Archive for December, 2008

Is Your LCD TV Safe This Winter?

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

In the January 2009 issue of Trailer Life the RV CLINIC page advises RV owners that “LCD screens – be they on a laptop computer, computer monitor or flat-screen television – can be damaged by freezing temperatures.” The column’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. I’ve kept a small 5” LCD TV in my small Airstream for years without any damage. In my larger Airstream I have a 19” 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 “the picture may be blurred or show poor color due to moisture condensation.” As for Sony’s recommendation regarding storage, they advise that their televisions can be stored “between -4 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit (F) and 20-90% Relative Humidity.”

Toshiba’s recommendations are identical to Sony’s.

But does the LCD screen “freeze?” The answer is no. There isn’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 isn’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 isn’t bad advice, but it doesn’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 TV’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 TV’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 doesn’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.

Photo Opportunities

Friday, December 12th, 2008

It looks like I’m in the market for a new digital camera. There’s nothing wrong with my old pocket camera, a Kodak Easy Share LS743, that I bought in 2005, but it is time for me to step up. Too often it is necessary for me to supplement my writing with photos. And as good a camera as the Kodak has been I need an SLR so that I can change lens’, and use a removable flash.

I really could have used that recently when I took some shots of a new Airstream in the back lot of a dealership. Lighting was terrible. The sun was low on the horizon and created drastic contrast problems for the interior shots. So, I closed the blinds. That put me in a low light situation. There was no battery power to turn on lights. I tried using the flash but those shots were either very stark or had glaring reflections because of the bare aluminum interior walls.

To much contrast
To much contrast from an open window blind.
Glare from flash
Glare from flash ruins the picture.
Low light
Low light with blinds closed and flash off.

I took a lot of shots without a flash. The Kodak actually does pretty good in low light as long as the camera is held rock steady. I have a tripod just for that, but since the camera can’t be fitted with a wide angle lens I have to hold it in some unusual positions. That means I can’t use the tripod. Sometimes I’m able to hold the camera steady enough by bracing my hand or the camera against something solid. I’ve noticed though that as I get older my hand isn’t as steady as it was even a few years ago. I took well over a hundred shots, but ended up with perhaps only a dozen that are usable. Of those, I wouldn’t rate any of them as being good.

My first digital camera was an inexpensive ($160), all plastic, Intel Pocket PC camera that I bought in 2000. It was the digital equivalent of an Instamatic. Easy to use, rugged, pretty good color but the resolution was less than 1 mega pixel, and a flash wasn’t available. I only bought it to experiment with digital photography. My main camera back then was a Fuji SLR that I’d used for over a decade. I had several lens for it, including a wide angle. It would be nice if I could still use those lens with a digital SLR, but the Fuji had a threaded mount and I think all digital SLR’s have a bayonet mount.

I stopped using the Fuji in 2003 when I bought a Kodak Easy Share LS443. It wasn’t that the Kodak took better pictures but I’m frugal. Film is a hassle and expensive. Digital isn’t. I love digital cameras.

The LS443 had a defective part in it though. I used it for two years when suddenly and unexpectedly it died. Kodak gave me a deal too good to refuse on the LS743 though and that’s what I’ve been using ever since. I like a camera that takes a good photo and is convenient to carry.

That’s the problem with the SLR’s. They’re much more bulky, and to keep the auxiliary lens available means carrying a camera bag or wearing a vest. But it’s time to open up the wallet and get one never the less. I’m thinking the best time to shop will be after Christmas. Any recommendations? I’d like to keep the price under $800. That may mean going with something used or refurbished but I’m okay with that.

By the way, I’m a grandpa again for the sixth time. My youngest daughter, Molly, gave birth to her fourth child last Thursday night. Everyone expected another boy, but she finally got her wish and this one was a girl! Heidi Lynn, 9 lbs. 6 oz., 21 ½ inches, full head of hair. As you can imagine we’ve been pretty busy, babysitting her boys at home, but we did get down to see her and Heidi at the hospital yesterday afternoon. Both are doing well and will be home late tomorrow.

About the Author

Hi, my name is Forrest McClure. I've been writing for the magazine since its inception. My wife and I travel with our 1966 20' Globe Trotter or our 1986 32' Excella. So, my primary interest is vintage travel trailers.