Dear Lifehacker, The air in my house is really dry, and I'm worried that static electricity will zap my computers into oblivion. Besides buying expensive humidifiers what other options do I have?
Signed, Electrified Reader
Photo by ericskiff.
That's a great question because, though it doesn't happen often, one misplaced spark can take down your entire PC. Touching metal just before you reach for your computer will discharge any static electricity you built up walking across the room, but that solution means everyone in the whole house has to remember to do it.
Helium's Les Jacobs points out that cheapie bedside humidifiers will do in a pinch. You could always snag one of these from a local discount store and keep it in the same room as the electronics you want to protect. Jacobs says don't expect these kinds of units to last very long, though. To get the most bang for your buck, use only filtered water and make sure you clean the heating element with vinegar on a regular basis.
Of course, there's always the tried-and-true method of placing a pot of water on a room's radiator or heat vent to wick water into the air as the warm air passes over it. The hive mind over at Ask MetaFilter came up with several more economical alternatives to dehumidifiers, including effusing the room with anti-static spray or buying crepe-soled shoes to wear around the house. Be sure to check out the whole thread for even more ideas.
Depending on the size of your room and just how dry the air in it is, you might need to experiment with different methods to see what works best for you.