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Hints, Tips and Solutions (Do NOT post requests for help here) If you have any useful general hints and tips for vintage technology repair and restoration, please share them here. PLEASE DO NOT POST REQUESTS FOR HELP HERE!

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Old 10th Aug 2005, 1:19 pm   #1
zak
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Default Vintage radio safety

I was under the impression that this website was to give help to restoring vintage radio equipment.However,seeing some of the content recently,this seems to be not the case.especially when it comes to electrical safety.
Set manufacturers go to a lot of trouble to ensure their products are safe,they have to comply with BSI,and IEE regulations,which were rigoursly enforced,these safety requirements far exceed present day standards,so any modification or "updating"will generally impair safety.
A large part of Britain had DC mains,this is why electrical safety was so important.A lot of sets had the BS 5a connector,similar to a shaver plug,these were known as a safety connector,since you could not take the back cover off without withdrawing the connector.Another reason was to reverse polarity,this was important when using 3 pin sockets since the red wire went to the right hand pin which is the "live".However this could be negative or postive depending on which main you were connected to,which varied from house to house.The 2pin connector facilitated an easy transpose.
On AC there is no polarity to ensure,although less hum may occur when the chassis is connected to neutral.
Another reason for the existance for the connector is to quickly isolate the set,this regulation applies today,and is seen on most appliances that are not hand held or fixed,todays connector is generally the flimsy IEC pattern made of plastic .
The BS connector is no longer used,this was scrapped along with a lot of the B S standards,so it may be hard to find a replacement,however this is what restoring is all about.
Another point that keeps coming up is earthing.The first rule when using Electricity is to ensure that the supply is earthed,and generally all metalwork and housing are also earthed,Any attempt to break the earth,(ie an isolating transformer)can be very dangerous.Most AC only sets used a similar transformer,and one would rightly assume that the chassis needs an earth for safety,yet most mains leads were two core only,now do you update and fit a 3 core lead?If you did, it may be safer,but radio equipment does not like to be earthed to a mains earth since this is a poor rf earth and may introduce a lot of noise into the rf stages,also if someone connected the earth socket to a ground spike as intended,this would then be multiple earthing and could bring another hazard if an ELCB is used,also there would be loop currents between the two earths,which would mean further noise at least.An isolating capacitor can be fitted to the earth socket as with ac/dc sets,this may solve this problem.However all this seems uneccessary,if the insulation is tested with a megger ,and a good reading is obtained,then there should not be a need for earth,since the transformers were often wound with a high insulation as found in todays wall "bugs".The motto is to leave the original safety specification alone.The greatest danger I have found is done by people interfereing with the original safety and not ensuring exposed metalwork is insulated,ie knob grub screws unprotected,and back covers damaged or missing..
.In many respects an AC/DC set is safer,the chassis is always earthed,(maybe at 240v potential) and the internal voltage never exceeds the peak supply.
The biggest danger from electrical appliances is not shock,but fire hazard,leaving appliances connected when unattended,overheating due to poor design,wrong operating voltage,no power switch etc,this is the downgrading of the regulations and enforcement since widespread AC supplies
Vintage radio sets are safer than a lot of present day equipment.
A lot of manufacturers did not fit fuses in the supply lead,this is bad,in this case make sure you have a 2A fuse in the plug.
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Old 10th Aug 2005, 1:47 pm   #2
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Default Re: Vintage radio safety

To the best of my knowledge, the IEE has never issued safety regulations relating to portable electrical equipment, including radios and TVs. There are British Standards for safety of portable equipment. BS415 was one such widely used standard. The IEE wiring regulations, now also a BS, are for electrical wiring installations.

Much older equipment, even if it complied with the relevant standards in force when it was new, may do so no longer. Standards have also evolved, generally in the direction of greater safety margins. All new equipment must comply with current standards. Ideally, we should try to make older equipment comply with at least the spirit of current standards even if not to the letter.

One important point, now often overlooked, is that it is usually quite hard to hurt yourself electrically with modern equipment even if you do some pretty stupid things. This was not the case with much older equipment. Since we are now accustomed to equipment being pretty much idiot proof, most people are unaware of the potential dangers that can afflict older equipment.

