* Posts by horsham_sparky

100 posts • joined 15 Dec 2010

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Slash tuition fees for STEM students, biz boss body begs UK.gov

horsham_sparky

Re: The liberal arts people will game this

"How long before history gets rebranded as "past science"?"

I believe that should be "temporal science" :-)

same thing in Engineering.. "sanitation engineer", "meat distribution engineer" to name a couple..

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horsham_sparky

Re: When I finished my STEM there were no jobs

As Ledswinger said, the quality of STEM education seems to have been declining in the UK. In Electronics Engineering, new graduates are often pretty useless when it comes to design work. But the degree at least gives them the basics, so after a couple of years of mentoring and practise they can become useful members of the team. I suspect that's part of the reason graduate wages aren't great.

The other part of it is that too many people can call themselves engineers these days, so yes the respect for engineers has declined. However its definitely possible to get decent wages, particularly in fields that are more difficult and in demand. RF Engineering and DSP are a couple of good examples.

I think the final part of the problem is Engineers themselves.. we're next to useless at negotiation compared to other parts of the company (e.g. sales, marketing etc), so on average our wages are lower, despite the fact engineers can make or break a company just as easily. If you believe the psychiatric studies its probably because most of us are Autistic to varying degrees! in fact if you believe an old 'el reg article, we're cold and dead inside, with no empathy for others.. sounds like most engineers that I know :-)

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horsham_sparky
Flame

Too bloody right!!

Tuition fees should be based on their value to the economy and to society.. i.e. if Engineers are in high demand, engineering degrees should be lower cost and/or subsidised. Those that elect to study far less useful subjects like "David Beckham Studies" should be charged more to pay for those subsidies. Agreed this might not cover all the costs, but the gains in productivity and ultimately tax revenue for having more STEM workers available would easily outweigh the additional costs.

I keep seeing articles about Uni-grads working in jobs that have no relation to their degree.. what's the point of that? OK, i can understand that some industries can be difficult to get into, but if a significant proportion of students never get into their subjects then they have wasted their time and money as well as the taxpayers.

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UK's CASH POINTS to MISS Windows XP withdrawal date

horsham_sparky
Holmes

That's what you get for going with Microsoft

Windows was never intended as an industrial OS (ATM's would probably qualify as industrial, harsh environment, long service life etc)

There are other OS's out there with better security, support and licensing options, and I don't just mean the various flavours of Linux.

But companies like NCR go for windows because there are lots of Dev's out there with windows experience, and the inbuilt UI cuts down on some of the development time. Plus they can now charge their customers for brand spanking new ATM's rather than just upgrading the old ones.

Its the banks own fault for not specifying a more suitable OS and feature roadmap for these devices.. no sympathy at all.. just annoyance that the cost will be passed on to joe bloggs public yet again.

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Barclays warns freelance techies of DOUBLE DIGIT rate cut

horsham_sparky

Re: Perspective

My facts are straight. I don't pay myself a full salary, I take some of it in dividends (like most contractors). I still pay PAYE to keep up my NI contributions. I fully agree, corp tax is paid on profits after expenses (i didn't state that it wasn't)

my point was that the original post was misleading, which I still stand by

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horsham_sparky

Re: Perspective

Touché :-)

Not living/working in London, the ones I know earn considerably less than £500 per day. The additional costs of living in or commuting to London and the more specialist area (banking) probably accounts for the difference.

However I still stand by the fact your post was misleading as you didn't account for most of the costs contractors face. I regularly get told by permies/managers that I'm a rich contractor (I wish), purely because of this kind of misconception, which tends to get annoying after a while

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horsham_sparky

Re: idiot bosses @horsham

Yep, I've heard those justifications before. And then those large companies wonder why their IT/Engineering projects run over-budget, deliver late and don't meet the requirements.

When IT and Engineering resource decisions are made on purely financial reasons, that's when projects go wrong. The sad fact is that as a contractor its rare that I get contracts in well run engineering departments.. almost always they're getting me in at the end of projects, when deadlines are looming because they haven't properly resourced or specified the projects, and are they are into headless-chicken mode of project management.

using contractors in this fashion means that you lose all the learning and experience that they gained during the project.. that means future projects take longer and are a lot more wasteful. Its a false economy.

