Monday, January 3, 2011

Static Electricity, Electronics and Humidifiers

Rub your feet across a rug, then touch a doorknob, person or pet. The zap you feel is static electricity. Static occurs when electric charges accumulate on an object's surface. Electrons are exchanged, and one object becomes electrically positive; the other electrically negative. Static is most commonly created when two materials rub together or move apart. When you touch another object with an opposite charge, or a ground (neutral charge), electrons flow and you experience that little zap. Static shock takes place more often in the winter when the air is cold and dry.

The amount of voltage involved in static electricity can be in the 10,000-to-12,000-volt range. Static voltage isn't life threatening because its amperage is miniscule. And it's amps, not volts, which are dangerous. Static shock must be 3500 to 4000 volts before you can feel it. But for electronics, it's the voltage below that level that is common, and insidious. It's entirely possible that you never have any sensation of static, and still have zapped the electronics. That's because the integrated circuits can be damaged or destroyed by static voltages as low as 400 volts. Low-voltage static charges can also cause latent damage, destroying a few gates out of the millions in a typical integrated circuit. That damage can be almost impossible to diagnose, and may not cause problems for a long time.

Humidifiers raise the humidity level in your home therefore reducing random static shocks and static cling. The water particles in humid air break up static charge quicker. Keeping the humidity in your home between 30-50% also limits electric shocks around computers and other electronics, which can cause serious damage. A static charge can be devastating for the sensitive electronics inside a PC and other electronics. Problems increase when you open your computer's case to add RAM, upgrade your CPU or hard drive, or plug in a new sound card or graphics.

These days its almost everything containing some electronic parts, it is wise to reduce static as much as possible. Running a humidifier in winter not only makes you feel more comfortable by eliminating chapped hands, cracked lips and bloody noses, it helps protect your investment in electronics.

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