this.
The trade off is that single-axis meters are more affordable, generally less than $100, while triple-axis Gaussmeters are $199 to $300 and up.
It is my general recommendation that if you can afford it, you spend the extra money and purchase one of the following triple-axis Gaussmeters, depending upon your budget. All meters are available from LessEMF:
I recommend one of these Gaussmeters rather than the less expensive Tri-Field combination meter (sold for $149), which is also a triple-axis Gaussmeter. This is because Alpha Labs, the maker of the Tri-Field meter, intentionally designs in an inflation of the actual magnetic field reading, up to four times the actual number, in an effort to bring to people's attention the harmful effects of dirty electricity. This is understandable and reflects the common viewpoint outside the building biology profession that dirty electricity is one of the most harmful types of EMF. Just be aware of this phenomenon when you use their meter.
In contrast, we in the building biology profession do not use the Tri-Field meter when we report out AC magnetic readings in our reports to our clients. We use True-RMS triple axis Gauss meters for that purpose. However, we do use the Tri-Field meter as what we refer to as a magnetic field "detector". This is because the analog needle swings up in the presence of magnetic fields, alerting us to their presence, along with the sound on our buzz stick
I carry a Magnii DSP-523 True-RMS meter (see below) and Tri-Field meter set to the 0-3 mG magnetic field setting in one hand, and my buzz stick with an earphone in my ear in the other, when hunting for 60 Hz AC magnetic fields in a home EMF assessment.
An example of how the Tri-Field meter and a True-RMS Gaussmeter differ is when measuring the magnetic field component of such sources of dirty electricity as dimmer switches and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) versus the magnetic field from some other source. Dimmer switches and CFLs do make the needle of the Tri-Field meter go up when they are turned on and the Gauss meter is held one foot or more away from the wall. While dirty electricity certainly causes ill health and many people are quite sensitive to it, in general our profession does not consider dirty electricity to be nearly as serious a type of EMF as AC magnetic fields from wiring errors in your walls or electric current on your water pipe under your floor.
Dimmer switches and CFLs therefore do need to be differentiated from more serious wiring errors or "pipe current" when the needle of a Tri-Field Gaussmeter goes up, which is not easy when that meter is used. This is important in our work because if I see an elevated magnetic field reading at a home I am evaluating, I need to know whether to bring in an electrician or plumber to fix a wiring error or have a dielectric union installed in the water service supply pipe, versus telling the client all their problem is is a dimmer switch. Talk to one of us to help you make this distinction.
The True RMS triple axis meters recommended above, on the other hand, are designed not to inflate the reading when measuring magnetic fields at higher frequency levels. They will help with the differentiation between elevated magnetic fields simply from a dimmer switch versus a more serious wiring error or current on your water pipe. The magnetic field readings from your True-RMS Gaussmeter will also be more in line with those obtained from other EMF experts locally and when comparing your home's EMF levels to internationally accepted safe exposure levels for AC magnetic fields. That is why I recommend you spend an additional $50 and at least purchase the Datalogging 3-Axis Gaussmeter or one of the other models recommended above.
For those who can afford it, the 3-Axis Gaussmeter that Ignores Powerlines from Less EMF (Catalogue number A108) for $320 helps you specifically differentiate between magnetic fields from 60 Hz sources and the magnetic field component from sources of dirty electricity. This is the Gaussmeter that I use. You can find it by clicking here.
If you do own a Tri-Field Meter, it is called "Tri-Field" because it does have the ability to measure magnetic, electric and radio frequency fields (which is why it is called a "combination meter" in the LessEMF catalogue). While that is true, we only recommend using it for detecting the presence of magnetic fields, and using other EMF meters to measure the electric and radio frequency levels.
This is because, first of all, the Tri-Field meter set in the electric field setting still measures near zero when the body voltage meter or other hand-held electric field meters show what my profession considers to be harmful electric field exposure levels, particularly where you sleep. Unfortunately, the Tri-Field meter is just not sensitive enough to measure this important but highly overlooked type of EMF.
We consider 10 Volts/meter (V/m) to be the beginning of the extreme concern level in sleeping areas, yet the number "1" on the top scale of the Tri-Field meter, used for measuring electric fields, represents this 10 V/m value. (This equates to 1,000 milliVolts on the body voltage meter.) Unfortunately, it is very difficult to measure down at the 1.5 V/m level (100 mV) or below that we consider to be safe with the Tri-Field meter. That would be down at 0.1 or lower on the top scale, which is not easy to see.
