Hundreds of papers and reports have been written over the past five decades regarding negative health effects of electromagnetic fields, but much work remains to be done. One important topic where relatively little research has been done is that of safe and healthy housing. We are surrounded by a toxic soup of electromagnetic fields, so one focus of the Healthy Housing Research Institute (HHRI) will be to investigate methods of reducing the interior fields inside a house. If the house construction reflects or absorbs most of the exterior fields, then those with Electromagnetic HyperSensitivity (EHS) can heal while inside the house. Those with mild EHS might still be able to work at a regular job, if they can just get a decent night's sleep.
Anyone who has ever built a house is painfully aware of the hundreds of decisions that must be made. Many involve research into competing alternatives. For example: Should it be adobe, straw bale, Insulated Concrete Forms, or stick built? We read literature, watch videos, compare prices, and make an informed decision. The same is true for any house built by the HHRI, where we must rely on other people's original research. In some cases, however, we must do the original research ourselves. The following is a list of research areas and tentative decisions made for the HHRI first experimental house.
The tentative size is 2040 sq. ft. (34' by 60'), ranch style (single story, no stairs), slab on grade, metal roof, four bedroom, each bedroom with its own bathroom. It will be permitted as a single family house. The size and style is reasonably consistent with other new housing in Rockvale. Location is at the upper end of a box canyon. There will be a covered porch (8' by 60') on the north side, facing the open end of the canyon, which frames a nice view of Pike's Peak, about 30 miles away. One other house is visible from this location, about a quarter mile away. I hope to occupy one bedroom. The other three bedrooms will be available to those with EHS for a nominal fee. Their self reported reactions to living in this house could be an important part of another research effort.
The wall surface needs to reflect as much of the incoming toxic electromagnetic soup as possible. This immediately suggests using metal siding, which has been used for agricultural buildings for many decades and is not uncommon for house siding. It is fire resistant, an important consideration for houses built in a juniper 'forest'. Good quality siding is also hail resistant. It is claimed that the painted finish will last at least 50 years. Several agricultural building manufacturers have adapted their metal roof, metal siding buildings for the housing market, so this type of construction is readily available at reasonable costs. Standard metal skin housing leaks EM signals through all the windows, doors, cracks, and seams, so the research activity will be finding the best methods to bond all the metal strips together and how to do the window screens. Most likely, there will be two window screens, one of aluminum and one of stainless steel. With careful attention to detail, the interior fields can be reduced substantially.
The tentative plan is to use Morton Buildings to build the shell of the house. They send in an experienced crew with a truckload of posts, trusses, and pre-cut panels. When they leave, it looks like a complete house from the outside, with all doors and windows in place. The inside, however, is totally bare and empty. Only the exterior walls are load bearing so there are no posts or columns inside. Local subcontractors then come in to do the interior walls, plumbing, electrical, etc. It appears that this plan will be the easiest and least expensive method of getting the first house in place, recognizing some disadvantages. The Morton wall will have relatively little thermal mass, highly desirable in a passive solar house. Insulation will be adequate, but might be better with other wall systems. Other technologies will definitely be considered for any additional houses.
Some external fields will leak into the interior of the house in spite of our best efforts to prevent this from happening. There is also the possibility of the house wiring, lighting, and computers producing unwanted fields inside the house. A signal source inside a metal box can set up what is called a standing wave pattern, where there will be 'hot spots' of much higher field strength than would be seen if the source were outside in open air. For this reason, it appears essential to place a good absorbing material throughout the house. The best material is water. Its absorbing properties enable microwave ovens to work. Interior walls made of stacked gallon containers of water would soak up any stray fields very nicely. However, stability and leak concerns force us to look for another absorbing material.
We will test the use of steel mill slag as an absorbing material. It is readily available as road base from a steel plant in Pueblo. It can be used either loose or as aggregate in concrete. In this first house, the loose slag would be placed in interior non load bearing walls with a conveyor belt. These would be conventional 2" by 4" stud walls on 16" centers, covered with sturdy sheetrock to within a foot or so of the ceiling. The top of the conveyor belt would be inserted into the gap between studs and the ceiling. The conveyor belt would be fed by wheelbarrow loads of road base, a messy, dirty, and tedious task! Once the cavities are full, the openings can be closed with more sheetrock. Measurements of interior field strengths will be made before and after the walls are filled with slag. The slag will serve three different purposes: absorbing material, thermal mass, and sound deadening between rooms.
Moving slag in wheelbarrows might be acceptable for a single research house, but using slag as aggregate in concrete would be preferred in successive houses. The exterior walls (and perhaps the interior walls also) would be concrete. The exterior walls would be covered with insulation, then metal siding. The house would have considerably more absorbing material in the walls, leading to even lower interior field strengths. Considerable theoretical and experimental work on the absorbing ability of slag in concrete was done in 2012 and 2013 concrete.pdf and concrete2.pdf. Results were very positive. But the next step would be to build a batch plant capable of making concrete to precise recipes in several cubic yard quantities. We need to determine a 'good' recipe for the concrete before pouring walls for a house. A cubic yard or so of a particular recipe would be made and samples taken for compression breaking tests. The remainder would be used for something like retaining wall blocks. It could easily require the testing of 20 or more different recipes before we are convinced that we have a concrete with adequate compression strength that will make decent looking walls. Then we pour the walls of a cabin and evaluate the appearance and the absorbing ability. The recipe could get tweaked again for the next cabin, and so on. We might be able to build a small batch plant on the cheap for $50,000. The cost and space commitment for a batch plant is such that we need to be very confident that we have the funds and approvals to build several cabins before taking this step.
