Plasma televisions are the hottest product in consumer electronics. They are flat, they look spectacular, and the prices are dropping faster than a fat kid on a ham sandwich. However, sometimes they buzz, pop, and hum.
Before you panic and want to return your television, or swear one off and decide to purchase an LCD television, these occurrences are rare and only occur in a few specific situations. Avoiding these situations is not too difficult, as long as you are aware of them prior to purchasing.
Plasma televisions are sensitive to altitude. Each manufacturer has a different altitude rating for their products, which should be respected otherwise the warranty will likely be invalidated as the product is not being used within the specifications.
The plasma display panel is a sealed enclosure comprised of Xenon, Argon, and Neon gases that are compressed into miniscule glass fixtures. These gases are ignited when your television is turned on (this is what gives you the picture). At sea level, and even up to 6,000 feet, the pressure within the fixtures and outside the fixtures is identical (or very close). Once you go above sea level, the air pressure outside changes, whereas within the plasma panel it remains fixed.
Due to the fact that there are no plasma televisions on the market that are pressurized, the pressure within the fixtures will change to match the air pressure outside the display. This is what causes the buzzing sound. This change in pressure is causing the display to work harder to maintain the same level of picture quality, which draws more power and causes the fans to spin faster. This reduces the overall life expectancy of your plasma television; however there are no hard numbers to know exactly how many hours the display will last.
It is likely that you will not notice any picture quality issues watching your television at high altitude. It is the level of noise generated by the plasma TV that you must be aware of. If you hear buzzing, popping, humming or clicking noises, there is a good chance that you have a pressure problem.
Some manufacturers have designed their plasma televisions to work in high pressure areas. NEC Corporation rates their plasma televisions to almost 10,000 feet. Prior to purchasing any plasma display panel, check the specifications to ensure that they will work at your altitude. You don’t want to have to buy a new one anytime soon!