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Is your House a High Static Environment?
October 28, 2006
by: Steve Fowler, Fowler Associates, Inc.

Many times we are asked why a particular house or apartment is high in static charges. Many people believe it is something mysterious. It is very simple. The following is advice given as a result of one of these questions. It is published here to help others who may have similar problems.

Original Question:


I would appreciate it if you could answer this email or refer me to someone who can. I'm having a hard
time navigating the Web for someone knowledgable in the scientific causes/controls of static electricity.

I just moved into a high static environment. Let me set the scene for you: I just purchased a 9th floor,
high-rise apartment in Northern Virginia. It is a small one bedroom (720 sf) with an open floor plan
between every room. It has hardwood floors in the kitchen/living area, tile in the bathroom and carpet
in the bedroom. I have the same furniture and a cat that I had in my last house, so I do not think they
are contributing to my extreme static electricity problem. Some frequencies for my cable signals are
obviously interfered (tiling, black screen, etc.) and my cable internet will not work through a splitter
(that I have switched out with new ones repeatedly). The cable company confirmed that certain frequencies were not getting through. I also experience quite a bit of static shocks from my
clothes and from my couch. It is obviously a high static environment (you can feel it in your hair).

Here are my questions.

1. I am at any health risks by living in a high static electricity environment?
2. Could something in the construction of my apartment be causing this?
3. What long-term solutions can the developer use to solve this problem for me?

Our Response:

The main causes of static are the interfaces you and your clothing have with the environment. Your clothes to the couch is a big static generator. Your shoes to the carpet is another huge static generator. This static generation is called "Triboelectric Generation." It is from the Greek words which means to "rub amber." That is because the first study of static electricity was in about 700 BC by a man named Thales in Militos. He rubbed amber with cat fur and found he could pick up pieces of lint by some starnge force then unknown. We now call those forces " Coulomb Forces." Not unlike magnetic forces with magnets. They were originally confused as being the same.

The static in your apartment is due to:

1. Drier climates Conditions. Low humidity causes static to be higher. These conditions will lessen in the summer.

2. Inexpensive carpet on the floor. Some carpets are anti-static.

3. Your choice of clothing - cotton is better than polyester

4. Your choice of shoes - leather is better than rubber.

What can you do about it?

Change the way these things touch each other and separate generating the static charges.

1. Raise the humidity in your apartment with a room humidified that you can get at Lowes or The Home Depot.

2. Spray your carpet and couch with a solution of Downy fabric softener and water. This will make sure the carpet and couch have moisture on them. In other words, your are not taking pure polyester and touching it with pure polymer clothing.

3. Wear more natural fiber clothing (cotton) - less polyester and wools.

4. Wear less insulative shoes - thick rubber is bad, thin leather is good.

After you try these things, let me know how your apartment static is reduced.

By the way, there is no evidence that high static fields are a health hazard. I don't know if you also have a high radio frequency issue in your apartment but changing the things outlined here should fix all you have asked about. The failure of your components is probably due to the injection of electrical current from the static discharges. We call this ESD - Electrostatic Discharge.


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