Why You Need & How To Build A Faraday Cage From Scratch
There are a handful of basic questions people have when they first hear about Faraday Cages.
- What is a Faraday Cage?
- Why should I care?
- How do I get my hands on one?
- What should I put in it?
- Do they work?
You ask the first question because maybe you overheard someone else talking about one or it was mentioned in a news story or an article. Your not sure what all the hype is about and just want to know “what is it”?
You ask the second question because once you know “what it is”, you’re still confused why it matters to you. But once you fully understand why it matters, the very next question asked is “how do I get one” followed by “what should I keep inside of it”.
So that’s how I wrote this article. To answer all your faraday cage questions and more. So we cover the following topics in great detail:
- What Is A Faraday Cage
- Why You Should Get A Faraday Cage
- How To Build A Faraday Cage
- What You Should Store In A Faraday Cage
- Faraday Cage Myths and Misinformation
The goal of this article is to bring you fully up to speed everything Faraday Cages from a survival and preparedness perspective.
What Is A Faraday Cage?
In simple terms, a Faraday Cage is just an electronic isolation chamber. Or even more simply it’s a special container that prevents electrical signals or waves from passing through it.
A basic way to think of a Faraday Cage is it allows any electrical pulses to go around the container.
They work by enclosing a specific area in a layer of conductive material (usually a metal). This outer conductive layer creates a “protective skin”.
This then blocks electrical signals from passing through the box.
Inside the enclosure, electronics are separated from the outer conductive skin. This is accomplished using a non-conductive insulator such as cardboard, plastic, glass, or wood.
These enclosures can be any size large or small. So long as there’s a complete layer of skin and any gaps are small once openings (doors, etc.) on the surface are closed.
Faraday Cage Uses
One of the best ways to understand how something works is to share a few examples of them out in the real world. Here are just a few of the uses for Faraday Cages.
Engineering Design and Testing
In the world of engineering, large versions of these faraday isolation chambers are used. They help block any outside interference when designing and testing sophisticated electronic devices.
Inside a Faraday cage, scientists can see how certain electrical devices react to the absence of other signals. It’s used as a controlled vacuum for electrical testing purposes.
These engineering Faraday Cages also help determine if a device emits any unintentional or harmful radiation.
For example, the antenna in your cell phone was likely tested in such a way. This was to ensure energy transmitted during use was safe for humans. To prove no energy was “leaking” at frequencies outside the cell phone spectrum.
But, the Faraday cage isn’t just for lab settings and engineering facilities. In fact, you’ve likely used or passed through several of them today.
The mesh screen in the window of your microwave is part of a Faraday cage. It contains the high-energy microwave radiation responsible for reheating your leftovers. And without a Faraday cage, this radiation would leak out, cooking the rest of your kitchen.
Cell phone “dead zones” in some elevators are also unintentional Faraday Cages. The metal elevator doors act as a conductive skin thus blocking cell signals.
And it’s the reason you should remain in your car if a power line falls because the metal body of the vehicle itself acts as a Faraday cage. It directs dangerous electricity around the vehicle, allowing the energy to pass harmlessly into the ground. Isolating and protecting the passengers inside.
How about one more interesting example?
In 2013, the Vatican used a Faraday cage to shield the Sistine Chapel. They wanted to prevent electronic eavesdropping during the selection of the new pope.
So even if someone planted an electronic “bug” into the room, it couldn’t send a signal out to the world.
So as you see, Faraday Cages have some real-world applications.
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But Why Should You Get A Faraday Cage
“I do not know with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones” – Albert Einstien
There are many reasons a survivalist (like yourself) should build a Farraday cage.
A well-constructed Faraday cage will give your sensitive electronics a layer of safety. To protect them from damage or even to prevent signals from reaching others.
Here are four great reasons to build and use a Faraday Cage for survival and preparedness:
Reason #1: Prepare For A Massive Solar Flare
A solar flare is an explosion on the surface of the Sun. The occasional massive blasts produce a burst of electromagnetic radiation, including X-rays.
Scientists classify solar flares into three groups according to their X-ray strength.
The strongest are X-class flares. These are significant events and can trigger radio blackouts around the world.
M-class flares are medium-sized. They can cause brief radio blackouts that affect Earth’s polar regions. C-class flares are small with few noticeable consequences here on Earth.
It’s not a matter of if the earth will experience another strong X-class flare, its a matter of when.
A Faraday Cage helps you prepare for the next massive X-class solar flare event. Keeping some of your backup electronic devices safe.
Reason #2: Prepare For An Electromagnetic Pulse Attack (EMP)
The rise of nuclear powers around the world is growing. As well as the instability in global politics. Which leads to rising concern over the real possibility of a future nuclear attack.
