How Long Does It Take For A Capacitor To Self Discharge

5 min read Jun 26, 2024
How Long Does It Take For A Capacitor To Self Discharge

How Long Does it Take for a Capacitor to Self-Discharge?

Capacitors are widely used in electronic circuits to store energy, filter signals, and regulate voltage. However, one important aspect of capacitor behavior is their tendency to self-discharge over time. In this article, we will explore the factors that affect capacitor self-discharge and provide guidance on how to estimate the time it takes for a capacitor to self-discharge.

What is Capacitor Self-Discharge?

Capacitor self-discharge is the natural process by which a capacitor loses its stored energy over time. This occurs due to the internal resistance and leakage current within the capacitor. Even when a capacitor is not connected to any circuit, it will still slowly lose its charge as the stored energy is drained away.

Factors Affecting Capacitor Self-Discharge

Several factors influence the rate of capacitor self-discharge, including:

Capacitor Type

Different types of capacitors have varying self-discharge rates. For example:

  • Ceramic capacitors: These have a relatively high self-discharge rate, with a typical time constant of around 1-10 seconds.
  • Film capacitors: These have a slower self-discharge rate, with a typical time constant of around 10-100 seconds.
  • Electrolytic capacitors: These have a very slow self-discharge rate, with a typical time constant of around 1-10 minutes.

Capacitance Value

The larger the capacitance value, the slower the self-discharge rate.

Voltage Rating

A higher voltage rating typically leads to a slower self-discharge rate.


High temperatures can increase the self-discharge rate, while low temperatures can slow it down.

Leakage Current

The internal leakage current of the capacitor also affects the self-discharge rate.

Estimating Self-Discharge Time

To estimate the self-discharge time of a capacitor, you can use the following formula:

t = R \* C / (2 \* ln(2))


  • t is the self-discharge time (in seconds)
  • R is the internal resistance of the capacitor (in ohms)
  • C is the capacitance value (in farads)
  • ln is the natural logarithm

This formula provides a rough estimate of the self-discharge time, and the actual time may vary depending on the specific capacitor and environmental conditions.

Practical Applications and Considerations

Understanding capacitor self-discharge is crucial in various applications, such as:

  • Power backup systems: Capacitors are often used to provide power backup during short-term outages. In these cases, it's essential to choose a capacitor with a slow self-discharge rate to ensure the backup system remains effective.
  • Energy storage: Capacitors are used in energy storage systems to store electrical energy. Self-discharge can lead to energy loss, making it essential to select capacitors with low self-discharge rates.
  • Filter circuits: Capacitors are used in filter circuits to regulate voltage and current. Self-discharge can affect the performance of these circuits, making it important to consider capacitor self-discharge in the design process.


In conclusion, capacitor self-discharge is a natural process that occurs due to internal resistance and leakage current. By understanding the factors that affect self-discharge and using the formula to estimate the self-discharge time, engineers and designers can make informed decisions when selecting capacitors for their applications.