Fire has always been a hazard associated with electricity. Many so-called electrical fires are actually not really electrical at all. Setting fire to your socks by hanging them on an electric heater rather than a gas heater is not an electrical fire though it may get classified as such. Since valve radios and TVs generate more heat than their modern counterparts they can be potentially greater fire hazards, especially as present day users may be less aware of the need for adequate ventilation.
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Old 10th Aug 2005, 2:54 pm   #3
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Default Re: Vintage radio safety

Quote:
I was under the impression that this website was to give help to restoring vintage radio equipment.However,seeing some of the content recently,this seems to be not the case.especially when it comes to electrical safety.
Surely if you're restoring a Vintage Radio or anything else for that matter you should make sure it's safe? Are you saying that giving safety advice is unhelpful?

Quote:
Set manufacturers go to a lot of trouble to ensure their products are safe,they have to comply with BSI,and IEE regulations,which were rigoursly enforced,these safety requirements far exceed present day standards,so any modification or "updating"will generally impair safety.
You've got your tenses mixed up here. I think you're saying that vintage sets were manufactured to comply with the standards of the day. You go on to say that these standards "far exceeded" present day standards. Have you actually sat down and studied the old and new standards side by side to prove this? In my experience safety standards and legislation get tougher and more rigidly enforced. Not the other way round.

Quote:
A large part of Britain had DC mains,this is why electrical safety was so important.A lot of sets had the BS 5a connector,similar to a shaver plug,these were known as a safety connector,since you could not take the back cover off without withdrawing the connector.Another reason was to reverse polarity,this was important when using 3 pin sockets since the red wire went to the right hand pin which is the "live".However this could be negative or postive depending on which main you were connected to,which varied from house to house.The 2pin connector facilitated an easy transpose.
Interesting historical information, but not relevant today when there are no DC mains.

Quote:
On AC there is no polarity to ensure,although less hum may occur when the chassis is connected to neutral.
On radios with single pole mains switching the switch should be connected in the live wire so that the set will not be live when switched off. Similarly any exposed voltage adjustment terminals should be in the neutral wire. Reversed mains polarity will defeat this.

Quote:
Another reason for the existance for the connector is to quickly isolate the set,this regulation applies today,and is seen on most appliances that are not hand held or fixed,todays connector is generally the flimsy IEC pattern made of plastic .
What exactly do you mean by an appliance that is not hand held or fixed? Anything small can be held in the hand. PORTABLE radios for example can be handheld and they do have a 2 pin mains connector. I have checked a few of these plugs on my own appliances and they are far from flimsy. I COULD hit them with a hammer and not smash them. An old plug made from hard plastic can be smashed just by dropping it on the floor.

Quote:
Any attempt to break the earth,(ie an isolating transformer)can be very dangerous.
Isolating transformers are only intended to be used when working on a live set. Not when it is in everyday use. If you touch the live side of the mains when in contact with earth you won't get a shock if you're using an isolation transformer.

Quote:
Most AC only sets used a similar transformer,and one would rightly assume that the chassis needs an earth for safety,yet most mains leads were two core only,now do you update and fit a 3 core lead?If you did, it may be safer,but radio equipment does not like to be earthed to a mains earth since this is a poor rf earth and may introduce a lot of noise into the rf stages,also if someone connected the earth socket to a ground spike as intended,this would then be multiple earthing and could bring another hazard if an ELCB is used,also there would be loop currents between the two earths,which would mean further noise at least.
I agree that providing a protective mains earth may lead to an increase in noise. However safety is more important. If you or I found ourselves in court because someone killed or injured themselves using a set we'd restored the excuse "providing a protective earth would have increased noise" would cut no ice at all.

Quote:
However all this seems uneccessary,if the insulation is tested with a megger ,and a good reading is obtained,then there should not be a need for earth
What tests good today can go faulty tomorrow. My car had perfect brakes when it came out of the factory, but I still have to get them inspected and tested every year at MOT time.

Quote:
Vintage radio sets are safer than a lot of present day equipment.
Such as?

Quote:
A lot of manufacturers did not fit fuses in the supply lead,this is bad,in this case make sure you have a 2A fuse in the plug.
As far as I know, and I haven't checked, the UK is the only country that uses fuses in mains plugs. This is an excellent safety feature brought about by upgrading of old standards. Unfortunately these have been misnamed as "13 Amp Plugs", so everyone seems to think they need a 13 amp fuse! However I would fit a 1 amp fuse where available.

