Friday, January 2, 2009

Safety Tip: Vacuums & Static in low humidity environments

Earlier this week, I noticed the bathroom ceiling exhaust fan's inlet was dusty, so I got the vacuum cleaner, installed the requisite extension tubes, stood up on the lowered toilet seat, hoisted the vacuum to the necessary height to suck off the dust and BAM! I felt a sharp sting in my right hip, which was nearest the wall. I look down, and feel a 2nd stinging / stabbing sensation and I SEE a static discharge arc, from my hip, to the wall. This new bit of data - and the resulting pain - resulted in a loud cursing utterance.

When using a vacuum cleaner in a low humidity environment (it was 17% RH that day), to remove dust build up on exhaust fan inlet louvers a) turn off the exhaust fan to decrease the static potential b) be cognizant that you'll be fully charged and that the energy needs to go somewhere c) electrons are naturally shy creatures, but when they do reveal themselves, it is often with a bright visible arc, or acrid burning smell accompanied by some noise from the agitated electrons, or fire.

Also, keep in mind, the human body, being composed mostly of water, is nearly a "dead short" - less than 1 Ohm ear to ear, less than 10 Ohms head to toe, and it takes just about 100 mAmps to stop a human heart. Static discharges, as described here, have very little amps (luckily) but have quite a nice voltage kick (hence, the arc and the stabbing sensation).

1 comment:

  1. That's why God(TM) invented indentured servants. And offspring.


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