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I don't know much about electricity. I live in an old building experiencing bizarre electric phenomenon. The building might have bad wiring, I live near elevators and power distribution for the entire building in a large multi-floor building. I hear a faint humming sound through the wall 24/7 - sounds like electricity buzzing. At first, I somehow thought there was bad wiring or being near the electrical equipment was causing an excessive amount of electricity. But the more I dug into it, I think its a peculiar static electricity problem. I experienced static shocks when touching an old heater or other metal.

I notice small jolts in my bed. My theory is that the air is very dry, carpets are 100% polyester and it is pulling static electricity into my polyester mattress. The bed is now sitting on the ground because the metal frame was worse. Basically, if I place my hands and feet together on the mattress, I feel these tiny jolts in the mattress and I think they are transmission of electrons to the carpet or ground. The sheets attract a ton of lint. I think the static is flowing through the mattress or accumulating in the mattress and it feels like something is pulsating in the mattress. When I add in the humming sound, I wonder if electricity is somehow spreading into the room which then flows to the carpet. Either way, it feels like some electricity is accumulating in the air, being pulled to the polyester carpet/mattress and charging there. Ultimately, this is also being attracted to the polyester in the mattress and accumulating there. So if you lay in it or press really hard, you feel like its being shot through to the floor very gently. Similar to Morse code with small jolts to the ground. Where can static electricity come from and can there be enough to cause a sensation such as that?

Is it even possible for electricity to "spread" from the power distribution, wires or elevator power or be spread out from the power of the elevators or the old wiring through the floor or walls to create this jolting sensation? Where is it all coming from? How would enough electrons be constantly generated 24/7 on a consistent enough basis that you feel the small spasms through the mattress at virtually anytime. Could the described circumstances be caused by static electricity with polyester carpets, polyester mattress (20%) and generally dry air? It's a tiny zap. Like the static is building up in the mattress and then zapping to the carpet through my back or feet when standing on the floor.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Multiple questions - too broad and should be closed. \$\endgroup\$ – Leon Heller Apr 5 '19 at 17:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ "I notice small jolts in my bed." - Can you describe this in more detail? \$\endgroup\$ – marcelm Apr 5 '19 at 18:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ Do the zaps happen repeatedly even if you don't move much? \$\endgroup\$ – geometrikal Apr 11 '19 at 11:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, it’s like a steady pulse from within the mattress. I purchased several thick rubber mats and lined the mattress between my body and I can’t feel it. If I’m standing anywhere it’s like I can feel the ground “humming” or moving. Very strange circumstances. I keep RH at 40+ even 60+ before bed and it does help but not totally. Very confused how that much static electricity can be created. \$\endgroup\$ – cascol33 Apr 12 '19 at 12:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also seems to get worse at heavy load times where everyone is coming and going through the elevators. Is it possible they jacked the voltage up to reach further units and since line is right by equipment I get really hot voltage somehow contributing to this? \$\endgroup\$ – cascol33 Apr 12 '19 at 12:34
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If it's dry, then rubbing any two materials together can create static electric fields which cause electrostatic discharge events (ESD). In electronics labs static electricicty can kill components, so they do a few things to knock down electric fields.

1) Use a humidifier. Humidity helps the air conduct, the lab that I used to work at kept the humidity tightly controlled within 65%. Water in the air also cuts down on fields generated from photoelectric charging.

2) Wear a stylish lab coat with metal in the fabric to ground out currents from clothing

enter image description here
Source: Flexible assembly

3) Wear wrist straps attached to ground (with a 1MΩ resistor so you don't short yourself out)

4) Use a conductive floor

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  • \$\begingroup\$ meta.stackexchange.com/questions/126180/… \$\endgroup\$ – Voltage Spike Apr 12 '19 at 15:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ You got it! Thanks. But I can’t log an upvote having less than 15 rep. Also, unplugged what appears to be a very old fridge and the electricity sensation significantly dimished. \$\endgroup\$ – cascol33 Apr 12 '19 at 18:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @cascol33 Do want wear ESD materials in bed or just to ground the stove and use dryer antistat sheets. Those blue coats with carbon threads were really nerdy. \$\endgroup\$ – Tony Stewart Sunnyskyguy EE75 Apr 12 '19 at 21:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ So the dryer sheets didn't really help. I unplugged the fridge today and it significantly reduced the jolting I was feeling. I'm wondering if the fridge (very old and big bulky metal) was somehow leaking into the air or something. I sleep with nothing on (hopefully not TMI). I ground the bed with a metal rod at the foot of the bed into the carpet. I ground my blanket to a separate metal pole that I tie the blanket too. I sleep on rubber mats underneath a softer blanket on top of the mattress. \$\endgroup\$ – cascol33 Apr 12 '19 at 23:33
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  1. How are elevators powered (old elevators, this building is an old one).

By electricity. Why do you ask?

  1. Why is there humming? What would humming be caused by that is audible through the wall with elevator power so close by?

Humming can be caused by pumps, air-conditioning, ventilators, etc. The vibrations can travel very long distances through the solid building materials.

  1. How would electricity spread through the floor in such a case?

It generally doesn't. You give no location in your question or user profile (which is one of the reasons it's there) so we have no idea what the electrical standards are in your country.

  1. How dangerous would jolting electricity through a mattress/carpet be if you were exposed for prolonged periods of time?

This is most unlikely.

  • It would require a conducting bed frame.
  • If the bed frame is conducting then it would ensure that all parts of the bed were at the same voltage so you certainly would not get jolts while on the bed.
  1. What would you want an electrician to investigate to determine where the jolting sensation is coming from?

Take voltage measurements.

  1. Could the described circumstances be caused by static electricity with polyester carpets, polyester mattress (20%) and generally dry air?

Yes.

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Old elevators ran off 500Vdc motors. This not very high V compared to 20kV of electrostatic.

There are antistatic carpet sprays and dryer antistat sheets that ought to resolve your static charge issues. (even 1/2 sheet will do)

Although when I once tested a large 5MVA transformer in a factory with 100kVdc. The E-field travelled far and 20m away and a long metal bar on drywall was self-charging and discharging about 1~2 ticks/s with a quiet tick-tick. Nearby epoxy paint on a wire safety cage door, would discharge when brushing a finger against it and the hair on the back of my neck was standing up. This is normal near 100kV high voltage DC E-fields.

I suspect your issue is only the materials in your residence are self-generating electrostatic from friction (triboelectric effect) ( or separation of the bedsheets) so the antistat solution should work.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Or get a humidifier. \$\endgroup\$ – DKNguyen Apr 5 '19 at 21:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ I have two humidifiers and will spring for anti-static products. Thanks! It does mitigate the problem but does not eliminate it totally. \$\endgroup\$ – cascol33 Apr 5 '19 at 21:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ I once had to ground my computer desk to the screw that holds the faceplate on the wall outlet because the shocks were so bad and consistent during the winter. \$\endgroup\$ – DKNguyen Apr 5 '19 at 21:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm pretty much at that point haha \$\endgroup\$ – cascol33 Apr 5 '19 at 21:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ I suppose you could get wire mesh and layer it on your matress and connect it to ground (via screw that holds the faceplate on the outlet since that is connected to building ground.THROUGH a 1-10Megaohm resistor for safety. 1 Mega ohm is what is used for ESD straps in labs, but this is a bed you're sleeping on. And you'd have to make sure your ground is actually ground and not miswired or it's really dangerous. I'm also not sure if that's safe to be doing something like sleeping on if something like a lightning strike happens. Others would have to chime in. \$\endgroup\$ – DKNguyen Apr 5 '19 at 21:58

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