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You’ve just sat down in your favorite spot – your sanctuary away from everything else going on in the world. You adjust your wireless headphones and angle your tablet just right so you can see everything that’s about to unfold before you.
As you prepare to stream your latest episode, you have to endure an advertisement. Wait! They’re talking about a meter you should get to inform you about the hidden electronic dangers in your house. Now you’re wondering if you should push your tablet a little further away.
How do you accurately measure EMF in your house? Here are four accurate ways to measure EMF in your house:
- Use portable meters specifically designed to identify various radiation levels associated with the different kinds of EMF that can be present in your house.
- Use a wall sensor.
- Call a professional.
- Download an app on your mobile phone. This really isn’t recommended. Check out this post to know why. This article will discuss why it’s not in your best interest in a little while, but it is an option you have.
Before digging into these options, maybe it would be beneficial to learn a bit about EMF and why it’s causing some concern.
You are Surrounded by Electrosmog
No, that isn’t a term made up for the sake of this article; it’s a very real phenomenon.
Electrosmog is the invisible result of the electrical emissions that float around you on a constant basis in today’s electronically driven environment. It’s the accumulation of the EMF that is put out by all of the electronics that are all around you:
- Your house wiring
- Your appliances
- Your wireless electronics
- The smart meters measuring your utility use
- Your car
- In some areas, radon exposure
The intent of pointing this out is not to be alarmist, but to make sure you’re as educated as possible when it comes to your, and your family’s health.
A High-Level Definition of the Types of EMF
Electromagnetic fields (EMF) are the various levels of radiation that are associated with running our household appliances and electronics.
Yes, radiation. That doesn’t have to be as scary of a word as we often make it. The fact is that your own body puts off electrical impulses resulting in extremely low-level EMF emissions.
There are generally two levels to the radiation scale:
Lower levels of radiation and not generally considered extremely dangerous or hazardous.
The biology dictionary says that it “is any kind of radiation in the electromagnetic spectrum that does not have enough energy to remove an electron from an atom and turn it to an ion.”
Said differently, when you’re exposed to reasonable amounts of non-ionizing radiation, your molecular cell structure says the same. The question then becomes… what are reasonable amounts?
Dictionary.com defines ionizing radiation as “any radiation, as a stream of alpha particles or x-rays, that produces ionization as it passes through a medium.” (Don’t you just love it when the dictionary uses a word to define itself?)
Another way to think of this is that the molecular structure of the medium is changed or impacted when it is exposed to ionizing radiation. This is why you sunburn when you’re in the sun too long. UV rays are responsible for your burn.
Let’s take these radiation types in order; we’ll start with non-ionizing types of radiation.
Ways to Be Exposed to ELFs
To that point, the first level of EMF is called ELF.
In this instance, ELFs are not those cute helpers at the North Pole; they’re Extremely Low Frequencies in a range of between 3 – 3000 Hertz. These are often measured in two different ways:
- Electrical: Electrical ELF-EMF is measured in Volts per Meter (V/m)
- Magnetic: Magnetic ELF-EMF is measured in Milligauss (mG)
The bottom line here is that if it has a plug, it emits some level of ELF – even if you think it’s old school enough because it doesn’t have any digital readouts. Even the blow dryer in your house emits ELFs.
The visible light from the sun is also an ELF level of EMF. Make no mistake…visible light and near-infrared light are not the same thing as the far-away ultraviolet rays the sun emits. Those UV rays are ionizing radiation.
Extremely Low-Frequency EMFs have extremely wideband waves. It’s kind of like when you think of a gentle roll on the ocean. They’re smooth and broad. These types of emissions can easily be managed by putting distance between you and the device emitting the electromagnetic field.
Are you about ready to make some alphabet soup?
RF stands for Radio Frequency EMF. That seems that it would be fairly self-explanatory, but it’s probably a bit broader than you realize. The bottom line here is that if it uses a radio wave to transmit, it’s a type of RF-EMF. Your wireless and Bluetooth devices would fit into this category.
RF is measured by looking at Milliwatts per square meter (mW/m^2).
