Static Shocks in my rental property – what can I do?

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Static Shocks In My Rental PropertyMy former home has been rented out for the last three years to a great set of tenants who would like to stay there long term. However, I fear they will move on because they keep getting static shocks.

I’ve checked this out for myself and totally sympathise with them but I don’t know what to do. Please help!

I have Googled the problem and all the information on the web seems to point to build up of static in clothing or new carpets. However, the only area of my property which is carpeted is the stairs, landing and upper two floors. The static problem is on the ground floor which is all tiled and hasn’t changed since I moved out.

I went to meet the tenants and they made me a cup of tea whilst they explained the problem. After 10 minutes they demonstrated the problem by asking me to switch on their DVD player. As I went to press the button a blue spark of static electricity about half an inch long connected my finger to the button as I went to press it. Not nice I can assure you!

The tenants had read that static shocks occur more in the winter due to humidity and have installed a de-humidifier but this doesn’t seem to have worked.  I also looked around for obvious problems such as nylons, the clothes they were wearing etc. and there was nothing obvious that could be causing these shocks or build up of static.

At first I thought it could be an electrical fault but they then asked me to go and stand in the lounge doorway. I had a short sleeved shirt on and as my arms got close to the wooden door frame I felt the hairs on my arms stand on end, drawn towards the wooden door frame. Now switch the light on they said with cheeky grin – I knew what was coming next.

Gingerly my finger moved towards the light switch, an aluminium dimmer switch ……. CRACK! ……. there it was again!

This was like being in one of those nasty little house of horrors experiences you got in the 70′s at most seaside resorts. Strangely I enjoyed them as a child but this was no fun at all let me tell you.

Every time I touched something metal in the house, a door knob or a light switch the same thing happened. I’m as certain as I can be this is static and not an electrical short.

If you could offer me any useful advice on how to cure this problem I would be eternally grateful. I can’t afford to lose these tenants, they are perfect.

I never had this problem when I lived in the house and I can see no logical reason for the problem now.

Thanks in advance for your help.

Dave

Now known by friends as Sparky, which is a bit embarrassing as I’m a plasterer LOL

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Comments

  • This might not be much use to you, but have you asked any of your neighbours if they are having any similar issues? It could possibly be something which has gone astray externally?
    Either that or your tenants are possessed!!


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  • Hi there.
    You have an earth proble and it should not be difficult to find as it affects everything.
    Get an electrician in quick & e will start at the main house earth & then check the main switchboard earth.
    Once he’s found the fault (which will require little or no materials to fix), get him to run a megga test to check your wiring insulation. I advise this not only because it’s quite likely that much of your wiring will not have local earths as is technically required these days, but because it may well highlight any other significant fault the wiring has.
    Forget the seasonal arguments as they are nonsense.
    Do this right away. You really have no option and it won’t break the bank.
    Regards
    Paul


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  • cosmo Member Profile Deleted says:

    is there a pylon near the house ?
    or any large transmitters ? such as a TV, radio or mobile phone station close by or within sight of or pointing towards the house ?
    or a radar station ( if you’re close to a airport )

    how about any underground cables, high tension stuff ( that’s high voltage ) recently installed ?

    as for the humidity, I have always been under the impression that sparks are more likely to fly in dry conditions.
    ( when i worked at Yorkshire television we use to sprinkle water on the carpets to get rid of the static. then the carpets were changed )


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  • This may not be particularly helpful but It was amusing. I used to own a shop and the floors were covered with Wooden flooring over the existing cement concrete floor. They put down a plastic liner over the concrete to prevent any possibility of damp coming up and this resulted in the floor becoming insulated and all the customers picked up static. This wasn’t a problem till they came to leave as no-one could open the metal framed door without a shock. One way of keeping your customers!
    We solved the problem by drilling down about 30cm and inserting a metal rod through wood floor/plastic/concrete.


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  • Dave says:

    @Paul – thanks, I’ve called my electricians out

    @Cosmo – none of those things are anywhere near the property so far as I’m aware

    @Pete – funny story, don’t much fancy having to drill holes in the floor but if that’s what the electricians suggest …. The local kids must have loved your shop, I’m surprised you changed it as I’m sure kids would all spread the word about this and also taken there parents in there just to see them get shocked.As you say, great customer retention!

    @Emma – your post made me chuckle the most – let’s hope is doesn’t come to exorcisms!


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  • @ Dave – As we all see in the movies these days, exorcism can be a gooey & messy job so lets hope it doesn`t come to that! Do you know a good priest if it becomes necessary? – I heard that the pope might be available for private functions lol


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  • I deal with electronics as my profession, and I know how I once bought brand new shoes with a rubber sole, and each time I got off a chair with a fabric cover, my body acquired a very high static charge, so each time I touched anything metal, like door handles, metal filing cabinet, in fact anything metal, there it was a blue spark that jumps almost 1/2 inch and a cracking sound as well as a unbearable prickly feeling at the tip of the fingers.

    But I learnt, that it was being caused by my shoes, so in the end I had to abandon brand new shoes, these were with rubber sole, what this means is that my body is insulated from the floor, so the top part of the body above the shoe sole gets charged to a very high voltage, merely by sliding off the chair, and this generates enough electrical charge to shoot a 1/2 inch spark across.

    Needless to say, i even destroyed my computer’s mother board when this High voltage charge entered my computer through pressing the start button as the current jumped straight into sensitive mother board, destroyed it beyond ecconomical repair.

