Managing Electrostatic Discharge – CompTIA A+ 220-1102 – 4.4

Static electricity can destroy electronic components in the blink of an eye. In this video, you’ll learn about electrostatic discharge and how to control ESD with anti-static straps, pads, mats, and bags.

We’re probably all very familiar with static electricity. If you’ve ever shuffled your feet along a carpeted floor and touched a metal doorknob, then you’ve probably felt the static electricity discharge. We refer to this as static electricity because it’s electricity that effectively stays in one place. It doesn’t move until you happen to touch that doorknob, and then you do have a movement of that static electricity.

On its own, static electricity doesn’t harm your electronics. It’s when there’s a discharge of static electricity that causes the issues with your equipment. We can see the results of this ESD, or electrostatic discharge, in this image. You can see the damage on this device. And of course, we can feel this electrostatic discharge when we touch that doorknob, there’s about 3,500 volts that goes between us and that piece of metal.

Since it only takes 100 volts or less to cause damage to your equipment, you can see how important it is to prevent any type of ESD. There are a number of things that you can do to help prevent electrostatic discharge. One of those is to keep the humidity level over 60%. This won’t prevent all possible cases of electrostatic discharge, but it certainly works to keep the instances very low.

Of course, working in an environment with 60% humidity is not practical at all. It’s very uncomfortable. And usually, we’re working in an air conditioned environment and the air conditioning is taking all of that humidity out of the air. So since we’re not working in this high humidity environment, it’s up to us to make sure that we can minimize the instances of electrostatic discharge.

One of the ways to do this is to touch any exposed metal on the device that you’re working with. Sometimes you’ll hear this referred to as a self-ground. In this context, we’re equalizing the electrical potential between us and the device we’re working on. And although we’re referring to this as a self ground, this is not an electrical ground connection that has a copper rod that goes 6 feet into the ground that we’re connecting to. We’re simply touching a piece of metal on the device that we’re working with.

In fact in every case, you would always unplug the power connection from the device you’re working on. You should never be working inside of a device that is physically connected to the power system. And because I’ve seen documentation that says otherwise, I want you to be very clear that you should never be connecting yourself to the electrical grounding system of any building.

Not only does this not prevent electrostatic discharge, it is a significant safety concern. You should never connect yourself to any type of system where there might be a voltage on that connection. Instead of occasionally reaching over and touching a piece of metal on that device that we’re working on, we could instead wear an anti-static strap. This effectively provides that connection for us. We would put this strap on our wrist and the other end would connect to the device that we’re working on.

You could also use an anti-static pad in your desktop where you would put yourself, the components you’re working on, and any tools that you might need. The pad, of course, is also connected to a common piece of metal in an effort to prevent electrostatic discharge. And if you’re standing or you move around a lot in this environment, you might want to use an anti-static mat so you’re always standing or sitting on this mat that is also connected to a common piece of metal.

And if you need to transport any of these electronic components from one place to the other, you might want to store it in an anti-static bag to protect it during shipment. Here’s an image of an anti-static pad. You can see that all of the different components of this laptop are all in some way connected to this pad. We can also see an anti-static strap around this technician’s wrist, and the cable coming off of that strap is connected to the same metal piece as the anti-static pad.

Here’s another view of this strap. You can see it’s adjustable and has a quick release option so you can easily disconnect yourself, walk away, and when you come back, it’s very easy to connect yourself back up to the grounding system. And if you’ve ever purchased a new piece of equipment or you need to transport piece of equipment from one place to the other, it’s always a good idea to put it in an anti-static bag to help prevent any type of electrostatic discharge.

When you’re working with these electronic components, it’s always a good idea to hold them around the edges and not to touch the components themselves. If you do need to store these computers and other devices, it should be in a regulated environment where the temperature ranges between 50 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, which is around 10 to 27 degrees Celsius.

If you’re shipping these components or you’re concerned about humidity damaging these sensitive components, you might want to use these silica gel packs. They act as a desiccant and will take the water out of the air and away from your components. And if you’re storing these components for an extended period of time, it would be best if we had the original box. But if you don’t have the original box, you can easily combine bubble wrap and an anti-static bag to help keep those components safe.