So in my opinion, the Tri-Field meter is unfortunately not reliable as a way of measuring electric fields. See the Electric Field section below for recommended meters for more reliably measuring electric fields where you sleep, and elsewhere in your house.
Secondly, the lowest number you can read on the Tri-Field meter when measuring radio frequency fields is 0.1 milliWatts/centimeter squared. While this is 100 times lower than what the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) considers to be safe, which is 1.0 milliWatt/centimeter squared, it is equivalent to 100,000 microWatts/meter squared in the unit of measurement that most of the world and our profession uses. This level is substantially higher than what my profession and other agencies and researchers, such as reported in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, consider to be close to a safe exposure level. For us, that level is down at 10-100 microWatts/meter squared, six orders of magnatude lower than what the FCC considers to be safe, and unfortunately, three to four orders of magnitude lower than the lowest reading possible on the Tri-Field meter. See the section entitled, "The FCC Versus the Rest of the World" in my Article on Radio Frequency EMFs page for more information.
Therefore, I only recommend using the Tri-Field meter, if you have one, for detecting magnetic fields, and I recommend other meters for measuring electric and radio frequency fields (see below). I am not trying to disparage Alpha Labs and their product, the Tri-Field meter. It is just that since their meter is so popular, a position in the marketplace that the company has well earned, I simply want to point out to those who do use it that to accurately measure electric and radio frequency EMFs down in the range that my profession considers to be healthy, it would be necessary to use other meters.
For those who do have a Tri-Field meter, in order to measure magnetic fields, start on the 0-3 mG scale. You want the levels to generally be 1.0 mG or less. If you read higher than 3 mG (the needle pegs to the right), you have problems and need to switch to the 0-100 mG scale to see the actual number. Move the meter closer to and then back away from a potential source to see what the safe distance is, where it gets back to 1-2 mG. Again, if the Tri-Field is elevated, the actual magnetic field reading may be lower than the meter reads, however, in defense of the Tri-Field meter, I can say that if the Tri-Field meter reads below 1.0 mG, you can reliably assume you don't have any significant magnetic fields from any source.
For those on a budget, there are more affordable Gauss meters than the triple-axis Gaussmeters I mention above, starting with the Gauss Master, sold by LessEMF, Cat. #130, for only $34.95, available by clicking here. LessEMF also sells digital single-axis Gaussmeters for under $100 on the page linked here. This includes the Single Axis Digital Gaussmeter, Cat. #A111, for $79.95, available here.
Another option is to purchase a combined meter that measures both AC magnetic fields as well as radio frequency EMFs. The Cornet ED78s does just that. It is a single-axis Gaussmeter and RF detector, so you will have to move it in different orientations to make sure you don't miss the fields, but it is an affordable way to measure both. It retails for #139.95 and is available from EMF Help Center. I have recorded a video tutorial in which I show how to assess magnetic fields with this meter, as well as what forms AC magnetic fields can take in a home. Just click here and scroll down below the Cornet meter to see the link to the video.
You can also purchase a combined Gaussmeter and electric field meter from the Gigahertz Solutions company in Germany, available at Safe Living Technologies in Ontario, Canada (519-240-8735). Model ME3030B retails for $164 USD. It measures both magnetic and electric fields in a single axis, so you will have to move it in various orientations to make sure you have not missed the field, but it is accurate and easy to use. This meter does measure easily down into the 1.5 V/m level for electric fields (see below).
If you can only afford the $35 Gauss Master, then by all means purchase it, and be sure that you follow the directions that come with it carefully and learn how to orient it methodically in all directions to get the highest reading. You will get the hang of it and it will be of assistance to you.
Also, be sure not to keep your finger on the button every time you take a reading in what they call "Mode 2," as this is designed to allow you to get readings in tenths of a milliGauss where the scale is 0 to 1, rather than 0 to 10. This has confused many a newbie when first using this meter. The directions on the back of the meter are a bit confusing. Call me if you have any questions about how to use any of these meters.
