The Inside Outside Guys: The lowdown on dirty electricity

Ken Calverley and Chuck Breidenstein
Special to The Detroit News

From our email  bag, here are a few questions we find to be on the minds of many listeners.

Q. I love listening to WJR in my kitchen, but whenever I turn on the overhead lights in there, I get so much static I can no longer listen to the radio.

A. It is common for such situations to be caused by what we term “dirty electricity.” It is likely you have either CFL bulbs in those lights or cheaper versions of LEDs, both of which can modify the frequency of the normal current in our home.

When this happens, these abnormal frequencies “piggyback” on the current flowing through the wires and can manifest as distortion on a radio, for instance.

The reason for static on radios can be hard to pin down.

Such issues may also be commonly caused by dimmer switches that are not compatible with the circuit or the load.

Q. We hear about “dirty electricity” more and more. What, exactly, is it?

A. Dirty electricity is created whenever the power lines or wiring within our home carry or contain frequencies other than the normal 60Hz electrical current we use. 

Q. Can dirty electricity affect my health in any way?

A. The additional frequencies created by these various issues radiate into your living environment. There have been incidents where homeowners could not stay in their homes because of the negative health effects.

These can include headaches, fatigue, tinnitus, mood swings, cognitive impairment, sleep disturbance, and more.

While not everyone reacts in the same way to such pollution, one “test” is to note if symptoms disappear or moderate when you spend time away from the contaminated environment.

Q. What other sources in my home or office might cause this issue?

A. Anything that converts DC to AC power or AC to DC including EV chargers or solar power inverters could be a source. Your in-home Wi-Fi system could be a culprit as well as PLC Smart meters that add pulsed frequencies to the power lines.

Charging devices throughout the home used for laptops, cell phones and gaming devices could create such issues.

Part of what makes this complicated is that the source could be a variety of other things.

Poorly regulated voltage or amperage coming into the home from the utility or even frequencies modified as the electricity passes through outdated or worn breakers on your fuse panel could be the source.

Ground wire issues can also come into play as a contributing cause.

Q. Can I discover these issues in my own home and take steps to minimize or eliminate them?

A. You may have a few sources of such contamination in the home that are limited to one or several electrical circuits. AM radios can serve as a “testing device” if a homeowner wants to discover these circuits. First, shut off all circuits, then selectively activate one at a time with the radio in close proximity.

A “dirty” circuit will generally create static on the radio.

Q. Can a master electrician help me with this?

A. Maybe. A brand-new home has a straightforward wiring system that may allow a professional to discover sources of contaminated electricity. A 50-year-old home that may have no central grounds, two or more types of conductors and countless modifications by DIY homeowners might make the task very difficult.

Keep in mind that the air surrounding us is a virtual “stew” of various signals from cellphone towers, radio stations and television broadcasts. Additionally our homes, and the wiring in them, create a sort of “cage antenna” around us picking up and even transmitting these signals.

These signals have the potential to interrupt our internal “electrical” system. Remember, when your brain “tells” your right big toe to wriggle, the message is conveyed by internal electrical signals.

This has become a real issue now because of the virtual explosion of wireless technologies used in our homes, workplaces, even our vehicles.

Q. Is there any known solution?

A. There are many advanced technologies that claim to be able to solve these issues. One credible source is a company called Satic Shield, which you can find online. Their philosophy is to take a systems approach and “clean” the frequencies from all seven potential sources of dirty electricity.

 For housing advice and more, listen to the Inside Outside Guys every Saturday and Sunday on News/Talk 760, WJR-AM, from 10 a.m. to noon or contact us at insideoutsideguys.com.