As Ireland experiences its longest cold spell in more than four-and-a-half years, everything has started to slow down.
t’s not just pedestrians tip-toeing across glistening footpaths or cars cautiously cruising along icy roads, technology itself also plunges into a go-slow.
A multitude of tech gadgets and electrical appliances suffer when temperatures plummet in winter and Independent.ie is here to explain why.
Phones, tablets and laptops
While there have been mind-blowing advances in the realm of handheld tech in the last decade or more, the advances in battery capacity have not advanced as quickly.
Your phone today uses largely the same lithium-ion battery it did 10 years ago and unfortunately, it does not like to get cold. The same can be said for the battery in your tablet or laptop.
Lithium-ion batteries like to operate in an “ambient” temperature between roughly five and 40 degrees. If a device is exposed to extremes beyond either threshold, it begins to struggle and the temperatures adversely affect the chemical reaction that powers your phone’s battery.
Another negative is that cold has a more detrimental impact on battery life than we might think.
Smartphones can lose up to 50pc of their battery life if exposed to very cold temperatures, such as the ones we are experiencing in Ireland this week.
This is according to Colin Baker, Gadget Guy on Ireland AM and owner of Back from the Future tech repair stores, who says it is wise to keep your devices out of the cold this week.
“People who have maybe been skiing and brought their phone with them would have noticed this phenomenon, that they got half of a day from their phone when ordinarily they would get double that.
“In colder temperatures, batteries will have lower endurance and will often see significantly reduced output of up to 50pc.
“Keep your phone in your pocket. Having it out while you’re walking along in the cold is going to drop the battery life significantly.
“Wait until you’re sitting on the bus or train, or back at your home to take calls or to text. Or, use your headphones to take a call if you really need to,” Colin said.
It’s not just battery life draining more quickly than usual phone users need to worry about, the phone going dead despite saying it has plenty of battery life can also occur.
“You also get cases where someone’s phone says they have 30pc battery left and then all of a sudden it goes dead. This is due to the fact that the device’s ability to detect what power remains is countered by the temperature,” Colin said.
Electric cars and other e-vehicles
For the Tesla lovers and Nissan Leaf enthusiasts amongst us, the cold snap is also bad news. The same problem applies. The battery technology in newer electric cars needs to use energy to keep the temperature at an ambient level, so it often runs at night to heat the battery. This drains the battery further and is known as ‘ghost discharge’.
The older electric cars do not have this technology but their batteries suffer as a consequence and can have an overall lower range if exposed to prolonged cold snaps over time.
“I have a Tesla Model 3 and in the summertime I get 450km. But, in the depth of winter I am looking at around 300km. I would experience that much [of a drop-off], but I don’t know if they [manufacturers] would tell you it’s that much,” Colin said.
Petrol and diesel vehicles
In advice to motorists this winter, Chill.ie warned that batteries are much more susceptible to faults in colder weather. Chill advise motorists to invest in car covers or park their car in more sheltered locations, if possible, during the cold snap. Tyre pressure is also affected in sub-zero conditions and motorists are advised to make sure their tyres aren’t underinflated.
“Washing your car frequently, especially in winter, can help to remove the salt that may have covered your car when driving on gritted roads.
You should also check your tyre pressure on a regular basis, keep your windscreen wash fully topped up to keep the screen clear and check it for cracks or chips, and park your car in a garage or sheltered spot where possible,” Ian O’Reilly of Chill.ie said.
Smart solar panels, CCTV and other smart devices
These devices also experienced battery life decreases in a cold snap and commercial premises use CCTV cameras that have micro-heaters installed within them to ensure they continue running on cold nights.
Smart cameras and doorbells which may be connected to a homeowners’ phone or other devices are at increased risk of going dead, as are smart solar panels. It’s important to check the battery of these more regularly in winter.
Indoor and outdoor appliances
Items such as washers, dryers, fridges and other appliances kept indoors and outdoors can be affected by cold – especially if stored in a shed with electricity or a cold garage – but it’s highly unusual that Ireland experiences temperatures cold enough for this to occur.
Unfortunately, what can occur though are frozen pipes to these appliances, especially in cases where insulation is lacking.
In the government’s ‘Be Winter Ready’ campaign, it advises people who are concerned about pipes freezing to open the attic trap door to leave in heat or leave heating on at lower settings for longer than usual to maintain a certain temperature in the house at all times, where possible.
It’s also advisable to wrap a towel around outside taps to avoid them freezing over.
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