Your Flat-Screen TV
Average life span: Ten years or longer.
Preventive medicine: Keep your fingers off the screen. “The pressure causes pixel burnout,” says Robbie Baldwin, a flat screen-TV salesman at Best Buy in Baltimore. Because parts can fail (read: melt) if a TV overheats, keep the vents clear so they can “pull in air to cool the unit,” says Dan Wiersma, senior vice president of service for Sony Electronics. Dust with a soft, dry cloth, and skip the cleaning spray, which can cloud the screen.
Most common ailment: The screen has a burned-in image that never seems to go away, and the picture is a little fuzzy.
Diagnosis and treatment: Plasma screens, especially older ones, are sensitive to “burn in” problems. Leave Comedy Central on all day and its logo may never disappear. (Newer models don’t have as many burn-in issues, but it’s best to turn off the TV every few hours.) A repair service can recalibrate a slightly hazy picture for as little as $250 or as much as $750, depending on the damage and the shop.
When to pull the plug: A malfunctioning flat-screen TV that’s more than five years old should probably be replaced. Labor and parts run high, so a new model may cost you less than fixing an old one.