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What Is TV Burn In & How Can You Avoid It?

Whether you are using LED LCD, OLED, QLED, plasma screens or any other type of display technology, such as smartphones, such as androids and Apple iPhones, for your business or personal use, your technology might be at risk of burn-in.

Although this can be a problem for people using their laptops for videogames or any other activity that requires a digital display, screen burn-in can be a particularly serious problem for businesses that are using OLED panels, or LCD screens and TVs for digital signage, marketing, and informational purposes.

In this article, we will describe what is meant by “burn-in” when applied to your TVs, and then we will go over some of the best ways that you can avoid screen burn-in so that your screens can keep looking professional and best serve their purposes.

What Is TV Burn-In?

In short, TV burn-in refers to the phenomenon of an image being stuck on your TV screen. This isn’t a glitch in your TV, where you can simply unplug the TV so that it can reset without the image stuck on the screen. Burn-in refers to a ghost image that is stuck on your screen as if the image had been tattooed onto the digital display. Image burn can be a serious problem.

For example, if you have a certain screen saver that you use for your screens while your business is closed, you would likely be very upset if the image of the screen saver was superimposed on the curated content that you display on your screen during the day.

In order to understand why burn-in happens, it is important to go over the different types of screens, as burn-in has been a problem that has persisted for a long time, even as digital screen technology has evolved over time, and burn-in occurs for different reasons depending on the type of screen.

What are LED, LCD, OLED, QLED, and Plasma Screens?

Before flat screens and crystal displays, most TVs and monitors featured CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) technology. In CRTs, individual pixels comprise a red, blue, and green phosphor component. Depending on the intensity of each phosphor component, the pixel appears to the human eye as a unique color.

When a particular still image remains for too long, the intensity of each phosphor component diminishes at an uneven rate. The result is a ghost image on the screen, which is known as image burning.

Unlike CRTs, plasma displays use plasma, a gaseous substance containing free-flowing ions. When the plasma is not in use, the particles in the plasma are uncharged and display nothing. With the introduction of an electric current, the ions become charged and begin colliding, releasing photons of light.

LEDs and LCDs also differ from CRTs in how they produce images. LCD and LED screens use backlit liquid crystals to display colors. LED (light-emitting diode) is the most common type of display on the market. However, it might be unfamiliar because there’s slight labeling confusion with LCD (liquid crystal display).

For display purposes, the two are the same, and if you see a TV or smartphone that states it has an ‘LED’ screen, it’s an LCD. The LED part just refers to the lighting source, not the display itself.

The difference between LED LCD screens and OLED screens is that LED LCD screens use a backlight to illuminate their pixels, while OLED’s pixels produce their own light. You might hear OLED’s pixels called ‘self-emissive’, while LCD tech is ‘transmissive’.

Finally, QLED screens refer to a particular technology used in some of the newer and best Samsung TVs. QLED stands for quantum dot light-emitting diode. If you see a new TV with the QLED label, it means it’s similar to a regular LED TV, but the main difference is that it has a quantum dot layer built in.

However, this difference is not particularly important when talking about image burn or image persistence, since QLED screens are at the same risk as OLED screens for experiencing these problems.

One of the most important points about QLED is it’s a panel technology that’s used (almost) exclusively for the best Samsung TVs. Confusingly, you will find some TVs with the QLED label from other TV brands like TCL, Hisense, Sony, and Sharp, but most are sold by Samsung – at least for now.

SO when you are shopping on amazon or in a brick and mortar store for your TV, just know that the QLED TVs run the same risk of image burn as LED LCD screens.

Why Do Plasma Screens Experience Burn-In?

LCDs and LEDs don't suffer from burn-in as seriously as plasma screens. But static images can leave an imprint on both display types if left alone for too long. So, why does image burn happen?

Because different types of screens experience image burn for different reasons, we will begin by explaining why plasma TVs and plasma displays experience burn-in.

CRTs experience image burn when a still image remains on the screen for too long, causing the phosphor components in each pixel to wear out at different rates. The uneven burn rates leave behind a ghost image, forever etched into the screen.

Plasma screens also suffer from phosphor deterioration. Plasma burning occurs when pixels on the screen are damaged through long exposure. The phosphor loses its intensity and only shows the light it was fed repeatedly. In this case, the still image causes the burn.

Why Do LCD, LED, and OLED Screens Experience Image Burn and Image Persistence?

LCD and LED screens can also experience image burn, though the image burn process can take longer to develop into a permanent issue. In addition, LCD and LED screens suffer from another issue, known as image retention (also known as image persistence or an LCD shadow).

Image retention is a temporary issue that you are more likely to notice before it becomes a permanent issue. However, proper image burn can still affect LCD, LED, and OLED screens.

