Twitter account

Ecotech Services now has an account on Twitter, the microblogging social media site.  The nature of our work means that it will not be used very often.

Electrical appliance safety testing

Ecotech Services now offers electrical safety testing (test and tag) for plug in appliances both on site and delivered to our workshop.  This is a logical extension to the work that we have been doing to date.

Alan Liefting, the founder and Managing Director of Ecotech Services, has extensive experience with the safety of electrical appliances: “About 99% of the safety issues can be discovered with a visual inspection.  The other 1% are picked up with PAT testing and knowledge of appliance reliability.”

Anecdotal evidence and first hand experiences by Alan Liefting suggests that  there are a number of “cowboys” carrying out electrical safety testing.  Ecotech Services is committed to offering a high quality service and improving electrical safety rather than maximising profits.

See our electrical safety testing services page and the electrical safety page in our knowledge base for more information.

A missing screw

A Philips 42TA2800 LCD TV came in for recycling.
“It works” the customer said, “It is just the power switch.”
The actual plastic power switch actuator was missing and you could see that the power switch circuit board was just dangling off the cables.  It looks like they were poking the pcb mounted power switch (two in series) to get it to turn on.  I don’t think they had the remote control for it.

After taking it apart I discovered this:

Photo of the rear of the power switch circuit board

The power switch circuit board is positioned to try and show the lack of a second screw ever having been present in the plastic support.

There was ever only one screw holding the power switch circuit board in place.  The other was never fitted!  So the plastic support broke.  Not surprisingly. This is a power switch.  Something that is often abused.  And in this case it had to do a lot of work because of the lack of a remote.

So what happened here Philips?  Are these TVs not made in highly automated factories with all sorts of quality checking including the use of image recognition?  So did this one slip past the inspections?   Or is this inbuilt obsolescence?  Or are you saving one screw and one extra assembly operation to save a fraction of a cent?

Get back to me on it please Philips.  Thanks.

Anyway, talking about customers and switches and faults brought back some memories. When the customer said “It is just the switch” I was reminded of my days repairing the old school CRT monitors and the even earlier days of repairing CRT TVs.  Customers would sometimes give their diagnosis as “It is just the switch” or “One of the guns has gone”.  It got the stage where I thought customers think that a CRT TV or monitor only consists of a CRT and a switch!  They don’t know that there are power supplies, HV stages, signal processing circuits all containing resistors, capacitors, semiconductors, wires, cables, connections etc and all of which can fail.

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It is hard to do but don’t do it

Check out these 300mm long cables that came out of some gear that we recycled!

image of three short power cords with a label saying "WARNING DO NOT OPERATE UNLESS CORD IS FULLY UNCOILED"

“WARNING DO NOT OPERATE UNLESS CORD IS FULLY UNCOILED”
Yep! Like everything else on the internet it is for real. Got to be because it is in full colour!

I managed, with some difficulty, to get three tight coils out of  it.  The label is a complete waste of time, and I think some of the other ones I came across did not have the labels.

Some of you are probably wondering why you see these warning labels on cables, especially extension leads and retractable vacuum cleaner leads. It is due to the temperature rating of the cable.  Most cables used on appliances are PVC sheathed and PVC has a maximum temperature rating of 105°C.  If the cable is coiled up and has a load plugged into it it will heat up more than if it was uncoiled.  How much the cable heats up depends on how tightly it is coiled, the current though the cable, the resistance of the cable, the air flow (if any) though the coiled cable, and the ambient temperature.

We can do some maths on it.

Total resistance of the cable (300mm long with two conductors of 0.75 mm2):

R = ρ L/A = 1.68 x 10-8 x (2 x 0.3)/0.75 x 10-6 = 0.013 Ω

Power dissipated at the maximum loading of 10 amps:

P = I2 x R = 102 x 0.013 = 1.3 W

That does not equate to a lot of heat.  My head is spinning with all of this maths so I am not going to do any more to figure out the temperature rise. I know from experience that 1.3 W is not going to give much of a rise in the cable temperature.

So I guess the labels were slapped on the cables by the production staff when they were made in the factory because they are put on the longer ones.  They did not consult the engineers about whether they were needed.

Or are we in a really risk averse world?

 

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It would be irresponsible not to!

I was reading the sales blurb for the ASUS Vivobook X556UQ and one of the things that is announced as a really cool thing is the short circuit protection for the battery. 

I had to laugh!

It would be really stupid and irresponsible to NOT have short circuit protection for the battery.  Lithium ion batteries can put out enough current to cause fires.  Take the recent recall of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 for instance.  They had some sort of battery fault that caused some of them to catch fire and Samsung ended up recalling millions of phones although in this case a short circuit protection may not have helped because it may have been a fault internal to the battery.