Unfortunately financial planners rarely understand this and think IT staff/Engineers can be brought in and moved on at a drop of a hat and still keep their effectiveness and productivity.

So your justification whilst being a valid one financially just doesn't work very well in the real world :-(

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horsham_sparky

Re: idiot bosses

My experience is that most bosses in the IT/Engineering sector don't understand the skillset of the people they employ, and therefore are unable to place a value upon it. Those that do understand will rarely bother with contractors but will seek good pay/conditions/opportunities for their permanent staff. However this seems to be the exception rather than the rule these days :-(

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horsham_sparky

Re: Perspective

Why don't you actually talk to some IT contractors and find out how much they're paid? 'cause frankly I seriously doubt there are many earning that level. Most will be between the £300-£400 mark per day, see

http://www.contractoruk.com/market_rates/

As a highly qualified, and in demand Electronics Engineer (there's a shortage of us in the UK), not even I earn as much as £500 a day, nevermind £700 a day!

You also didn't add in corporation tax (20%), PAYE (yes, most contractors DO pay this, myself included). Add in some travel and lodging expenses (a lot of contractors like myself go where the work is, and that means local accomodation during the week and long drives at the weekend). So if they're doing well, they might net between £50k and £70k per year, assuming they work all year around. Take away pension contributions, healthcare, professional indemnity insurance, end of year accounts and tax returns, etc etc etc, then I think you'll find contractors are not the extreme high earners that you make them out to be

Please get your facts straight before posting stuff like that, you only reinforce the misconception that we contractors are earling loads'a'lolly... though we would if we could!! :-)

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horsham_sparky

Ironic

I'm electronics design contractor.. ironically my business account is with Barclays! time to reconsider if their IT is about to go down the sh***er

sounds like Electronics contracting is different to IT contracting, I've never had to drop my rates.. Although I do move around every year or two to ensure I keep getting market rates (companies never voluntarily increase their rates unless they're desperate to keep me) and to make sure I fall foul of IR35

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My work-from-home setup's better than the office. It's GLORIOUS

horsham_sparky
Flame

standardisation

This is the scourge of the engineering department.. being expected to build FPGA/microcontroller code, or run Matlab or Spice simulations on a PC that was designed for a company secretary who rarely uses anything other than Word or Internet Explorer (yep, the standard browser for the company, no you can't have firefox, its free! it can't possibly be legal!). 2GB of RAM which IE and windows swallows whole when you have more than a few windows open.. a single core CPU that needs its clockwork winding up regularly..

Anyone tried to design a PCB using a 15" screen? for heavens sake, my smartphone has more pixels! not fun!

*sigh* sorry rant over

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PM Cameron leaps aboard Internet of Thingies

horsham_sparky
Terminator

beginning of skynet?

I'm just waiting for someone to say that these devices will suddenly somehow coalesce and form a big bad AI that will wip-out mankind, whilst curiously resurrecting an aged austrian holywood star

first there was GM.. then nano-particles (grey goo), next we'll either be blasted by liquid-metal robots, or we'll be grown, farmed for electricity and controlled via artificial reality implants

personally I'll be watching with amusement supping ice cold beer ordered automatically from my internet fridge :-)

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horsham_sparky

Re: A fridge that can order you milk when it notices you are getting low

now if it ordered beer by itself, that would definitely make me feel better.. mmmmm beer

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horsham_sparky
Black Helicopters

nah

This isn't about improving the economy, lifestyle, saving the planet or all the normal crap politicians spout.. this is about connecting up more devices to the webs that NSA/GCHQ can hack into! pretty soon server farms will be analysing your milk-drinking habits for signs of subversive activity..

personally I believe we should invest in aluminium foil headwear.. several layers should do the trick :-)

p.s. its only paranoia if nobody is out to get you..

