Hacks to extend the life of your electronics

From smartphones and smart home devices to TVs and wearable technology, the average American home contains a staggering 30 separate pieces of consumer technology. For over 80% of Americans, smartphone and laptop use has become central to our home, school, and work lives. We have become dependent on them, and it is distressing when they quit working. They represent a significant investment of time and money. So to keep them in use and out of your closet or junk drawer, let’s take a look at what you can do to extend the lives of your laptops and cell phones.

It sounds obvious, but the first step is to read the manufacturer’s recommendations or the instruction manual to become familiar with how to best care for your device. All device manufacturers recommend optimal operating temperatures. Apple recommends between 32 and 95 degrees for its iOS devices, and other manufacturers have similar recommendations. Heat can be especially damaging. So please don’t leave that laptop or smartphone locked in a hot car, lying in the sun, or on top of a radiator. And, despite the name, laptops should not be placed for very long directly on a lap — or pillow or bedding; this can block the laptop’s cooling vents, causing your device to overheat. Lap desks and tables are better. If you notice your laptop or cell phone getting hot, provide more adequate ventilation or turn it off. Although it tends to be less of an issue, avoid temperatures below freezing, too. Do not store a phone or laptop for an extended period of time in an unheated car or other cold place during cold weather. Keep phones with you to be warmed by your body heat. And keep in mind that batteries drain quickly below freezing, and screens are much more likely to crack.

Make sure your devices don’t get wet, and try not to drop them. Again, this seems obvious. However, moisture can seriously damage the inner components of a phone, laptop, or tablet and lead to costly repairs. And be smart about where you place or carry your electronics. An open laptop on the edge of a bed or couch is likely to hit the floor. A smartphone in the bathroom often finds its way into water. A quality water-resistant or waterproof protective case allows you to express your individual style and can add protection against the occasional bump and drop, too.

Know how to charge your electronics properly. Rechargeable batteries provide the power for them to function, so let’s focus on how to make them last longer. Start by using the right kind of charger for your device. An off-brand charger may seem like a bargain, but if it overheats your device’s battery, you are damaging your investment. Smartphones and laptops vary a bit regarding optimal battery charging. While it is fine to leave laptops constantly plugged in, this can damage a cell phone. For cell phones, it is best to avoid charging for more than 12 hours. Once fully charged, simply unplug the phone from the charger and unplug the charger from the wall. Also consider updating your operating systems regularly and adjusting settings and software use to keep your device running efficiently.

Know the life of the device versus the life of the battery. After years of use, your laptop or smartphone may not seem to hold a charge. The average life of a smartphone or laptop is 4 to 5 years, but proper care can extend these numbers. According to Gazelle, an online buyer and seller of used cell phones, many people end up selling their smartphones, not because they are broken, but because they won’t hold a charge. Replacing that battery instead of getting a new smartphone or laptop can save you hundreds! Always consider repairing the device before replacing it.

When it is time for a new device, remember to refer to manufacturers’ guidelines for removing all data from your old device. This will keep your personal information safe. Once factory settings are restored or all data is removed, either donate the cell phone or laptop to the charity of your choice, sell it, trade it in, or recycle it. Do not throw it in the trash and do not throw it in a junk drawer for later! Your old smartphone, laptop, or component is worth its maximum value today. Cell phones and laptops contain precious and rare earth metals which are quite difficult to mine. Recycling these metals now keeps them out of landfills, is good for the environment, and saves you the hassle of doing it later.

Smartphones and laptops have become vital parts of our lives. These simple hacks will give you peace of mind and save you time and money by keeping them running longer.

Photo credit: SPmemory |  iStock | Getty Images Plus

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