    Since I am well into electronics, I was intrigued and so I did some further experiments, I tied some electrical bare wire around my ankles, and wrapped a few turns around the sole of my shoes, to prove that if my body was not isolated from the floor by means of rubber sole, then this charge would not build up as my body would be around the same electrical potential as the floor I am walking on, and the surrounding furniture and fixtures, like door handle, this stopped it, so by wearing wrong kind of shoes and having an environment where friction from getting off the chair or rubbing may be some other objects could charge your body to an extent that it builds up a very high potential, which can be downright dangerous, can even ignite combustible materials like for example hair spray , gas leaks, etc.plus the fact the shock itself can make you jump, scream and cause collateral damage! like for example you may quickly react to a shock and swing your arm so wildly that you might end up slapping her hard if your wife was standing near you! Or you could hurt your arm as you swung it and it caught a sharp corner or a sharp object.

    Now I think I know what may be happening, the culprit is your carpet, it is most likely acting as a total insulator with no leakage for electrical charge, most carpets are insulators, but the strength of insulation can vary with different materials, in electrical terms it is known as dielectric, different material have different electrical resistance, so some materials can conduct very small amount of electrical charge, almost like insulators, but enough to kill building up huge charge that can be detrimental.

    One thing you are doing wrong is drying out the environment using a dehumidifier, you are wrong about that, a wet or a moist carpet will certainly not be an insulator, it will conduct electrical charge, it is very dry conditions that can cause more shocks, so what you really need is experiment by spraying a fine mist of water over your carpet and then see if this has resolved your problem, but make sure you allow the spray to soak through to the bottom layer so that the electrical charge can be dissipated through to the floor.

    You probably have a concrete floor, as my experience only happened over a concrete floor with pvc tiles. I did not get shocks upstairs with the same rubber sole shoes but only downstairs!

    Although I have never tried, but anti-static sprays bare available, how effective they are I am not sure, but check with some electronic store such as Maplin electronics to see if you can treat your carpet with some anti-static spray, these anti-static spray is a conductive substance, which will help discharge heavy electrical charges building up, still provide some insulation against 230v ac shock, but to a very high voltage like in excess of 5000V this is like a conductor and will stop shock or spark jumping from your finger tips.

    as a temporary solution to annoying sparks, like for example when you are about to switch on metal dimmer light or about to open the fridge door, and you know the awful feeling of a spark going to get you, puncture your finger tip, what you do is you hold a coin or metal keys in your pocket, so just before touching the switch, or any metal thing, you hold the coin or any metal object in your hands and touch that metal to the switch or fridge door or door handle and you discharge the potential build up in your body through this metal object or your metal keys, this way you won’t feel a thing as the spark jumps from the metal object and does not ljump directly from your finger tip as that is what hurts!

    i hope this will help you to some extent, but by all mean get in touch with your carpet supplier and ask them why their carpet is doing this, see if they might come up with some suggestion.


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  • I am sorry, I read your post very hastily and realised the problem is on the ground floor where you do not have carpets! But tiles, what sort of tiles you didn’t say, are they PVC? or stone floor tiles?

    So my suggestion that it is the carpets which may be made of very high dilectric material could be the cause, but they can certainly help in you or your tenants acquiring a charge as you walk over them.

    Your tenants stated that they get more shocks in winter, this is because in winter the central heating dries out the air and so the electrical charge accumulates more easily, whilst they are wrongly assuming it due to moist atmosphere during winter, which is only true outside but inside the house the central heating kills all moisture!

    So may be they need to Humidify the rooms and not dehumidify, may be you had a new high efficiency boiler with high heat output or they are simply running their heating more constantly and so the atmosphere in the rooms is very dry,
    Get some water spray all over the place just to humidify, and this should reduce or completely eliminate these shocks.


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  • P M Corbett says:

    I recommend that you have the property electrically inspected and tested; it’s called an Electrical Installation Condition Report (formally known as a Periodic Inspection Report). Ensure that your electricians are competent to carry out this type of work; some electricians are not resisted to test & inspect. I run a small family electrical company and in the past I’ve been called out to trace faults that have been diagnosed as static, when in fact when we have carried the testing it’s been very clear what the problem has not been static. On one recent occasion we traced the fault down to a damage cable in the wall that the tenant had drilled, he had then subsequently had the RCD(safety device) shorted out to prevent it tripping before he left and the new tenants moved in. The landlord had called his normal electricians in who said it was static, it was his friend who suggested that he called us in to get a second opinion, whilst we carried out the testing I had asked him to stay so we could explain each procedure step by step. In total time it was 1.5 hours to trace the fault & 2 hours to carry out the repairs.

    You need to ascertain the following to establish that the electrical installation is not at fault;
    External earth fault path; Earth Loop Impedance (Ze)
    Type of earthing system in the property.
    Insulation resistance tests on all circuits to earth, walls, floors & all extraneous conductive parts of the property.
    Internal earth fault path; Earth Loop Impedance (Zs)
    RCD tripping times & tripping current
    It should be noted that the fault my not even be in your property, it could be coming from next door and the like.
    My last point is that it’s imperative that whoever carry’s out the testing is competent
    Patrick Corbett
    P M Corbett, PDH, RQS (Electrical)


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  • Dave says:

    Thank you all for your advice. The electricians are going in this weekend and I will update you with the outcome this time next week. In the meantime I have sent my tenants an email with a link to this thread so that they know I’m taking this seriously. Not sure what they will make of Emma’s comments though LOL


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