By Diana Strzalka
Special to the Tribune
March 13, 2008
Q: We have a two-story home, almost a year old. When we moved in, we had a humidifier installed in one of the two furnaces for the lower level. Because of the cold winter so far, we have been experiencing static shocks on the upstairs level. About three to four weeks ago, we had a second humidifier installed in the other furnace. (I have changed the filter in the first unit and can see that there is a water flow in both units). I have been adjusting the humidity level per the manufacturer's direction but continue to get shocks. At one point, I turned the humidity all the way up to see if that would help, but of course I only got water condensation on the windows. I am back to adjusting per directions, but nothing seems to help. Any suggestions or solutions?
Bob Vacko, Plainfield
A: To maintain consistent humidity, a homeowner needs to be sure he has a properly installed, good quality humidifier with adequate power to meet the needs of the indoor space, said Tom Hack, of A Custom Heating and Air Conditioning, Inc., in Chicago. Not all brands are equal; some humidifiers are less effective and reliable than others. For seriously dry homes, especially new homes with wood, walls and other materials sucking up moisture, he recommends a steam humidifier because it is set up to run independent of the furnace.
Humidifiers that are linked with the furnace shut off and on with the furnace and may not be maintaining the targeted humidity level, he said. Homeowners should also check their ducts to be sure they are not undersized or leaking along their seams.
A dry house is a prime place for static electricity to develop so increasing humidity is the first line of defense, he said. Static electricity is caused when certain materials are rubbed against each other, causing electrons to be pulled off the surface of one material and moved to the surface of another material.
It's best to walk barefoot on the carpeting or wear leather shoes rather those made with synthetic materials. A wood floor is better than carpeting when it comes to static. There are also anti-static sprays, anti-static floor mats to protect computers and anti-static dryer sheets.
Remodeling and repair questions? Eemail@example.com.