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My small vacation apartment has no cooker hood and even the simplest kitchen task, boiling water, creates condensation on windows. I try to keep a window open whenever possible. At what point can high room humidity cause hardware damage?

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    I don't recall off the top of my head, but, electronic equipment often comes with safe operating temp and humidity ranged. In short, yes, humidity can ruin electronics. For example, I once worked at a video production studio and the sump pump in the ac unit in the equipment room broke. After several months, the extra humidity melted/corroded the boards in a bunch of very expensive I/O boxes :O – Mr. Kennedy May 22 '17 at 20:58
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    Most equipment is rated for operation up to somewhere in the range of 80% - 95% humidity, "non-condensing." If you're getting condensation on the equipment, you're begging for trouble. – Jeffiekins May 22 '17 at 22:04
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    In some circumstances, the reverse may be true; high humidity can be a benefit to electronics. Dry air is a very good insulator and will not provide a very effective leakage path for static charges, so sensitive devices may be at risk of damage. On the other hand, high humidity helps provide a leakage path mitigating the accumulation of damaging static charges, This generally applies more to uninstalled semiconductor components and circuit boards than to finished consumer devices, but some devices may have exposed connectors with limited or no over-voltage protections. – Zenilogix May 23 '17 at 1:03
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    Apart from every other consideration and answer, it amuse me that you get such a results. I think I must have powered on the cooker hood...like no more than 20 times in 10 years, and never had problems with condensation, even in really small kitchens 0_o (and I drink a lot of tea and usually boil water for pasta...) – motoDrizzt May 23 '17 at 7:51
  • When I was in the tropics, one of our offices used to switch off their air conditioning every weekend. Not sure how, but the high to low humidity changes caused the PCBs to start growing mouldy and eventually stop working. Those without aircon were fine, those which didn't have them switched off were fine. – cup May 23 '17 at 12:04
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There are several forms of damage 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 preventing sufficient cooling.

However, you might find that you don't in fact have a humidity problem just a condensation problem which is unlikely to really impact 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 be damaging as that is likely to need >80% for extended periods. That would be very unhealthy and will cause far more damage to you than the electronics. Humidity should be kept at around 40-60% 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 as it breeds molds which can be quite dangerous to health. But this is unlikely to cause problems to electronics left in situ. You might get some problems with electronics that you bring in from outdoors and it may be wise to let them aclimatise for a while before using indoors.

Really, you should get someone to fit an extractor fan with as large a capacity as you can so that you are getting humid air out as quickly as possible.

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    Side note: High humidity is not "very unhealthy" for people, there are places, like Okinawa, Japan, which experience >80% humidity for several months every year. – TemporalWolf May 22 '17 at 20:59
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    I'm surprised by this answer. I grew up in a place where more than 80% humidity is very common, yet everyone's cellphones work fine. Anywhere, whenever there is fog, you are at 100% humidity, and phones still survive that. – Martin Argerami May 23 '17 at 0:26
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    Oddly enough, if the humidity goes down far enough, you have ESD hazards. Lower humidity increases the maximum spike voltage you can unintentionally deliver to electronics. – user366447 May 23 '17 at 4:33
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    >60% humidity in indoor spaces is certainly considered unhealthy as it encourages mold spoors which can have serious health effects. External humidity is different due to air movement. <40% humidity indoors is also considered unhealthy as it dries tissues, especially in the throat (I believe). – Julian Knight May 23 '17 at 5:59
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    Most data sheets I’ve read have something like "up to n% humidity (non-condensing)", which suggests the opposite of what you claim. – Jonas Schäfer May 23 '17 at 9:14
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THe short answer is "Yes", but that really depends on just how much humidity there really is. Certainly if it is somehow able to condense in your computer it can cause damage.

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    there's a minor typo, "THe" – user598527 May 23 '17 at 8:10
  • Good get. Congratulations. – Xavierjazz May 23 '17 at 13:03
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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'll want to be most concerned about are tape drives and other magnetic media, especially if the tapes are stored somewhere cool.

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

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