Memorandum No. UCB/ERL M03/3
19 February 2003
ELECTRONICS RESEARCH LABORATORY
College of Engineering
University of California, Berkeley
A MICROSURGE METER FOR ELECTRICAL POLLUTION RESEARCH
Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences Department
University of California, Berkeley
Electrical pollution is an environmental problem in which the environment of concern is the space within a few feet of the human. Harmful currents flow through humans without humans making direct contact with conductors. The distance between humans and wires in homes is small compared to the distance between humans and the wires of the electric utility distribution systems. Since an electric field decreases rapidly with the distance from the conductor, measurement and mitigation should concentrate on the immediate environment, which might be referred to as a microenvironment.
Many homes have employed the mitigation techniques described in "Mitigation of Electrical Pollution in the Home" (Appendix A). Many of the occupants of these homes have reported a reduction of the symptoms described in "A Ubiquitous Pollutant" (Appendix B). The improvement usually occurred within days after the installation of the capacitors, which reduce the high frequency electric fields associated with the wiring in their homes without reducing the 60 Hz electric fields.
High frequency transients are often referred to as surges, and information on them and their harmful effect on electrical equipment, but not on humans, is on utility web sites (Appendix C). Information on the source of these surges and how to mitigate them is also on utility web sites (Appendix D).
The instrument described in "A Ubiquitous Pollutant" measures the heating effect of the transients. The effects of transient electrical fields on humans are related more to their peak amplitude and is cumulative. One large transient can convert a fibrillating heart to normal rhythm in seconds. Many small transients can have more subtle effects which develop over a period of time, and can be life threatening.
A combined filter and peak detector designed to measure the level of pollution is shown in Appendix E. It should cost less than $40. The total cost of the filter and peak detector together with the associated D.C. Voltmeter should be less than $90. This instrument can be used to determine the level of pollution at electrical outlets in a home and whether the pollution source is in the home or in a neighbor's home or in the electrical utility. When all the electrical loads in a home are turned off the pollution reading is due to sources outside the home. Steady readings of over 400 milivolts D.C. should be a cause for concern.
An individual can do research in electrical pollution be observing the relation of the electrical pollution level with how they feel. The observation is most meaningful when a large change in the electrical pollution level occurs over a short period of time. An individual can reduce the electrical pollution from a high level to a low level using the techniques described in "Mitigating Electrical Pollution in the Home." Some diabetic individuals experience a change in their monitored blood glucose levels when the electrical pollution level changes, and this is a recognized clinical measurement.
Appendices C, D, E are large files and may take a little while to download. You might want to start the next one downloading as you are reading the previous one.
(This information can also be found at www.powerhousetv.com/basics/powersurges/index.php3. It is an Alliant Energy informational leaflet entitled "Energy Basics: Power Surges." Read through the information under all 6 headings.
(This information can also be found on the Pacific Gas and Electric Companies website on power quality www.pge.com/002_biz_svc/002c1f_emi_prob.shtml which talks about the problems created for electronics by capacitive coupling to powerline "noise" created by variable-frequency drive (VFD).)
(This is the filter schematic for the microsurge meter.)