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Heroic Playmonaut wowed by LOHAN's bulging package

horsham_sparky

Re: dont' forget

a test glide to check the trim might be prudent, local RC flying clubs are a good place to go and get help from, the gliders use powered planes to get them going :-)

and while I'm at it, the best way to suck an egg is to make sure you don't get one too big, and to thoroughtly wash the chicken poo from it first :-p I'm sure you've thought of all this stuff already.. nice work on the assembly :-)

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horsham_sparky
Facepalm

dont' forget

to check your centre of gravity now that all the kit and kaboodle are in.. would be a shame to see it nosedive instead of gliding elegantly.. it would spill playmonaut's cuppa-char!

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Florida bloke cuffed for pit bull shag outrage

horsham_sparky

Re: I shouldn't need to know

That's soo... wrong! my eyes feel violated! I don't want to know any of that.. *covers up ears* lalalala can't hear you lalalala *shudder*

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horsham_sparky
Coffee/keyboard

Re: Police later described the scene at the house

genius comment.. lol

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horsham_sparky
Alert

blimey

His picture makes it look like the pitt-bull is getting its own back! His eyes look like someone's just slapped his back and they're about to pop out and cannon off the cameraman

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Roll up, roll up for the Commentards' Ball

horsham_sparky
Pint

d'oh!

I'm flying out to germany to demo my new product the next day, I doubt they'll be impressed by me turning up smelling of stale lager, late night curry, with eyes redder than Saurons after a particularly bad session of quaffing hobbit blood-mead (just made that up). Knowing 'el Reg, I wouldn't discount the possibility of traffic-cone headwear, and handcuffs attached to bits of hack-sawed lampost

*sigh*

to those that make it, I damn you!!! :-) sounds like it will be an awesome night out

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Antarctic ice shelf melt 'lowest EVER recorded, global warming is NOT eroding it'

This post has been deleted by a moderator

Readers, we need you... for LOHAN ignition failsafe brainwaves

horsham_sparky
Boffin

Re: pressure switch

the way you might do it would be using a watchdog on the electronics that powers a normally closed relay which is in series with the pressure switch. i.e. if the watchdog is cleared regularly it powers the relay and keeps it open, thus preventing the pressure switch from firing the rocket.

If the electronics fails to clear the watchdog, or loses power completely, the relay automatically closes (they're spring loaded and need power to hold 'em open), and allows the pressure switch to kick in at the correct altitude.

The caveat being the software needs to be well written to ensure it doesn't arbitrarily keep resetting the watchdog (a common mistake when implementing watchdog monitors)

you could also have a seperate radio system to close the relay to allow the pressure switch to fire the rocket.. all of it is extra complication of course, it just depends if you want to allow the balloon to burst without firing the rocket (for a re-try for example)

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horsham_sparky
Happy

Re: pressure switch

Give me a shout if you don't get any luck, there are other companies that do these things. I can probably blag a sample if push comes to shove through my electronics Biz :-)

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horsham_sparky
Pint

Re: Gravity detector

I think you might snag yourself something larger than a duck were that to happen :-D

Still, a pint (or three) will solve any problem in existance.. world peace, starvation, cold fusion, and also why bags of nuts have that silly little label on them "May contain nuts"

In the words of Benjamin Franklin "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy"

I'll drink to that!!!

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horsham_sparky

Re: Any way the whole rig can be kept stable in free-fall?

stabilising fins might be more effective, simpler and will weigh less :-)

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horsham_sparky
Devil

Re: Gravity detector

simples.. as long as it stays upright and doesn't get blown by turbulence close to the horizontal position ;-)

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horsham_sparky
Pint

Re: "Failsafe" doesn't mean what you think it means.

The accelerator was meant as an example of a system that only "fails safe" if it stops performing a function (i.e. continuing to deliver radiation is an example of a system which does NOT fail safe), whereas the ventilator is the opposite.

