RF Measuring Equipment
Guide to Selecting & Using Electromagnetic Field Measurement Instruments for RF Radio Frequency Surveys
RF RADIO FREQUENCY DETECTION METERS - CONTENTS:Description & Evaluation of several low-cost RF (radio frequency) measurement instruments - measuring cell phone & cell tower or TV or radio, marine radar, signal tower or signal strength & field exposure - Special tips for using individual electromagnetic field survey RF measurement devices. BK RF Measurement Test Equipment. Mobile Design Shipboard RF Measurements. Safe Living RF Meters - Radio Frequency Detectors. Zap Checker Radio Frequency Detection
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Radio Frequency (RF) Field Measurement Instrument Choices:
This article describes low-cost RF radio frequency electromagnetic field survey measurement instruments useful for performing electromagnetic field RF field detection and level measurements either by engaging a professional or by consumers using low-cost instruments which measure radio frequency level and direction.
We include higher frequency RF measurement instruments such as used for measuring in the marine radar frequency range.
RF Radio Frequency Field Strength Measurement Instruments - Examples
Specific RF measurement tools (radio, TV, cell tower, microwaves) are described and their sources listed here - instruments suitable for radio, TV, cellphone, microwave, and similar signals.
Before buying an EMF or RF test instrument, in order to make sure that the device you are buying is the right one for the hazard you are trying to measure, see EMF RF FIELD & FREQUENCY DEFINITIONS for a simple explanation of different types of radio frequency (RF) and electromagnetic frequency (EMF) types and where they are found.
The information provided here is for research and study purposes. The author makes no representation of unique
expertise on this topic, other than having field experience in EMF measurement, having studied technical literature and
having conversed with other experts and authors in the field for a number of years.
is has not been sanctioned nor technically reviewed by the American Society of Home Inspectors nor the American Industrial Hygiene Association - AIHA. Use it at your own risk.
What's the difference between radio frequency (RF) and electromagnetic frequency (EMF)?
While EMF or electromagnetic field low frequency 60 cycle or 60 Hertz signals are associated with power transmission lines and household wiring or appliances, higher frequency RF equipment includes radio and television signals, radio towers, TV towers, cell towers, cellular telephone signals, Wi-Fi signals, bluetooth radio signals, GSM, Radar, DECT, UMTS, WLAN, and all other wireless communication signals.
The cell phone tower in our photo (left) is located in Westchester County, New York. Exposure of electromagnetic radiation from cell towers is normally a separate question from EMR exposure from use of cellphones themselves.
The devices listed just below are for detection and measurement of higher frequency RF or radio frequency detection and measurement. For low frequency EMF (power line type) electromagnetic field detection and measurement, see Evaluation of Low-Cost EMF Instruments.
Where to Buy RF Radio Frequency Monitoring or Measuring Equipment
In these articles we list manufacturers and suppliers of RF and EMF measuring equipment. These devices are readily available from many electrical equipment and home inspection equipment suppliers. Don't contact InspectAPedia to buy equipment - we do not sell anything.
See Evaluation of Low-Cost EMF Instruments This article describes several low-cost and reasonably accurate EMF measurement devices that are readily available suitable for measuring EMF from power transmission lines or home electrical wiring and appliances.
See Radio Frequency RF Detection Meters This article describes several low-cost and accurate radio frequency or RF detection and measurement devices suitable for radio, TV, cellphone, microwave, and similar signals.
BK RF Measurement Test Equipment Models & Manufacturers
BK Precision 103 - 1MHz to 3.0GHz Handheld Frequency Counter/Strength Meter for measuring RF radio frequency strength
BK Precision 104 - 10Hz to 3.0GHz Handheld Frequency Counter/Strength Meter for measuring RF radio frequency strength
BK Precision 106 - 30MHz to 2.8GHz Handheld Frequency Counter/Strength Meter for measuring RF radio frequency strength
B&K Precision offers a variety of instruments to test and characterize RF and microwave devices operating from DC to 8.5 GHz. Here is the company's general product description:
RF Field Strength Meters detect the electric field of radio and microwave signals and measure the electric field strength. Field strength meters provide field technicians and engineers with a cost-effective measurement tool for basic signal investigations at only a fraction of the cost of a full-featured conventional spectrum analyzer.
Handheld RF Field Strength Analyzers are ideal tools for field testing, installing and maintaining Mobile Telecommunications systems such as Cellular and Cordless Phone, CB Paging, Paging, Cable and Satellite TV Systems and performing antenna site measurements and maintenance.
Marine Radar RF Measurement Test Equipment & Measuring Meters
Reader Question: where can I buy an instrument to detect & measure my exposure to radar signals?
