Frequent flying aircraft unlikely cause of static electricity
QI own a home in St. James close to the airport and in line with the flight paths. For the nine years I have lived here we have had a problem with static in the house, despite constantly running a humidifier. Also, when I stand in the middle of my backyard I can feel the static against my skin. When we purchased the home there was a five foot rod sunk in the ground, next to the house, and another one in the back area of the yard. I did not know what these rods were for and have since removed them. I am wondering if they were meant to be grounding rods? Why am I experiencing so much static in my home and outside in the yard? Does the constant aircraft traffic over my home result in built up static? What can I do to reduce the static problem? Shawna Answer: Some things that occur in and around our homes have causes that are hard to pinpoint, and beyond the knowledge of even an experienced home inspector. Static electricity can be annoying, but is rarely caused by a significant issue, unless in extreme cases. There may be some things you can do inside to minimize this concern, but outside may be more your imagination than reality. Determining whether there is anything seriously wrong with your home, inside or out, may require testing and evaluation by an experienced environmental engineer. Static electricity is often experienced within a building due to certain materials rubbing against each other or other related causes. You are right that this may be worse in the dry winter, but could occur at other times, as well. The first thing I have to enquire about is the type of floor coverings in your home. Certain types of flooring, particularly carpets, can cause static electricity when walked on with socks, stockings, or certain types of footwear. I’m not sure which regular carpet materials may be the worst, but often the fabrics are composed of nylon, polyester, wool, or blends of these. If you mainly experience this phenomenon in rooms with carpets only, removal and replacement with hard surface flooring may help. It is doubtful aircraft frequently flying over your home has anything to do with electrical charges or electromagnetic forces in the environment. Even in your area, there is a great deal of open space between your home and any planes, which should negate any effects they may be cause. I would think noise or vibrations may be an issue, but not anything that would cause excessive static electricity in your yard. A better place to look would be any equipment located nearby. Do you have any hydro poles immediately adjacent to your yard? If so, are there any large transformers suspended from the top of these? Are there any substations or large overhead power lines near your home? Any of these could produce a higher than normal amount of electromagnetic radiation in the vicinity of your yard. Whether this would be noticeable when you’re outside would be questionable, but there has been lots of chatter in recent years about possible negative effects of this equipment on people. It is conceivable your home is located in an area where Hydro infrastructure is inadvertently affecting the environment. Whether this would be causing the high static electricity forces you are noticing would be a question for someone more qualified than I. Further investigation by an environmental specialist may be warranted to determine if there are any more serious concerns, if this is the case. You may be correct that the metal rods you removed from your yard were originally installed as ground rods, but they’re probably not needed anymore. They were either rendered unnecessary many years ago, or may have been installed for something such as an old television antenna or other exterior fixture. To rule this out as an issue, locate your current ground wire where it connects to the water supply pipe near the meter. This bare copper wire should be continuous from this pipe to the electrical panel, or bypass the meter and continue right to the panel. If it is not in this location, look for a clamp on a metal water supply pipe where the wire may terminate. If you see it in this location, or can’t find the termination of this wire, call an electrician to properly ground the panel to the water line. This may not eliminate the static issue, but will certainly improve the overall safety of the electrical system. Dryness in your home may make static electricity issues worse, but should not be the underlying cause, nor should airplanes flying low over your home. It is more likely various materials in your flooring, furniture, or clothing are responsible for this nuisance problem. The true cause of this issue may not be within the knowledge of most home inspectors, myself included, but common sense tells me your sensing of this outside the home is an overreaction. Regardless, if changes in your interior floor coverings or furnishings don’t solve the problem, and you still feel the effects of the static charges outside your home, evaluation by an experienced environmental engineer should be the next step.
Ari Marantz is the owner of Trained Eye Home Inspection Ltd.