How to Use and Read an EMF Meter – The Essential Guide

Approx Reading Time: 15 minutes

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EMF Meter

EMF is measured based on the power of the various frequencies of the field. There are three basic decisions you’re going to want to make regarding EMF Meters:

  1. What type of radiation-emitting field you want to measure: magnetic, electric, radio or harmonic?
  2. How much you want to spend?
  3. How many meters do you want to own since they’re usually specific to a certain range of Hertz measurements?

This article will explore different levels of EMF, how to effectively measure and understand them, various EMF Meters available on the market, and when they’re beneficial.

What EMF is and Why You Should Care

EMF stands for Electromagnetic Field. Okay. So, what, right? EMF is where science meets at the intersection of frequencies and wavelengths. The fact is that the sun produces EMF. That’s how we get both our heat and light. That makes sense.

But, did you know that your body also naturally produces EMF just by being alive? Your cells, by their very nature, produce electromagnetic waves. They either attract or repel energy. But that’s an entirely different topic.

There’s a difference in the type of EMF produced by the sun and that produced by your body. Considering the sun is approximately 93 million miles from the earth, the electromagnetism fields produced by the sun are considerably stronger than those produced by your cells.

The sun’s infrared and visible fields are classified as ELF waves, but the U/V (ultraviolet) waves are considered to be RF/MW Radiation.

ELF Waves.

No, Santa isn’t involved with this one. ELF stands for Extremely Low Frequency. These are low frequencies emitted between 3 to 3000 Hertz and have very wide wavelengths.

There are actually three designations within this category:

  • ELF 1 (Extremely Low Frequency): 3 – 30 Hertz
  • ELF 2 (Also known as SLF – Super Low Frequency): 31 – 300 Hertz
  • ELF 3 (Also known as ULF – Ultra Low Frequency): 301- 3000 Hertz

ELF waves are emitted by most appliances and powerlines. If it plugs in and runs off of Alternative Current power (AC), it most likely produces ELF waves. They have both magnetic and electrical field outputs but are often measured separately.

The magnetic portion of the field is usually measured in Gauss (G) and Milligauss (mG) scales. The electrical output of the field is generally measured in Volts per Meter (V/m).

ELF waves are best managed by distance. The further you are from the source, the less impact ELF waves have.

Magnetic and electric waves are classified as ELF radiation waves.

RF/MW Radiation.

RF stands for Radio Frequency, and MW stands for Microwave Radiation (this is not your kitchen appliance). These are also known as wireless radiation and are measured based on power density – the amount of power emitted over a specific area.

RF/MW Radiation encompasses the rest of the radio frequency band spectrum. It begins at about 3 kHz (kilohertz) for the VLF (Very Low Frequency) and goes through 3 THz (Terahertz) for the THF (Tremendously High Frequency).

RF/MW radiation is measured in volts per meter (V/m) or watts-per-centimeter-squared (W/cm^2).

Radio and harmonic waves are classified as RF/MW radiation waves. And as just discussed, these waves have a huge amount of bandwidth that they cover.

Because these two types of radiation are measured with different scales, it’s a little easier to understand why they may require two different meters to conduct the measurement. So, it’s time to start making decisions.

What Type of Radiation Emitting Field, or Fields, do you Want to Measure?

radio signal

You know that the magnetic and electric fields are generally lumped into ELF waves and include most items that plug in but don’t use any wireless capability. These would include things like:

You also know that radio and harmonic or ionic fields are combined to be designated as RF/MW waves. In this case, it may plug in, but if it sends signals to control something else or is controlled by a remote signal, it generally falls in this category.

RF radiation is at the low-end of this spectrum and includes household items like:

  • Radio broadcasting signals
  • Transmitting signals from cell phones, cell towers, two-way radios, and satellite phones
  • WiFi and Bluetooth
  • Smart Meters
  • Cooking food in a microwave
  • Radar

MW radiation is the strongest level of radiation. This would include things such as:

  • Nuclear reactors
  • UV rays from the sun
  • Lightening
  • Microwaves locked within and behind the protective shielding of your appliance (unless your appliance has a leak, which is highly unlikely, you and your household are not exposed to these microwaves.)
  • Medical radiation

Various EMF Meter Options

Using a meter designed to measure ELF waves for RF waves would not give you a reasonable reading. With that in mind, below will be a list of meters that will accurately measure RF waves.

ELF Specific Meters

The ELF meters are typically the least expensive meters. If you’re interested in knowing, they’re also the type of meter that is usually used by professional ghost hunters. This article will not go further into the use of these meters for paranormal activities.

These meters are intended to help you measure items included in the Extremely Low Frequency range. These would be items like the wires inside your walls, output from your air conditioner, toaster, or washer/dryer.

