Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Zap! Static Electricity will Find You!

Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension

I think it is one my eight-year old son’s greatest delights to come running up to me when I’m home and touch me with his finger to shock me.  With that simple zap of electricity and a maniacal giggle he scampers off and I have to defend myself from subsequent shocks for the next several minutes.  Today, January 9th is National Static Electricity Day.  So, let’s talk briefly about what static electricity is and how we can possibly avoid it. 

Picture courtesy of phys.org
Static electricity is an imbalance of electric charges within or on the surface of a material.  The charge remains until it is able to move away by means of an electric current or electrical discharge.  What makes it is so bad during the winter?  It's not the lack of heat; it's the lack of humidity.  Heat in the home takes moisture out of the air, leaving less water vapor in the air to conduct charges away from us.  As humidity drops, the voltage of static electricity goes up.
So, as a result, one way to avoid static electricity is to increase the humidity in your home.  A humidifier helps but so does boiling water on the stove.  It has been reported that having houseplants can also increase the humidity in a room.

Other solutions to zapping static electricity include changing the type of clothes you wear such as switching to natural fibers, since synthetics pick up more of a static charge.  On a related note, try going without wool as it acts like an insulator, letting your body build up a charge until you ground yourself by touching something.  Cotton is a much safer choice.  Consider changing shoes too.  There are special conductive shoes in a variety of styles.  They are made for people working in the electronics industry.  You will need to find a store or catalogue that sells or can order them for you.  If you don’t want to change shoes, consider walking barefoot.  For your hands, if your skin is very dry try an anti-static hand lotion. 
You can also try carrying coins and use them to touch grounded metal objects as often as possible.  This will not eliminate the static discharge, but will stop the pain you feel in your fingertips. 

As one last warning, be sure to ground yourself before touching sensitive electronic equipment.  I blew up a DVD player this way when we first moved to Chester.

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