Electronics in the cold

By Jackie DavisJackie Davis



The Question

What kind of temperature limitations are placed on electronics? Can I safely leave my equipment in my non-winterized cottage over the winter?

—Daniel Baker, Toronto

The Answer

This calls for a Cottage Life Simulation Test! The results? Our DVD player-recorder spent two weeks in a chest freezer—set at the coldest temperature—and survived just fine. You’ll notice that we didn’t attempt this freezer test with a $1,500 TV, or our laptop. Sophisticated electronics that have plasma or LCD screens (for example, TVs and some digital cameras) as well as equipment with hard drives (computers, MP3 players) are more sensitive to cold than other devices. Experts say that the damage starts at –20˚C. Your cottage may not get that cold—it depends on factors such as sun exposure, insulation, and what kind of temperatures Old Man Winter decides to lay upon us this year. Keep in mind that it’s not necessarily the cold per se that affects electronics, but the wide temperature fluctuations that lead to condensation, which may corrode the parts inside.

Manufacturers will often recommend optimum temperatures for operating and storing equipment, so you can check websites—or the paperwork that came with the item, assuming you kept that stuff—for specifications. But it really comes down to how much you value your tech. Maybe you’re okay with risking a $50 DVD player. Your PlayStation 3? Perhaps not. If you do leave equipment at the cottage, remember to unplug everything or remove any batteries. And if you visit mid-winter, allow the equipment to warm up to room temperature before you turn it on.


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Feb. 4, 2014

8:42 pm

First off, it rarely gets to -40 in the Arctic, let alone places in Canada that people cottage, not sure where you get "easily" reaches -40. However my cottage near Haliburton occasionally reaches -30 with -15 to -20 lows more typical. We go up all winter and our LCD TV has been there for 3 years, when we get there Friday night we turn it on and start watching right away in -15C temperatures without a problem. I don't care about the TV so I don't sweat it, but zero issues so far so not only do we not wait for it to warm up, we watch it in the cold waiting for the wood stove to heat things up.


Feb. 7, 2013

12:04 pm

I work in the electronics field, and if you want your cottage electronics to last any length of time, a lot of them should be store where there is controlled temperatures. The 46" TV discussed above I believe is an LCD TV. If this is the case, then you very much need to take you TV out of the cottage for the winter. I have worked in the LCD field for about 13 yrs, and if you reach below the 0C temperature, which most of these consumer LCDs are rated for, then the liquid crystal internally in the LCD has the possibility of freezing. If this happens, you now have a new boat anchor! Some LCD tv's can be okay past the 0C I mention, but not all, so to always be safe, you should take your LCD tv's home with you at the end of the season. Here in Canada we can easily reach -40C. So if a cottage isn't winterized or doesn't have heat to keep it above the freezing mark, then you need to remove the electronics.


Dec. 21, 2011

5:46 am

We have a 46" Sharp Aquos TV. Called the manufacturer and they said there was no problem to leave it over winter in our closed (unheated) cottage. As mentioned above, the trick to maintaining is allowing time for the TV to warm up to the inside (ambient) cottage temperature and then turn it on.

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Jackie Davis