Another useful tool to measure the presence, though not the amount, of magnetic field exposure is the "Budget Buzz Stick," available from EMF Help Center for $16.94. Click here for the "Budget Buzz Stick." I would recommend using an earphone headset to help hear the specific locations of paths of magnetic fields under floors and behind walls even better. You can see a video tutorial in which I show how to use the buzz stick by scrolling down below the item at EMF Help Center.
You can also purchase the exact same merchandise at a local Radio Shack store. Ask for: Removable Telephone Pick Up, SKU 44-533, and Mini Amplifier-Speaker, Catalogue # 277-1008C. They will also have an earphone.
Attach the magnetic field pick-up to the end of a three-foot dowl stick, wind the cord around the stick, and plug it into the input jack of the battery-operated amplifier. Use it like a metal detector at the beach, sweeping it back and forth along the floor and walls to hear the precise location of magnetic fields, such as electric current on water pipes or grounding conductors that run under floors and in walls. This tool is also invaluable in the hunting and fixing of wiring errors on circuits in walls.
As with the Tri-Field meter mentioned above, be aware that the pick-up will also buzz in the presence of the magnetic field component of harmonic frequencies of dirty electricity produced by dimmer switches and other sources. Thus you do need to distinquish between a source of dirty electricity versus a wiring error when you measure and hear the presence of magnetic fields. Again, call me if you encounter this problem and I can walk you through differentiating between these two types of EMFs.
How to Measure Magnetic Fields with your Gauss Meter
Whatever Gauss meter you choose, we recommend that you measure for magnetic fields in your home with electric loads (light switches, appliances) turned on and then off to see if there is a difference. You will always measure magnetic fields close to a light switch or outlet (within an inch or two). That is normal and will not harm you because the reading drops off to near zero when you move away more than an inch or so. However, if you still measure elevated magnetic fields a foot or more away from the wall (or as you move the Gaussmeter up the wall) when the switch is on, we would say you have a wiring error until proven otherwise. This requires the services of an experienced building biologist working in collaboration with an electrician to find and repair the wiring error, although we can help you and your electrician over the phone if you don't have a building biologist in your local area.
If you see an elevated magnetic field reading in the room that does not change substantially no matter where you move, and that elevated reading only changes slightly as you move from one end of the house to the other end, chances are your house is very close to an overhead (or sometimes a buried) electric power line. This is a serious situation in our experience, because you cannot shield against these magnetic fields and they are out of your control. In that case, if the levels are consistently high enough, higher than 2-3 milliGauss, we usually suggest you consider relocating in the near or long term, depending upon your existing health levels, whether you have young children, and other factors.
Finally, to fully detect and assess the presence of magnetic fields on grounding paths as well as from unbalanced loads between the hot and neutral conductors of a circuit, and to evaluate the effectiveness of your mitigation strategy, you will want to purchase a clamp meter, such as from Fluke, to clamp around water pipes and also electric circuits, where accessible. Fluke makes a clamp meter accessory large enough to go around water pipes that plugs into your digital multi-meter. You can purchase a Fluke 80i 600 Amp Clamp-On AC Current Probe on Amazon for $75-100.
You can also purchase a smaller Triplett 9200A AC Mini Clamp-On Meter from Amazon for under $35 or from a local electronics store. This fits easily into breaker panels and around circuits when wall switches and outlets are opened. Multi-meters are mentioned in the parts list for the electric field measurement kit in the section below.
To see a video tutorial in which I demonstrate how to find and measure magnetic fields using the Cornet ED78s meter, click here. Even if you use a different brand of Gaussmeter, I recommend that you watch this video because I review where magnetic fields will be found in your home and how you might mitigate them. Scroll down below the Cornet meter to see the link to the video.
AC Electric Fields
Electric fields are mostly a problem at night when we sleep. I say to clients that electric fields wear you out, compared to magnetic fields, which wear you down. Electric fields cause an agitating influence at night when the body should be in a recuperative environment (all EMFs should be avoided at night, but magnetic fields are least common in bedrooms at night). Most sleeping areas have elevated electric field levels, which come from voltage in plastic-jacketed (Romex) circuits in walls and plastic AC power cords that you plug in. Unplugging cords and having plastic AC lamp cords replaced with MuCord shielded cord from LessEMF only helps when you have metal-clad wiring in your walls.