ELF meters are most effective when measurements are taken from three different directions. To get a holistic view, grab a pen and a notebook to notate the following measurements:

  1. Pointed directly at the object being measured. This may seem obvious, but it is only one of the measurements you will want to capture.
  2. Vertical. Hold the meter up and down and rotate it 360 degrees to determine where you get the highest reading.
  3. Horizontal. Hold your meter on its side, and again, rotate it 360 degrees observing the changes in the readings. This will allow you to find out where the radiation levels are the highest.

If you’re interested in tracking your data at different times of the day and/or different days of the week, some have suggested creating a spreadsheet to help you automate your comparisons.

What Do Meters Cost?

The cost of EMF meters run anywhere from between $20 for a single wave meter able to measure between 50Hz (Hertz) to 2000MHz (Megahertz) to over $400 for a meter able to measure between 200 MHz – 12GHz (Gigahertz).

Here are some ELF Meter options:

This meter reads ELF waves between 30 to 300 Hertz. These are typical Alternative Current appliances, household wiring, and does not include wireless EMF levels. It has a rating of 4.3 out of a possible five stars from 729 eligible raters.

This meter measures ELF waves between 0 to 2000 Milligauss. It also measures the local temperature. This meter has a rating of 4.3 out a possible 5 stars from 225 eligible people rating the meter.

This ELF Meter reads both electric and magnetic radiation output and has received a rating of 4.3 out of 5 stars. There have been 44 eligible participants who have rated this product.

RF Specific Meters

These meters will measure RF output but will not go low enough to capture ELF waves. These meters tend to be in the mid-price range – typically the low $100 dollar range.

These meters will give you information about the RF waves from your Bluetooth capable laptop, tablet, or cellphone, your Bluetooth enabled automobile or your smart television.

This meter measures RF waves that register between 50 Megahertz through 3.5 Gigahertz. This particular meter has an Amazon rating of 3.9 out of a possible five stars, with only eligible participants rating the device.

This meter detects RF waves between 20 Megahertz through approximately 6 Gigahertz. It doesn’t have any eligible star ratings yet.

RF Multiple Wave Meters

These meters will measure both RF and ELF waves with accuracy. They tend to be more expensive, though, usually costing somewhere around $150 and above.

Note: These multi-meters work similarly to a software program. You can use a more recent version of software to read older documents, but not vice versa. These types of meters will measure RF, Microwave, and ELF waves, but a meter specific to ELF cannot measure RF and Microwave output.

This meter measures RF and Microwaves, as well as 3-Axis Gauss Magnetic Fields and ELF Electrical Fields. It has been given a 4.3 out of 5 possible Amazon stars out of 15 eligible ratings.

This meter is capable of measuring not only RF/microwave radiation but also ELF radiation from both AC magnetic and AC electric fields. This meter has a rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars aggregated from 296 eligible rating subjects.

This meter will measure RF up to 10 GHz and ELF up to 400 Khz (which you know actually goes into the low end of the RF spectrum). This meter has a rating of 4.5 out of 5 possible rating stars from a total of 307 eligible rating submissions.

How to Read Your New EMF Meter

Before you begin using your new meter, make sure it is calibrated to the type of electromagnetic field you are interested in measuring.

Extremely Low Frequencies

Most meters will have a switch that will allow you to choose which field you want to measure – electric or magnetic. Bear In mind, when you are measuring extremely low frequencies, you will measure electric fields and magnetic fields separately.

For ELF, the further away you are, the less strength the field will have. To get an accurate impact reading, it’s a good idea to measure from your typical location, or distance, in relation to the item.

If you are measuring the strength of the ELF from your microwave oven, for example, stand where you would normally stand while the appliance is running.

Your meter that is structured to measure extremely low frequencies will provide a reading which will vary from zero to a high reading warning.

Safe ELF levels are as follows:

  • Magnetic field safe levels for daytime and nighttime are measured at approximately 1 Milligauss.
  • Electric field safe levels for daytime exposure should be at 10 Volts/meter. Nighttime (while you’re in bed) safe levels are recommended to be about 1.5 Volts/meter.

Note: Remember: ELF meters are not intended to read Bluetooth or wireless technologies. If you attempt to use your ELF meter to get a reading on an item it isn’t intended for, you will get an extremely elevated false reading.

Radio Frequencies

RF is most often measured in terms of power. Some of the more advanced meters have high measurement speed capabilities of between 200 to 1,500 readings per second. Other RF meters measure in the domain of frequencies providing a comparison of power to frequency.

As with the ELF radiation levels, safe RF levels are in the following ranges:

  • Acceptable daytime exposure levels are at/or below 0.2 V/m (Volts per Meter)
  • Recommended nighttime exposure levels should be maintained at/or below .06 Volts per Meter.

