Cold winter weather can come as a shock—quite literally—as static electricity zaps are far more frequent this time of year.
We all know the annoyance of getting those painful mini-jolts of electricity when moving around the home touching objects or even person-to-person contact like handshakes. Actually, a static electricity shock is surprisingly high voltage: normally over 20,000 volts. However, the charge level of the electricity is very low. So, instead of being fatal, it’s simply annoying.
Where Does It Come From?
Walking across a carpet or other surface naturally generates electrostatic energy. Static electricity builds up in your body until you touch a grounded object that conducts electricity, like a door knob. The high static voltage jumps from your body (usually a fingertip) to the grounded surface, creating a shock sensation that can be painful. If you’ve ever gotten a static shock in a dark room, you can actually see the tiny spark as voltage arcs from your body to the grounded object.
The Shocking Season
Dry air is an insulator that promotes accumulation of static electricity as you move around the house. Humid air, conversely, allows static electricity to discharge gradually from your body instead of building up. Because dry air is much more common during winter, static shocks tend to be a seasonal event. Static electricity also makes household dust collect more stubbornly on surfaces.
To Reduce The Zaps
Keep indoor humidity above 35%, the minimum suggested by the Environmental Protection Agency. Maintaining water vapor in dry winter air helps discharge static electricity gradually and prevents annoying shocks. Because winter air is naturally dry and gas-fired heating tends to dry it even more, consider utilizing a humidifier to keep indoor humidity levels in the shock-free range.
Carpets generate electrons of static electricity and are a major source of static shocks. Commercial anti-static products can be applied to standard carpeting to reduce static electricity. If you are installing new carpets, consider purchasing anti-static carpets with permanent treatment applied at the factory.
For more about reducing the annoyances of static electricity zaps, talk to the professionals at Jackson & Sons.
Jackson & Sons, Inc.
Our goal is to help educate our customers in Eastern North Carolina (including Wayne, Johnston, Greene, Lenoir, Pitt and Duplin Counties) about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).
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