All nuclear explosions create an EMP blast. But, some designs can cause a more significant EMP effect than immediate destruction.
These designs are called “high-altitude electromagnetic pulse” (EMP) weapons. They explode high in the stratosphere. And they use the Earth’s magnetic field to reflect and enhance the EMP effects.
Watch the following two videos for a more detailed explanation about the threat of a large, widespread EMP attack.
Reason #3: Prevent Cell Phone Tracking
I know it sounds like the plot of a spy movie, but nearly all modern cell phones are equipped with a GPS chip.
From the newest smartphone all the way to the most basic flip phone.
This feature gives you the ability to use your phone for navigation. But it also allows mobile providers information about your location (past and current).
Authorities often share these location records during criminal investigations. And also during search and rescue operations.
This information is supposed to be stored for a limited time only. But it’s unclear how long companies keep these location records. And it’s also unclear who can request access to these records.
But, if you block the cell signals to your phone, you also prevent the ability for the GPS to track your phone. A Faraday Cage pouch like this Stealth Anti Signal Forensic Faraday Bag can keep your location and movement private from prying eyes.
Reason #4: Prevent RFID Skimming
These days, “electronics” are no longer limited to “things with a battery, a wall plug, or an on/off switch.” More of the cards in your wallet contain RFID security chips. These chips are designed to make mobile payment and verification easier.
Unfortunately, the ease with which that information is shared is a double-edged sword. They also make it easier for criminals to scan the information from your credit card.
And they can do this remotely while it’s still in your wallet. But, with an RFID Faraday Cage wallet (like this one from Access Denied), you block this criminal activity.
If you’d rather not replace your entire wallet, you can use these RFID blocking Safe Wallet Sheilds on your credit cards that have the chip.
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How To Build A Faraday Cage
Now it’s time to build your own Faraday Cage at home using some very basic materials. I highly recommend watching each of these Faraday Cage builds before you decide. Each one has some great ideas depending on how simple you want to go.
This first video, is the cheapest DIY Faraday Cage I’ve ever seen – a cardboard box, towel, and aluminum foil; now where’d I put my “that was easy” button?
This video shows you a more elegant DIY Faraday Cage solution, however, it’s still extremely easy and simple to build.
Ok, take the previous video and make it even simpler. Done.
As you can see, building a homemade Faraday Cage is easy.
You don’t need a degree in Electrical Engineering to protect your electronic devices. You just need to follow these examples and stash a few spare electronic devices in your Faraday Cage to protect your electronics from an EMP.
But which electronic devices?
Glad you asked.
What You Should Store In Your Faraday Cage
I like to think about Faraday Cages in three distinct categories: Home, Vehicle, Carry.
An at-home faraday cage can be either large or small depending on how much stuff you want to add to it.
In a home sized Faraday Cage, I highly recommend stashing the following devices:
The most critical electronics you should put in a Faraday Cage are communication devices. I recommend adding at least one set of local communication devices (aka walkie-talkies) and one over the air type of radio.
Will radio communications still be occurring after an EMP attack? Won’t the EMP blast take down those communication lines and towers?
Maybe yes; maybe no. It’s hard to predict and as you’ll learn below, no single blast can take down all electronics since each on is gear for different frequencies.
So I think the following devices are a good start for your home Faraday Cage.
Katio Pocket Radio
The main reason I like the Katio Pocket Radio is it’s so small.
It literally can fit in your pocket, so it won’t take up much valuable real estate space in your Faraday Cage.
Handcrank – Solar Radio
The biggest downside of the Kati0 Pocket Radio is it takes batteries to power.
So by adding a Hand Crank Radio into your Faraday Cage, you’ll ensure you have a radio to gather intel no matter how long the grid may be down.
Plus, it always makes sense to stash a backup AM/FM/Weather Band radio, just in case.
If you’re into Ham radio communications (and you should be) then it’s imperative you add a portable ham radio to your Faraday Cage. Consider this radio a spare since you want to keep in for a surprise EMP event.
And really, we’ll likely get little to no warning of an actual EMP attack.
A portable one is what you need if an EMP takes out your larger Ham radio setup.
I firmly believe in preparing with a coalition. Whether that’s a survival group or just your local family, doesn’t matter. In emergency situations having other people you can trust is essential.
But you’ll want a way to communicate with each other on a local scale. So each member of your emergency team should stash a spare set of walkie-talkies in their Faraday Cage.
That way, if the blast does take out most exposed communication devices, you’ll still have your 2-way radios, most won’t have anything.
If the grid is down, your main source of nighttime illumination will be candles or flashlights. Candles work for a few days but unless you stock up like crazy, you’ll eventually run out. Plus, good luck moving around at night with candles.
