Harmonic Frequencies of "Dirty Electricity"


This page last updated September 7, 2016.

To see an article on Healthy Lighting Choices to avoid dirty electricity, click here.

To see the results of a study conducted by Oram of dirty electricity and photovoltaic (PV) inverters and how that relates to the issue of dirty electricity from smart meters, click here.

To see an article summarizing our view on solar panels and EMFs, click here.

To see the results of a preliminary study conducted in September 2014 by Oram and electrician William Holland of the efficacy of three dirty electricity-reduction technologies, click here.


Dirty electricity is the least understood and hardest to mitigate of the four types of EMFs, at least compared to the other types of EMFs that we encounter in the building biology profession (which are, 60 Hz AC magnetic fields from house wiring, 60 Hz AC electric fields from house wiring, and radio frequencies from wireless devices).

Simply plugging in filters is one solution suggested by many, but we recommend first reducing the presence of dirty-electricity promoting devices. These can include dimmer switches, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and certain LEDs and halogen lights. Switched mode power supplies are a common source of dirty electricity. These are miniature, chip-based transformers that reduce voltage anywhere that space is limited, such as in computers, some portable device chargers, and the energy efficient bulbs just mentioned.

Dirty electricity can also come from variable speed motors, such as found in front load washing machines and new, energy efficient furnaces, among others. The charge inverters of solar panels are also a known source of dirty electricity.

These sources can be in your own home, but even if you remove them, harmonics of dirty electricity can still ride into your home on the 60 Hz sine wave of the utility's electricity from sources in neighbors' homes.

There are also reports from Northern California of dirty electricity being produced by the switched mode power supplies in digital electric meters, including the smart meter brands used by Pacific Gas & Electric, which are GE and Landis Gyr (although that does not seem to be the case with all brands of smart meter). After an extensive survey of more than 20 Itron brand smart meters in Southern California using my oscilloscope, I was not able to find any evidence of dirty electricity from the Itron brand smart meters tested. See my smart meter study article by clicking here).

How Dirty Electricity is Created

Electronic equipment that contains circuit boards, such as your cell phone charger, computer or television set, as well as low-voltage, energy-efficient light bulbs, do not operate at 120 Volts, which is the voltage of electricity that comes from the outlet in your room. These electronic appliances therefore need a transformer to change that voltage, as well as a rectifier to convert from AC (alternating current) to DC (direct current).

If the space is large enough to accommodate it, a linear transformer is used, such as inside the back of the cabinet of your desktop computer, VCR or television set. If the enclosure of the electronic device is too small, the linear transformer can be placed inside a black plastic box plugged into an outlet, the so-called "wall wart." You will also find them in the box in the middle of your laptop AC power cord. These linear transformers step 120 Volts down to 19 Volts for most laptops or even lower voltages, such as 4-6 Volts, for other electronic devices.

The base of a light bulb, however, is too small to house a linear transformer. To change the voltage, manufacturers use small, chip-based transformers that fit into the base of these bulbs. These are called "switched mode power supplies" because they change voltage and also convert electricity from AC to DC, thereby switching the mode of the power because the bulb itself runs on low voltage DC, but the switched mode power supply does this while taking up very little space. Likewise, the 19 Volts entering a typical computer is then lowered to even lower voltages using switched mode power supplies, because a typical computer has circuit boards at five different voltages, each one requiring its own switched mode power supply.

Apple is now using switched mode power supplies in their wall worts instead of linear transformers, which is why you hardly measure a 60 Hz magnetic field around them with your Gauss meter compared to the field around a typical linear transformer, which can extend one to two feet. However, these Apple chargers are producing dirty electricity.

The problem with switched mode power supplies is that they reduce voltage and covert from AC to DC by squaring off and distorting the otherwise smooth sine wave of 60 Hz AC electricity, thereby producing harmonics of dirty electricity as a side effect. They are, in fact, more efficient at reducing voltage when they operate at higher frequencies. These harmonics then radiate off circuits in your walls running throughout the house and from AC power cords that you plug into outlets.

This phenomenon travels in both directions from where you plug in the device that creates the dirty electricity, moving along the circuit both upstream towards the breaker panel and out to plastic AC power cords that you plug into outlets closer to the panel, as well as downstream in the wall to other outlets and power cords plugged into those downstream outlets. This is how dirty electricity travels around your house, as well as from house to house. Thus even if your house is clean, these harmonics travel into your circuits on incoming power from dimmer switches, CFLs and other sources of dirty electricity in your neighbors' homes, moving throughout the neighborhood from house to house.

These harmonic frequencies are called "dirty electricity" by the audio and computer industry because they interfere with the functioning of some electronic equipment, and they can cause an audible hum especially on speakers found in high quality audio and video home entertainment systems.

You also find dirty electricity from switched mode power supplies in computers and printers. A linear transformer in the AC power cord will step 120 Volts down to 19 or so Volts that enters the computer. This linear transformer does not produce dirty electricity. However, that 19 Volts is then stepped further down to various voltages for the four or five separate circuit boards within a computer. It is a switched mode power supply that does this reduction at every step, thereby producing dirty electricity that some people are sensitive to. Electronics manufacturers will sometimes put filters into their products to reduce this "noise," but that is not always the case if saving 79 cents trumps quality.

Electronic dimmer switches create dirty electricity by "chopping up" or distorting the sine wave, in the words of engineers. Also, the motor control circuit board of variable speed furnace motors, which is another source of dirty electricity, likewise distorts the 60 Hz sine wave and bothers many electrically hypersensitive (EHS) individuals. It is not the motor that creates the dirty electricity. It is the motor control circuit board.

