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One mistake kills your phone, tablet and gadgets

One mistake kills your phone, tablet and gadgets

Winter is approaching fast and temperatures are already plummeting in certain parts of the country. Even in Phoenix we're seeing some unusually cool weather, although in most places it would still be considered summer temperatures.

When freezing weather strikes, as it will soon, one question people always ask is how electronic gadgets handle the cold. Can you use your smartphone or tablets outside when it's minus-10 degrees? Is the TV in your northern summer home going to be ruined? You definitely want to read this before heading outside, or leaving your house unheated.

Know the temperature range

To start, you need to get a handle on the temperatures your gadget is designed to withstand. Every gadget is going to have a slightly different low operating temperature, so where you're able to use it might vary.

Check your gadget's manual for the manufacturer's recommended temperature range. If you can't find the manual, look for a digital copy online here, or check the product page on the manufacturer's website.

The safe range manufacturers give for operating temperature is usually conservative, like 50 degrees to 100 degrees. We've used phones with no problem in both higher (it is Phoenix, after all) and lower temps, but it isn't recommended. And you definitely don't want to try it with a laptop.

The non-operating temperatures, or the temperatures your gadget can withstand when turned off, will be more forgiving than the operating temperature. So if you do find yourself in really high or low temperatures, it's a good idea to switch off your gadget unless you really need it.

Temperatures you should avoid

As a rule, the coldest your handheld gadget or laptop should ever be is just above freezing. Below the freezing point, batteries start dying, LCD screens seize up and you can get random errors.

Even worse, if you heat up your gadget too quickly after it's been at freezing temperatures, and it's running, condensation can form inside and fry the electronics.

So, leaving a smartphone, tablet or laptop in the car overnight in sub-freezing temperatures is a no-no. And when you're moving around outside, be sure to keep it in your pocket or a bag where it will be a bit warmer.

Friendly reminder: Winter temperatures are no joke and not taking precautions can lead to frostbite and hypothermia. Stay safe, and make sure you have resources on hand to survive being stuck outside. This handy Winter Survival Kit app can help you plan.

But what if it gets left out by accident? If you do leave a gadget out in freezing-cold weather, bring it inside and let it warm to room temperature first before turning it on. That will reduce the chances of internal condensation and short circuiting.

What about TVs?

Things do get a bit trickier with TVs. Some people are adamant you can leave your TV in freezing temperatures and others say you can't. Both sides have anecdotes to support their position.

We say it depends on the TV. Check your TV's manual for the environmental specifications. For storage purposes, the non-operating temperature is what you want to look at.

The minimum non-operating temperature varies by TV; we've seen everything from 20 degrees to minus-20 degrees. We recommend using the manufacturer's stated temperature as a guide for one good reason.

If you try to get a gadget repaired under warranty and it was stored or used outside of the manufacturer's recommended range, you might find your warranty is void. And make sure you pay attention to whether the temperature is in Fahrenheit vs. Celsius since getting it wrong can make a big difference.

For those leaving homes unheated in Northern climates, your best option is to take the TV with you. Just remember, there are risks associated with moving a TV, like cracked screens. You might alternatively consider lending it to a friend who is staying in the area.

For those leaving a TV in the frigid cold, you'll need to take some preventative steps when you return. First heat the house to a habitable temperature. Then let the TV sit unused for at least 24 hours to acclimate before you turn it on.

As we mentioned earlier, turning on electronics at very low temperatures can cause condensation inside the unit. This can lead to short circuits or corrosion. Also, if you go through several cycles of rapid heating and cooling, the condensed water can freeze and expand, possibly cracking the screen. You definitely don't want that!

Fortunately, if the worst should happen, new TVs are cheaper than ever and you can probably pick up a nicer model for much less than you think. Learn about the TV-buying landscape and how to buy the perfect TV for your home.

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