We measure electric fields most reliably using what we call the "Body Voltage" method. This involves the use of a Volt meter and wires that ground you and the meter to the earth. This measures electric fields in milliVolts (mV). The Tri-Field and other hand held-meters also measure electric fields, but in Volts per meter, and I find this to not be as accurate or reliable as the body voltage method. I have placed the Tri-Field meter right over a lamp or extension cord and measured virtually zero, whereas that same cord would produce over 1,000 milliVolts using the body voltage method, considered an unsafe level for nighttime exposure when sleeping by my profession. For my purposes, it is not useful to use a hand-held electric field meter.
You can purchase individual components to easily put together your own body voltage kit using components purchased at Radio Shack and a hardware store for a total of around $60. To download the parts list in Word format, click here. If you use a Mac and don't have Word, download a PDF of the parts list by clicking here.
This uses an affordable Radio Shack digital multi-meter, which is not a true RMS meter, however, it is quite accurate for our purposes. We also like the Radio Shack multi-meter because, unlike more expensive Volt meters, the Radio Shack meter allows us to easily measure down into the milliVolt range, which is where the harmful effects of electric fields manifest.
To download a document in Word format that one of my clients wrote up for me, and that I reviewed and edited, that provides a protocol of how to take your own electric field measurements, click here. Again, if you use a Mac and don't have Word, download a PDF of the protocol by clicking here.
To see a video tutorial in which I demonstrate how to find and measure electric fields using the body voltage meter, click here. Scroll down below the meter to see the link to the video.
We consider levels below 100 milliVolts to be safe, and I have found that the average healthy person starts to notice that sleep is more disturbed and agitated starting at around 200-300 mV. The average bedroom, on the other hand, has 1,000 to 1,500 mV and up.
You can also measure electric fields with a reliable hand-held meter. Gigahertz Solutions in Germany makes a combined Gaussmeter and electric field meter, available at Safe Living Technologies in Ontario, Canada (519-240-8735). Model ME3030B retails for $164 USD. It measures both magnetic and electric fields in a single axis, so you will have to move it in various orientations to make sure you have not missed the field, but it is accurate and easy to use. This meter does measure easily down into the 1.5 V/m level and below for electric fields. Thus 1.5 V/m is equivalent to 100 mV as measured by the body voltage meter. That is your target level, to be at or below 1.5 V/m in all orientations at all locations on the bed if you use the ME3030B or any other hand-held electric field meter. (See the Magnetic Field section above for a discussion on the shortcomings of the Tri-Field meter as a hand-held way of measuring electric fields. Instead, I recommend using one of the meters discussed in this section.)
To download a protocol that a local lamp or small appliance repair shop can follow to replace an unshielded AC lamp cord with a shielded one, click here. If you use a Mac and don't have Word, download a PDF of this procotol by clicking here.
To reduce electric fields at night, one option is to purchase a "plug-in switch" at any hardware store for about $5. These are two-pronged and can be plugged into an outlet near your bed. Then plug your lamp into the plug-in switch. Flip the plug-in switch so that the light comes on when you turn it on at the lamp switch. Then, when you want to turn off the light at night, leave the lamp switch in the on position, and instead of shutting it off as you normally do, reach down and flip off the plug-in switch at the outlet. That way, the light goes off and the voltage in the plastic cord goes dead, in which case the electric field level will be reduced and your sleep will be somewhat more deep. (You will also need to remove your electric clock radio and use a battery operated clock, and get rid of all other electric appliances within six to eight feet of your bed.)
Even if you use the plug-in switch, however, there will still be electric fields from the plastic-jacketed Romex wiring in the walls (unless you are lucky enough to have metal-clad wiring in your house). Contact Oram about how to determine which type of wiring you have and how to effectively reduce electric field levels if you have Romex wiring. Using plug-in switches will not be enough to produce the depth of sleep reported by many clients on the Comments from Clients page.
If you need a grounded, three-pronged shut-off switch, you can order the Belkin Conserve Power Switch for $6.99 from Amazon by clicking here. You can also order it directly from Belkin by clicking here. Belkin's Conserve Power Switch is rated for 15 Amps, 1800 Watts. You can also order the GE 52149 Handy Switch Grounded White for $5.48 from Amazon by clicking here.
Belkin also makes a version of their Conserve Power Switch that has a timer on it (30 minutes, 3, or 6 hours) called the Belkin Conserve Socket F7C009q Energy-Saving Outlet for $9.99. It is available from Amazon by clicking here. You can also purchase it directly from Belkin by clicking here. It is also rated for 1800 Watts.