Finally, many brands of charge inverters of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels are known to produce a 20,000 Hz (20 kHz) fundamental frequency, with its attendant harmonics, that travels on circuits throughout the house and out onto the grid from a house with solar PV panels. See a separate article I wrote on the presence of dirty electricity from inverters on solar panels by clicking here.

Health Effects of Dirty Electricity

Most importantly, however, dirty electricity can cause ill health in the form of agitation and a number of other symptoms, particularly in those who are sensitive to them. Other symptoms can include headaches, irritability, neurological symptoms, fatigue, depression, and memory loss. Sam Milham, MD, is one of the most prominent authorities on dirty electricity and he is author of the book, Dirty Electricity, in which he describes the symptoms, causes and possible solutions associated with this particular type of EMF.

It is important to note that dirty electricity, unlike radio waves, does not emit long distances from the devices that generate them, such as dimmers or solar panel charge inverters. Instead, the harmonic frequencies ride on the circuits and plastic appliance cords found all over the house, and emit a few feet off these wires wherever they go. This occurs because these circuits and wires are not fully shielded. This is true even with metal-clad wiring, which shields electric fields at all frequencies but not magnetic fields below 1 MHz, and most dirty electricity is below 1 Mhz.

Thus even if you have metal clad electrical wiring, which protects you from 60 Hz electric fields that interfere with sleep, you still have the magnetic field component of dirty electricity that passes right through the metal cladding. You also have plastic AC appliance power cords plugged into outlets in rooms throughout the house, and they can emit both the electric and magnetic field components of the harmonic frequencies of dirty electricity, when it exists.

Ways to Avoid and Reduce Dirty Electricity

In general, we recommend that people avoid those appliances, listed above, that cause dirty electricity in the first place. Replace dimmer switches with regular on/off switches. Install more than one set of overhead lights with bulbs of different wattages and then turn on one set or the other, or both, to produce three lighting levels. Click here to see an entire article written just about healthy lighting choices

How Dirty Electricity-Reducing Filters Work

They basically shunt dirty electricity as potential energy, which is in the form of voltage, to the circuit’s neutral by creating reactive current. You had potential frequencies of voltage, which you then convert to current and frequencies that you send back to the utility on the neutral conductor. This creates a magnetic field on the circuit between the filter, wherever it is plugged in, and the breaker panel that the circuit is connected to, since this reactive current flows on the circuit’s neutral.

Choose one of several brands of furnace with a single speed motor, not a variable speed motor, that I have personally tested and in that way avoid dirty electricity. Contact me for a list of those brands and models.

If after making all those changes you still have an unacceptable level on the EMI meter, then you can insert filters of some kind. Before doing so, however, we recommend that the electrical circuits in the house be checked for wiring errors, as described in the Magnetic Field article. If any are found, they must be fixed before inserting filters.

This is because, unfortunately, in the process of reducing one type of EMF, that is, dirty electricity, the capacitor filters on the market today (including the Stetzer and Greenwave filters) can and do aggravate another form of EMF, namely, magnetic fields at 60 Hz. These magnetic fields are caused by neutral-to-neutral or neutral-to-ground wiring errors in branch circuits, as well as electric current on grounding paths, such as the water service supply pipe and the incoming TV cable.

That is why the building biology profession always recommends that wiring errors and current on grounding paths, such as water pipes, be checked for and fixed before anyone inserts capacitor filters to reduce dirty electricity.

If there are no wiring errors and dirty electricity-generating appliances and lighting are removed and replaced and there are still measurable levels of dirty electricity coming in from neighbors' houses and/or you are still sensitive to them, then filters can be used. This is especially true if you need to use devices and appliances that are known to produce harmonic frequencies, such as a computer or solar panels.

Dirty Electricity Reduction Technologies

There are numerous products on the market that reduce levels of dirty electricity in one fashion or another.

One product is the Greenwave filter. These are placed in individual outlets throughout the house depending upon the readings of dirty electricity as taken on a microsurge meter, which you can order for $150 by clicking here. You can order Greenwave filters directly by clicking here. They retail for $25 each.

I have measured Greenwave filters side-by-side against the Stetzer filter, another popular dirty electricity filter, and found the Greenwave filter to be 12-15% more effective at reducing the dirty electricity reading on the microsurge meter, as well as the dirty electricity as shown on my oscilloscope.

As an alternative to inserting individual Greenwave filters, you can purchase two whole-house dirty electricity reduction devices from RF Reduce.com, makers of the RxDNA and PxDNA devices. The PxDNA model is for lighter levels of dirty electricity found in most homes. You will need two of them, one for each phase. All residences have two phases of electric current entering the house from the electric utility. Half your circuits are on one phase, the other half are on the other phase.

If your dirty electricity levels are heavier, however, such as from charge inverters in solar panels or strong levels entering your house from neighbors, you will need two RxDNA models.

It should be noted that the RxDNA and PxDNA technologies do not aggravate existing magnetic fields because they are not capacitor filters. They reduce harmonics of dirty electricity by another technology, according to the inventor of the devices, engineer Robert Palma. Contact Robert directly for more information on this at RF Reduce.com.

For more information and to purchase these devices in California, contact Michael Schwaebe in Encinitas, north of San Diego at 760-753-7752. His emali address is mjschwaebe@gmail.com. Michael is a West Coast representative of the RxDNA and PxDNA product line.

You can also contact Sue Long in Tustin (Orange County) at Enviro Health Solutions or 949-387-2084. Sue is also a West Coast representative of the RxDNA and PxDNA product line.

To return to the main Articles on EMFs page, click here.

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