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Tools Toys and Technology

About the Tools You Use and the Toys That Make Life Interesting

Tools Toys and Technology - About the Tools You Use and the Toys That Make Life Interesting

Too Hot to Handle

As we summer desert dwellers struggle to survive record high temperatures and monsoon storms, please take a little time to consider the seasonal hazards your electronic servants face. Power surges and outages challenge the growing numbers of electronic minions in your household on a daily basis. Your expensive and important appliances should have surge protectors in place; more sensitive or critical devices are best protected by uninterruptable power sources, a.k.a.battery backup systems. These protective devices do not last forever; replacing every few years or after a single severe power surge is routinely advised. If you will be away from home for a prolonged interval, simply unplugging unused devices is safest of all.


Temperatures in parked cars can reach 160+ degrees on our hottest Arizona summer days. We have all seen the announcements warning of the dangers to children and pets left in parked cars and the occasional tragic consequences of disregarding these hazards. This temperature level is hot enough to melt or deform some plastics. It is more than enough to melt the hot glues used to assemble many portable electronic devices. Battery life is permanently shortened for some rechargeable batteries exposed to such extreme heat. Some lithium batteries will swell and rupture under these conditions; once exposed to moist air, lithium can undergo an exothermic reaction – hot enough to start a fire!

Not all heat related problems immediately result in catastrophic failure. Electronic devices all produce heat when working. Common signs of excessive heating include cooling fans running at high speeds, erratic or slow computer performance, distorted graphics, unexpected device shutdowns and laptops too hot to hold on your lap.

Since component life is shortened by recurrent heat stress, electronic gadgets are designed to dissipate heat via air vents, radiators and internal fans. Additionally, most will automatically slow down to reduce heat production or shut off if the heat load is too hot to handle. These safeguards will be of little use if proper ventilation is compromised. Placing multiple devices in small, closed spaces is a common cause of overheating; inadvertently blocking laptop computer ventilation slots with loose papers or cloth padding is another frequent error.

Even the most fastidious housekeeper may not note the gradual accumulation of a warming blanket of dust and lint inside laptop or desktop computers until problems arise. Most experts advise cleaning the interior of these computers at least annually, even more often if it sits on the floor, or if you smoke, or if you have furry creatures roaming your household. This can be a do-it-yourself chore and is usually described in the owner’s manual. Turn off and unplug the computer. For laptops, remove the battery and use a vacuum cleaner to suction debris from the air intake and exhaust ports. More thorough cleaning will involve disassembly, a task best turned over to experts. Desktop owners can usually remove a side panel to gain access to the interior. A can of compressed air will blow out the majority of dust from fans, radiators and corners. There may be removable air filters to clean as well.