Radio Frequency Fields
There are several meters available for measuring radio frequencies (RF), starting at under $100 and going up to several thousands of dollars. First, I recommend that you read my article on radio frequencies here to get an understanding of what you are trying to measure and what we and researchers around the world consider to be acceptable, safe exposure levels.
Of all the meters available, for those who want an accurate RF meter at a middle price for better grade meters, I recommend purchasing a Gigahertz Solutions HF38B. This RF meter is quite useful for reliable measurement of radio frequency fields from cell phones, cordless phones, Wi-Fi-enabled routers and computers, iPads, baby monitors, and smart meters, with more accuracy than an HF32C or HF35C.
The HF38B measures in the frequency range from 800 MHz to 3,300 MHz (3.3 GHz), encompassing all cell phone frequencies (which are 600-800, 900, 1,800 and 1,900 MHz, or 0.8, 0.9, 1.8 and 1.9 GHz). It also measures all cell phones, Wi-Fi and Smart Meters (below 5.8 GHz). All cordless phones that are 2.4 GHz and Version 6.0 DECT (which broadcasts at 1.9 GHz) will be picked up. It will also pick up some, but not all, 5.8 GHz cordless phones.
Also, the 2.4 GHz frequency (though not necessarily the 5.8 GHz frequency) used by Wi-Fi-enabled routers and laptops will be picked up.
Besides being more accurate than the HF35C, it has a peak hold function that allows you to particularly capture peak readings from smart meters, which send out RF microbursts lasting only 20-40 microseconds. Some RF meters on the market are not able to capture these short bursts of the Smart Meter beacon signal, sent out round the clock, 24/7. This is discussed in more detail below.
Purchase the Gigahertz Solutions HF38B RF Meter from Rob Metzinger at Safe Living Technologies in Ontario, Canada (519-240-8735) for $633. For information on more affordable RF meters, see below.
To hear audio samples of different sources of radio frequencies, go to the Gigahertz Solutions website and click on Multimedia. Scroll down and on the right, click on "Sound Examples for Audioanalysis."
These are European examples, so here is what the letters stand for and their North American counterparts:
You will also want to purchase an attenuator that will allow you to measure above the highest reading possible with the HF38B, which is 20,000 microWatts/meter squared (uW/m2) (The HF35C only goes up to 2,000 uW/m2 without an attenuator.) Many cell phones, cordless phones and base units, iPads, Wi-Fi routers and laptops, baby monitors, and smart meters all produce readings well above 20,000 uW/m2 at close range, and you want to know how high those levels are. They are all still below the safe exposure threshold put forth by the FCC, which, again, is 10 million uW/m2, but the building biology profession and many researchers and RF/EMF experts agree that health is affected by long term exposure to levels as low as 100-1,000 uW/m2. We consider 1,000 uW/m2 to be an extreme biological concern level in the sleeping area, and you are not in the slight concern level, out of the severe concern level, until you are below 10 uW/m2. Thus we are living in two different universes when comparing the safe exposure levels set by the FCC versus the consensus of a large number of researchers outside the US.
To see a video tutorial in which I demonstrate how to find and measure radio frequency fields using the Cornet ED78s meter, click here. Even if you use a different brand of radio frequency meter, I recommend that you watch this video because I review where radio frequency fields will be found in your home and how you might mitigate them. Scroll down below the Cornet meter to see the link to the video.
Regarding smart meters, electric utilities use either 900 MHz or 2.4 GHz for their neighborhood area network (NAN) mesh networks, and therefore those frequencies will also be picked up by the HF38B. Likewise, home area networks (HAN), when they start being activated by electric utilities, will use 2.4 GHz in most parts of the country and will be picked up by the HF38B (although I am told that a utility in Maine will use 5.8 GHz for their HAN). The HAN is currently not yet activated in at least California-based utilities.
The HF38B RF meter is particularly useful for capturing the micro-bursts from smart electric meters that other, less expensive brands of RF meters miss. Also, all Gigahertz RF meters (except their basic HF32D model) have an audio speaker that displays the sound of each RF source. That way you can actually pick out several sources at once, because they sound different. You can also hear the sound get louder and see the number increase as you move closer to a source, thus helping to identify it.
