A client of ours just reported that their office is 16% humidity and while that is insanely low, it is not unusual for Southern Alberta. It is normal to be mid 20%’s in Calgary but server room A/C units dry out the air even more.
What Level of Humidity Do Computers Require?
The short answer is that 50% humidity is required for optimal computer performance. However, in the real world, 50% humidity is a very debatable number. For instance, I have had discussions with half a dozen class AAA building managers who say 50% humidity is simply not possible in places like Arizona, Alberta and Abu Dhabi, unless the building is sealed and not open to the public.
Here are some recommendations you can point to if you want references:
- Seagate benchmarks its drives in a 50% humidity test environment
- Health Canada says that a healthy work environment should have 50% humidity
- The Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety says, offices should be at 50% humidity
- Lexmark has more problematic toner returns from Southern Alberta than it does is Arizona
What Can Happen To A Computer If The Humidity Is Too High
Rust is the problem with high humidity environments. And when we say rust, yes, it is technically the same as what happens to an old car, but it is MUCH less visible in electronic components like SSD‘s and hard drives. The better word to use here would be ‘oxidization’. If any oxidization occurs on computer parts, short circuits can occur or performance can be degraded.
What Can Happen To A Computer If The Humidity Is Too Low?
Low humidity can cause:
- static shock discharges damaging computer components
- static generated short circuits which may cause computer components to “touch” that should not there by causing serious damage
- connections like solder joints to shrink and fail
Low humidity is the problems we see in Alberta. We see some staff needing new keyboards every year or so because they are prone to static shocks. These people could pick up their feet when their walk (i.e. don’t shuffle along the floor building up static), wash their hands more, or even use some moisturizer!
Does Rapid Change in Humidity Cause Computer Problems?
Yes, Seagate for instance says that the maximum change in humidity that most of their disks and SSD can operate under is 30% per hour. However, that is maximum number and hopefully you never see your office or server room humidity levels change that quickly.