Freeman Cebu Lifestyle

How moisture affects electronic devices

The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines —  Ideally, one would be careful not to get his electronic device wet. But there is always a time when one is caught unaware or unprepared and his phone, for example, just gets wet. It can be quite a gut-wrenching experience, especially if there’s no way to get it dry right away.


It does not take an expert to figure out that humidity – the presence of moisture in the air – can damage electronic devices. A small apartment that does not have a ventilation hood above the stove can have high humidity inside. Even the simplest kitchen task, like boiling water, would create a noticeable amount of condensation on the closed windows, a telltale sign of the amount of moisture in the air inside.

High humidity for long periods can cause metals to corrode, including metal parts in electronic devices. Technology buff Julian Knight, participating in a discussion at www.howtogeek.com, says that “when condensation combines with the dust in any space occupied by people, it can clog up vents and overlay components, thus preventing sufficient cooling.”

One might have a simple condensation problem now and then.  A condensation problem is not likely to impact electronics devices as much as consistent high humidity does. Even if it does not affect electronics devices as badly, a high humidity home is sure to cause far more damage to the health of house residents.

Condensation, on the other hand, simply happens when the moisture in the air touches a surface with a temperature below the dew point. This can still be unhealthy since it can breed mold, which can be quite dangerous to human health. But this is unlikely to cause problems for electronic devices.

However, some problems may be experienced with electronics that are brought in from outdoors, so it is wise to acclimatize the equipment for a while before using these indoors. Knight suggests installing a large capacity extractor fan in a device, if possible, in order to get the humid air out quickly.

Another participant in the www.howtogeek.com discussion, Toby Speight, writes: “Most general purpose computer hardware is relatively well-protected against environmental humidity. When operating, device temperatures will normally be somewhat above ambient, reducing the risk of condensation.” He also agrees with Knight to allow computer equipment time to warm up if it has been moved from a colder environment into a damp or humid one.

Steven Crane, an electronics engineer, explains at www.quora.com: “High humidity can have a variety of negative effects on common integrated circuits [found in electronic devices]. Continual operation in humid environments can decrease the insulation resistance in electrolytic capacitors, for example. Transistors can also experience increased leakage current and reduced gain, as well.  However, the most problematic exposure of electronics to humid environments involves the formation of condensation on internal components.  If a device is moved from a cool environment to one that is warm and humid, circuit boards may become coated in moisture.  If the device is powered before this condensation can evaporate, short circuits between component interconnections can lead to device failure.”

Equally important, according to Crane, is protecting electronic devices from low humidity environments, which can lead to static electricity discharge that can result in irreversible damage.

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