You would hope the ventilator alarms and that someone reacts quickly enough to prevent serious harm to the patient, but that situation is definitely not fail safe! Having designed the electronics for a ventilator in a previous job, I can tell you that although the designs do include redundancy for critical systems, the pneumatics is arranged such that even under failure conditions it still provides positive air pressure to the patient. This is an example of a system that continues to provide a function under failure conditions

So perhaps I wasn't clear in last nights semi-drunken post (new batch of homebrew was ready last night mmmm), but in my own mind at least I wasn't confusing redundancy with fail-safe, but hopefully making it clear that fail-safe is a term that can have many meanings depending on what it is applied to :-)

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horsham_sparky
Angel

Re: "Failsafe" doesn't mean what you think it means.

you're 100% right and at the same time 100% wrong.. yes that's contradictory, but please allow me to explain!

Firstly my background as self proclaimed expert (or nearest semi-expert in the vicinity), I work in medical electronics and have had formal training in safety engineering and much experience in designing stuff that is "failsafe"

you notice the exclamation marks (in real life I might have been making a funny gesture with two fingers)

you see, failsafe is all a matter of context. a rocket that fails to ignite.. has it failed safe? it depends if you're the bloke that has to approach it afterwards!

likewise, a linear accelerator that generates high energy x-rays.. it fails and continues to deliver radiation? definitely not safe! likewise a ventilator that helps a patient breath.. it fails and stops pumping gas into the patient.. is it safe? again definitely not!.

In this case, what the author means by "safe" is that the rocket is safely away from the balloon.. so if the main launch system fails, it has a failsafe backup that ensure the launch. Remember "safe" has many meanings depending on the context of the project

:-)

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horsham_sparky

Re: dont know much about them but..

oh and p.s. its a mechanical switch.. i.e. its a mechanical mechanism that closes electrical contacts, much like what has already been discussed through various garden-shed arrangements of ice, bluetack, loo-rolls etc, however engineered by professionals (probably with lots of letters after their name, like Msc, Meng, Phd etc) to actually work :-)

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horsham_sparky

Re: dont know much about them but..

I wasn't talking about a sensor (i.e. converts pressure to voltage), but a pressure switch (triggers the switch at a preset pressure level).. link again;

http://www.appeng.co.uk/product/psf101-ultra-sensitive-pressure-switches-with-fixed-set-points-spst-contacts

yes it has 20% tolerance, however on the 14.92mbar unit (approx 29500m), this equates to +/- 3mbar or around +/-1500m roughly. There are two ways around this if you need it better, firstly you set your primary electronic trigger to a level below this (say 27,500m), and make sure your burst altitude is higher than 31,000m

alternatively you can talk nicely to the manufacturer and get them to pre-select a unit with the right pressure trigger point for you :-)

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horsham_sparky
Boffin

Re: dont know much about them but..

actually, I already suggested a absolute pressure switch, set to trigger at the correct altitude (see the link in my post).

my only worry about the differential pressure switch on the balloon is how much differential pressure there might be between the balloon and atmostphere, and how much this will vary during ascent. The balloon expands because the gas inside is trying to equalise pressure with the outside world, so I would expect this differential to be quite small..

That said, it would probably spike before the balloon reaches the limit of its stretch, so maybe you could use that.. I prefer the set pressure method though, more predictable

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horsham_sparky
Boffin

pressure switch

Try something like this;

http://www.appeng.co.uk/product/psf101-ultra-sensitive-pressure-switches-with-fixed-set-points-spst-contacts

The manufacturer will set the pressure for you, calculate it to trigger above your main system pressure (allow for some error in both systems). If there isn't one with your exact pressure, you could use a differential pressure switch and put a known pressure on the second port. Looking at the one in the you can set it between 0.25mbar and 124mbar (30,000m altitude = 14mbar)

Again, why re-invent the wheel when there is already tried/tested tech out there that does it for you :-)

this gives you your mechanical solution you're after :-)

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LOHAN must suck juice while mounted on rigid rod - but HOW?

horsham_sparky
Facepalm

Re: Wireless charger?

