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Helm Screens - Heat

Heat: Serious Business

The LEDs that backlight an LCD screen generate heat, and that heat must be removed, so it is conducted into the air via a heat sink in the back of the display. Since most LCD monitors and multifunction displays are flush mounted into a helm panel and since bigger yachts are being fitted with glass bridges consisting of multiple monitors, the airspace behind the screens can become very hot. Not only can the monitors themselves be affected by the heat, so can the other electronic gear that often inhabits the same space—PCs, for example.

In The Know: Installations that don’t sufficiently account for heat can have serious consequences for the displays and other sensitive electronics. Display specs usually include a range of operating temperatures, the wider the better, particularly on the high side. Just to add to the confusion, these numbers are often expressed in Celsius; a typical range is minus 15 degrees C to 55 degrees C, which for us non-Europeans translates into 5 degrees F to 131 degrees F. When adding displays, the installer may need to take into account ways to disperse heat with vents, fans, and even air conditioning behind the dash.

Another kind of heat must be taken into account in flying-bridge installations—that of the blazing sun. Engineers call it “solar load” and say that in tropical waters it can be intense enough to blacken an LCD screen temporarily. Certainly this argues against mounting a display facing straight up (though at least then it could be used to fry an afternoon egg). One northeast boatbuilder protects flying-bridge instruments from the elements by closing a glass lid over them, but in southern climes the air beneath the lid can get so superheated that components melt.