' Shocking' Ramifications of Low Humidity Conditions

'Shocking' Ramifications of Low Humidity Conditions

Tuesday, March 7, 2017


It’s winter, you wake up and sluggishly roll out of bed (possibly literally).  In your half awoken state, you drag your feet across the floor and reach for the brass doorknob. ZAP! You’re the latest victim of static electricity. Next time, don’t sleep with your wool socks on, weirdo. 

While static electricity affects us all and is typically benign, it’s problematic, or even harmful in some circumstances, circumstances which Extech humidity meters can help guard against by monitoring the conditions that are conducive to static electricity. 

Static electricity occurs when electrons move from one surface to another. When these surfaces are insulators, like your sweater, your carpet and the rubber soles of your shoes, they build up a charge. This build up is due to the flow of which create a positively charged insulator and a negatively charged insulator. Once the charged insulator touches a conductor, typically metal (our doorknob example), the electrons neutralize themselves and result in a static shock. 

In the summer, the air is typically humid and heavy with water vapor. Since water vapor is a conductor, the electrons can flow without much resistance, insulators lose their charge easier. That is why the dry winter air is typically associated with static, the low humidity creates a condition where the static charge has nowhere to go but remain with the insulator until it touches a conductive surface. In the winter, this effect may become further exacerbated by the fact that our clothing choices are heavier insulators and made of fabrics like wool which will retain the charge longer.

While static shock is often just a nuisance, in several instances it might be highly problematic and even dangerous. You may have noticed that gas stations post signs warning you to touch a metal surface before pumping. This is because the spark from a static charge can be enough, when ultimately reaching the gas, to create an explosion.

42280 Gas stations aren’t the only place that needs to monitor the conditions of static electricity. Facilities which deal with explosive chemicals or high concentrations of oxygen need to monitor for humidity for this very reason. Those working with electronics whether it be repair, assembly, or in an electronic storage workplace, all need to monitor for static charges because static can damage or even fry components like common printed circuit boards.  Life and property might be at risk in environments that are poorly monitored for static conditions, especially and crucially, humidity. These environments are best monitored by datalogging humidity meters which will track humidity changes and ensure a safe work space. Meters like our RH520A are designed for this type of data analysis and can record up to 49,000 data points and graph them in real-time with programmable high and low alerts. But if you’re only worried about your home environment, our RH35 is an affordable solution and the perfect desktop Hygrometer that will alert you to dry conditions and even identify comfort/uncomfortable conditions with intuitively understandable facial icons. Check it out here.

By monitoring humidity and correcting for it, through climate controls like humidifiers, you can drastically reduce the likelihood of getting shocked at home, damaging electronics in the workspace, or blowing up the chemical storage facility. So, whether you need to monitor humidity to ensure safety or you just don’t want to deal with those “shocking” surprises, Extech Humidity meters are the right tool for the job. See our vast catalog of Humidity Meters here.


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