Graham.

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Old 10th Aug 2005, 4:23 pm   #4
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Default Re: Vintage radio safety

Electrical safety standards continue to decline,people can get away with all sorts of offences,including manufactures.There is little enfocement now.Do you want some examples?1,Appliances not fitted with a switch to isolate the supply,(always energised) 2,Improper fusing,plugs fitted with fuse higher than rating of cable.3 RFI radiation exceeding limits4.Connectors and switches made of cumbustible material, This would not be permitted a few decades ago,thank god we dont have DC mains now,its amazing what you can get away with using AC,(well ,no current flow),all this against IEE regs.We now live in a dangerous and complicated world,standards have declined,and appliances are less efficient .One blessing for you ,its only 240V AC,I have worked on AC and DC mains supplies low and medium voltage,work was a lot more difficult then,all sockets,switches etc had to be made from non combustible material,most were enclosed in metal and connected by wiring enclosed in steel conduit,this was the regulations,today this would be regarded as bomb proof!
Vintage radio is only safe if its properly maintained,however if you ridicule the regulations then youv'e only got yourself to blame for an accident,the courts will do nothing to help.
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Old 10th Aug 2005, 6:15 pm   #5
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Default Re: Vintage radio safety

Quote:
Originally Posted by zak
Electrical safety standards continue to decline,people can get away with all sorts of offences,including manufactures.There is little enfocement now.Do you want some examples?1,Appliances not fitted with a switch to isolate the supply,(always energised)
In what way is that unsafe. It may be undesireable from the point of view of wasted power but I cannot see how it makes an appliance any more dangerous. In fact it gets rid of the mains switch whish is quite often a cause of over-heating etc due to wear and tarnish.

Quote:
2,Improper fusing,plugs fitted with fuse higher than rating of cable.
I agree with that one. For example kettles seem to be fitted with flex rated at around 5A, consume 10A and are fused at 13A. The manufacturers work on the basis that the use is only intermittent.

Quote:
3 RFI radiation exceeding limits
Indeed - but that is not a safety issue, and this thread is about safety.

Quote:
4.Connectors and switches made of cumbustible material,
I'm not sure what you mean there - would you care to give some examples?
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Old 10th Aug 2005, 6:23 pm   #6
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Default Re: Vintage radio safety

I am in complete agreement with the replies so far and would add further comments on the subject of providing a protective earth on AC sets with an isolating type mains transformer (as distinct from an autotransformer). I always remove the twin mains lead on this type of set and fit a twin and earth mains lead with the earth conductor securely connected to chassis somewhere near the mains transformer. Some other earthing may be required, for instance my Murphy A92 has the mains on/off switch mounted on a separate metal plate screwed to the inside of the cabinet, I have added an earth wire from this plate to the chassis to reduce the risk of the on/off shaft becoming live if something disastrous happened to the mains switch.

A protective earth is always more important than a signal earth and I have never had interference problems caused by making the above changes, but I do have a good long wire aerial extending from my house to my workshop which is at the bottom of the garden. I also live in a rural area that is likely to be less prone to mains-borne interference. If you are not so fortunate with your signal to noise ratio you do not necessarily have to choose between a protective earth and a signal earth; depending upon the set design you may be able to have both.

Referring to the attachment showing a modified Murphy A122 front end. In the original circuit both the primaries and the secondaries of the aerial coils had their bottom ends connected to chassis (shown by the ringed dotted lines). These connections are removed and the bottom ends of the primaries connected to the earth socket, a 100k resistor and a wander plug are added as shown and the modification is complete. With the wander plug connected to the earth socket the set uses the protective earth for its signal earth. With the wander plug unplugged a clean earth such as an earth spike can be connected in its place. The 100k resistor is included to prevent static build up on the aerial should the set be left with nothing connected to the earth socket. Its value is not critical and could be anything up to a Meg or two.

