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July 09, 2012

And the Word for the Day Is....

Capacitor. The blog princess has no earthly idea what a capacitor is when it's not going on the fritz and making her life miserable, but she knows it's a heckuva lot cheaper than a new heat pump.

*********

OK, to continue the insanity, a surreal moment from a mostly healthy marriage of 30+ years.

The Spousal Unit and I are in the basement late last night blowing up an inflatable mattress. The basement is a good 15-20 degrees cooler than the upstairs. Saturday night, we tried to sleep upstairs with about 20 gazillion fans blowing on us. Can't say it was a great success.

So we get the mattress inflated, make up the bed an settle in for a long summer's nap. The Unit falls asleep immediately. I'm lying there thanking God for basements and worrying about everything on my To Do list for work in the morning, when I suddenly become aware that my left hip is resting on the floor.

The love of my life is blissfully snoozing next to me. Do I wake him? Or hope that he's able to sleep for a little while?

Now my shoulder is on the floor. The mattress is deflating rapidly. Still no signs of life from the spouse, so I don't want to move and wake him. I lie there silently fuming about that (&^%$## mattress. Finally I sense by some indefinable radar that the spouse isn't asleep any more. He's playing possum, just like I am, hoping against hope that our bed isn't leakier than the Obama administration and SCOTUS, combined.

After a while I can't take it anymore and start laughing.

Posted by Cassandra at July 9, 2012 10:53 AM

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Comments

This is probably TMI, but look at the last two paragraphs..

http://www.madsci.org/posts/archives/mar99/920525652.Eg.r.html

And you're right, it is cheaper than a new heat pump or AC compressor.

Posted by: Grumpy Curmudgeon at July 9, 2012 11:32 AM

What happened? I *know* what a capacitor is; are you in the middle of maintenance?

Posted by: Carolyn at July 9, 2012 11:45 AM

Bad time for the heat pump to take five...

The capacitors in most residential AC/heat pump equipment is not expensive, the 'service call' is another matter.

I hope you're chillin' again and the capacitor/service call is covered under warranty.

Posted by: bthun at July 9, 2012 12:27 PM

Went through one of them last week!

Posted by: David M at July 9, 2012 12:30 PM

With us, it was the water heater that decided to go out. We had to replace the whole unit because it had sprung a leak that shorted out the electronics throughout. The new one? Lasted two hours before it shorted out too.

However, if one has to lose hot water, July is the time to do it.

Posted by: Grim at July 9, 2012 01:13 PM

I dunno about you Grim, but this time of the year, I got all the hot water I want. I just use the knob labelled "cold".

Posted by: MikeD at July 9, 2012 01:41 PM

Aye chihuahua. What a Monday!

Our house has 2 heat pumps and some electrical gadget in the attic and a Dr. Seuss looking unit in the basement. Shortly after we moved in, heat pump #1 went out on us (of course, during 98 degree weather). Three days later on the morning they were to bring the new heat pump, heat pump #2 failed.

Fortunately, they were able to cannibalize heat pump #1 for parts to fix heat pump #2, which they replaced. If we had had to replace the heat pump, it would have been muy expensivo.

This was heat pump #1 (the one with the cannibalized parts). We thought it was shot, which would have been a gazillion bucks because they would have to change a bunch of stuff in the house for reasons I devoutly do not wish to think about or understand.

Luckily, it was just the capacitor. He said he has replaced 30 of them in the last week - with the heat wave, they are failing in droves.

This is probably TMI, but look at the last two paragraphs..

Thanks so much! I know almost nothing about electricity or motors (well, I know a little about car motors - my Dad used to tell me what he was doing when he fixed our cars. I was the only 15 y/old girl I knew who knew what a butterfly valve was when I was in school: the carbeurator used to get stuck on one of our old station wagons. Every now and then the car would stall and not start again unless you held the valve open with a pencil).

I like learning about this kind of thing but don't have much in my head to attach it to :p

Posted by: Cass at July 9, 2012 01:57 PM

Think of a capacitor as one of those folks you know who internalizes every little thing and finally, when you least expect it, explodes in a burst of emoting fury...