What sets the HF38B meter apart from other RF meters, including the Gigahertz Solutions HF35C, is that the HF 38B has a "peak hold" function that allows you to not miss the highest reading that occurs with each of these micro-bursts from a smart meter. That is important, because with the HF35C or HFE35C, you don't have a peak hold function and therefore can miss the highest peak reading. This is because the smart meter burst is so short, on the order of 20-40 microseconds. I have compared my HFE35C with an HF59B with a peak button held by Rob Metzinger of Safe Living Technologies as we measured a smart meter together, and his RF meter was detecting microbursts at levels up to 100 times higher than mine was. So a peak hold function is important when measuring smart meters, and is only available on the HF38B and HF59B RF meters.
If you primarily want to measure smart meters at an affordable price, the HF38B would be the RF meter for you. It is ten times more sensitive than the HF35C and it has a peak hold function. It also measures up to 19,999 microWatts/meter squared, ten times higher than the HF35C or HFE35C, before you have to put on an attenuator. However, be aware that the HF38B only uses a logarithmic/periodic antenna, not the omni-directional antenna used by the HFE35C, so you will have to wave this meter around in all directions to measure other sources of RF in the room or coming in from outside.
As an aside, for those of you who have the HF35C or HFE35C (Extended) RF meter, they will still definitely pick up a smart meter RF microburst, because all Gigahertz Solutions RF meters sample more than once per second, and the display of any RF burst decays slowly over several samples. Thus the meter displays successively decreasing values from that single microburst so you won't miss it. You will see that reading as the first, and therefore, the highest, number followed by progressively lower numbers over the next couple of seconds until the reading goes back to baseline. Don't, however, confuse this with the assumption that the smart meter is continuing to send out additional signals over those couple of seconds. This is just the way Gigahertz RF meters display an RF reading, with the initial reading followed by a slow decay over successive displays.
If you do, however, hear another click on the speaker while the numbers are declining, that means the smart meter is sending out another RF microburst, and the display will again show a high number, gradually cascading down. That is one of the values of having an audio speaker that tells you when the RF microburst occurs, which you will hear as a distinct "click."
I should point out that my electrical engineer building biology colleagues tell me not to trust any RF readings obtained within 3 feet of smart meters, which would be within what is known as the "near field." This is because the 900 MHz frequency of the neighborhood area network, or NAN, has a wavelength of 13 inches. Engineers don't read inside the near field, which is within three wavelengths, or in this case, 3 feet, because the wave form can be scattered and has not yet coalesced and the readings will be unreliable and possibly artificially high. These engineers take readings at 3 feet and further away from that in the far field, where the wave has coalesced and your readings are accurate.
We recommend that you start taking RF readings at 3 feet from smart electric meters by pointing the RF meter at the smart meter (the antenna is very directional, and the 3 feet is measured to the antenna of your Gigahertz RF Analyzer). Wait several minutes to see the pattern and occurrence of micro-bursts. Do this first with the peak hold function off so you can see how often these micro-bursts occur, which is usually once every few seconds, several times per minute. Pay attention to the first number on the RF meter's display with each burst, which will be the highest reading. Then turn on the peak hold function to capture the very highest number, which you often miss without the peak hold function.
With smart meters, you will notice that there is no set pattern to the occurrence of these micro-bursts, nor is the highest number consistent from one burst to the next. Just pay attention to the range you see and determine the overall pattern. Back up and take readings again a few more feet away until you find a distance that gets you below 100 or less microWatts per meter squared. Ideally in sleeping areas you want to be below 10 microWatts per meter squared. This is many times less than the level the FCC says is safe, which is 1.0 milliWatt per centimeter squared. That equates, however, to 10 million microWatts per meter squared, which is the unit of measurement used by Europe and the rest of the world. Read my Article on Radio Frequency EMFs and my Smart Meter article for much more information.
When you measure the radio frequency field levels from your cordless telephone base unit or wireless-enabled Internet router (also called "Wi-Fi"), you will see how high these levels are and how far they extend out from the device. Your cell phone and Wi-Fi-enabled laptop also have radio frequencies, but more intermittently.
If you cannot afford the Gigahertz Solutions HF38B, you can consider the HF35C, sold by Safe Living Technologies and LessEMF for roughly $430. It does not have a peak hold function as the HF38B does, but it does have the same frequency range, and, like the HF38B, it also has a speaker so you can hear the sound of the RF source or sources producing the frequencies, which is very helpful in identifying them.
