Sunshine is great if you’re a plant or a person looking to boost your mood. But your laptop doesn’t photosynthesize or get seasonal depression, so it’s best to keep it in the shade. Here’s why your laptop suffers in the sun.
1 Overheating: The Obvious One
Perhaps the most immediate and noticeable risk of using your laptop in the sun is overheating. A laptop has an intricate cooling system designed to keep the components within a safe operating temperature. However, direct sunlight can increase the heat beyond what your laptop’s cooling system can handle.
Most laptops are equipped with safety measures to prevent permanent damage from overheating. However, if a laptop gets too hot, it may shut down to protect its components. If this shutdown happens regularly, it could lead to wear and tear on your hardware, potentially reducing the lifespan of your device.
Also, some components could suffer irreversible damage if your laptop remains exposed to extreme heat for prolonged periods. In worst-case scenarios, the laptop might fail entirely. No built-in safety shutdown will save a laptop if you routinely run it in the sun until it hits its thermal limit over and over.
2 Screen Fading and Damage
The sun’s intense light can be tough on your laptop’s display, particularly if it uses LCD (liquid crystal display) technology. Long-term exposure to sunlight can cause the colors on your screen to fade, leading to a less vibrant and disappointing visual experience.
This is because the organic components of an LCD are vulnerable to both ultraviolet and infrared radiation. This can lead to color shifts and fading. This won’t happen in a few minutes, but it could be a real concern if you use your laptop outdoors frequently.
3 Decreased Lifespan or Damage to the Battery
Batteries, particularly the lithium-ion variety commonly found in laptops, are sensitive to heat. When a laptop is exposed to high temperatures, it can cause the battery to run hotter than its design allows. Over time, this can reduce the battery’s ability to hold a charge, meaning you’ll find yourself needing to plug in more often. Further, these days most laptops don’t have a removable battery. If you wear your battery down prematurely with excessive heat exposure, it’s a huge hassle to get the battery replaced. You’ll have to partially disassemble your laptop to access the internal battery compartment or send it in for service.
In severe cases, excessive heat can cause a condition known as thermal runaway, where the battery’s temperature rises uncontrollably, leading to a failure or a fiery explosion. This is a rare occurrence, but it underscores the importance of keeping your laptop—and especially its battery—cool.
Many laptops have plastic or metal bodies, which can warp or deform under the intense heat of direct sunlight. Plastic parts can soften and lose their shape, while metal parts can get hot enough to cause burns if touched.
For instance, if you’ve ever left a plastic item in the sun for too long, you’ve probably noticed that it can become misshapen or warped. The same can happen to the plastic components of your laptop, like the case or keys. Metal parts, like the case of some high-end laptops or the heat sink, can become dangerously hot, potentially causing injury. And even if we’re not talking about personal injury, n a worst-case-scenario if you’re using your laptop outside and the sun reflects off curved glass or metal surfaces at the right intensity and angle, the sun can act almost like the flame of a torch lighter, melting holes into plastic laptop bodies and screens.
Ruggedized laptops may have special UV-stabilized outer materials since they are designed for use outdoors, but typical laptops are only expected to be outside for limited amounts of time. If we’re being honest, most laptops don’t even have sunlight-readable screens!
5 UV Damage
We’ve touched on UV damage a little already, but it’s worth emphasizing that this particular bit of solar radiation is generally damaging to most technologies that have not been UV-stabilized or given some protection against it. While infrared radiation will heat your laptop up, UV radiation can cause chemical alterations in the laptop’s materials.
Ultraviolet light can cause discoloration or bleaching on your laptop’s surfaces, and prolonged exposure can lead to the materials becoming brittle and prone to cracking. This is particularly true for older laptops, which may not have been made with those UV-resistant materials.
So, while the prospect of working or playing under the sun might sound appealing, it’s important to consider the potential damage. Using your laptop in a cool, shaded environment is always safer. Not only will this help ensure the longevity of your device, but it will also provide a more comfortable experience for you. Because hey, while you might not yellow like an old PC case left too close to a window, excessive UV exposure isn’t great for you either.