Telecommunications Tech Blog November 2013
The Heat is on... How do you Stop Static Shocks to Phones & Computers?
By Mike Sandman •
When the heat comes on in the fall,
the air dries out inside.
That's when you start walking around
building up an electrical charge in your body, which discharges as an electric
shock when you touch or even get near something metal.
In the old days it was just painful.
Today, we've got so much electronic stuff all around us that it can get painful
in the wallet if something is blown up.
It's not just your finger touching
the keyboard, dial or smart phone that will transfer the electricity. If you
hold a handset from a phone to your face (even though the handset shell is
plastic) there is a metal microphone and receiver right near your lip and ear.
Once the static charge is in your
body from walking over to answer the phone, or even shuffling your feet under
the desk, that electricity will build-up until it finds the closest ground. If
the handset is up to your ear you could feel the shock that travels from your
body out your ear or lip.
When the electricity travels down the
coiled cord into the phone or system there's a good chance the phone will reset
and you'll get cut-off. It could even damage the handset microphone,
phone, or even the station card in the phone system.
There are three ways to stop the
damage to electronic stuff:
1. Wear a grounding wrist strap at
all times which will prevent the electric charge from building up in your body
(probably not something you want to do?).
2. Humidify the air to the point
where there are no more static charges being built-up in your body.
3. Use chemicals to reduce the amount
of static electricity transferred from the flooring and chairs to the humans
There is absolutely nothing you can
do to telephone or computer equipment to prevent it from getting
the static charge that's built-up in your body. So the only sane solution is #2.
A lot of older offices had
humidifiers installed in their heating system ducts. During the energy crisis in
the 70s a lot of them were disconnected. Bad idea. Back then a humidifier was
meant to make it more comfortable to work there. Now, it's critical to keep all
the electronic gizmos working correctly.
The right thing to do is have the
unit reconnected, or get a humidifier installed by the HVAC guy.
• Have a carpet company treat the
carpets and chairs with anti-static stuff
• Treat the carpets and chairs with
anti-static stuff yourself
• Buy Downy Fabric Softener
(unscented) and a big plant sprayer with a comfortable trigger in the grocery
store, fill the sprayer with a 50/50 mixture of Downy and water, and spray the
heck out of the carpet, chairs and tile floors (watch out, this stuff is
slippery for a while!). This does as good a job as commercial stuff and lasts
about as long (you may need to do it twice per winter).
None of these things treat how
uncomfortable it is for the people working in an un-humidified heated office.
You can buy a bunch of small
humidifiers and put them all over the office, but most companies have tried that
and gave up filling the stupid things pretty quickly.
It's true that some people build-up
electricity in their bodies more or less than others. In some cases the
electricity builds up to a higher charge before it's discharged into something.
Those are the people who feel the most pain from static. No fix for them except
living in Houston.
It's also true that some shoe sole
materials can transfer the electricity into the wearer's body faster than
others. Trying different kinds of shoes is an easy fix for that.
Some people just have to be
really careful. I was sent on a service call at an insurance company
where the console kept resetting by itself. When I got there the operator told
me that it hasn't happened to her, but the girl she relieved just went home. She
got a shock from the braces on her teeth to the handset when she answered the
phone, and her mouth started bleeding. Woa.
Pretty obvious why the console kept
resetting. The other lady answering the phones had no problem. I don't know if
the girl with the braces ever returned to work there?
I know they never put a humidifier
in. There is absolutely no end to the service calls in a place like that (until
they humidify the place or buy a phone system from someone else).