Same signal but contaminated with dirty electricity
When I first learned about the term ‘dirty electricity’ I thought it would mean
something like pollution; too many cluttered devices in our everyday life. But looking
closer I learned that it is about the quality of the electricity around us. I decided
to write this article to help share and explain what I have learned.
Within your home are numerous electronic devices for countless purposes. These
devices often run from the power provided to wall sockets that are supplied by the
Firstly, it is important to know that some items make full use of the 120 volts
that come out of the wall socket (like incandescent lightbulbs). But a lot of electronics
operate at much lower voltages and have to use a transformer to take the 120 volts
and step it down to 5, 12, etc. Plus the power needs to be converted from a Alternating
Current (AC) to Direct Current (DC).
And if that weren’t enough, some transformers are designed to do the opposite
and step up the voltage to very high levels (15,000 volts) in order to operate neon
sign tubes and fluorescent lamps. This includes those very popular compact fluorescent
lights (CFL) that everybody has been told is the “Green” thing to do if you care
about the planet. It is true that CFL’s use less energy to operate but they also
contain mercury vapor inside the tubing and if you should break one, you are advised
to contact a hazardous materials clean up crew in order to properly keep yourself,
your family, and the planet safe).
Something important to remember is that whenever the full 120 volts from the
wall is being altered with a transformer, it can often be producing a little known
side effect known as “harmonics”, “voltage spikes”, or “Dirty Electricity”. Dirty
Electricity is electrical noise created by the transformer and sends it back out
onto the power lines. This noise travels through all the wiring in your home or business
and even out into the world. You can just imagine how a large city, with lots of
people, with massive amounts of electronics are just brewing up this chaotic noise.
People are just swimming in this noise in the powerlines! Even if you were to unplug
all the devices in your home and sit on the couch in the dark you probably are still
surrounded by this dirty electricity because of your neighbors.
We can even see this noise by using what electricians and scientists know as
a oscilloscope. This is a device that shows a visual display of the fluxuating power
cycle (wall voltage cycles at 60 times a second (60Hz)).
These spikes are often referred to as microsurges or harmonics
Q: How does dirty electricty affect me?
A: Capacitive Coupling:
This may be a strange sounding term but what it means is that your body is linked
to the surrounding fields in your home, office, devices even if you are at a distance
from them. When you are outside and you think that you are safe under powerlines,
they give off electromagnetic fields because of the flow of electricity (current)
through them. Remember when you were young and built an electromagnet with a nail,
wire, and battery? The current in the wire built up a magnetic field that was transferred
to the nail. The powerlines above you are doing the same thing (although not coiled)
but are making a magnetic field that reverses its polarity back and forth. It does
this cycle 60 times a second.
Whenever you have a fluxuating electromagnetic field near a conductor it causes
electrical energy to be generated. This is basically how power generators work. It
is a “induced voltage” within the human body since it is a good conductor of electricity.
You can test your body’s conductivity by borrowing a digital multimeter and setting
it to read high resistance Ohms. Pinching a probe in each hand will show that power
can travel through your body!
These fields don’t kill you quickly and you probably have been living near them
for many years, but growing research is showing that dirty (and even clean)electricity
is having an effect on human health. Hormone glands of the brain and studies towards
Multiple Sclerosis and Autism are being done. Many believe that power lines and wireless
technology are cause for many problems such as tinnitus and cancer.
When there is dirty electricity on a power line the oscillioscope will display
a scratchy line.