How do I reduce static electricity in my house?
January 31, 2004 4:17 PM   Subscribe

Carpets in new home are producing tremendous amounts of static and lots of sparks. What are good solutions to reduce the static to protect computers and other electronic equipment? Ideally, the solution would reduce the static across the entire house, as trying to protect each piece of equipment with an anti-static mat or some such would quickly become cost prohibitive.
posted by rushmc to Home & Garden (10 answers total)
A humidifier. Preferably a few stand alone ones--the ones that are built in to furnaces/central air unless cleaned often will collect mold and behavoc on any allergy sufferers.

You can find good ones that will take care of an entire floor of your home for around $100. Plus if you raise the ambient humidity, you can keep the thermostat lower and still feel just as warm.
posted by macadamiaranch at 4:35 PM on January 31, 2004

Run a humidifier. Static will not (significantly) accumulate in moist air.

As you know Bob (but just in case you don't), during winter outside cold air is heated to room temperature. Cold air has a much lower carrying capacity for water than warm air. This causes the relative humidity in your house to plummet, causing sore throats, hangnails, very rumpled looking cats and your problem: static electricity.

So, humidify and your problems will go away!

alternately, put big aluminum plates grounded to the water pipes in front of your electronics and ban crepe-souled shoes from your house.

On preview: Doh!
posted by bonehead at 4:37 PM on January 31, 2004

If you don't have a good place to plug in a humidifer in the computer room, try one that's powered by USB.
posted by kindall at 5:18 PM on January 31, 2004

Also buy some Static Guard spray and spray it around (not on) your electrical devices.
posted by banished at 5:32 PM on January 31, 2004

A small-of-stature woman in my office who wears chunky shoes with rubber soles on nylon office carpets had painful shocks every time she touched anything, due to the aforementioned risk factors. When she received a painful shock to her ear from her phone headset (she stood up and reached across her desk to retrieve a piece of conversation-related paper during a call) we decided it was time to do something about it. I ordered a quart of pre-diluted industrial antistatic spray, and she sprayed the entire office plus her chair. It takes two applications, one in one direction and the other in the opposite direction. We still occasionally get shocks, but between that and the freebies they sent (antistatic lotion and a shoe strap) we have all had a significant reduction in their frequency and severity.

I tried to find the specific vendor I got the antistatic spray from but couldn't, and I don't have the invoice handy. However, I did find this home potion which is supposed to be good for new carpets:

Mix 1/2 liter of fabric softener with 5 liters of water. Pour into spray bottle and spritz your carpet until it is fairly moist, but not enough to soak through. Do this before you head for bed so you don't walk on it, and let it dry overnight. It should keep static away for several weeks.

I haven't tried it, but it seems like a reasonable enough idea and is probably healthier than gaining 100 pounds so your body will hold more energy before requiring discharge.
posted by littlegreenlights at 5:45 PM on January 31, 2004

After you've started the humidifer, and sprayed the house with static guard, you could also try wearing these shoes... they're very comfortable, come in almost any color imaginable, they're biodegradable, and you can even wash them in the dishwasher!

"...our anti-static feature is great for computer/technical environments."
posted by crunchland at 7:56 PM on January 31, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses. Considering that the average humidity in Vegas runs around 29% anyway, the humidifier sounds like a good idea.

In nosing around the net, I saw some commercial solutions that claimed that their ionizing devices helped eliminate the static charge by providing negative ions to bind with the troublemaking friction-produced particles. Does this sound plausible? All of the consumer model ionizers I've seen only tout their "clean air" advantage; none mention a reduction of static electricity within the environment. Are the consumer devices substantially different from the commercial ones, then?
posted by rushmc at 11:25 PM on January 31, 2004

Cheaper than some static guard for some immediate de-staticing, try some fabric softener diluted by a bunch of water. Works great on clothes, too.
posted by rhapsodie at 11:39 PM on January 31, 2004

FYI, there are three basic types of consumer-grade humidifier for sale:

- vaporizers or "warm mist" units heat the water to boiling. Cheap, fast, but low volume, and mineral buildup kills them quickly.

- atomizers or "cool mist" units use a piezoelectric device to disperse tiny water droplets. Unless you use distilled water, you'll have a white mineral film settling on every surface in the house. These don't produce a whole lot of humidity, and they tend to soak the area near them.

- fan-based evaporators use a fan that blows across a wet wick or filter. They have good output and the larger ones can hold lots of water. Two disadvantages: they tend to be loud at higher settings, and bacteria and mold can build up in the wick. Chemicals are available to prevent this, I find a few drops of Clorox works as well as anything.

I prefer the third category. Sears has some good ones in the $100 range. Here in Utah I find that if I keep the humidity at 30% or higher, all of my static problems go away.
posted by mmoncur at 5:55 AM on February 2, 2004

I stopped getting shocks when I started putting fabric softener sheets in the dryer.
posted by callmejay at 10:53 AM on February 2, 2004

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