Electricity is a major pillar on which the world exists today. A large part of our day-to-day lives depends on the presence of electricity — we use it to power our phones, cook, move, and much more.
Dirty power or electrical noise pollutes the usual flow of electricity from your power company. You can test for dirty electricity by using a meter and taking readings from your electric outlets.
This post will show you how to test for dirty power and other things you should know. You can start dealing with your dirty power once you know how to find it. Let’s begin!
What Is Dirty Power?
Before discussing testing for dirty electricity, you should understand what it means. To put it plainly, dirty electricity or voltage transients are abnormal currents in your electric supply. Dirty power is also called electrical pollution.
A standard magnitude of clean power is produced by your electric company and transmitted to your home: 50/60 Hz AC. Dirty electricity refers to pollution in the standard amount of current, which causes it to spike abnormally.
Dirty electricity has a higher magnitude of frequency than the normal amount of current sent to your home. Your power company sends out pure electricity, but it gets corrupted as it travels from home to home.
Your electric supply becomes dirty when it goes through changes as it travels. We mentioned that the power company sends out a pure current, but note that the current passes through different houses and channels before it gets to yours.
Along the path of the current, numerous changes occur. Some homes will raise the current, and some will cause it to drop. So, by the time the current gets to your home, it will have undergone several changes and will contain a high-frequency current called dirty power.
Dirty power is a problem because it affects the current quality of your home. If you expose your electronic equipment to dirty power for a long time, it can damage them, which is one of the leading reasons for faulty appliances in our homes.
How to Test for Dirty Power
To test for dirty power, you need the right instruments and the proper procedure. We will give you a few easy steps you can follow to measure the dirty power in your home accurately.
Get the Right Tools
Dirty power is power with unusually high frequency. You can’t measure dirty power with just any type of meter. Instead, you will need a meter that can measure electromagnetic interference or EMI. Below, we have listed four tools you can use to measure dirty electricity in your home accurately.
An AM radio is one of the best tools for finding dirty power or electromagnetic interference. An AM radio has a dial that you can adjust to the left or right — it reads 500kHz on the left and 2MHz on the right.
With this device, you can easily measure the presence of dirty power. You can do this by taking readings off your circuit panel. You have found dirty power if you notice readings above the regular readings.
You can also use this device to test for EMI in your car.
A Graham-Stetzer meter is another effective way of testing for dirty power. This electric meter can detect frequencies between 10 kHz and 100 kHz, so it will effectively detect dirty power with a frequency above 50/60 Hz.
Although a Graham-Stetzer meter can pick up frequencies, its units are in Graham-Stetzer (GS). The standard power measurement on this device is said to be 60 GS units, but we’ve discovered that this hardly happens.
When we use a Graham-Stetzer meter to check for dirty currents, we hardly get any readings as low as 50 GS units. We’ve learned from experience that an average home will show a rating of more than 50 GS units but less than 200 GS units
If you test your electric circuit with a Graham-Stetzer meter and get a value above 200 GS, you need to filter your power.
Line Noise EMI Meter
Another useful tool for testing dirty power is the Line Noise EMI meter. This tool is similar to the Graham-Stetzer meter but can measure a larger range of frequencies. The GS meter can read frequencies between 10 kHz to 100 kHz, while the Line Noise EMI meter can read 10 kHz to 10 MHz. Also, the meter can convert the frequency readings into volts and gives its reading in millivolts (mV).
When using this meter, the acceptable readings fall between 100mv to 400mV. If you’re getting readings slightly exceeding 400 mV, you don’t need to worry too much. However, if you get a reading above 800mV, you must take measures against dirty power.
Spectrum Analyzer or Oscilloscope
Another interesting device is the oscilloscope, which measures the harmonics in your power supply.
The first and most important step is getting the right tools to check for dirty power. If you don’t have the right tools, you will waste a lot of time getting the wrong readings. If you use a meter that isn’t meant for testing dirty power, you will end up with ridiculously high values, or you might not get a reading.
Now that you have the right meter for the job, you must be systematic when looking for the problem. We will show you the steps to follow to conduct a thorough test in your home.
With Appliances Off
When testing for dirty power, we advise that you start with all your appliances off. If you start testing with all your appliances and sockets off, you are carrying out an elimination process. Also, starting with your appliances off will save you a lot of time.
If you’re getting a high reading of dirty power after turning off all your appliances, it means the problem is from outside. You can easily connect a filter, preferably a wire-in filter, to where the electrical current enters your home.
It is easier to deal with dirty power if it’s coming from outside and not developing inside the home.
With Appliances On
After you’ve tested for dirty power with your appliances off, run another test with your appliances on. You don’t need to do this test if you discover the source of the problem is external. But, if you didn’t detect dirty power after testing with your appliances off, run another test with your appliances on.
If you detect a high level of dirty electricity, it means that your problem is internal. You will need to go through all your appliances and electrical outlets. Depending on the location of the problem, you will need to use a perfect filter.
Installing Dirty Electricity Filters
Once you’ve discovered the source of the dirty power, either internal or external, you will need a filter. These dirty electricity filters are designed to remove or regulate dirty power.
There are two main types based on their operation: wire-in filters and plug-in filters. Wire-in filters are more effective — you need just one to correct both internal and external dirty power sources.
Plug-in filters are cheaper but are not as effective as wire-in filters. You will need multiple plug-in filters if you have more than one source of dirty current. Also, plug-in filters are not effective for external issues.
How to Clean Dirty Power
If you have issues with dirty power, here are some ways to curb it.
Seek Professional Assistance
If you don’t know what to do about dirty power, don’t hesitate to call a professional. Even if you’re sure you can fix the problem, we recommend that you still call a professional, especially if you want to fix filters. Electricity is dangerous, and it is not advisable for non-professionals to fiddle with it.
Use Quality Appliances
One main cause of dirty power is low-quality appliances. Some of these electronic devices have poor power handling, and they end up disrupting the normal flow of current. You can avoid dirty power by using good quality appliances.
Some devices that cause dirty power include microwaves, hair dryers, blenders, TVs, friers, bulbs, printers, fridges, etc.
Replace Smart Meters
Smart meters read the amount of power you use and send this information to your power company. Smart meters are also a common source of dirty power.
You can go back to the analog meter to eliminate the dirty current.
Turn Off Unused Appliances
We mentioned that most appliances cause dirty power, but they can only do so when left on. You can get cleaner power by turning off most of your appliances that are not in use. Learn to switch off things that you’re not using — this will save you from dirty power and huge utility bills.
It is impossible to live without electricity in the world today, and most of our activities revolve around electricity. We use electricity to power our homes, offices, schools, and just about everything around us.
If you use electricity, you’ll always risk getting dirty power. We’ve shown you how to test for dirty power and exactly what it means. You can adopt any of the methods we’ve provided to solve your dirty power issue. You can learn more about dirty power and other unseen forces around us here.