When I last lived in the UK twenty years ago, I had heard about demand switches and occasionally recommended them to clients, but had never needed to use them myself. Now it’s hard to find a home that wouldn’t benefit from having them installed. Let me explain…
In the last 20 years, there has been a wide scale change from using earthed metal conduits for house wiring to using cheaper plastic ones that offer no electromagnetic (EMF) shielding. The result is that many people are now unwittingly exposed to very high levels of EMFs in their homes that can have health effects ranging from general fatigue to life-threatening cancer. The degree to which you are affected will depend on your own sensitivity and the amount of exposure.
One solution is to replace all house wiring with screened or armoured cables, but that’s very expensive. A much more affordable remedy is to install demand switches.
How demand switches work
A demand switch automatically senses when the last electrical appliance or light is turned off in your bedroom and turns off the electricity supply to that room at the fuse box. This means that instead of being radiated by high EMFs while you sleep, you spend the night in zero or very reduced fields.
Last year when we first arrived in the UK, we were fortunate to find a house to rent with the older type of wiring. The electric field in the bedroom was a mere 1 volt per meter (V/m). We had the most blissful sleep.
But finding another such place to move to when our tenancy came to an end proved to be impossible. We looked at dozens of properties to rent or buy, some urban, some rural, some modern, some dated – and didn’t find one that had tolerable levels.
By tolerable, I mean less than 5 V/m in the areas where we would spend the most time, actively or at rest. Some people can tolerate 10 V/m. Most get exhausted, sick or both when continuously exposed to fields of 20 V/m or higher. Many of the prospective homes we looked at had ambient fields of 40 – 60 V/m, and a few were as high as 180 V/m. I’m astonished this is even allowed, but it is.
Most electricians are unaware of the health effects of prolonged or intense exposure to extremely low frequency (ELF) radiation, and very few countries have legislation to enforce safe ambient levels in homes. Government directives are usually based on the amount of electricity it takes to kill a person outright rather than the level of ELFs that can have health effects over time.
Some elevated fields are caused by electrical equipment, but if you turn everything off and they remain high, the usual reason (assuming there is no external cause) is faulty wiring, damp, dimmer switches, or – increasingly common – halogen ceiling lights in the floor below.
How to fit and use demand switches
After much searching, we finally we found a house to rent that had tolerable fields in the living areas but 20-40 V/m in the bedroom, partly due to the halogen lights in the kitchen ceiling below and partly due to all the mains wiring for the upstairs part of the house passing through our bedroom floor. In most other respects the house was fine, so we decided to take it and slept for the first few nights with the mains electricity turned off until we could get demand switches installed.
They have to be fitted by a qualified electrician but are not ridiculously expensive. Automatic demand switches are the best because you can just forget about them, but if you need to reduce the cost a little, the type that are operated manually with a remote control cost a little less. By a process of testing with an EMF meter, we worked out that we needed four demand switches – two for the upstairs lighting and wall sockets, and two for downstairs. As in most homes, our kitchen is on a separate circuit, which is good because it means the fridge can stay on all the time.
So each night now, before going to bed, we simply remember to go around switching off any electrical equipment on the circuits to which demand switches have been fitted, and this brings the electric field in our bedroom to that wonderful 1 V/m we have come to know and love. We sleep like babies!
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