Harmonic Frequencies and Transient Bursts

Harmonic AC (alternating current) frequencies are like the octaves in music. They are simply multiples of the intended frequency, usually at a much lower intensity. If you look at audio equipment specifications you will find a figure for "harmonic distortion", hopefully as low as you can afford to hear.

Transients are caused by electricity's preference to move in a fixed direction. Electricity behaves badly when it is stopped or started suddenly, and this is exactly what happens when you use:
  • Any switch
  • A piece of equipment with a switching power supply (a "wall wart", an "inverter", a "converter", a dimmer, etc.)
  • Any transformer, since they work by transferring the energy of a collapsing magnetic field that switches on and off
  • Any AC appliance, since AC current switches direction constantly
The power coming from your electric utility is a very pure "sine wave", but the purity ends at the first consumer's (or independent power producer's) doorstep. Electronic gadgets and other appliances, along with the "power inverters" that connect wind turbines and solar arrays to the grid, all generate distortions of the Utility's pretty, smooth, 60 Hz, sine wave power.

The "harmonics" of 60 Hz (120 Hz, 180 Hz, 240 Hz, etc.) and multi-frequency "transient bursts" (caused by switches, relays, dimmers and other switching power supplies) are found at various levels and at a blend of frequencies. For example, a burst of lightning contains a nearly limitless mix of frequencies, all at an extremely high voltage intensity. Fields of this type are collectively called Electromagnetic Pollution, and they're often subdivided into EXCESSIVE EMF, DIRTY ELECTRICITY, and ELECTROSMOG, depending on the frequency or mix of frequencies.
To see some background information on these frequencies, including more about the filters designed to remove them, Click Here for a free Adobe PDF file download.

A commercial high-frequency harmonic filter is available for home use. Two websites I often mention (LessEMF and Stetzer Electric) offer a power filter called the "Stetzerizer", built for Dave Stetzer of Blair, Wisconsin and designed by Martin Graham of UC Berkeley, in California. The effect of these filters is documented at the website "Electrical Pollution", where Dave used them to fix "sick building syndrome" at a Wisconsin school that was making both students and teachers quite ill. You can read more at Stetzer Electric's site. Another great site for more reading is "Dirty Electricity", in Canada.

  The filter in this photo has been altered, by wrapping it in aluminum window screening, to reduce the high-frequency electric fields radiating from its internal capacitor (discussed further below). The only problem I've run across using these filters is that, as they pass the high frequencies into the neutral wire and grounding cable, they generate an electric field that's unshielded. If the wiring is shielded in metal conduit, this leaking signal can far surpass the intensity of the field from the outlet itself. One fix is to move the filters to outlets that aren't near your bed, relaxation areas, or workplace. The other fix involves wrapping a 9.25-inch by 6-inch piece of aluminum window screen around the filter, avoiding the area around the plug-in prongs (see photo above). I secure the screen with a couple of 8-inch plastic wire ties bound end-to-end and wrapped around the sides of the filter. I then attach a small piece of green 14-gauge grounding wire to a ring terminal. The center screw of an outlet cover is grounded (if it's on a grounded system!). The ring terminal is attached to this screw and the other end is stripped and woven into a crease in the aluminum screening. This "grounds" the electric field radiated from the filter. If you don't use the ground tab, the fields are still greatly reduced.

Health effects
And what does this mean for you and me? These unwanted energies have been correlated with diabetes (a new variety, caused by EMF is called "Type3"), asthma, and Multiple Sclerosis. The symptoms can range from sore eyes, fatigue, headaches, nausea, and "brain-fog" all the way down to miscarriages, chronic fatigue, Alzheimer's, and cancer, among others. Low-voltage DC electric fields are fairly harmless, but large DC magnetic fields, found around large DC motors or heating elements, can be just as disruptive as their AC cousins. If these alone weren't bad enough, chemicals contained (poorly) in many high-tech devices react with various electromagnetic frequencies to make folks with chronic exposure to them REALLY ill! It's what is called a "synergistic effect".

  • To find out more, try reading "The Invisible Disease" by Gunni Nordstrom.
  • To see more about the effects of power-line harmonics, diabetes, MS, and headaches, Click Here for a free Adobe PDF download.
  • To see more general case studies of the health effects, Click Here for a free PDF.
  • And to see the handout I give clients on Electrical Sensitivity, along with instructions on how to deal with high-frequency "trash" on the power-line, Click Here for an Adobe PDF file download (PDF files require Adobe Reader).

Legal Matters

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not evaluated any of the information contained herein (nor is it likely to!), and said information is not intended to replace the advice of a physician, nor is it intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.