Are you being shocked so many times a day that you feel like Pavlov’s dog? A static electricity problem in your office or store can worse than annoying. If you can’t take it anymore, here’s what you need to know about how static can cost your business, and what you can do about it: get a central humidifier.
How static happens and what conditions make it worse
You’re at risk for getting shocked by static electricity every time you walk across a synthetic office carpet. With every step you take, you create an imbalance of electricity between your body and the earth.
If you’re wearing shoes with synthetic soles, they act as an insulator, which prevents discharge of the electricity and causes it to build up in your body. The friction created if you shuffle your feet on the carpet increases the charge even more. If your building has low relative humidity (which is very common during the winter months when the furnace is running nonstop) the electrostatic charge increases more rapidly because the dry air acts as an insulator. Before you know it, your body can accumulate a charge of as much as 20,000 volts.
You know what happens next. You touch a grounded metal object, such as filing cabinet, door handle, elevator button, railing or metal equipment, and GOTCHA! The electricity is released from your body in the form of a painful shock. When this happens repeatedly all day long, you begin to feel like you’re part of somebody’s cruel science experiment.
Static electricity is more than unpleasant
Those annoying shocks from static electricity can be more harmful than you realize. In addition to making everyone walk around on eggshells for fear of unexpected pain, static electricity can cause damage to computer systems and electronic POS terminals.
If you run a retail establishment or restaurant, the problem can result in customer complaints and damaging negative reviews on social media. In the worst cases, static can cause serious injury and litigation, and even fire or explosions in settings where flammable chemicals are used.
What you probably can’t do about it
Static electricity occurs when either the flooring surface OR the soles of your shoes are made of synthetic material that is electrically insulating. Unfortunately, most modern commercial floors include insulating building materials such as vinyl, ceramic tile, resin and synthetic fiber carpeting. Even if you’re the building owner, you probably can’t afford to rip out the flooring and replace it with wood or natural fiber carpet just to prevent static.
Even if you do have wood floors, people will still be shocked if they wear synthetic-soled shoes. Going barefoot is probably not an option. You can suggest that people wear leather shoes, but not all your building occupants can do that, and you certainly can’t tell your customers what kind of shoes to wear. So what’s the answer?
What you CAN do: get a central humidifier
Controlling the humidity in the air can significantly reduce static electricity problems in your building. Humidity makes the atmosphere more conductive and prevents that buildup of electric charge. In the cold weather months, your furnace can reduce the relative humidity in your building to as low as 15 percent. To prevent static, you want relative humidity levels of at least 45 percent in your space. That’s where a central humidifier can really help.
What’s more, controlling humidity levels also helps to prevent airborne illness in building occupants. You may have heard that the Covid virus tends to thrive in very dry air. Humidification also keeps your furniture and other building materials from drying out or warping.
To improve humidity conditions in your building and save your nerves, consider installing a central humidifier system. These units use water and the heat from your furnace to generate humidity, and circulate it along with warmed air through the building via your air ducts.
There are several effective types of central humidifiers on the market, including flow-through units and mist or steam units. Just like you adjust your building’s temperature by controlling the furnace with a thermostat, you adjust the humidity by controlling the operation of the humidifier with a device called a humidistat. An NYC HVAC expert can help recommend the right unit for your needs.
Related Article: HVAC System Maintenance Humidity and Your Poor Indoor Air Quality
In addition to using a humidifier, regular HVAC maintenance is crucial for controlling your building’s humidity and static electricity along with it. When your system is properly tuned and working efficiently, your furnace and your air conditioner won’t remove so much moisture from the air that your employees are afraid to touch the elevator button.
Concerned that preventative maintenance will cost too much? It doesn’t have to. The best HVAC service providers can set up a contract that’s customized to meet the needs of your equipment, your business and your budget. Want to learn more? Grab a copy of our free guide: HVAC Preventative Maintenance Contracts: How to Find the Right One for Your HVAC Infrastructure.
If you’re in the New York City area, contact Arista for a maintenance plan that’s customized to your specific needs.