Static electricity, which increases when weather is dry and cool and your home's relative humidity goes down, is annoying and can be downright destructive. Learn how to lessen static electricity in your home.
WHAT CAUSES STATIC ELECTRICAL CHARGES?
Whenever you feel that annoying zap from walking across the carpet, brushing your hair or touching the towels right out of the dryer, that's static electricity. Electrons, which are negatively charged and move around outside the atomic nuclei (which contains the positively charged protons), tend to migrate from one material to another when they touch, leaving a positive charge on one material -- say your hair brush -- and a negative charge on the other -- say your hair. The imbalance, which increases in times of low humidity when the air is less conductive, results in the electrical charge that you can hear and feel.
IS A STATIC ELECTRICAL CHARGE DANGEROUS?
Most of the time, static electricity is a source of amusement or mere annoyance. But these charges can also be an ignition source for flammable substances, such as when gasoline is handled. For example, when filling your gas tank, you should always touch the metal of the car to discharge static created when you slid off the car seat. Also, a gas can should be placed on the ground when filling it to dissipate a static charge and keep it from creating a spark.
Inside the home, a static charge can harm your electronics, such as those in your computer or sound equipment.
You probably know a static charge can ignite gas fumes, so never enter the home if you smell gas.
CONTROLLING STATIC CHARGES
You can control static charges by increasing humidity in your home. Boil water on the stove, take long showers, add house plants and run a portable humidifier. A whole-house humidifier will do an even better job of adding the right amount of humidity to your home so you can avoid static charges.
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