Image retention is a different issue from image burn (although it is a precursor to image burn). An example of image persistence would be if you had an image of a tiger as your screen saver, and you had the settings of your digital display set up so that the digital sleep did not go into sleep mode.

After a night of displaying the tiger, you start to play a TV show on the TV screen. However, a faint image of the tiger remains, superimposed over the images from the TV show. In most cases, the new images will erase the image of the tiger, meaning that your screen only experienced image persistence rather than image burn.

One important thing to note is that LED and OLED image burn-in is irreversible. That's because of how LED and OLED screens work. Individual pixels within an LED display decay when they emit light. When the screen fixes on a single image, those pixels decay faster than those around it. Once the pixel itself is dead, there is no way to reverse the decay.

Under normal use, an LED, OLED, or QLED screen won't suffer image burn. However, if you leave your screen on a single channel for hours every day, then burn-in can become an issue, as it would with almost any screen.

Issues arise when a screen shows a single news channel 24 hours a day, every day, causing channel logos to burn in, along with the outline of the scrolling news ticker and so on. News channels are a well-known source of television burn-in, no matter the screen type.

How to Prevent TV Burn In?

As one can easily imagine, image burn is something that you will want to make sure to avoid. Image persistence might be frightening, but luckily it is only temporary. However, if your screen is experiencing image persistence, it might be a sign that your practices may lead to permanent image burn.

Luckily, there are quite a few methods you can practice with your digital display to avoid TV burn-in and make sure that you prolong the lifespan of your valuable screens. By following the methods outlined below, the risk of image burn will be greatly lessened.

1. Change what you watch, play, and display

The most obvious thing is to regularly change what’s on-screen to avoid displaying static images for too long. This is called a pixel shift or screen shift. For example, if you only watch ESPN on TV, maybe tune into FOX Sports or NBC once in a while to avoid burn-in from the “ESPN” logo.

If you play a lot of Call of Duty, try some Apex Legends or Destiny to switch things up. And if you tend to watch lots of YouTube or Twitch, watch in full-screen mode to avoid having the interface on-screen for hours at a time.

If you are using an OLED panel or some other digital display for digital signage purposes in your business, make sure that you are not displaying the same static image for long periods of time. Try and create a digital signage playlist with varied content. This will not only help you avoid image burn but will likely also be more eye-catching for your customers.

2. Adjust the Brightness of Your Screen

While varying what’s on your screen will ensure nothing is displayed long enough to burn in, screen brightness is also a major factor to keep in mind. Burn-in sets in faster on bright screens, so turning down the device’s brightness and enabling auto-dimming and auto-sleep modes that kick in after a few minutes of inactivity can decrease the likelihood of burn-in.

These don’t need to be extreme changes—anything below 90 percent is fine, but ideally, you should aim for the 70-80 percent range or lower. The same for auto-dimming and auto-shut-off or sleep timers: You don’t need your screen to dim every 10-30 seconds, 10 to 30 minutes work just fine. The point is to make sure the screen isn’t on and displaying the same images at max brightness all day.

3. Use Dark Mode and Similar Settings

Some devices also have extra settings that further reduce the possibility of burn-in. Enabling dark mode for your OS and apps is an especially useful one for OLED screens, since the pixels are dimmed when displaying darker colors, and turned off entirely for black. Other examples include the “Extra-dim” mode on Android 12, and the “Reduce White Point” and further brightness-reduction options in iOS’ accessibility settings.

4. Use a White Screen Saver

One of the best ways to prevent image persistence and image burn-in is to use a plain white screen saver. With a white screensaver, the pixels will not need to display color, essentially giving them a rest, and this will greatly reduce the amount of decay that occurs while your digital display is in screensaver mode.

5. Use the OLED Pixel Refresher Functionality

This last method only works for select LG OLED TV screens, so if this functionality for reducing OLED burn-in seems desirable to you, then you may want to look at some of LG’s new TVs when you are shopping for your next TV screen. Here is how the functionality works:

The Pixel Refresher feature, built into LG OLED TVs, automatically detects pixel deterioration through periodic scanning, compensating for it as needed. It also senses any TFT (Thin Film Transistor) voltage changes during power off to detect and correct pixel degradation by comparing it with a set reference value.

Prolonging the Life Span of Your TV Screen

TV burn-in can be a serious issue for those of us who regularly use our screens for personal use and for those businesses that are taking advantage of the benefits of digital signage to increase the profitability of their business. It really is no exaggeration to say that in this day and age, we depend on our screens, and that is why it is so important to prolong the lifespan of these screens.

Whether you are using a plasma TV, an LED LCD screen, or an OLED display, you run the risk of image burn, even if you by some of the best TVs. By following the methods described in this article you greatly reduce this risk. Moreover, you may want to check and see if the company that you buy your TV from offers warranty coverage for issues like image burn.