2016/03/07 Marine Radar Units said:
I am a lock and Dam Operator. Recently I was told to start having the pilots of these tow boats put there radars in stand by mode. If they are on, lime they have been for the last 6 years I have been working that they pose a heath hazard to us since we normally work with in 10 foot of these things and are pretty much at eye level with them.
I read the above article in hopes of finding a tool to measure the amount of radiation we are exposed to but didn't find what I was looking for. I may have missed it. Can you help me out. Thanks
[Click to enlarge any image] Above, the Bonanza HFW59D_High_Frequency_RF_Meter
Thanks for the questions L&DO:
Radar operates in higher end of "Ultra High Frequency" into the lower end of the "Extremely High Frequency EHF - Microwaves" range given in the table in our article above. That is 30-300 Gigahertz GHz - 109 up to 1012. I'd say in general radar measurement instruments need to measure from 2 GHZ t0 10 GHZ.
From a quick search and quoting from Rice Electronics www.ricelectronics.com, we found this about the radio frequency of marine radar:
There are two basic marine radar frequencies commonly known as "X" and "S" band. "X" band, because of its higher frequency, 10 GHz provides a higher resolution and a crisper image while "S" band, at 3 GHz is less affected by rain and fog.
That means you'd need a measuring instrument that measures field strength in that frequency range. Or a radar receiver. Low frequency "gauss meters" popular at electronics suppliers are not suitable. In fact there are measuring instruments for every RF range, but you may find that in the radar range, say 3 - 10 Gigahertz, they'll be a bit pricey.
The HFW59D High Frequency RF Meter from Bonanza - EMR Shielding Solutions can measure up to 10GHz ... It can measure upper radar frequencies used in air traffic control, ships, military and traffic monitoring. This instrument costs about $1,200. You can contact the company at http://www.bonanza.com/
Perhaps you can find a source to rent the device, though considering your exposure you might want longer term or even continuous monitoring since otherwise you may not know whose radar is on or off as boats come through your lock.
Mobile Design Shipboard RF Measurements
Special difficulties ensue in making microwave measurements on Navy ships, including cramped space, multiple RF sources, and many sources of RF interference.
Hand-held instruments for shipboard RF measurements are provided by Mobile Design at
We agree with the company's instrument use advice, in particular using the instrument in a consistent, standard, repeatable manner, and taking into account background signals and other sources of interference.
Sources: Zap Checker - http://www.zapchecker.com/ - Alan Broadband,
751 Laurel St #12,
San Carlos, CA 94070
Safe Living RF Meters - Radio Frequency Detectors
Safe Living RF Meter - 27 MHz - 6 GHz, detecting cellular telephone signals, Wi-Fi signals, bluetooth radio signals, GSM, Radar,DECT, UMTS, WLAN, and all other wireless communication signals
Technologies Inc., 34 Queen Street P.O. Box 72 Morriston, Ontario N0B 2C0 Canada Phone: 519-240-8735 Fax: 519-821-5724
The Zap Checker - a series of hand-held ultra-sensitive instruments intended to detect and display radio frequency (RF) signals over varying spans of radio frequency range. Instrument prices range from around $160 to $2800. (March 2010). The company describes the Zap Checker as a counter surveillance, bug detector, field strength meter. Here is the company's general product line description:
All Zap Checker models are easy to use, small, handheld products with internal fixed antennas which require no adjustments. All models employ linear (regular) as well as logarithmic (compressed) amplification and detection. Each model has an analog meter and LED display. (The LED displays are visible from a distance and at night time.)
Most Zap Checkers have an audio output to hear signal strength levels and identify sources by their characteristic sounds. Some products have a switch enabled silent vibrator. The more professional models employ specialized external antennas and, in the case of the ABC 126, a high frequency band that filters out noise and interfering signals to allow for the highly sensitive detection of signals above 1.5 GHz. The ABC 126 also has a USB output connection for distant monitoring, remote powering and accessory switching.
Zap Checker Model ZC 185 - 3MHz to 5 GHz
Zap Checker Model ZC 190B - 1MHz to 8 GHz
Zap Checker Model ZC 300 - 1MHz to 8 GHz with connector for special filtering antennas, directional logging
Zap Checker Model ZC 126 - 1 MHz to 14 GHz bandwidth professional RF testing instrument, omni directional, high sensitivity, -90 dBm @ 2.4 GHz, -80 dBm @ 5.8 GHz, -60 dBM @ 12 GHz
Instead of contacting us with a request to perform RF Radio Frequency Field Strength measurements, in most cases it is more economical and convenient for a property owner to purchase their own instrument, making measurements under varying conditions. In this series of articles we describe how to make measurements using a consistent approach and using good documentation.
