They’ve become extensions of us. Our cell phones, smart phones, Blackberries, iPods, iPhones, iPads, mp3 players, Zunes and the like. They’re always there, holding the latest Facebook or Twitter updates, that critical email, or entertaining us with a limitless supply of music or a game like Angry Birds. They’ve redefined our work life, and also how we relax.
So when you’re relaxing in a sauna, can’t you bring your electronics in with you?
Sure you could. But it’s not very good for them.
All of our modern gizmos are designed to perform best when they operate as close as possible to room temperature. As you increase their temperature, things start to deteriorate, and quickly.
Batteries are the most susceptible. You’ve probably noticed that a device when it’s brand new lasts a lot longer than one that’s a year old. When you get to about two or three years old, those things barely work unless they’re constantly plugged in. That’s because the insides of the batteries oxidize or rust. This is especially true for lithium batteries common in today’s electronics. As the temperature goes above 105°F (40°C), that rusting kicks into overdrive, dramatically shortening the battery’s life. As shown in the graphic here, Apple likes you to keep your devices under 95°F (35°C).
Batteries aren’t the only things though. The display can also be damaged by heat. Most of these devices have either LCD or OLED display screens. When the temperatures of these exceed 158°F (70°C) things start to get ugly, with fading, dead pixels, or worse occurring.
When things get hot, they get bigger and when they cool down they shrink. Bridges are designed to grow and shrink with the change in the environment, but circuit boards usually aren’t. They’re also made of lots of different things that grow and shrink at different rates. Just getting something hot and cooling it down again can stress one of the thousands of interconnections in your gadget to breaking.
Electronic gadgets don’t like to get wet. Water corrodes their insides, discolors displays, and generally turns them into paperweights. Everyone knows that. That’s why almost all of them have those little color change labels on them that let that Nerd Herder tell you, “Sorry. You got it wet, which voids the warranty. You can pay us a thousand dollars to fix it, or go buy a new one.”
“But wait a minute,” you might be saying, “I’m going in a dry sauna, and that’s got only 5% humidity. That’s at the bottom end of my device’s operation specs.”
That is true, a typical dry sauna has about a 5% relative humidity. Even if you’re throwing water on the rocks, the humidity rarely gets above 25%. Remember that as the temperature goes down, the humidity goes up. So when you cool that 5% humidity air at 180°F (82°C) down to 71°F (22°C), you’ll exceed 100% humidity and the water inside will start to condense. If someone threw water on the rocks, you’ll get liquid water at 125°F (52°C). Colorado State University has an online dewpoint calculator.
Another thing to remember is when you were in the sauna, your device got hot. Maybe not a lot, but a little. That will cause the air to expand and rush out of your device. When you get outside the sauna and things cool down, outside air will rush in, even in waterproof devices like watches. Think about the area surrounding your sauna. Many are placed near showers or pools where the humidity is already very high.
Normal waterproofing for a device won’t cut it. To keep the steam from condensing inside, you need a sealed waterproof case.
Your Sauna Companions:
If it’s your own private sauna, of course you can do whatever you want in it. However, most people take saunas in a health club, spa, or other public venue where others will be with them. The sauna is a place for relaxation and quiet meditation. It’s difficult to achieve when someone is tapping away on a device next door, or your soothing sounds are leaking out of your earbuds into the space around you.
Don’t forget about privacy issues too. Sure you may just be sending text messages to a friend about where to have dinner later, but how do I know that you’re not taking pictures of me?
So do us all a favor, and when do you take a sauna, leave those electronics outside.