Finally an earth spike should not be used as a protective earth, because the earth loop impedance could be too high. For a protective earth to work the impedance of the path from the supply through the fault to earth must be low enough to blow the protective fuse. An earth spike could have an impedance high enough to leave the chassis at mains potential without blowing any fuse.
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Old 10th Aug 2005, 6:25 pm   #7
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Default Re: Vintage radio safety

Oh Dear. Some rather strange comments here but that is what these threads are about after all. I was in the radio sales and service business for 40 years and retired in 2002. I can remember DC mains, 2 pin plugs and just about every mains voltage you can imagine. The old AC/DC equipment was only relatively safe when new and even then the insulation between the live chassis which it nearly always was can only be described as poor. I say live chassis because it was not until the early 1970's that the 13amp three pin plug was finally becoming standard. Before that the general arrangement was a 5 amp two pin plug and an unswitched socket screwed to the skirting board again if you were lucky. Even a three pin outlet could not be guaranteed to be wired correctly. Many installations I encountered were run from a BC lamp adaptor with the wire dangling from a hook attached to the picture rail. As mentioned the general public were far more aware of the dangers of playing with electrical equipment and simply did not allow over indulged children[?] to mess about with the household appliances. Quite a number of sets had poor control knobs that usually broke off leaving a live spindle for the user to operate with pliers or mole grips. Central heating was not so common in those days and there was little to earth yourself to in the arrerage living room.
Any AC/DC set used today must be considered a risk to the ill informed user.
Like it or not people like to 'fiiddle' add speakers and aerials thinking this will improve the performance. I have never come across a modern item that could in any way be considered dangerous. The transformers are of good quality and I have never known of one of these break down resulting in the appliance becoming live. Overheating is dealt with by the internal thermal fuse rupturing should a short occur. It is crazy to compare the doubtless weak safety points with old vintage equipment with modern equipment of the same type. So what about collectors ? It is my opinion and I wait for the flack.....that collectors of vintage radio and television should learn how to repair this equipment themselves and thus become aware of the safety issues. If your intentions are to obtain sets, get enough information from this and other superb sites, bodge repair them and then sell them on Ebay as collectables, you are leaving yourself open to serious problems. If you are a serious enthusiast and are willing to learn about vintage technique you will have no problems. Other members and myself are only too willing to share our experience with newcomers. There are some very well informed guys and girls on this site. Do not under any circumstances sell vintage equipment to the green public. You have been warned! Don't be worried that your thread/enquiry might seem 'silly' or 'obvious'. After 40 years I am still learning. Regards. JOHN. NO OFFENCE TO ANYONE. I hope just useful advice.
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Old 10th Aug 2005, 7:22 pm   #8
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Default Re: Vintage radio safety

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Stenning
In what way is that unsafe. It may be undesireable from the point of view of wasted power but I cannot see how it makes an appliance any more dangerous. In fact it gets rid of the mains switch whish is quite often a cause of over-heating etc due to wear and tarnish.

I agree with that one. For example kettles seem to be fitted with flex rated at around 5A, consume 10A and are fused at 13A. The manufacturers work on the basis that the use is only intermittent.

Indeed - but that is not a safety issue, and this thread is about safety.

I'm not sure what you mean there - would you care to give some examples?
If theres no switch,the device or whatever, is still energised,also it will still draw current,and could be a fire hazard,perhaps a fault will occur when unattended.
I have seen countless "switches"made of plastic,these just burn up or melt down,also kettle connectors burn up or melt,surely you have come accross this sort of thing! 3a rating cables often used for 5-7a loads,this is todays practice.
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Old 10th Aug 2005, 7:48 pm   #9
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Default Re: Vintage radio safety

Quote:
Originally Posted by zak
If theres no switch,the device or whatever, is still energised,also it will still draw current,and could be a fire hazard,perhaps a fault will occur when unattended.
I'm with you on this bit, Zak .

I've just been round to my neighbours' house to move their post and water their plants while they're away on holiday. I was amazed by the sheer number of red "standby" LEDs that greeted me in the semi-darkness, and the faint 100Hz buzz of idle mains transformers in countless home entertainment products that were "switched off", yet still very much connected to the mains.

At least most of these modern transformers have built-in thermal fuses though - something that's rarely found in vintage equipment, but well worth retrofitting in my opinion: Just have a look at this pic of one of my Hacker Mayflowers, whose original mains tx appeared to have burst into flames due to a s/c contact-cooled rectifier. I've fitted a Cliff miniature wire-ended thermal fuse under the top cover (in place of the voltage selector) to reduce the risk of a repeat performance.