So you should add some illumination gear to your Faraday Cage.
Add a tactical flashlight to your Faraday Cage. This doesn’t need to be an expensive one.
A small single double A battery LED flashlight is ideal for this. The last thing you want to do is stash a $100 flashlight in there and then never get to use it.
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It’s ideal for tasks that require two hands. Without a good headlamp, your only options are to have someone hold the flashlight or try to prop the flashlight up.
For me, stashing a headlamp is the way to go.
Night goggles are a powerful tool in a survival situation. However, they require power.
So if you want the advantage of using night vision goggles after an EMP event, then you best stash a pair in your Faraday Cage.
The same idea goes for high powered rifle scopes.
Spare Rechargeable Batteries / Battery Charger / Solar Charger
You add batteries to support your battery powered devices. You also need a means to recharge batteries without using grid power. So get some rechargeable batteries, a battery charger, and a portable solar panel.
Ideally, all your devices use the same size battery. The most common is the AA battery. So if you can match all your electronic devices to AA, you make your life a little bit easier. If not, you’ll need spare batteries for each battery type.
Simple and effective.
Note: Your batteries will likely be fine after an EMP even outside a Faraday Cage. So if space is limited in your Faraday Cage, you can remove them. However, I always try to keep spare batteries for my gear with my gear. That way I know for a fact that I have what I need in my gear stash.
Now if your “‘at home” faraday cage is too large, you might be able to stash it in your vehicle.
This works best if you always have your vehicle with you at work and at home. However, if you live in extremely cold climates, you may have to think about the electronics in those conditions.
But in general, a glove box or under-seat Faraday Cage enclosure will provide enough space for a shielded spare radio and spare cell phone.
This is a must, because if your vehicle was disabled by a massive EMP or solar flare (due to so many electronic parts). At a minimum, you’ll want to stash a spare communication system if you get stranded.
On the go, you can use a smaller pouch faraday cage like this Stealth Anti Signal Forensic Faraday Bag.
This allows you to can keep smaller items (like your cell phone or personal radio) protected.
Police departments are now using them to protect electronic devices collected as evidence.
At the smallest end of the spectrum are the RFID-shielding Faraday cage wallets (like this one from Access Denied) or even a simple RFID blocking credit card sleeve (like the RFID Safe Wallet Shield). These can help protect your credit card and banking information from mobile scanners.
Faraday Cage Myths
Myth 1 – They Are Too Complicated To Build Yourself
People who look into Faraday cages get discouraged when they see professional installations. Ones that seem impossible to reproduce at home.
These cages often use expensive materials and highly intricate doors and openings. They help to reduce the chance of any signal transmission.
At the very simplest, you can use any metal enclosure can work as a Faraday Cage with some modifications. Ammo cans, metal cabinets, steel lockers, and trash cans all work.
Heck, even just several layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil can do the trick. Just by wrapping it carefully around a cardboard box, it can protect small devices.
Myth #2 – Chicken Wire Works As Well As Foil Or Metal Boxes
These some discussions online that using chicken wire as your Faraday Cage conductive metal works just as well as other options. This is not a good idea. Chicken wire provides much less EMP protection than even aluminum foil by a wide margin.
See for yourself:
Myth #3 – You Can Just Use An Ammo Can (without modifications)
Ammo cans don’t make great Faraday Cages without some work. First off, ammo cans typically have a gasket around the lid to help create a good airtight seal. But this gasket is not a conductive material so it creates a breach. This allows an EMP blast to penetrate the ammo can.
You also have to deal with the hinges on the back side which are also not an ideal conductive seal.
If you want to use an ammo can, you’ll either need to modify it or wrap the ammo can with several layers of foil or put the ammo can into another Faraday Cage without these issues.
Myth #4 – How Faraday Cages Actually Work
There are several misconceptions about how a Faraday Cage actually works. These misconceptions create several myths about Faraday Cages such as:
- Believing They Can Use A Cell Phone To “Test” A Faraday Cage – doesn’t work that way
- That Faraday Cages Must Be Grounded – they do not
- That A Single EMP Will Take Out All Electrical Devices – it won’t because different nuclear/solar EMP blasts have different frequencies (however, if an attacker used several blasts designed for different frequencies it could do a large range of damage or if an attacker focused solely on the grid – that would be devastating as well)
- That All Modern Vehicles Will Become Paperweights After An Attack – they won’t
For more details on these misconceptions watch the following video and pick up this fantastic educational book on EMP’s.
Now that you’re up to speed on Faraday Cages, what are your going to do about it?
Are you going to take action? When?
I think you should take action right now because “I should have”, “I could have” are just poor excuses when it’s too late.
Building a Faraday Cage is simple, easy, and affordable. So no excuses; get it done.
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