In the January 2009 issue of Trailer Life the RV CLINIC page advises RV owners that â€œLCD screens – be they on a laptop computer, computer monitor or flat-screen television – can be damaged by freezing temperatures.â€ The columnâ€™s heading seemed to imply that a Liquid Crystal Screen can actually be frozen.
With the recent frigid weather the nation is having, I wondered about this. Iâ€™ve kept a small 5â€ LCD TV in my small Airstream for years without any damage. In my larger Airstream I have a 19â€ Sony LCD TV that was purchased and installed by Airstream at Jackson Center. Both are kept outdoors year around, and have experienced significant fluctuation in interior temperatures, including long periods of severe cold.
However, in querying Sony (in particular about Model KLV-S19A10) and Toshiba there is a warning that frigid temperatures can cause damage. Sony recommends that owners avoid operating their TV at temperatures below 41 degrees Fahrenheit because â€œthe picture may be blurred or show poor color due to moisture condensation.â€ As for Sonyâ€™s recommendation regarding storage, they advise that their televisions can be stored â€œbetween -4 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit (F) and 20-90% Relative Humidity.â€
Toshibaâ€™s recommendations are identical to Sonyâ€™s.
But does the LCD screen â€œfreeze?â€ The answer is no. There isnâ€™t actually any liquid in a Liquid Crystal Display. The crystals are said to be liquid only relative to their ability to change shape when given an electrical charge. They are not liquid in the same sense that water is liquid, and will not expand or burst the screen by freezing in the same way that ice can burst a pipe.
Most likely, the damage to a TV, or any electronic device exposed to prolonged deep cold, is from rapid temperature fluctuations and/or condensation forming inside the device.
Rapid temperature fluctuations, or extreme temperatures are obviously hard on any electronic device. Rapid changes cause uneven expansion or contraction of various electronic components and connections. Extreme temperatures stress the design tolerances in the same fashion.
Condensation will happen when the device is moved directly to a warm humid environment when the device itself is still cold. Moisture from condensation on circuit boards and electrical contacts can cause damage, in exactly the same way that spilling a glass of water into the device can. Water will cause short-circuiting and that, in turn, can even cause a fire. A fire caused by water seems counter-intuitive, but it happens in electrical situations. For instance, never try to put out an electrical fire with water. It will only aggravate the situation.
There is the sense that as long as the device isnâ€™t powered up (plugged in) that condensation will not cause any harm. Simply give the device opportunity to warm to room temperature and the condensation will evaporate. Then the device can be turned on without doing any harm. Again this seems intuitive, and it isnâ€™t bad advice, but it doesnâ€™t take into consideration that many devices today are always electrically charged even when not plugged in.
What about the LCD devices that are built into cars, trucks and SUVs? These devices are specially designed for an automotive environment, in that they are 12 volt battery powered, have perhaps more rugged circuitry, and/or are sealed to keep out dust and condensation. They are also always wired into the battery and likely have some amount of power going to them to keep them in a warm ready state.
On the other hand, most LCD TVâ€™s used in RVs have been designed for use in a residence and are not as rugged. In addition they are 120 volt and are not connected to the 12 volt house batteries and will not be kept in a warm ready state when the RV is not hooked up to shore power. This might not be the case for every owner, but it will be for many.
So, the best advice appears to be that LCD TVâ€™s, computer monitors and other similar devices should be removed from an RV prior to the onset of really cold weather, unless of course the RV interior is kept warm. Do not expose these devices to excessive heat, such as direct sunlight or near a heater, and do not expose them to extremely low temperatures. If the device is already in cold storage and the decision is made to move it to a warmer environment then make the change as gradual as possible and let it sit overnight prior to operating.
This doesnâ€™t mean we should be paranoid about leaving an LCD TV in an RV. Most RV owners never have a problem and never take any precautions. Still, the recommendations from the TV manufacturers being what they are, let caution be your guide.