Nick.
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Old 10th Aug 2005, 7:52 pm   #10
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Default Re: Vintage radio safety

Quote:
If theres no switch,the device or whatever, is still energised,also it will still draw current,and could be a fire hazard,perhaps a fault will occur when unattended.
If there's no switch, then surely the user will unplug the appliance or turn it off at a switched wall socket? I've just been thinking about what appliances I have without a mains switch. All I can thing of is a 60W inspection lamp and a portable 500W floodlight. The latter is definitely a fire hazard and consumes a lot of juice. That's why I unplug it when I leave it unattended. Lack of a switch on the floodlight doesn't deter me from unplugging it.

Quote:
I have seen countless "switches"made of plastic,these just burn up or melt down
I've also seen countless plastic switches, but I've not known one to catch fire or melt. I accept that this could happen if the switch was overloaded or incorrectly fused. Are you advocating a return to switches with porcelain innards which have a habit of breaking when you tighten the screws?

Quote:
,also kettle connectors burn up or melt,surely you have come accross this sort of thing
No I haven't come across it. The kettles we had at work suffered constant use and abuse, but I never knew a connector to melt or burn up.

Quote:
! 3a rating cables often used for 5-7a loads,this is todays practice.
That may be the practice, but it's not the rule, standard or regulation. I am advocating us obeying the rules, not breaking them.

Graham.
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Old 10th Aug 2005, 7:57 pm   #11
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Default Re: Vintage radio safety

Nick got his reply in whilst I was typing mine. It's true that many appliances, including the PC I'm typing this on can be put to sleep, but still draw mains current. However they still have an off/on switch. I admit to not using the one on my TV because the internal battery is knacked and it loses all it's settings if it's turned off.

Graham.
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Old 10th Aug 2005, 8:03 pm   #12
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Default Re: Vintage radio safety

Quote:
Originally Posted by G4ILN
It's true that many appliances, including the PC I'm typing this on can be put to sleep, but still draw mains current. However they still have an off/on switch.
In some cases, yes. But my VCR, DVD player, Freeview box, printer, kitchen radio, TFT monitor, HiFi amp etc. definitely don't

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Old 10th Aug 2005, 8:05 pm   #13
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I am concerned that it is suggested that we should not take the safety of older equipment seriously. It may have been more solidly built but it does not have an indefinite life. Much of the equipment which interests us has survived for many years beyond what the original manufacturer could possibly have imagined. Rubber insulated cable and many other parts have deteriorated. We have to decide what to replace and what to leave. Even shellac, which I understand was used to insulate older transformers tends to break down in time, so components which were satisfactory when manufactured are no longer so. I would not have that much faith in a 60 or 70 year old transformer and would certainly wish to ensure that its possible failure didn't present a danger. It may continue to work for another 70 years but it could fail tomorrow.

As suggested by other contributors to this thread, there were also fewer opportunities in the past to come into contact with earthed metal before central heating became common. This fact probably saved me from injury on more than one occasion. There would have been little point in manufacturers providing a three core cable to enable exposed metalwork (or at least the exposed chassis apron of AC sets) to be earthed until most households had been provided with means of providing a safety earth connection.

This is no excuse for us today. So far as I am concerned I expect exposed metalwork to be safe which normally means bonding and connecting it to mains earth, and providing a properly fused three core flex. It also for me means replacing filter capacitors by modern components designed specifically for that function, and also checking for other safety problems when restoring.

Safety is a compromise in that absolute safety is not practicable, but we can reduce the risks to negligible proportions by considering each piece of equipment we own and making sensible improvements, much of which would have had to have been done anyway had current requirements prevailed at the time of original manufacture. I do not see that the fact that some new equipment on sale today may not comply with current regulations in any way absolves us from doing our best to ensure that our own restored equipment is as safe as possible.

Edward

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Old 10th Aug 2005, 8:20 pm   #14
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Default Re: Vintage radio safety

Quote:
Quote:
It's true that many appliances, including the PC I'm typing this on can be put to sleep, but still draw mains current. However they still have an off/on switch.