There are three specific types of instruments that are used in the measurement of RF factors:

  • Spectrum Analyzers

These are often used to identify individual originations for that specific frequency. They then provide information about the type of the signal as well as its strength.

These pieces of equipment are typically very sensitive. They identify pulse-modulated signals in addition to make peak value measurements. These are also amongst the more expensive tools. They are also very complex to use.

These tools will cover ranges between 100 Kilohertz (kHz) and 3 Gigahertz (GHz). They have a digital display that provides clear output to decrease any potential for misinterpreting the data.

They do require a specific antenna for different frequency ranges. That makes sense when considering the range of measurement – it would use a different antenna for wireless technology than it would for an X-ray machine.

  • Broad-Spectrum Meters

These are often used for FCC compliance measurements. They don’t pinpoint particular amplitude, sources, or frequencies but will provide a summary of the whole picture.

These are easier to operate than other tools, but they also are not as specific or sensitive. For example, these devices do not differentiate between AM or FM radio signals, cellular frequencies, TV communication machines, or wireless devices. You would get a reading, but you wouldn’t know what is included in the summary of that reading.

  • Scanning Devices

These are not very reliable devices in that they are not able to provide information about the specific type or strength of the radiation being “measured.” This often leads to data misinterpretations and measurement errors.

They can be used to provide an overall detection of increased radiation fields, but don’t provide specific information that would lead to diagnosis and/or remediation. These devices only provide light and series of tones to alert the user to the potential presence of various levels.

Avoiding or Limiting Your Exposure to RF Radiation

Since Bluetooth is one of the sources of low-level RF, you can use your meter to determine how far from your smart-television provides what you feel is an acceptable level of exposure. That’s easy. But what about your cell phone?

Many people use a Bluetooth earpiece to connect to and talk on their cell phones. If you’re interested in knowing what that exposure is, turn your earpiece on, connect it to your mobile phone, and use your meter to measure the RF level.

You might also want to consider measuring the RF level inside your car while your phone is connected via Bluetooth operation.

One way to manage your mobile phone exposure is to set it further away from you and use the speakerphone function. Check out all my 10 tips.

Caring About Electrosmog

About what? Electrosmog. This is the term that is associated with the accumulation of everything we’ve been discussing.

Smog is an obvious output of pollutants in the environment. Electrosmog is the invisible accumulation of the radiation that comes from the electronics and technology that is constantly surrounding us.

Basically, when you choose to reduce the low levels of radiation to which you’re exposed on a constant basis, you’re managing your local electrosmog.

There are some sources of electrosmog that you can’t control:

There are some sources of electrosmog that are defaulted to be turned on, but you can turn them off. Some of these would be things like:

  • Turning off the blue tooth options in your car
  • Turning off your computer when you’re not using it
  • Turning off your wireless speaker or using wired speakers
  • Using wired headphones instead of wireless
  • Turning off or getting rid of your electronic assistant

Benefits of Using Your New Meter

Reading your meter doesn’t have to be challenging. The best thing for you to remember is the difference between ELF and RF measurements.

ELF takes both magnetic and electrical fields that should be measured, and they’re measured in different types of units. The magnetic fields are measured in gauss units; the electrical fields are measured in volts.

RF has a broad range of measurements but is typically measured in terms of power defined as Hertz. Whether you’re checking readings in your home or at the office, you will now be able to have a firm grasp on what levels of radiation you’re being exposed to.

You’ll now be able to make informed decisions about changes that you can make or influence in your environment. Consider if you’re a manager, you’ll be able to provide a better environment for those in your group. You’ll also be able to make intentional choices in your home.

Either way, this data will arm you with information you can use on a go-forward basis.

Options for Cutting Down EMF Radiation in Your Home

Especially if you find out your readings are above that of the recommended health guidelines, you may decide to invest in some EMF-reducing home improvements, as well as habit changes:

  • Purchase an electric filter that reduces the dirty energy emitted by some appliances.
  • Use EMF-shielding paint.
  • Turn off all non-essential appliances at night.
  • Do not carry your cell phone on your person.
  • Don’t use your cell phone as a bedside alarm clock – purchase an alarm.
  • Buy an EMF-shielding case for your cell phone
  • Purchase radiation shields for appliances.
  • Avoid powering on your cell phone with Bluetooth in the car, except when needed.
  • Stay tuned to what your municipality is doing about EMF emissions in the community.
  • Use a desktop computer, when possible, rather than your phone or wireless device.


I am the owner and founder of EMF Advice, a trustworthy and reliable source on EMF radiation. Through years of research and experience, I have put forth information in this blog. I am determined to spread awareness on this issue. Read More About Me..