glad that was only semi serious lol :-p

before I mention the weight of a magnetron.. or its power supply.. or the fact it would need more power than you can get out of a wee little battery (magnetrons aren't particularly efficient) or the effect concentrated microwaves will have on the electronics.. or metallic components.. in fact I'll stop there :-p

inductive heating might be slighty more efficient than the wireless power stuff.. however I think wireless power would allow you to have a lot more control over the heating. Not entirely happy with the thought of heating explosive compounds to begin with, but if you have to, then make sure its consistent, monitored and controllable :-p

I still favour a spring pin arrangement.. maybe combined with the magets to provide the coupling force.. hmmm

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horsham_sparky
Boffin

Re: Conductive rubber - or even just copper tape contacts on top of the rubber?

conductive rubber isn't all that conductive.. and the more resistive it is, the more heat it will dissipate.

Copper tape also corrodes very quickly, I wouldn't want to rely on it. (connectors are always flashed with gold for a reason ;-)

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horsham_sparky
Boffin

Re: Wireless charger?

There are off the shelf solutions for wireless charging, e.g;

http://www.rrc-wireless-power.de/en/products.html

However, these are limited in wattage (5W), and their range is limited. Using anything else requires some serious engineering.. which I suspect el reg don't have time for without sacrificing valuable pub time :-p

It might be do-able, with the wireless modules, you would have to give it a go and see

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LOHAN fans drawn to magnetic coupling

horsham_sparky

Re: Why Re-invent the wheel?

In this case gold pads on a PCB would be OK. However if you need any significant amount of mating cycles, then the normal gold flash is insufficient as it wears away too quickly. In that case you need electroless gold over nickel plating (same as they use on the finger contacts on PCI cards), which is a much thicker and harder gold plating :-)

Another idea if the worry over the spring pins freezing is too much, you can also use battery contacts (like they use in smart phones). an example here:

http://uk.farnell.com/avx-interconnect/009155003201006/modular-battery-contact-3-way-3a/dp/1311148

might also be worth a look, though I've never used them in harsh enivornments, so couldn't vouch for the actual contact quality of these

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horsham_sparky

Re: Why Re-invent the wheel?

p.s. meant to say you can buy these from Farnell, about 50p each :-) don't forget to by the mating half, the contact pad is as important as the spring pin.

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horsham_sparky

Re: Why Re-invent the wheel?

We did environmental testing on these down to -10C.. can't remember what the humidity was (don't have access to the test reports anymore). The spring mechanism is pretty well sealed inside the unit, however if you're worried, you could always put a dob of low temp grease on the barrel immediately after soldering (this will drive out the moisture and guarantee the seal)

my best advice would be to get hold of some, do the above process and do some testing at representative conditions. Remember that putting a multimeter on it to test the resistance is not representative, you need to put the nominal load current through it and monitor that. (the reason being, high current will clean the contact area by arcing and vaporising any microscopic contaminants)

testing these things can be a project on its own! best to start with something engineered for job than a garden shed solution (sorry fellow boffins!)

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horsham_sparky
Boffin

Why Re-invent the wheel?

There are already technologies for quick disconnect, the simplest and most reliable is spring pins, good example here;

http://www.mill-max.com/products/newproducts_detail.cfm?pid=84

The biggest problem which you've missed with the other "contact" solutions is these connections tend to fail or increase contact resistance with environmental factors (moisture, temperature, dust etc). Vibration also plays a big part, particularly when combined with the harsh environment LOHAN will be subjected to.

The spring pins are designed for reliable contact under harsh conditions, the special sauce being the hard gold over nickel plating, and the spring which applies a constant precise force to the contacts

I've got a lot of experience in this area, so feel free to get in touch ;-)

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Punch-drunk Xyratex takes another beating, expects Q4 loss

horsham_sparky

phew

I interviewed for Xyratex a while ago.. glad I found something else :-) Their products present some tough engineering challenges..

