Static Electricity

Monday November 13, 2017

Static Electricity: what it is

Out of all of the challenges winter presents, there’s one small, quiet issue that plagues us all on a routine basis.
We’re talking, of course, about static shock!

Have you ever noticed that little zap is a lot more common in the colder seasons? Have you ever wondered why? If you answered yes to either or both, read on to learn more.


What Is Static Shock?

There’s probably no one in the world that hasn’t encountered a static shock. It’s that small, surprisingly little jolt that you can often get when stepping out of your car or touching a door handle in your home. But though it seems like a simple incident, static shock (or more specifically static electricity) is actually a lot of science going on all at once.

Put very simply, since to explain it in detail would be, frankly, a bit involved and boring, a static shock is the product of an imbalance in electrical charge. Everything is constantly exchanging electrons.

Everything. All of the time.

And when you happen to be exposed to an insulator, which naturally holds onto electric charge (like rubber, or wool) you basically start scraping charge off of everything around you. This collects on the surface of your body, and the next time you come into contact with a conductor of any type, typically metals, that built up charge will jump to the conductor, producing that somewhat agitating shock.

Why Is Static So Common in Winter?

So why is it that when winter hits, we see a lot more static electricity? The answer is pretty simple, actually! In seasons like summer, moisture in the air called humidity tends to be far higher, and those water molecules actually act as a great grounding barrier, helping you mitigate building an excessive static charge.

But when winter sets in, we see a lot less moisture in the air. And what is there tends to be frozen, thus a solid and no longer part of the air content. This cold, dry air is a breeding ground for static, allowing your body to pull in massive amounts of electrons which will ultimately result in that startling shock. 

And did you know your furnace actually makes it worse by sucking out what little moisture your home retains? That means bad times for those of us with a furnace system and wool carpets!


Looking for ways to reduce your shock factor? Try these tips:

  • Install a whole home humidifier system
  • Avoid wool and wear more cotton. It’s less warm, but it’s up to you which you prefer!
  • Keep hydrated! Drink lots of water, and start using lotion in the winter, since dry skin can built up loads of electrostatic energy
  • Use dryer sheets when doing your laundry
  • It’s all about adding a bit of moisture, and avoiding materials that present the properties of an insulator!




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