Solar energy has been growing in popularity in recent years. The environmental and financial benefits of solar energy make this an attractive option for a lot of people. Solar panels don’t produce the pollution of coal, and modern systems are capable of generating and storing ample amounts of clean electricity. And while the units are expensive to install, it isn’t long before the cost savings begin to kick in.
There’s no doubt that solar energy is better for the environment and your bank account, but everything has a drawback and solar panels are no exception. Solar panels and their related equipment produce electric and magnetic field (EMF) radiation. And EMF radiation has been linked to various health problems.
Solar panels do a lot of good, but there are risks involved, too. To help you decide if those risks are worth taking, we’ve broken down some solar panel basics. If you do decide to go solar — or if you already have — we’ve also included a few things you can do to lower your exposure to solar panel radiation.
Solar panels and EMF radiation
Solar panels take energy from sunlight and turn it into electricity. This electricity is not immediately usable by your home — it must first pass through wires and into what’s called an inverter. The inverter converts electricity from its raw form to 120-volt energy that is usable by the devices in your home.
Most of the time, the solar panel will generate more electricity than your home can use at any given moment. Most people opt to store the excess in batteries, to be used at a later time when it’s dark or cloudy out and the sunlight isn’t readily available. When the panel produces more than can be stored, however, many then opt to sell the excess to their local electric company for a profit. This is one way in which solar energy can pay for itself over time, and it’s a major draw of the technology — being able to make a profit from sunlight.
In order to send the electricity to the power company, the electricity goes from the inverter through a power line. The electricity generated is monitored via the use of a smart meter. These smart meters wirelessly transmit usage and power data to the electric company, allowing them to receive data without having to manually check a meter.
Most components of this process are pretty safe. The solar panels themselves produce minimal amounts of extra-low frequency (ELF) EMF radiation. The amount is negligible compared to what is produced by a power line. The bigger problem lies in two places: the transfer of electricity from the inverter to your home, and the meter used by the electric company to track how much electricity you send to them.
In spite of their convenience, smart meters are actually pretty problematic, especially for your health. These meters use radiofrequency (RF) waves to communicate with a handheld device. A worker from the electric company only needs to drive through your neighborhood, and they are able to pick up readings from the meter.
It’s the RF waves that are the issue — RF is a form of EMF radiation. Smart meters emit RF-EMF radiation in exceptionally high doses. This radiation is then transmitted to the surrounding areas, including your yard, patio, and even inside the walls of your house.
It may not be immediately apparent whether or not you have a smart meter installed. If in doubt, contact your electric company and ask them what kind of meters they use. Your best bet would be to speak to a technician or department manager, as the desk clerk may not know.
The other radiation risk when it comes to solar panels is dirty electricity. When more electricity is available than is used, dirty electricity is the result. Dirty electricity is a significant generator of ELF radiation, and it is created during the conversion process in your invertor.
It is the job of the invertor to take the energy from the panel and convert it into something that is usable in your home. The panels create energy in direct current (DC), whereas your home relies on alternating current (AC). Going from lower-voltage DC to higher-voltage AC results in the creation of dirty electricity. Over time, the amount of dirty electricity created becomes substantial.
Why you should be concerned
EMF radiation has been deemed a potential carcinogen by the World Health Organization’s International Association for Cancer Research. Both ELF and RF radiation have been linked to different forms of cancer. One study found a link between the proximity to a power line of a child’s birth address and childhood leukemia. Power lines produce substantial levels of ELF-EMF radiation. Another study found that exposure to RF radiation resulted in malignant heart and brain tumors in rats.
Health conditions such as glioma, male infertility, and miscarriages have been associated with EMF radiation exposure. Those individuals who are highly sensitive to radiation may also experience symptoms such as nausea, confusion, dizziness, fatigue, and depression when in high-EMF areas. Symptoms typically alleviate when the individual is in a lower-EMF area.
Minimizing exposure to solar panel radiation
There are definite risks to EMF exposure. If you’ve read through them and are still interested in going solar — or if you’ve already gone solar and are just looking for ways to reduce your risks — there are a few things you can do. You can’t mitigate the risk entirely, but you can drastically reduce your family’s exposure.
Your first step should be to purchase a high-quality EMF meter. Look for one that is capable of detecting electric, magnetic, and RF radiation. You can tell this by looking at what frequencies the device is capable of detecting. The lower range (up to 3,000 Hz) is extra low frequency magnetic and electric field radiation. The higher range (20KHz up to 300GHz) is the radiofrequency range. When trying to detect radiation from your solar panels and associated equipment, you will need to be able to detect both ELF and RF-EMF radiation.