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Japanese boffins demo EV on-the-move charging

horsham_sparky
Boffin

efficiency

The article derides the 80% efficiency as being too low to be practical.. the reality is that this is actually pretty good for a wireless system.Even with a wired system, you would be doing well to get 90% efficiency out of it. Less if you count the losses through the battery and charger (assuming the wireless system power is used dynamically rather than stored)

That said, yes its still more practical to recharge at stations.. the cost of implementing this on just motorways would be astronomical (anyone seen the price of copper cable these days?)

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War On Standby: Do the figures actually stack up?

horsham_sparky
FAIL

Re: What everyone in the industry knows already...

Where did you learn maths?

5V@2mA = 5V *0.002A = 10mW

assuming you meant Watt hours it would take 80 / 0.01 = 8000 hours or just under a year to get to 80Wh.. which would have cost you a grand total of.. *drum roll* 1.2p (15p per kWh)

p.s. sparky stuff is my day job ;-)

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horsham_sparky
Boffin

Re: CHP is a snare! @ Horsham sparky

Good points and well made :-)

Maybe I'm too much of an optimist and really want to see it working. oh well

Yep, you're right, inverters won't last forever, depends on the environmental conditions (they don't like heat), but I'd imagine there are clever ways to mitigate that (water cooling with a bit more overal efficiency as a fringe benny?). They can be made pretty reliable with well thought out and conservative design, it depends on the designer and the cost target.

I'm not so worried about the inverter issue as it can probably be resolved, however the fuel cell is the tougher target as the gas that's supplied isn't as clean as it could be and this can poison the cells if not filtered properly. if they can solve that one... :-)

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horsham_sparky
Boffin

Re: Remember that these switches are themselves in standby!

The problems occur when the device is switched when the mains is not on its zero crossing point, this leads to the surge currents discussed earlier. Only SSR's and other solid state devices allow this to be done accurately/reliably as mechanical relays are quite variable in their timing

So it entirely depends on the device and its design.. but the rule of thumb is you get what you pay for (i.e. don't use a cheap device on your £500 telly!)

and all of these devices will consume some kind of power (relay or SSR based), as they need some kind of active elements to look for the signals from the remote control to switch the TV back on. I'm not in the least bit surpised that this power can be as much as the TV's own standby current

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horsham_sparky
Trollface

Re: CHP is a snare! @ Horsham sparky

I brew my own.. so even more generated mwahahaha

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horsham_sparky
Boffin

Re: CHP is a snare! @ Horsham sparky

The thing I like about the CHP fuel cell units is that you're not in fact using any more gas than you normally would to heat your home. You're getting some free* electricity in the bargain.

However, if you read the original post, I said "when the tech is ready of course". Agreed that at the moment the expense vs payback period and service life probably doesn't justify it, hence why I inserted the above comment. That will likely change they perfect the technology in the coming years.. and yes someone (the early adopters as always) will pay for that so the rest of us get the benefits in a few years time

* these are likely to be more expensive than conventional boilers so not free if you count installation cost over a conventional boiler. but you reduce your leccy bill in conpensation.. whether thats enough to compensate is open to debate :-)

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horsham_sparky

Re: annoying

Hope you've got that lot on a surge protector on that lot.. those remote switches introduce a surge every time they switch something on. A lot of modern equipment isn't designed to take the surges.

and remember surge protectors don't last forever, they get damaged by the surges as well. In the case of our telly it saved us a couple of quid in electric while it was working, but cost us £500 for a new telly!

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horsham_sparky
Trollface

Re: CHP is a snare!

Always nice to see such scientific well reasoned arguments based in fact :-p

if you look at the pattern of boiler useage its typically in the winter when people are at homes, with the lights on, TV/kettle on etc..so you don't necessarily need a good feed in tariff to see the benefits.

There are plenty of studies to show CHP will reduce energy consumption in the domestic environment, Ceres have a few on their website.

with regards to centralised generation, take a look at this part of their website

http://www.cerespower.com/ProductOverview/CHPOverview/

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horsham_sparky

Re: actually

a couple of useful wikis;

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cogeneration

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Micro_combined_heat_and_power

CHP systems are already used commercially to reduce energy bills, they just haven't made the domestic market yet

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