If you want to measure RF sources above 2.5 GHz, you will need to purchase either the HFW35C, which measures from 2.4 GHz to 6 GHz for $498 from Safe Living Technologies, or the HFW59D, which measures from 2.4 GHz to 10 GHz for $1,139 (with a kit available for $1,1530 that includes an omni-directional antenna), also from Safe Living Technologies. Safe Living Technologies also has a kit containing both the HFE35C and the HFW35C to cover the full range from 27 MHz to 6 GHz, called the HFEW35C RF Meter Kit. Click here for all the options.
Why would you want to measure above 2.4 GHz? Because you will capture 5.8 GHz cordless telephones and now Wi-Fi at that same frequency that you will miss with the HF35C or the HFE35C. I am told that Apple is using 5.8 GHz for more and more of their Wi-Fi now. Many routers come with both 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz frequencies (802.11n).
If you need something more affordable, there are several other RF meters to choose from. Some of these other RF meters do have sound, and they will help you determine if your living space is safe or not at an affordable price.
For $249, you can purchase the Acousticom2 RF Meter from LessEMF (Cat. #A140). Click here to go to the entry on LessEMF's website. The listing on LessEMF's site has a short video in which EMF expert Alisdair Philips from England demonstrates the use of this meter. You can also purchase the Acouticom2 from Safe Living Technologies for $246.
The Acousticom2 is a handy RF meter with sound capabilities that measures in increments on an LED display, starting at 0.01 V/m (<1 uW/m2) and going up to 6 V/m (95,000 uW/m2). The first several LED levels are 0.01 V/m (<1 uW/m2), then 0.02 V/m (1 uW/m2), then 0.05 V/m (about 8 uW/m2), then 0.1 uW/m2 (about 30 uW/m2), then 0.3 V/m (about 300 uW/m2), and up. Since we say less than 100 uW/m2 is safe in the day and less than 10 uW/m2 is safe at night, you generally want to stay at four or less LED lights in the day and ideally three or fewer lights at night. Go to the page entitled, "International Guidance Levels" on Powerwatch's website for a comparison chart between Volts per meter (V/m) and microWatts per meter squared (uW/m2). You can also go to the Building Biology Safe Exposure Guideline page to see our recommended levels (generally less than 100 uW/m2 in the day and evening time and less than 10 uW/m2 for sleeping).
For $199, you can purchase the 3-Axis RF Meter from LessEMF by clicking here. This is an accurate meter at all but very low RF levels but it has no sound.
For $180 you can purchase the 6 GHz RF Meter from Cornet, model ED85EXS. This meter has a wide frequency range, a peak hold function, and it does have sound. It is available from LessEMF, Cat. #A436s by clicking here. You can also purchase the ED85EXS from Safe Living Technologies for $176.
Finally, for roughly $100-$150, you can find several other RF meters from LessEMF by clicking here or from Safe Living Technologies by clicking here. These meters will work for those of you on a budget and will help you know when RF levels are at unhealthy levels. Remember, we recommend daytime and evening RF levels ideally below 100 microWatts/meter squared (uW/m2), and less than 10 microWatts/meter squared at night.
Harmonic Frequencies (Dirty Electricity)
The final EMF that we consider to be potentially harmful is voltage spikes of harmonic frequencies of 60 Hz, also known as "Dirty Electricity." These generally occur in the 4,000 to 150,000 Hz range, or 4-150 kiloHertz (kH), although they can also occur at higher frequencies. These frequencies are multiples of 60 Hz, which is the fundamental frequency of AC electricity in North America coming into your home from the electric power company.
Dirty electricity is produced by dimmer switches. It is also produced by those devices that need to operate at low voltage, including compact fluorescent lamps (CLFs), halogen lights, light emitting diodes (LEDs), and digital smart electric meters. This type of transformer is known as a switching mode power supply and is a chip in the circuit board of electronic appliances or smart meters. A switching mode power supply is used in devices that do not have room for the more traditional linear transformer, which is a coil of wires, and is found in the black box you plug into the wall for your cellphone charger or cordless telephone. Other electronic devices, such as some printers, and those appliances that have variable speed motors, such as newer energy-efficient furnaces and front load washing machines, also produce dirty electricity.
