What Causes Static Shock in the Winter?

September 10, 2013

We’ve all been there—you are relaxing at home watching football on the TV and when you get up for a snack break, you get zapped when turning on the kitchen light. How about this one: after shuffling across the carpet to get the morning newspaper and you feel a jolt when you reach for the doorknob.

So why is static shock more common of an occurrence during the winter time? It has a lot to do with heating your house to fend off those winter chills.

What Causes Static Shock in Your Home?

Static electricity happens when two materials come into contact that both have uneven amount of electrical charges. Basically, every material—clothes, couches, rugs, winter coats, etc.—has an electrical charge and usually there a balance of positive and negative charges (protons and electrons).

Sometimes a certain item will build up a positive or negative charge due to loss of protons and electrons. When that item touches a conductor (light switch, doorknobs, etc.), the charge neutralizes to even out the balance of charge and a shock comes with it!

Your home is filled with these materials (referred to as inductors) that can build up a charge just waiting to release the excess of protons or electrons onto another surface.

Why Is Static Shock More Common in Winter?

Dry air is mostly to blame for these shocks because it allows the buildup of more static electricity. When it’s cold out, the air outside is very dry and the air inside your home becomes drier as you use a central heating system. When your furnace warms the air inside your home, it reduces the humidity and enhances static shock (and even causes dry skin).

In the summer, there is typically more humidity, meaning there is more moisture in the air. These water molecules that cause us to sweat and complain during the summer heat actually help balance the electric charge of our clothes and other materials, reducing the chance of static shock. When humidity is much lower in the winter and heating units that warm the air reduce the humidity even more, static shock could happen frequently.

Are Humidifiers the Solution to Static Shock?

If you don’t want to be on edge waiting for a spark each time you turn on a light or are annoyed with static-y hair as you’re getting ready on a cold winter morning, there is something you can do about it. Aside from completely abandoning your heating system (we don’t recommend that—Ohio winters are brutally cold!), you can increase the humidity in your house.

Humidifiers make your room or house less dry, decreasing the possibility for shocks at home. You want to aim for 30 percent relative humidity in your home (though 40 to 50 percent would be ideal) in order to combat static shock throughout winter. Smaller, cheaper humidifiers can do the trick for one room or area if you need results fast, but whole-house humidifiers are able to take away the annoyance of regular shocks in your home and more!

Whole-House Humidifier Installation with Rick’s Heating & Cooling

Your family (and furnace system) will reap the benefits of installing a whole-house humidifier before the harshest winter months settled in the area. Whole-house humidifiers can do more than prevent static shock and electricity. When returning moisture to the air of your home, they:

  • Make you feel more comfortable – when the humidity levels in your home are at a more comfortable level, you’ll feel warmer which means you can lower the temperature on your thermostat and still reap the same benefits
  • Improve energy efficiency – when the humidity level is around 35 percent, your home heating system can operate as much as 15 – 20 percent more efficiently
  • Prevent dry skin
  • Decrease the likelihood of having chapped lips or bloody noses
  • Help you breathe easier
  • And more!

The benefits of installing a whole-house humidifier obviously don’t stop at being able to prevent static shock—so, call Rick’s Heating & Cooling today to schedule your estimate for a whole-house humidifier installation in Cincinnati, Morrow, Lebanon, or any of the surrounding Ohio areas. Our highly skilled technicians can perform your humidifier installation quickly and efficiently so you can start enjoying comfortable air—without the shock—right away!