The Electrical Blog

Static Electricity and How It Affects Business Electronics and Data

Posted by James Rockhill on Wed, Jan 27, 2016


Nearly everyone remembers taking a balloon as a kid, rubbing it on your sweater or a woolen blanket, and holding it above your head to make it stand on end. It was fun to play with static electricity when you were younger. We’ll even admit that it’s fun to rub your feet on a rug and deliver a shock to an unsuspecting passerby. However, while those games may be fun for children, there are worse consequences to static electricity. Here’s what you need to know.

Potentially Dangerous Static Shocks

The same static electricity that was fun when you were a kid can be potentially dangerous in the wrong situations. One such situation is when there is gasoline or another airborne flammable material in the air. In those situations, the sparks from static shocks can ignite the airborne gas, causing a potentially dangerous explosion. Static shocks can also, in very, very rare situations, be potentially dangerous to people with pacemakers.

Static Electricity and Electronics

While it is highly unlikely that you would be injured as a result of static electricity, even though it is possible, it’s far more likely that electronics including computers and other office machinery, could be damaged by static discharge.

Basically, electrostatic discharge, or ESD, is a tiny, miniature version of lightning, and it can be just as destructive on the micro level of circuit boards. The energy from the shock travels through the nearest object, in this case the circuitry of the electronics, and destroys critical elements along the way.

While this is the literal equivalent of the electrical storm in a tea cup, there are ways to prevent damage to your equipment from static electricity:

  • Technicians working on electronic equipment should use an ESD wrist strap, which helps to dissipate charge away from the circuitry.
  • Avoid placing synthetic materials such a plastic and polystyrene near electronics. These materials are commonly the cause of static discharge.
  • Avoid using compressed air to clean circuit boards.
  • Only use non-static forming sprays on electronics.
  • Treat carpets to prevent static buildup, and invest in static proof mats if you still have trouble.
  • Restrict access to computers and other electronics to staff or contractors who have experience in working with them, and who know how to prevent static discharge.
  • Regulated humidity system.

Static charges can destroy electronic equipment. So can power surges and electrical storms. Take precautions to avoid damage by static electricity to your delicate electronics, and speak to your commercial electric company to make sure that your office and business premises is adequately protected against power surges. Surge protectors, ensuring that your building and electrical systems are properly grounded and setting up “Zones of Protection” within your facility can all keep your equipment, electronics and people safer.

This is particularly important for items like your server, where critical data is stored. The simple fact is that unregulated, unexpected power is bad for your electronics and equipment, whether the cause is your feet on the carpet or a lightning strike during a storm. It’s always better (and cheaper) to be safe, rather than sorry.

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Topics: lightning protection, electrical contractor, commercial electric