These harmonics will leak off plastic circuits and wires about six to eight feet that we plug in connected to the appliance or device that is producing the harmonic frequencies. These can also ride on the 60 Hz sine wave of AC electricity on circuits and wires all over the house, and can even come into your home from neighbors' homes by way of the electric utility power lines that bring electricity to your meter and breaker panel.
Dirty electricity can cause an agitating influence for many people as well as potentially more serious health symptoms. Read more about dirty electricity here. Dr. Sam Milham has written extensively about this problem.
Many filters are available on the market to reduce dirty electricity. These include:
You can purchase Greenwave filters by clicking here.
To measure dirty electricity, you can purchase the Greenwave EMI (electromagnetic interference) Meter for $150 by clicking here.
You can also measure the level of dirty electricity with a High Frequency Pollution Meter for Wiring from LessEMF for $99 (Cat. #A803-NA). This is also known as a microsurge or EMI (electromagnetic interference) meter.
The Greenwave EMI Meter has a broader freqeuncy range that it measures, and it can measure higher levels than the basic Stetzer EMI Meter. It also provides the percentage of reduction when you continue to test dirty electricity levels while you insert a Greenwave filter.
You generally want to get below 25-50 Graham-Stetzer (GSU) units (these are not milliGauss, milliVolts, or microWatts/meter squared; they are related to Volts/meter of electric fields). If you measure high levels of dirty electricity, try shutting off dimmer switches, halogen lights and other sources and see if the levels drop. If so, we advise first that you replace CFLs and halogens with incandescent light bulbs, preferably full spectrum, and hire an electrician to swap out your dimmer switches with straight on/off switches. If levels continue to be high, the dirty electricity can be coming in from outside your home or from appliances within your home that you cannot replace. In that case, start plugging in filters according to the directions of the manufacturer and keep measuring until you get down to acceptable levels.
You should notice a calmness when you do this, as you will also experience when you reduce and eliminate the other EMFs you will be measuring. I should also add that the microsurge meter does not measure voltage spikes caused by smart electric meters. That is an entirely different subject, which is quite vexing for us and for some EHS people. Please refer to my smart meter article to learn more about this issue by clicking here.
How to Use the Data you Measure
Of course, the question arises when you do all this, what do you do when you measure EMF readings higher than what are considered to be safe levels? That depends upon how high the reading is, where it is (bedroom or day/evening use area versus a part of the house seldom used) and how sensitive or symptomatic you are.
We want our clients to become as self-sufficient as possible so you can watch that EMF levels do not go up if and when your teenage son or husband buys an iPad, and you are sensitive to radio frequencies. You need to know just how high the radio frequency levels are whenever they get their email or surf the web on that device, because there is no hardwired Ethernet option as there is with a laptop. You also need to see that even though you are connected to the web on your laptop with an Ethernet cable, until you turn off the Wi-Fi, the laptop is still pumping out very high radio frequency levels every couple of seconds until you turn it off.
Likewise, if we help you achieve low electric field levels where you sleep, you want to know how high the electric field levels rise if your spouse brings in an extension cord to power his or her electric clock radio, instead of purchasing a battery operated clock. And on and on.
If you find high EMF levels, you should start by following the recommendations in the various articles on my website recommended above, but ultimately you will benefit most by consulting with one of us to develop a plan to reduce and eliminate the particular sources of these fields in your house. I am available for telephone consultations (310-720-7686), as I do have out of state clients use these same meters and instruments to take the various EMF measurements for me so that I can know what they are dealing with and develop a plan for mitigation.
You can also bring in a local building biologist, if one is within driving distance of your home. You will find them on the building biology website. To get there, click on Find an Expert on my website and follow the instructions. If your local building biologist is not fully experienced in EMF mitigation, I can and have worked with several of my colleagues around the country who become my "eyes and ears" and we come up with a mitigation plan together. Many building biologists with whom I have worked have found doing so to be helpful in advancing their knowledge of EMFs and the client gets a comprehensive EMF plan for their home.
Contact me if you have any questions with these recommendations at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are your Sherpa guides to help you maneuver through the EMF mine field in the average home, but you can and should be educated in how to measure your own EMF levels to stay safe and to know when to call us. These meters and instruments and protocols will help you do that. Happy EMF hunting!
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