The Physics
Factbook
An encyclopedia of scientific essays

Electric Field Inside a Typical US Home

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Bibliographic Entry Result
(w/surrounding text)
Standardized
Result
US Congress, Office of Technology Assessment. Biological Effects of Power Frequency Electric & Magnetic Fields. Washington, DC: US GPO, 1989. "Exposure Situation: Household Background
Body- Averaged Surface Field (kV/m): 0.001–0.01"
1–10 N/C
National Research Council. Possible Health Effects of Exposure to Residential Electric and Magnetic Fields. Washington, DC: National Academy, 1997. "Very little information is available on the ambient exposure levels to environmental electric fields other than the rms measurements of field strength. Those might vary from 5 to 10 volts per meter (V/m) in a residential setting to as high as 10 kilovolts per meter (kV/m) directly under power transmission lines." 5–10 N/C
Dingell, John D. Electric & Magnetic Fields: Hearing Before the Subcommittee on Energy and Commerce. Washington: US GPO, 1993. "At locations away from appliances and machinery, the levels of 60-Hz electric field in residences, work environments, and public places are typically in the range of 5 to 50 volts per meter." 5–50 N/C
Electrical and Magnetic Fields. Hamilton Hydro. "Since 1977, scientific panels and government bodies have conducted 84 reviews of EMF science … The strength of an electric field increases with voltage. Electric fields are measured in kilovolts per meter (kV/m). Typical electric field levels in the home and at work are less than 0.1 kV/m (kilovolt per meter). Electric fields within one foot of small appliances are in the range of 0.02 to 0.2 kV/m, while the field immediately adjacent to the heating wires of an electric blanket can approach 10 kV/m." < 100 N/C
Kuykendall, Joyce. Just the Facts 24-002-0893 Extremely Low Frequency and Very Low Frequency Electric and Magnetic Field Emissions From Video Display Terminals. Laser Microwave Division US Army Environmental Hygiene Agency, Aberdeen Proving Ground. "Source: Home Background
Electric Field (kV/m): 0.001–0.01"
1–10 N/C

An electric field is the area surrounding a charged particle where an electric force exists to attract and repel other charged particles. As long as electricity is present within wires or appliances, an electric field occurs. The physics definition of an electric field is force divided by charge. The unit of measurement is newtons per coulomb or volts per meter.

The electric field is strongest within the immediate area of the appliance or wiring and then the intensity of the field drops as the distance between the observer and object increases. Appliances such as an electric blanket generally have a higher field with 10,000 N/C.

More and more people are concerned with the health effects of an electric field. The high intensity of electric fields is being investigated to determine whether it could be a cause to cancers and miscarriages. Since electric fields tend to be much lower within a house than outside near transmission lines, there is no immediate risk. Nevertheless, prolonged exposure to electric appliances and with the addition of magnetic fields would be harmful to the health. Electric fields can be easily shielded from the human body because they do not pass through solids very well. That is why electric fields from appliances and wiring affect only the skin and not deep into the internal organs. The fields produces charges along the surface of the body and no evidence has been discovered to accredit the accusations.

It is inevitable that living in a technology advanced world, there would be drawbacks due to the increased usage of electricity. This in turn increases the number of electric fields in the home.

Lisa Chan -- 2001