AC OR DC?
Back in the 1890s, the War of the Currents was fought between Tesla and Edison. Tesla had invented the AC system, which allowed electrical power to be stepped up in voltage, sent long distances across country from a large generating plant, and stepped back down in voltage for household use. Edison's main argument against AC was that it was hazardous to our health. Tesla won the battle, not because it was more safe but because it was cheaper. A growing fraction of us are now convinced that Edison was right! In my own case, an hour spent in a 10 milligauss 60 Hz magnetic field will make me quite ill. I know people who become ill in magnetic fields a hundred times smaller or even less. The decision to use only DC is therefore quick and easy. The house will be off grid, powered by photovoltaic panels and batteries. The price of PV panels has dropped drastically in the past few years, making the decision even easier.
The next decision is the voltage level, 12 V, 24 V, etc. As it happens, there are economic benefits to society if we switch to DC. Much of the electrical load inside our homes and offices is now native DC, requiring a AC to DC converter which is usually not very efficient. If all this load could be plugged directly into DC at the wall outlet, we could reduce our total electrical consumption by perhaps 3 percent. This is a large number to the people concerned about keeping the lights on, so there is considerable incentive to make it happen. There is a group working on this for the past several years, which can be found at www.EmergeAlliance.org. Their decision is to use 24 V for electronic devices and 380 V for the heavy loads. Eventually, the power supplies of computers, monitors, and the like will be redesigned so the devices will plug directly into 24 VDC rather than 120 VAC. I see no reason to argue with the EmergeAlliance decision, so the house will have two sets of wiring, one for 24 VDC and the other for 380 VDC. It will take years for the electrical codes to catch up, so the 380 VDC wiring may be installed as 120 VAC to get past the inspector. The same cable will work for either voltage, so there will be minimal pain in switching from 120 VAC (mostly unused and disconnected at the source) to 380 VDC at some point in the future. See electrical.pdf for some additional thoughts.
The house will be oriented east-west and will have the recommended roof overhang on the south, and the recommended window sizes on all sides, to utilize passive solar as much as possible. The slab floor and foundation will be well insulated and will serve as thermal mass, along with the road base in the interior walls. The bedrooms will be on the north side of the house and will need supplemental heat. I will probably use hot water tubing in the concrete slab, with the water heated by a propane boiler in the utility room. Each room will need its own thermostat in a zoned system.
Swamp coolers work quite well in this high desert with low humidity. I have been using a 24 VDC swamp cooler, powered by PV panels and batteries for several years in my office/lab in Rockvale, and it works quite well. Each bedroom will have its own swamp cooler, wall mounted on the north side, under the porch roof.
Incandescent bulbs work well for most people with EHS, but are being phased out by government order, and use a large amount of energy compared with flourescents and light emitting diodes (LEDs), so will not be considered for this house. Flourescent bulbs tend to pulse on and off 120 times per second, which affects some people. The modern electronic ballasts tend to put 'dirty electricity' back onto the wiring. The same noise appears in the light itself. The bulbs contain mercury, a very toxic element in our bodies. These facts are more than adequate to reject their use in this house. That leaves LEDs as the only practical choice. LED bulbs that directly replace incandescent bulbs are readily available at any big box store. They consume less than a fourth as much power input for the same light output as incandescents. The problem is that at least some manufacturers use internal power supplies in the base of each bulb that put out large amounts of 'dirty electricity'. My Stetzer meter would jump from 30 units to over 400 units when one of these bulbs was turned. Then I saw on the Internet that Phillips LED bulbs were different. I tested a 60 watt (equivalent) version that did not change the Stetzer meter at all. The light output was constant about 80 percent of the time, then would drop down to about half light and back up the other 20 percent, at 120 Hz. I suspect that many with EHS would function quite well while using this type of Phillips bulb. Phillips makes dozens of different LED bulbs, so one needs to watch out for models that do not work as well.
Another version of LEDs is a strip, perhaps 5, 10, or 20 meters long and about 1 cm wide, that has perhaps 60 LEDs per meter. The strips have equalizing resistors and internal connections in the copper traces to allow the strip to operate on 12 VDC or 24 VDC. If we have a 24 VDC wiring system connected to an equivalent 24 VDC battery, then an LED strip connected to this supply will have a smooth output, no 'dirty electricity', no 120 Hz component. I have built half a dozen 'luminaires' with LED strips, some in daily use for several years, and consider them a good choice for lighting in this first house. Test results for some early work are in the .pdf document ledlighting.pdf.