Electronics and High Altitude

The issues in this section are few. But the ones that do apply are something to think about!

Plasma screens reputedly have a shorter life span at high altitude. LCD screens do not. Some other common electronic parts are only affected by extremely high altitude. It takes a huge reduction in air pressure to affect most electronic parts.

Rugged laptops – laptops that are designed to be operated in extreme conditions – are often rated for an altitude level, but it is not so much because the thing is going to self destruct when it hits 12,000 feet or anything, it is more that they only really test them up to realistic operating levels. Most people cannot survive long at extreme altitudes, so there really isn’t much need for the laptop to be rated for higher ones, since they’d not need to be functional if their owner was passed out beside them anyway!

Printers are also affected by high altitude, but it is not the printer itself, rather, the cartridge that does weird things. Cartridges are usually sealed, and some may be slightly pressurized at the factory for proper ink delivery. Some are packaged in vacuum packs, others are just sealed in plastic. It is not uncommon even at heights of 6000 ft, to pull a package out of a box, and see that the packaging is puffed out.

We have never had problems with OEM (original equipment manufacturer) cartridges. In other words, HP cartridges for HP printers, Epson cartridges for Epson printers. Those cartridges have never had a problem at the altitude at which we live.

However, remanufactured cartridges have consistently failed, especially Epson cartridges. Often called “refilled”, or Off Brand cartridges, they are usually less expensive than the brand name cartridges. We have never purchased one that did not leak though.

Leaks may show up when you open the package. If so, close the package and immediately return it. But leaks can also show up after you put the cartridge into the printer. This is more likely to occur with Epson cartridges because of how they are made. Cartridges with the print heads built into the cartridge are less likely to do that, but still may do so once you start printing. If a cartridge leaks, at best it will make a mess, at worst, it can cause damage to the printer.

Items that are pressurized, sealed with air or fluid in them, or which have parts which depend on or are influenced by air pressure are likely to be influenced by altitude. Items with no moving parts – strictly electronic, are less likely to be affected.