The Impact of Cold Temperatures and Lower Humidity on Static Electricity

This time of the year it is not uncommon to feel a slight shock after walking across a carpeted surface and touching a door knob. This little “jolt” is a result of fast-moving electrons leaping from your body to the door knob, or vice versa. As your feet shuffle across the surface of a rug or carpet, your body will either gain or lose electrons. Touching a conductive surface then causes these electrons to leap from one place to another. This is known as static electricity.

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If you notice, this happens to occur much more often during colder winter months (if you’re one of those fortunate people to live outside of this sensation we call “cold” please don’t rub it in!). The reason that you experience static shocks more frequently during winter is due to the relative humidity. At colder temperatures, air does not hold as much moisture as it does when it’s warm and moisture helps to conduct electrical charges. Even though you’re heating your house to a similar temperature, the air that is being drawn into your home and heated is still the dry cold air containing less moisture.

The amount of moisture in the air is expressed as relative humidity. This value is given as a percentage of water vapor in the air, compared to how much it could hold at that temperature. In conditions of lower relative humidity, static charges build up much easier. When the relative humidity is high, there’s a higher concentration of water molecules present in the air. These water molecules “coat” the surface of the material, allowing electrons to move more freely and form a layer over the material. This layer of water molecules acts like a lubricant, reducing the forces that cause static to generate. This is why static is much more noticeable during the winter months.

Gen4 Static
Gen4 Static Eliminators

There are many applications that static only appears when the seasonal climate changes. Issues can manifest in the form of nuisance shocks to operators, materials jamming, tearing or curling, product sticking to itself and to rollers, dust clinging to product, and many more. If static is causing problems in your processes, we have a wide variety of Static Eliminators available from stock. Don’t just deal with the problems until humid conditions return, get a permanent solution in place that’ll neutralize the static and eliminate a troublesome application. Contact an EXAIR Application Engineer today and we’ll help to diagnose the root cause of the problem and recommend the best solution.

Tyler Daniel
Application Engineer
E-mail: TylerDaniel@EXAIR.com
Twitter: @EXAIR_TD

 

Photo courtesy of Ken Bosma via Flickr Creative Commons License

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