Following good procedure and using instruments properly are two steps towards making accurate, repeatable RF measurements. But because the signal transmission for RF sources is not under control of an individual property owner, and because the field strength varies as the signal transmission activity varies, it is important to have an idea of that condition as well when attempting to characterize RF exposure at a specific location.
Please do not contact us with a request buy electronic measuring equipment. We do not sell anything. To do so would be a conflict of interest for this website. These devices are readily available from many electrical equipment and home inspection equipment suppliers.
Reader Question: hazards of open doors on microwave ovens
(Jan 8, 2013) Dennis Lee said:
Does the use of two separate 'open door' microwave ovens interference field increase the chances of causing ill health ?
I had a chat with some of my friends and we said yes. What do you think ?
Dennis, the U.S. FDA, back in 1997, issued safety guidance regarding open microwave oven doors - a safety and health hazard that can occur if the microwave oven is not wired properly.
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"Questions and Answers about Biological Effects and Potential Hazards of Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields", Federal Communications Commission, Office of Engineering and Technology, US FCC, OET Bulleting 56, 4th Edition, August 1999
" Many consumer and industrial products and applications make use of some form of
electromagnetic energy. One type of electromagnetic energy that is of increasing importance
worldwide is radiofrequency (or "RF") energy, including radio waves and microwaves, which
is used for providing telecommunications, broadcast and other services. In the United States
the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) authorizes or licenses most RF
telecommunications services, facilities, and devices used by the public, industry and state and
local governmental organizations. Because of its regulatory responsibilities in this area the
FCC often receives inquiries concerning whether there are potential safety hazards due to
human exposure to RF energy emitted by FCC-regulated transmitters. Heightened awareness
of the expanding use of RF technology has led some people to speculate that "electromagnetic
pollution" is causing significant risks to human health from environmental RF electromagnetic
fields. This document is designed to provide factual information and to answer some of the
most commonly asked questions related to this topic." - original source: U.S. Federal Communications Commission Office of Engineering and Technology, http://www.fcc.gov/Bureaus/Engineering_Technology/Documents/bulletins/oet56/oet56e4.pdf
"Magnetic Field Exposure and Cancer: Questions and Answers [ copy on file as /emf/EMF_Fact_Sheet_NCI_NIH.pdf ] - ," National Cancer Institute, U.S. National Institutes of Health, web search September 2010, original source: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/magnetic-fields
makes these five key points about EMF
Electric and magnetic fields (EMF) are areas of energy that surround any electrical device. EMFs are produced by power lines, electrical wiring, and appliances (see Question 1).
Electric fields are easily shielded or weakened by walls and other objects, whereas magnetic fields are not. Since magnetic fields are more likely to penetrate the body, they are the component of EMFs that are usually studied in relation to cancer (see Question 1).
Overall, there is limited evidence that magnetic fields cause childhood leukemia, and there is inadequate evidence that these magnetic fields cause other cancers in children (see Question 2).
Studies of magnetic field exposure from power lines and electric blankets in adults show little evidence of an association with leukemia, brain tumors, or breast cancer (see Question 3).
Past studies of occupational magnetic field exposure in adults showed very small increases in leukemia and brain tumors. However, more recent, well-conducted studies have shown inconsistent associations with leukemia, brain tumors, and breast cancer (see Question 4).
US Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Pesticides
and Toxic Substances, TSCA Assistance Office (TS-799), 800-424-9065
"Evaluation of Potential Carcinogenicity of Electromagnetic Fields,"
EPA Report #EPA/600/6-90/005B October 1990. EPA: 513/569-7562.
"Biological Effects of Power Frequency Electric and Magnetic Fields"
background paper, prepared as part of OTA's assessment of "Electric Power
Wheeling and Dealing: Technological Considerations for Increasing Competition,"
prepared for OTA by Indira Nair, M. Granger Morgan, H. Keith Florig, Department
of Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA
"Biological Effects of Power Line Fields," New York State Powerline
Project. Scientific Advisory Board Final Report, July 1, 1987.
"Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) Fields," Environmental Health
Criteria 35. World Health Organization, Geneva, 1984.
"Electric and Magnetic Fields at Extremely Low Frequencies:
Interactions with Biological Systems. In: Non ionizing Radiation Protection,
World Health Organization, Regional Office for Europe, Copenhagen, 1987.
"Electric and Magnetic Fields from 60 Hertz Electric Power: What do
we know about possible health risks?," Department of Engineering and Public
Policy, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA 15213 1989.
"Electromagnetic Fields Are Being Scrutinized for Linkage to
Cancer," Sandra Blakeslee, New York Times, Medical Science section, April
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