How to care for your HDTV

Most of us want to preserve the life of our home theater investments. Some, who want to upgrade, may not. For those, do the exact opposite of what we talk about. For the rest of us who want to protect our hard-earned investment, to make sure our televisions to last as long as possible, there are a few simple things to remember to make sure you get the most hours you can from it. Most of these apply to any piece of electronics you have in your theater: receivers, DVRs, Blu-ray players, projectors, you name it.

Keep it cool

Nothing kills a TV prematurely like heat. The TV, especially if you have a plasma, will heat up quite easily on its own. All this heat, if it can’t dissipate, can destroy the internal components of your television. If you don’t allow for adequate air flow or ventilation around the television, you may be killing your set off before its prime. Your television manufacturer will typically list ventilation requirements in your manual.

If you live in a very hot climate, you should be concerned about the life of your TV. Not that it needs its own cooling system or dedicated air conditioning unit, but if it is difficult to get heat to leave the room, it will be that much more difficult to get heat to leave the TV. Proper ventilation is key, but you may also want to consider installing some small fans, either in your TV cabinet or near the television, to make sure the air is always moving. Some after-market thermal controlled fans can be used to turn on only when a specific heat threshold is met.

It isn’t just heat, humidity can also cause severe damage to a television set. Liquid is the enemy of electrical components and humidity is no different. Do your best to keep the area clean and dry. If you don’t keep it clean, the moisture in the air could mix with the dust in the TV set and form some very damaging gunk on your sensitive circuit boards. More on keeping them clean later. But make sure you keep them dry.

While very cold temperatures can impact the performance of the TV, very rarely will they have a negative impact on the life of the TV, unless the extreme cold is also coupled with moisture of some kind. However, rapid swings in temperature, where the set goes from very cold to very hot and then back again, in a short amount of time, can wreak havoc as well. The electronics are tested for extreme temperatures, but assuming you’ll be in Arizona if its hot or Alaska if it’s cold. Try to keep the environment consistent.

Keep it clean

Dust and dirt are another plague on the extended life of an HDTV. As we mentioned before, dust, especially when mixed with moisture from humidity or anything else, can cause severe damage to the TV. The dust-moisture mixture can cause electrical circuits to connect to the wrong chips, shorting them or overloading them. It’s like the classic problem of “bugs” in mainframe days. Anything on the circuit board that isn’t supposed to be there can cause problems.

Proper ventilation is very helpful to reduce dust formation, but even with good airflow, dust still builds up on and around your television set. Routine cleaning is critical. Don’t allow the dust to build up long enough that it can cause an issue. Use a soft rag to remove the dust from the exterior of the television cabinet. If there are vents in the cabinet, blowing them out with a can of compressed air can be quite helpful. You’ll want to be careful with this, though. You don’t want to blow all the dust deeper into the TV and cause your own build-up mess deep inside the bowels of the television.

Keep the usage smooth

Your television likes to do what you ask of it. It likes to perform for you. But it doesn’t like to do tricks. The less you make your TV work, the longer it will last. For example, the climate issue of quick changes in temperature is not good for the TV. Keep the air temperature consistent  as much as possible. Also, constantly turning the TV on and off can cause problems. It shouldn’t. And all manufacturers test this (or at least should be testing it), but the power up/self test/initialize sequence can be intensive. Performing that rapidly and repeatedly could be problematic.

You should also look to keep the power going into the TV as smooth and consistent as possible. This more than likely means the use of a power center with power conditioning. Something that will sit between your TV and the wall outlet to make sure that a sudden jolt in power, or a momentary dip in power, won’t make it through to the TV. If you’re using a UPS to maintain power to the TV even if you lose power in your home, make sure the UPS provides smooth (sine wave) power, not choppy (stepped wave) power.

For many years to come

In the end some simple rules to follow and a couple quick maintenance steps can make sure you get the maximum life out of any HDTV, or any home theater component for that matter. Whether you want to preserve your TV or projector, receiver or amplifier, the rules are pretty much the same. If you’re in the market for an upgrade and need an excuse, ignore everything we said. In fact, do the exact opposite. Your TV will come to a screeching halt in no time.

It is important to remember that despite your best efforts, home electronics aren’t perfect. You may put all the love and attention into your television that you humanly can, and it can still fail. There may be a component failure that is completely outside your control. Chips fail, boards die, pixels stick. It just happens. Doing the simple things we talked about won’t guarantee your TV will last for a long time, but it will improve your odds significantly.