Getting your favorite electronic device soaking wet is always a gut-wrenching experience, but can high levels of humidity also damage electronic devices? Today’s SuperUser Q&A post has the answer to a worried reader’s question.

Today’s Question & Answer session comes to us courtesy of SuperUser—a subdivision of Stack Exchange, a community-driven grouping of Q&A web sites.

The Question

SuperUser reader user598527 wants to know if high humidity can damage electronic devices:

My small vacation apartment does not have a ventilation hood above the stove, so even the simplest kitchen task, like boiling water, creates a noticeable amount of condensation on the windows. I try to keep a window open whenever possible to cut down on the excess moisture. At what point can high indoor humidity cause hardware damage?

Can high humidity damage electronic devices?

The Answer

SuperUser contributors Julian Knight and Toby Speight have the answer for us. First up, Julian Knight:

There are several forms of damage that high humidity can cause. Condensation on metallic parts may cause corrosion and combining condensation with the dust you get in any space occupied by people can clog up vents and overlay components, thus preventing sufficient cooling.

However, you might find that you do not, in fact, have a humidity problem, just a condensation problem which is unlikely to really impact your electronics that much. You might get a humidity sensor to check, but it is generally quite hard to reach levels of humidity that will actually cause damage since it would likely need to exceed 80 percent for extended periods of time. That would be very unhealthy and will cause far more damage to you than to your electronics. Humidity should be kept at around 40-60 percent for occupied areas.

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 your health. But this is unlikely to cause problems for your electronics. You might experience some problems with electronics that you bring in from outdoors, so it might be wise to let them acclimatize for a while before using them indoors.

You should get someone to install a large capacity extractor fan so that you can get the humid air out as quickly as possible.

Link: Recommended Humidity Levels Search [Google]

Followed by the answer from Toby Speight:

Most general purpose computing hardware is relatively well protected against environmental humidity. When operating, device temperatures will normally be somewhat above ambient, which reduces the risk of condensation.

The items you will want to be most concerned about are tape drives and other magnetic media, especially if the tapes are stored somewhere cool.

Also, allow computer equipment time to warm up if it has been moved from a colder environment into a damp/humid one.

Have something to add to the explanation? Sound off in the comments. Want to read more answers from other tech-savvy Stack Exchange users? Check out the full discussion thread here.

Image Credit: DariuszSankowski (Pixabay)

Akemi Iwaya
Akemi Iwaya has been part of the How-To Geek/LifeSavvy Media team since 2009. She has previously written under the pen name "Asian Angel" and was a Lifehacker intern before joining How-To Geek/LifeSavvy Media. She has been quoted as an authoritative source by ZDNet Worldwide.
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