Radio Frequency EMF is on the top half of the non-ionizing radiation scale but is still usually considered to be mostly non-threatening.
This is the more dangerous and impactful type of radiation. It is divided into two areas:
Don’t mistake your kitchen appliance with this label. These are the particles that heat your food inside of that tool’s shielded confines. It also associated with various kinds of antennas, such as satellite antennas, dispensing wavelengths that are closer together (between 1mm to 1 m apart), and emit frequencies measuring between 3000 – 300,000 MHz (Megahertz).
At this level, molecules begin heating and can begin resulting in damage. The amount and length of time of overall exposure are important factors in this type of radiation. This is where you begin to see the impact of UV rays. Far infrared waves associated with the glass manufacturing process and iron welding also fit in this category.
No, not harmonica – although in the wrong hands, the portable instrument can seem dangerous. Harmonic radiation includes things like x-rays, radiation therapy, radon, and gamma rays. This is why your physician wants to limit your exposure to these types of therapies and only uses them when absolutely necessary.
Being aware of your surroundings is a basic safety technique. Understanding the total Electrosmog exposure inside of your home gives you an idea of what’s unseen and dancing around you most frequently.
That said, there isn’t one device that will allow you to measure all levels of EMF. Let’s start with your plugged-in appliances in the Extremely Low Frequencies.
How to Measure ELF-EMF
Gauss meters are your best bet for understanding the ELF-EMF in your house. These meters are NOT intended to provide you with readings regarding your electronic equipment transmission signals, only those items that have extremely low-level emissions, such as:
- Household appliances – Items that plug in – your refrigerator, microwave oven, air conditioning unit, electric toothbrush, CPAP machine… Yes, even your electric blanket (RELATED ARTICLE).
- Power lines (RELATED ARTICLE) both outside your house and inside your walls
- Industrial machinery (i.e., electrical transmissions)
You can measure your router’s ELF, but not the signals your router sends to your electronics. That would be measuring RF-EMF.
These meters range anywhere from $20 to about $125. Be aware that the lower-end models tend to give less reliable readings, though. Here are some examples of available meters for measuring the low-level electrical and magnetic impulses:
- EMF Meter Meterk Electric Field and Magnetic Field Radiation Handheld
This meter will allow you to measure both electric and magnetic output. This meter’s electric field strength frequency range is 20Hz (Hertz) to 3500MHz (Megahertz). Its magnetic field strength frequency range is 20Hz to 300Hz.
It will also give you a “good/bad” signal regarding the amount of EMF being distributed by the item. This item has 4.2 stars out of a possible 5-star rating, with 483 ratings submitted.
- Cambridge Labs Rechargeable EMF Meter
This meter offers dual readings on the same screen. It has a 4.3 out of a possible 5-star rating from 46 eligible rating subjects.
- 3-Axis Gauss EMF ELF Meter Detector
This meter reads between 30 Hz to 2000Hz with a triple-axis internal measurement to provide more reliable readings. This meter has been given a 4.3 rating out of possible five stars by 17 eligible participants.
To get an accurate reading using these meters, you generally should take readings of the same item from three different directions. You’ll want to have a notebook and something to write with, so you can keep track of your measurements. You’re always going to want to capture the measurement at its highest point. Here’s how you do it:
- Point your meter directly at the object being measured. This one is the no-brainer of the three – of course, you’re going to want to point your meter at something.
- Up and down (also known as Vertical). Hold the meter in that position and slowly turn in a full circle to figure out what position gives you the highest reading.
- Sideways (Horizontal). Do the same thing you did for the vertical measurement, but while you’re holding your meter on its side. Again, make a notation as to what the highest level is and the direction your meter is pointing.
Sometimes there’s value in tracking your data over a period of time. Maybe you’ll want to take measurements at different times of the day and/or different days of the week. Spreadsheets are a helpful tool for automating your comparisons.
ELF and RF-EMF Meter Combinations
Yup. Back to alphabet soup.
While it is accurate to say that one meter cannot measure all levels of EMF, there are meters that will measure the non-ionizing radiation levels of extremely low and radio frequency radiation levels.
