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Plasma TV and High Altitudes

One of the latest and greatest inventions in recent times is the plasma television. The plasmas superior image quality, lesser weight and smaller footprint over traditional CRT televisions make them more and more common. Being that the main component of a plasma TV is plasma, the question arises about its functionality in high altitudes. Will it still work properly and have the same crystal clear image?

High Altitudes and Gas

Decreasing external air pressure present at higher altitudes can be a problem with plasma televisions. The pixels on a plasma television are actually glass housings containing rare gases and since thinner air causes greater stress on the gases inside the housing most plasma televisions are set up for optimum operation at, or near, sea level conditions.

When you get into higher altitudes, the plasma television needs to work harder in order to handle all the differences in external air pressure. When this happens, the TV will generate more heat and the fans it uses to keep itself cool (if it has them) will work harder. This may cause the set to emit a buzzing sound. Also, because of this, the 30,000 to 60,000 hour half-life (depending on brand/model) of the plasma screen will be reduced in relation to the heat generated due to the higher elevation.

This buzzing sound provides a hint as to the more serious problem: lifespan. The life of a plasma screen depends on how hard the set has to work during its usage lifecycle. Operating these televisions at altitudes above what they were designed can place harmful strain on the components inside. If you live about at or around 6,000 feet, a plasma TV can be more of an annoyance as you are likely to be bombarded with additional noise that can ruin the experience of a plasma TV.

For most this is not an issue, however there are things to think about if you live in an area over 2,500 feet above sea level. If you do live in such an area, you’ll want to check with your retailer to see whether there might be a potential problem. Some plasma televisions are strong enough to work well at altitudes in the range of 5,000 feet or more.

How to Find out?

As always, it is best to do a little research when purchasing a plasma TV and if you live in a high altitude environment, you should talk to your retailer or local dealer. One simple way to check this at the store is to put your hand on one of the display units. Assuming it is working at the same basic altitude, as your set will be, you can get a feel for exactly how hard the set is working. While doing this you can also listen to the cooling fan for any buzzing sound emanating from the case, if you hear the fan buzzing, it’s a good bet you will hear it at home as well. If you discover that a plasma TV is not really functional for your area, you may have to look into an LCD television however, with the leaps in technology we are experiencing, this should not be an all too common problem unless you are around the 5,000 feet levels. A good thing to note, however, is that as more and more people who live at these altitude levels gain access to plasma televisions, units that are specifically designed for that area will become more and more prevalent.

Options at Higher Altitudes

The decreased air pressure found at higher altitudes can cause a number of problems with a plasma television set. As the technology used to make these sets gets better and better, the sets are becoming more resilient at these higher altitudes and are being calibrated to work properly regardless. At the present time; however, higher altitudes and plasma television sets are not the best of friends and there are alternatives if you really want to get away from the bulky old CRT sets.

One such option is an LCD screen. Airplanes use LCD screen because of the altitudes and the cabin pressurization needed for flight. The LCD screen is comprised of tiny crystals instead of a gas like a plasma TV. Since there is no gas these types of screens at higher altitudes are not problematic at all. There are also companies who have designed plasma televisions specifically for use in very high altitude areas; however, because of this specialization, the set will cost considerably more than a standard plasma TV so you need to think if the price difference is really worth it to you or not. You will need to check the elevation information for your city to find out if this is a concern for you. If you're not sure what your local elevation is, you should do a little research on the area and what companies are saying about their individual plasma sets in the altitude that matches yours.

Head out to your local retailer and touch the screens and feel the heat from them. Listen to them as they work for a buzzing sound coming from them, turn the sound down on the set if it’s on first. You may find that your area doesn’t cause a problem for the sets.