There is one aspect of EMFs that is commonly overlooked.
Electrical wiring errors. New homes, old homes, wiring errors are common in many homes.
So what’s the big deal with these wiring problems?
Why Are EMFs From Electrical Wiring Dangerous?
The big deal is that electrical wiring errors can be a significant source of electromagnetic fields or more precisely ‘power frequency electromagnetic fields’.
Power frequency EMFs have been linked to:
- leukemia (especially in children)
- brain cancer
- breast cancer
- increased risk of miscarriage
- Alzheimer's disease
- reproductive problems and birth defects
- blood disorders,
- heart disease,
- sleeping complaints
- and a host of other ailments.
Wouldn't I Know If I Had Wiring Errors?
A lot of people think that because their electrics appear to be working correctly that they don't have a wiring error. WRONG. Everything may appear to be working correctly but your electrical installation could still be emitting very high levels of magnetic fields. The only way to know is by doing some simple tests with an inexpensive meter.
A few weeks ago I interviewed Electrical Engineer and Building Biology Environmental Consultant Spark Burmaster on the topic of electrical wiring errors.
Why Do You Need A Clamp-On Ammeter?
One of the things I came away with from the interview was the importance of having a clamp-on ammeter for detecting electrical wiring errors. Here's how Spark explained it:
‘Basically, in terms of fixing wiring errors, the Gauss meter is what tells you there’s something going on. But the problem with the Gauss meter with wiring errors is that if one single error can make magnetic fields all over the house.
So you could just have one single wiring error and you can have elevated magnetic fields in three rooms. Therefore, it’s extremely difficult to trace down a wiring error with a Gauss meter.
So the purpose of the Gauss meter is to tell you there’s something wrong. But then you need a clamp-on ammeter to measure current to find what the actual problem is. And then once you fix the problem electrically, use the Gauss meter again to verify that you’ve fixed the problem.‘
Practical Uses Of Clamp-On Ammeter?
So I decided to invest in a clamp-on ammeter. I bought this: Uni-T UT210E True RMS AC/DC Current Mini Clamp Meter.
I experimented with it and then contacted Spark for his advice on the practical uses of it.
‘For that kind of money (ridiculously cheap), specs (1 ma, AC&DC etc.) reviews (85 % 5 star, 13 % 4 star) I ordered one to try out.
The good news is that the unit is small making it easy to carry around. The bad news is that the clamp unit is also small making it difficult to clamp water pipes.
If one is a technical person actually solving a wiring problem, then a current flow clamp-on ammeter is a critical/required component of the equipment used to find and repair wiring problems.
The current flow clamp-on ammeter is used to tell:
- if you have current flow where it is not supposed to be, such as a grounding conductor [green wire in the US] or water pipe.
- if one clamps an electrical cable (hot, neutral ground) and it reads non zero, (with or without a load on) there is a problem.
The 1 milliamp (mA) resolution on this model is a good low end desired specification. All this is mindful of the fact that whoever has their hand on the screwdriver has taken on the responsibility of any results including any damage and getting all intended loads to work at the end. If you are not a screwdriver/electrical person you can use the clamp-on meter to find the existence of errant current flow and thus can show the electrician etc. that there is errant current flow that the electrician needs to get rid of.
Thus you will prove there is a problem, but not what the actual physical problem is and what to do about it, other than leaving offending circuits turned off.
In the USA many times cabling is visible on unfinished basement ceilings. Also many times electrical panels are surface mounted so the cables leading into the panels are accessible for clamping.
Testing For Wiring Errors In An Electrical Panel
Here is a grossly simplified procedure summary to use the clamp-on to trace current flow.
- go to the Electric Panel,
- shut it off [on the main breaker] and use the screw driver to open
- with the whole panel off, cover with insulation material any exposed hot components.
- then test each branch circuit neutral individually.
Detect Wiring Errors With A Clamp-On Ammeter
Clearly having a clamp-on ammeter is very useful in detecting wiring errors. This is NOT about conducting electrical work. It's about being able to detect wiring errors with precision and in an ‘electrician friendly way'. Because if you telephone your electrician and say to him ‘I've got magnetic fields', it's very possible he won't know what your talking about. But if you say I measured my water pipe with my clamp-on and it's got current on it or I measured my grounding conductor and it's got current on it, then he'll understand.
Which Clamp-On Ammeter Should You Buy?
I live in France, electrical current on water pipes is not really an issue (my water pipe is plastic). The Uni-T UT210E is a good choice because I don't need to clamp around my water pipe. But in many parts of the world (notably the US) electrical current on water pipes is a very common problem.
In which case a clamp-on ammeter with a bigger jaw would be more suitable. You can get clamp-on ammeters with jaws over 50 mm wide (compared to 17 mm with the UT210E) but they tend to be pricey. A good compromise is the Fluke 323 True-RMS Clamp Meter Fluke 323CAL which has a 33 mm jaw. Fluke make some excellent meters and this one has particularly good reviews on Amazon.