Why Does Low Humidity Cause Static Electricity?

Regardless of whether you’ve experienced a nasty shock or stressful computer failure from a short-out, it’s likely that you know how dangerous an electrostatic discharge can be. Detrimental to your safety, comfort and even productivity, it is directly influenced by the air moisture content – otherwise known as relative humidity – within an indoor environment. Using an evaporative humidifier or other high-efficiency climate control system can help reduce the risk.

So, why does low humidity cause static electricity in the first place? Let’s explore the subject in detail.

Understanding How Static Electricity is Formed

The process of an electrostatic discharge involves an imbalance between the negative and positive charges within the surface of a conductive object. This can lead to the buildup of energy that remains stored until it arcs, leaping to another conductive object within proximity. If humans or animals interact with the charge-laden object in question before it can reach another conductive material, they will receive an electrostatic shock. In certain extreme circumstances, this can be dangerous.

What Role Does Relative Humidity Play?

Drier conditions tend to result in a higher risk of static electricity buildup, which can lead to electrostatic discharges. This is due to the fact that the air moisture content is a natural conductor, earthing any potential static charge. The relative humidity must be below 40 percent in order for a static charge to be produced. 40 to 60 percent will still enable for build-up, but at a significantly reduced level due to the fact that the static leaks to the ground through the air. Conditions above 55 percent RH will never experience static build-up, which is ideal for most applications including office environments and electronics manufacturing facilities.

How to Maintain Proper Humidity Control

Temperature and air moisture content are what will influence your relative humidity levels. Therefore, an evaporative humidifier is an ideal way to maintain consistent climate control. This type of setup consists of a high-efficiency humidification system as well as integrated evaporative cooling capabilities, the latter of which works to keep the air clean and moist while also regulating temperature. There are other steps you can take as well, such as minimizing the number of heat-generating machines and removing carpeting.

In conclusion, why does low humidity cause static electricity? Simply put, it’s down to the way we control our indoor climate, and in turn, the ways we allow energy to build up. There are many benefits associated with proper humidity control through the use of an evaporative humidifier, including increased airborne infection control and occupant wellness leading to greater productivity. To learn more about our evaporative cooling technologies and available humidification solutions, contact us at Condair today.


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