Winter Humidity Levels and Temperature Changes Can Infect Your Office Machines With Malfunctions.

As winter sets in, you may begin to think that your printers, PCs, copiers and even fax machines are suffering from a highly contagious flu virus. We receive numerous calls this time of year from customers reporting hard-disk failures, missing files, poor print quality and other disturbing machine maladies. You’ll be happy to know that the doctor (that’s us) is in. What’s going on is not an illness – it’s the effect of cooler temperatures and dry air with complicating static electricity.

Low Humidity
Not only is the outside air less humid during late fall and winter, furnace heat robs moisture from indoor air too. Excessively dry air, say below 20% humidity, adversely affects the electrostatic process that laser printers, fax machines and copiers use in transferring toner to paper. Inkjets can be affected as well. You’ll see evidence of low humidity from your machines in the form of unsatisfactory prints. Background gray problems and ghost images or recurring text may begin to appear, especially on envelopes and thicker papers. You may also see print that is blurred or too dark. Laser printers with the NX engine, such as HP’s and IIISi and 4Si, are particularly sensitive to low humidity.

When paper becomes too try, print density is likely to change. In addition, dry paper develops a static charge that can cause pages to stick together as they’re being picked up by the printer, resulting in a paper jam. If paper sits unused in your printer’s paper tray for several days – over a weekend, perhaps – the top six to eight sheets are likely to be very dry. Place them at the bottom of the paper stack before you being printing.

Office machine manufacturers recommend that you operate your equipment in an environment with humidity levels between 20% and 80% preferably somewhere in the middle range. You can easily test the environment using a humidity gauge (available from Radio Shack for under $30).If you find the air too dry, installing a humidifier will correct the problem.

Dangerous Static
Not only does dry air and static affect the behaviour of toner, these conditions may result in damage to your machine. Their delicate circuit boards can be easily destroyed by a jolt of static electricity. As you walk across the office carpeting, your body build up a static charge. If the carpet is made of nylon and the air is very dry, you’ll really get charged up. That charge is then released when you tough a conductive object, such as a metal desk, filing cabinet, or even a person. Remember to touch something conductive before touching your office machines.

Temperature Changes
Sheets of paper can stick together when they’re too dry and when too damp. If you store paper in a cool location, then move it to a warmer one, chances are your paper will be damp until it acclimates to your printer’s environment. Move paper to the room that houses your printer at least 24hrs prior to use. Toner cartridges are also affected by temperature levels. If you’re seeing wavy or jagged backgrounds and halftones, or random spotting on your output, your cartridge drum is probably too cold. Ideally, you should store cartridges at room temperature, or a t least allow them the reach room temperature before use.

A Few More Suggestions
Place grounded rubber (anti-static) mats under equipment
Do not walk on carpeting with toner cartridges that are not in their static bags.
Locate office machines away from heater vents and fabric cubicle dividers.
Keep paper in ream wrappers until you’re just ready to use it
Make certain that machines are connected properly to grounded outlets
Turn machine density settings down.

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