We typically recommend the TriField TF2, which can detect electric, magnetic, and RF radiation with reasonable accuracy. It’s easy to use and is generally well-received by reviewers.
Once you’ve purchased an EMF meter, you will use it to check your before-and-after EMF levels when making adjustments to your home and solar panel set-up. You can do this by taking and recording measurements prior to making the change, and then repeating the process afterward. If your change was successful, you should note a reduction in EMF levels.
Smart meter covers
If you’ve determined that your set-up includes a smart meter, or if you’re interested in selling electricity back to the utility company, you need to find some way to combat the emissions from the smart meter. There are a couple of things you can do, the first of which is buy a smart meter cover. These covers go over the outside of your smart meter, blocking EMF radiation from your outdoor space.
One great option is by Smart Meter Guard. This drum-like cover fastens easily over the outside of your meter. It’s not so thick that the signal can’t pass through, but thick enough to keep the radiation contained. Overall, it’s the the easiest way to combat outdoor EMF radiation from a smart meter.
You can even make your own smart meter cover using aluminum foil or another EMF-repellant material. You won’t want to cover the entire smart meter — use a meter or aluminum mesh so the signal can still pass through — but you can easily cover the sides and at least greatly reduce the amount of EMF emitted.
In addition to using a smart meter cover, it’s also wise to use some kind of barrier inside your home. The smart meter broadcasts EMF radiation back through the walls of your house and into the living space. To combat this, there are EMF-repellant barriers and EMF-repellant paints that help keep EMF from leaking through your home’s walls. Apply the paint or hang the barrier on the opposite side of the wall from the smart meter.
Barriers can be purchased for around $17 per sheet. You can also make one for relatively cheap, using materiel that repels EMFs, such as aluminum foil. You will also need a material that absorbs EMFs, such as copper. The materials can be laid back-to-back and hung up on the wall.
If you opt to go with paint, we typically recommend Woremor’s 5-liter RF-shielding paint. Two applications will block up to 99.998% of EMFs.
Dirty electricity meters and filters
In addition to smart meter covers, you should also consider using a dirty electricity meter and filter. The meters detect how much dirty electricity is present in the wiring of your home. You only really need one — you can plug it into multiple rooms to see if one is higher than the others. You can use this to test the efficacy of the dirty electricity filters. The filters help dissipate some of the excess electricity present in your home’s wiring. If you use solar energy, you will likely have a decent amount.
Greenwave makes an excellent dirty electricity meter and filter. The meter is easy to use and displays the amount of dirty electricity present in your home. It also has an audio feature that allows you to hear the dirty electricity.
You can purchase Greenwave’s filters individually or in packs of 2, 5, 8, 12, 16 or 24. Most average-sized rooms need two filters, although larger rooms may require more. These filters are especially nice because they feature a built-in plug at the base of the filter, so you don’t lose any outlet real estate. Simply plug them in and watch the numbers on the dirty electricity meter drop.
Reduce your home’s overall EMF levels
In addition to the steps above, if you are going to use solar panels it’s also wise to take steps to lower your home’s overall EMF radiation levels. It’s the cumulative exposure that is particularly dangerous, so anything you can do to reduce that exposure is huge.
There are several changes you can make to reduce your home’s levels — some are fairly easy, and some take a little more effort. On the simpler side, you could swap out your LED and CFLs for incandescent bulbs. Or put a router guard over your wireless router. If you’re willing to put in a little more effort, hardwiring your internet connection is one way to significantly reduce your home’s levels. You can also check and see if your utility company uses a smart meter to monitor gas or water usage, and install a smart meter cover if so.
Your EMF meter is a very useful tool when it comes to lowering your home’s levels. Go through your home from room to room and take measurements along the way. Note the levels in the living areas and the heavily trafficked spots of the house. Then, make some of the adjustments suggested above and retest your levels.
If you’re on the fence about solar technology, familiarize yourself with some of the risks involved before making a decision. Solar panels have many benefits, but they also produce potentially dangerous EMF radiation. That radiation has been linked to serious health problems.
If you do decide to give solar energy a try, there are things you can do to make the technology safer. A smart meter cover is a must-have item if your electric company is using one. And dirty electricity meters and filters are quite effective at reducing the amount of dirty electricity — and therefore, ELF-EMF radiation — present in your home. Use a high-quality EMF meter to detect the before-and-after levels when you make any changes.
Solar panels are becoming increasingly common, and hopefully, as the technology grows and new products are developed, the amount of dirty electricity produced will be reduced. In the meantime, however, taking simple steps to protect yourself is the best way to safely enjoy the technology.