So ASUS, you may fool the general public into thinking that short circuit protection is a good thing but you ain’t going to fool the techies!

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Whirlpool and obsolescence

A Whirlpool VT256/SL microwave oven came in for recycling this week that looked like a good candidate for refurbishment.  It was dead. It had a blown fuse and a shorted high voltage capacitor in the voltage doubler circuit.   So I replaced the blown bits and it ran up sweet.

And then I checked out the waveguide covers because they sometimes get a bit carbonised and start arcing.  We sell a lot of them through our online shop (sorry about the advert but hey you are getting a free blog post!)

This microwave has two mica waveguide covers – one at the top and one at the bottom.  Most microwaves only have one.

So take a look at this photo.

whirlpool-vt256-burnup

The carbonisation happened around a bead of glue that goes across the waveguide cover, probably due to food residues getting trapped on it.  Now take a look at the wall of the cavity above the waveguide cover.  For some reason there is an extra level of indentation between the waveguide cover and the cavity wall.  Why?  And what does the glue do?  Is the bead of glue in the wrong place? Should it have been  acting as a sealant in the wide gap between the waveguide cover and the cavity wall?

I don’t think it is a deliberate ploy to create inbuilt obsolescence.  The Whirlpool microwave ovens are generally built quite well.

I have come up with a decent fix for it so if you need one buy one here!

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New employee – Angus Phillips

Angus PhilipsEcotech Services welcomes Angus Phillips as a new employee on a part time basis.  Angus is employed primarily as a computer technician but will help out with some of the many other tasks that need doing.

Angus is self taught in the complexities of IT related matters and will be taking on the full range of work, from hard drive reformatting to setting up server systems.

Angus brings a fresh approach and fresh ideas to Ecotech Services.  This, along with his enthusiasm, is likely to make him a great asset to the company.  Also, having compatible humour, similar interests, and a similar ideology to that of other staff members will help him fit in at the company.

 

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e-terminology

wordcloud

I am a bit pedantic about words and I sometimes find the English language a bit messy and illogical.  Anyway, I was compiling a glossary in our knowledge base for the work that we do and I remembered that there are some words which don’t officially exist yet.

Here at Ecotech Services we commonly describe our business activity as “repair, refurbishment, and recycling of electrical, electronic, and computer equipment.”  I can see the potential for a new word here to make the phrase less of a mouthful.

Now computers are just a particular type of electronic equipment so it is really a redundant word in our description but we put it in there because computers are seen by a lot of people as being separate to electronics stuff. People often get confused about the correct terminology to use for technology.

Customers sometime describe a desktop computer box as a hard drive whereas in actual fact the hard drive is just one of the assemblies in the box.  And that reminds me of my more youthful days back in the ’70s and ’80s.  Back then – in an era pre-dating Walkmans, boomboxes, MP3 players, and now smartphones – we relied on radios to get music and information.  The portable radios were often called “transistors” which is a misnomer for the correct term of transistorised radios.

So getting back to 21st century language I think we need just one word that describes “electrical, electronic, and computer equipment” because all this stuff uses electricity.  I think the word should be “e-technology ” and it can be shortened to e-tech.

There are a lot of other e-words in my job – e-mail, e-waste, e-scrap, e-cycling (but we should use e-recycling because this does not make it sound like an electric bike), and now I can add e-tech.  And I guess I am an e-technician.  An e-techie.  And Ecotech Services does e-repair and e-recycling of e-technology.

Nice!

It’s amazing – the homemade LCD screen cleaner

I have been refurbishing a stack of LCD monitors and I had a hard time getting the LCD screens completely streak free after cleaning them.  I was using an environmentally friendly general purpose cleaner but I also tried methylated spirits (Oooops – petroleum product. Sorry about that).

So I did an internet search and good old Google gave me some good answers.
unneeded-lcd-cleaner-kit
The general recommendation is one part vinegar (or isopropyl alcohol) to one part water.  So as a greenie and as a cheaper option I tried the vinegar and water mix.  I used a sprayer bottle to apply the cleaner to the screens.

The results were really amazing!  I had some really dirty looking monitors that came up nicely!  There is no need for those expensive LCD cleaner kits at all!  Good old cheap, environmentally friendly vinegar does the trick!

Ecotech Services is now a secondhand dealer

We have been notified today that as of 13 September 2016 Ecotech Services Ltd is a licensed Secondhand Dealer and Alan Liefting has a Secondhand Dealers certificate.

Ecotech Services Ltd license number: 16-034091
Alan Lieftings’ certificate number: 16-034092

Details are listed on the public register at the Ministry for Justice.

An increasing amount of our work comes under the purview of the Secondhand Dealers and Pawnbrokers Act so our level of trading may soon reach the threshold defined in the Act.