Hot Stuff: Will The Texas Heat Melt Your Vinyl LPs?

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Note: All temperatures in the following article are given in degrees Fahrenheit. Here is a helpful Celsius conversion calculator.

You might not have noticed it lately, but outdoors, rays of this thing called "sunshine" are hitting the Earth like the planet didn't bring the Sun a sandwich when it asked. To sum up, it is so hot outside right now that it can only be punishment from an angry god, and the temperature has the Houston Press music staff concerned.

Now, when Herr Editor asked us about the melting point of various music mediums we were surprised. Not because he asked us a science-related question - after all, your humble narrator is the Houston Press' science officer in addition to being the backup spiritual advisor, vice president in charge of wasp's nest removal, and head of gothic affairs.

We were surprised because we assumed the whole thing was preparation for the day a totalitarian government goes all Fahrenheit 451 and starts targeting any music besides Katy Perry with flamethrowers. No, the much more mundane truth was that Rocks Off wanted to give you all some advice about the damage high temperatures can do to your music collection.

Well, OK, we can do that too, but stay tuned to the end for our tips in case of the flamethrower scenario.

First off, let's talk about your car and about the greenhouse effect. A car in the sun lets heat in through your windshield and windows, and does not let it out. Temperatures in the car can climb very high very fast. The National Weather Service has a helpful video on its Web site showing that a car left in the sun for one hour on a day when the temperature is 80 degrees outside can reach 123 degrees in the interior. With longer exposures or higher temperatures, a dark-colored dashboard or seat cover can easily reach 200 degrees and beyond.

Most of us listen to music in the car, which means you have to bring it with you in some form. [Ed. Note: Yes, Houston radio is that bad.] If you have an iPod, you should definitely make sure not to leave it in a hot car, especially in direct sunlight. Apple recommends keeping an iPod at a temperature no higher than 113 degrees at the hottest before the components become endangered.

The iPods themselves are really at no risk of melting. They're made of good plastic and thick glass, and to really get a melting effect would probably take a good 300 degrees. However, the lithium batteries in an iPod are much more sensitive to heat, and contain chemicals that are under pressure and flammable to boot. In a few cases - a very few in relation to the sheer number of iPods sold - iPod batteries have overheated and exploded, usually after being left in hot cars or direct sunlight.

If you're still using CDs to play music, you're pretty much in the clear. CDs are very durable to heat, requiring temperatures of almost 600 degrees before they start melting. There is some debate about the effect of prolonged exposure of UV light on CDs, but in general, your music is safe from the sun when it's on a disc.

We supposed that it is possible you're still driving around with a cassette player or 8-track. It's possible that the Bloop is not an indication of Cthulhu preparing his imminent return but we're not going to place any money on it. If for some reason you are still using audio tape to listen to music, you need to be careful with it.

Like iPods, the plastic casing of cassettes is fairly durable, though not as high-quality. You would still need to reach over 200 degrees to any real damage to the casing. The tape itself, though, will melt with little more than a smoldering look. In the earliest 8-tracks, tape would sometimes melt just from the friction of regular use. If you're still rocking cassettes, we highly recommend you keep them out of the sun.

Vinyl records should never, ever, ever be left in the car. People such as Examiner music writer former local DJ and David Sadof, who do craft art using LPs, generally use an oven at only 200 degrees to get them soft enough to mold. Deterioration of the information on the discs would happen well before that point, and as we said before 200 degrees is a temperature dark-colored object left in your car in direct sunlight can easily reach.

There have even been reports that sunlight reflecting off of car windows and windshields can even melt vinyl siding off of houses. As a practical note to any readers who have vinyl siding, your insurance almost certainly doesn't cover that, so be on the lookout for cars parked in such a way as to reflect the sun at your house. If this heat can do damage to siding, it will have no problems with your record collection.

If you need to transport your records, make sure you keep them covered and reduce time spent in the car without AC to a minimum.

Finally, as a practical note if the government does decide to eliminate all music but Katy Perry, this information is pretty much useless. The last military-model flamethrower used by the United States government shot a flame that was about 2,000 degrees. Three zeros.

The U.S. military stopped using flamethrowers in 1978, but kits for building your own are easily available, and finished homemade models can appear on the internet for as little as $300. We're just saying that if Fahrenheit 451: The Soundtrack happens, there will be no problem rounding up the means to burn through your tunes.

Follow Rocks Off on Facebook and on Twitter at @HPRocksOff.

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