As would be expected, these units tend to cost more. They generally start about $135 and go up from there. Some are in excess of $400. In these instances, it really depends on what you want to do.
If this is your profession, you will know exactly what you need. Electricians, for instance, won’t generally be testing for RF, but ELF is huge in their wheelhouse. Wireless communications technicians, on the other hand, need to be able to test for RF.
Here are a few available options:
- EMF Meter, Advanced GQ EMF-390 Multi-Field Electromagnetic Radiation 3-in-1 EMF ELF RF Meter
This meter had 307 purchasers rating it, and it has an overall rating of 4.5 out of a possible five stars. It has a built-in analyzer and browser for real-time monitoring but also allows you to identify the most common possible sources of output, such as cell towers, power lines, etc. This meter measures RF up to 10 GHz (Gigahertz) and between 0-500 mG (Milligauss) for ELF readings.
- Electric Field Radio Frequency Field, Magnetic Field Strength Meter by Trifield
With a 4.6 out of possible five stars and 297 eligible raters, this meter is another example of one that will measure both ELF and RF radiation. This meter measures between .1 to 100 mG, 1 to 1000 V/m (volts per meter), and .001 through 19.99 mW/m^2 (Milliwatt over meters squared).
Check out my review of the Trifield to know why I think it is the best EMF meter.
- LATNEX AF-3500 EMF Meter RF Detector and Reader
This meter is able to measure both ELF and RF readings. It has a large digital display providing readings as well as graphing data. It has only been rated by 15 purchasers but has an average rating of 4.3 out of a possible five stars.
RF Specific Meters
If what you really are interested in measuring is the RF exposure in your home, there are meters on the market that are specific to RF emissions.
Radio Frequency electromagnetic field measurements are for things such as:
- Your mobile phone
- Your router signal
- Your WiFi
- Your Smart TV
- Bluetooth-specific tools
- Nearby cell towers
- Smart meters
Here are a few portable RF-specific meters that are on the market:
- Acoustimeter RF Meter Model AM-10 Radio Frequency Meter EMF Protection
This is among the top-of-the-line portable meters. It is more expensive and has earned a 4.6 out of 5 possible stars from 104 eligible purchasers. This meter has both LCD and LED displays providing multiple reading methods.
- HF-B3G Triple Axis HR RF Meter Analyzer and Detector and Aluminum Case
This meter’s write-up states that it can be used by novice and experienced users alike. There isn’t a rating associated with this model.
- Safe and Sound PRO II RF Meter 200MHz – 12GHz
This is the most expensive model on the list. It provides a comprehensive analysis on an LED screen along with having LED indicators. It only has four ratings associated with it, yet has a 4.5 rating out of a possible five stars.
Checking for Radon
You’re probably familiar with wall monitors you can plug into an outlet that will notify you of any carbon monoxide issues. Did you know you can also get these types of tools to notify you of potential radon issues?
Radon most often comes from uranium levels in the soil. As granite countertops have become more prevalent; however, it is possible that they can also be a source of radon emissions in your home.
There isn’t a “type” of granite that’s more likely to release radon than another. The issue boils down to how much uranium is in the piece of granite you own. Some granite only gives off trace amounts of radon. Others, however, measured levels as much as 25 times the EPA’s safety limits.
Here are a few Radon Meter options:
- Corentium Home Radon Detector by Airthings 223
This particular meter runs on batteries as opposed to having to be plugged in. It offers the option to create a self-inspection report without having to worry about lab fees. This meter has been rated 4.6 out of possible five stars by an impressive 1,973 total eligible raters.
- RADEX MR107 Advanced Radon Gas Detector for Homes
This device requires a Lithium battery, but that is only for backup purposes. It has a 4.2 rating out of a possible five stars from 21 raters. In addition to capturing radon levels, it will also collect readings for relative humidity and air temperatures. It requires Windows software for complete data analysis.
- Airthings Wave (2nd Gen) – Smart Radon Detector with Humidity & Temperature Sensor
This device sends the data it collects to your smartphone. It has an overall rating of 3.9 out of 5 possible stars, with 427 people providing ratings. This meter is battery operated and does not require sending samples to a lab.
