General Question

Mariah's avatar

What factors in the climate affect occurrence of static shocks?

Asked by Mariah (25876points) January 27th, 2012

In my dorm, I take my sweater off and set it on the bed. It lies there making crackly noises for the next 30 seconds. Sometimes when I touch my doorknob I get a shock so powerful it actually hurts a little. I’ve never experienced such extreme static electricity anywhere else! Could it be because the air here is very dry, does that affect it? What else affects it?

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11 Answers

jrpowell's avatar

Very dry will do it. At the theater we ran humidifiers to cut down on the static.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Dry air. Cold air holds less water than warm air. When cold air is heated up the relative humitdity gets very low.
If you want to avoid the spark when touching the doorknob, hold something metal in your hand, like a key or a metal pen, and touch it to the doorknob first. Do not use your phone to do the job! ESD, electrostatic discharge, can destroy it.

mazingerz88's avatar

I’m very much interested with this question. I dread these painful shocks come winter time and I always end up cursing whenever it happens. I’m following this thread to know exactly what causes it so I could curse at it with impunity next time it happens. And it will. It will. : (

flutherother's avatar

It is caused by low humidity in the air. It is worse in winter when already dry air is warmed by your heating system making it even drier. Nylon carpets don’t help especially if you tend to drag your feet while wearing highly insulating rubber or plastic soled shoes. You could try wearing shoes with thin leather soles, or treating the carpet with anti static or you could get a humidifier.

dabbler's avatar

I think you could also simply carry something metal (keys, metal pen) so that the spark jumps from that to doorknob/handle/etc instead of jumping from your hand/skin. Just make sure you touch with that first and you will dissipate the charge difference.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@RocketGuy Wouldn’t a metal key do the exact same thing for zero cost and weight?
Of course you wouldn’t get the Smiley face display – unless you put a sticker on the key. :-)

RocketGuy's avatar

A key has too low resistance. The current will flow very quickly and you will feel a pinch. When I use the gadget it sometimes takes 10 sec to fully drain my static charge, so I don’t feel a thing.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I don’t feel the snap when I use my key. The arc occurs away from my skin.
As an experiment I’ll add a 5 MOhm resistor to my key ring and give that a try.

RocketGuy's avatar

Yeah, a resistor will do the same thing, and cost a lot less than the $10 gadget. The current causes the muscles in my finger to twitch, which feels freaky.

LuckyGuy's avatar

A ¼ watt resister takes up less space too. Thanks for trying it.

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