Indeed, also this type of equipment is designed to be left switched on unattended, an old style valve radio or TV most certainly was not. The only serious house fire I have personal knowledge of was caused by a 1960s hybrid colour TV set left on unattended by the vicar! Traditional mains switch fitted to that one no doubt!

Modern domestic brown goods may be tackily built, but bar the occasional Far eastern monstrosity (that comes in illegally) they are electrically very safe IMHO. As mentioned, thermal fuses and a host of other shutdown devices are fitted. Old TVs of my experience often failed with a bang or belched smoke, nowadays they are far more likely to click off as a safety device is activated, or the micro controller removes power from the set having detected a fault. In addition to all this, legislation now dicates use of fireproof PCBs, cases and other components.




Sorry, no contest IMHO, modern equipment is far far safer than old valve era equipment both in terms of shock risk and fire risk
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Old 10th Aug 2005, 8:28 pm   #15
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Great Thread, You can blame all this useless standby current on one thing only..REMOTE CONTROL. Makers used to put the mains switch on the FRONT of the telly. Now its hidden away under a cover or in the case of the Thompson/ Ferguson A10R, on the back! Graham..Shame on you..Change that back up battery in that Philips/Pye this weekend! Personally I switch everything off. JOHN.
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Old 10th Aug 2005, 9:47 pm   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Heatercathodeshort
Personally I switch everything off. JOHN.
After saying all that, yer, I have to admit I do as well Not becuase I'm frightened of the house burning down, but becuase I am particularly "tight".
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Old 11th Aug 2005, 12:28 am   #17
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Default Re: Vintage radio safety

Just read some of the interesting comments and decided to add some of my own. The older valved radios we are all familiar with were probably considered safe by their days standards but would fail miserably against todays safety regs. I know for a fact that some of the 1970's tv's, especially those that used AC/DC chassis, would be condemned on sight today. But despite todays tight rules and regs I am amazed at the poor build quality of much of todays modern gadgets, often with little or no circuit protection . It makes you wonder if any of todays tight rules and regulations are actually enforced!
As regards to leaving things powered up, I switch everything off that I can either by the appliances on off switch or by switching off at the wall socket. This includes both pc's, the colour tv, the WiFi box, the DVD and of course all the older radios and TV's. The only things I leave running are those that are designed to be left on such as VCR's, the cooker,microwave and the radio alarms.
I also do regular checks on the batteries in the fire alarms, I trust everyone else does this as well?
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Old 11th Aug 2005, 6:59 am   #18
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Default Re: Vintage radio safety

Quote:
Originally Posted by Heatercathodeshort
Great Thread, You can blame all this useless standby current on one thing only..REMOTE CONTROL. Makers used to put the mains switch on the FRONT of the telly. Now its hidden away under a cover or in the case of the Thompson/ Ferguson A10R, on the back! Graham..Shame on you..Change that back up battery in that Philips/Pye this weekend! Personally I switch everything off. JOHN.
It doesn't help existing equipment, but chip and equipment manufacturers have developed methods to reduce standby power consumption down to the 1W level or less. Still not perfect, only a real switch can do that, but a lot better than it was and much less wasted electricity. Since much consumer equipment is replaced on a fairly short life cycle the improvements will work their way through automatically.

I still prefer to switch off most equipment but it's not always convenient. In most countries they don't usually have switched power sockets which makes it even less convenient.
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Old 11th Aug 2005, 8:34 am   #19
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Default Re: Vintage radio safety

I have heard that, in MODERN equipment, the on/off switch is actually the main safety problem, being the main cause of fires. Mind you I'm sure this is because they are now so tacky but it may explain the trend towards leaving them off altogether. Our current TV suffered switch failure after only about a week.
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Old 11th Aug 2005, 9:28 am   #20
Nickthedentist
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Default Re: Vintage radio safety

Quote:
Originally Posted by GMB
Our current TV suffered switch failure after only about a week.
Not uncommon, judging by the number of pattern switches available from CPC and the like. Having them soldered to the board with no other mechanical support doesn't help either.

This is not a new problem though. Vast numbers of Sonys in the 1980s were subject to recalls due to arcing mains switches, as were some ITTs whose switches developed dry joints where they were soldered to the PCB.

Nick.
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