Who Ya Gonna Call?
Ok, even though ghost hunters swear by ELF readers as a reliable part of their toolkit, that’s probably not who you want to call if you want to check EMF in your house.
There are specific professionals who focus on home health and are trained in locating and analyzing EMF signals in and around your home. Check out my article on EMF surveys which will give you an insight into what professionals do and what are the likely costs involved.
If you want to have an official electromagnetic field analysis conducted, you can contact an EMF Consultant in your area. Before engaging an individual for this service, you will want to inquire as to whether or not they are certified and bonded.
Mobile App Options
This was mentioned at the beginning of the article. There are mobile apps you can download to your cellphone or tablet that purport to provide accurate readings.
The question you want to ask yourself is: “If I’m concerned about EMF, why do I want to measure it with something that emits EMF?”
Granted, mobile phones are used for just about everything you can do, so it seems natural that you would immediately think about using it for this purpose as well. While it is not the best way to get your data, here is a list of mobile apps that measure EMF:
- Electromagnetic Detector: EMF Scanner
- EMF Radiation Detector
- EMF Meter Free Utility
- Electromagnetic Radiation EMF
- Tesla Field Meter
Managing EMF Exposure in Your House
There are at least four areas you want to specifically check for your (and your family’s) total EMF exposure level. To boil it down, you will want to check the areas of your house that are most often populated. Here are some examples:
When you are in bed, what is your EMF exposure? To know this, lay in your bed and take some readings. You will want to check:
- The wall immediately behind or beside your bed
- Any lamps or other electronics that are near your bed (clocks, CPAP, etc.)
- Your electric blanket or bed heater/cooler
- Your ceiling fan
If you work from home or have a side business, you probably spend a lot of time in your office. Sit in your office chair and check:
- ELF for light fixtures
- ELF for your computer/laptop
- ELF for your printer
- ELF for any portable heaters/air conditioners
- ELF for wall wiring
- ELF for power strips
- RF for your modem
- RF for the Bluetooth on your computer
- RF for the Bluetooth on your printer/scanner
- RF for your mobile devices
Your living area
Sit in your favorite seat. Take measurements of :
- ELF for nearby light fixtures
- ELF for nearby outlets and circuitry in the wall
- ELF for your stereo
- ELF for your television
- ELF for your electric recliner
- RF for your television
- RF for your remote(s)
- RF for your mobile devices
- RF for your mobile assistant
Stand where you normally do your meal prep and by the dishwasher and take readings of all of your appliances:
- ELF readings for all appliances
- RF readings for anything with a wireless or remote function including if you have smart-driven appliances
Other areas of importance:
- Children’s bedrooms
- Children’s play areas
- Hobby areas
- Utility/Laundry area
- Porch/Deck area
Best Way to Manage ELF and RF Exposure
The best thing you can do to manage your exposure to these radiation frequencies is to turn an item off if you aren’t using it.
For ELF appliances, unplug them from the wall if they aren’t in use. This isn’t a reasonable step to perform for your built-in dishwasher, stove, oven, and microwave. Not even for your washer and dryer. So you need to decide if you can be ok with that.
For RF electronics, turn them all the way off. Don’t just put them to sleep mode but shut them off. For purposes of comparison, use your RF meter to take the following three measurements on the device that’s closest to you whether that be your phone, tablet, etc.:
- While it’s on and in use
- While it’s in sleep mode
- While it’s turned completely off
What did you find? You should have found a continually decreasing amount of RF exposure after each reading. If the readings did not get lower, check to make sure your device is truly off and/or whether your meter needs freshly charged batteries.
Keep this in Mind
So if you have concerns about how much exposure you have to EMF levels on a daily basis, and even more so how much accumulated exposure you’re racking up, take control of your environment.
- For your health.
- For your safety.
- For your sanity.
The question you must ask yourself now is… how important is your electronic personal assistant to how you manage your day-to-day life? If you can’t get by without it, how much can you limit its use?