Or consider this brief instead.

I wish you and The Unit were a bit closer down here towards Jawja. I could get my neighbor, a commercial builder's project mangaler, to get you new equipment at a HUGE discount.

Being the great guy the neighbor is, he let me purchase two high efficiency furnaces and AC units for the hovel, zoned heating/cooling jazz. In effect, I bought directly from a wholesale distributor, through the commercial construction business a couple of years ago. I think we paid somewhere in the neighborhood of 40% of the retail price for the equipment. Yeowsa!

Now our electrical and natural gas bills are significantly less than before. And I'm not having to tear stuff apart, look for 20+ year old schematics, buy whatchamacallits, sacrifice chickens on the full moon, etc., etc., etc. just to stay cool or hot, as the case may require.

Life is good.

Posted by: bthun at July 9, 2012 02:58 PM

A common brand is "Kickstarter", which tells you all you need to know, really. Under $20 last time I got some. I keep spares for friends and neighbors - it's a 10 minute job to swap one out if you've done it before.

Posted by: JC at July 9, 2012 04:01 PM

...this time of the year, I got all the hot water I want. I just use the knob labelled "cold".

My life in the RP. Living on the economy, I had a tankless water heater in my shower, but the landlord was never able to find an electrician capable of keeping it operational. I spent 16 months without official hot water. Ambient was plenty warm enough, though; even winter temps were in the 70s.

The capacitor is also what starts your fluorescent lighting and the picture tube in your old TV. Its rapid discharge is what provides the voltage surge (and the high voltage itself) to ionize the gases in your fluorescent tube and that pushed the initial ion stream across the picture tube's vacuum. It's that sudden high discharge surge, though, that encouraged those earlier TV repairmen to be cautious about swizzling around inside your TV cabinet until he was sure the capacitor(s) had discharged.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at July 9, 2012 04:15 PM

Gentlemen.... you know it drives me mad when you speak electrician :p

Seriously, thanks for the info. Bthun, I really wish I lived closer too - I know there's a smarter way to do all this and should probably do some more research now that we've been given a temporary reprieve. Unfortunately, my job is completely frying my brain.

Maybe I need a capacitor for my poor brain!

Posted by: Morticia Adams at July 9, 2012 04:36 PM

Maybe I need a capacitor for my poor brain!

Ah, that would be an RC circuit--a capacitor and resister in series. The resister slows the capacitor's discharge rate, now turning the capacitor into a glorified battery. Adjusting the resistance lets you control the voltage level and the duration of the discharge. And keep your brain under control and energy fed for a measurable time.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at July 9, 2012 04:57 PM

"Gentlemen.... you know it drives me mad when you speak electrician :p"

*Gomez tugs at his ascot and wonders if the sparks emitting from his cigarette holder makes him look like a Van De Graaff generator?*

Posted by: Gomez at July 9, 2012 04:59 PM

I love you guys.

I really do. Anyone who can make me laugh after today is a friend to treasure.

Posted by: Morticia Adams at July 9, 2012 05:04 PM

"Adjusting the resistance lets you control the voltage level and the duration of the discharge."

And if one is bi-polar, one can include a zener diode in the output circuit to focus that burst of synaptic current, in one direction.

Posted by: Sigmund Redi Kilowatt at July 9, 2012 05:13 PM

To achieve the break-over voltage on said zener diode necessary to result in a reverse of the current flow, signals it's time for the white jacket crew with the flutterby nets to arrange a short rest.

Posted by: Sigmund Redi Kilowatt at July 9, 2012 05:25 PM

...zener diode in the output circuit to focus that burst of synaptic current, in one direction.

A graduate school classmate of mine was worried about Des Moines electrical thunderstorms affecting his plug-board circuitry of AND, OR, etc gates that ran his equipment in our rat lab (did I mention that I've been around awhile?), so he was setting up a lightning rod to protect the lab room and shunt the discharge to the ground outside, as lightning rods are supposed to do.

I pointed out to him that the metal in his rod could just as easily run the lightning bolt into his setup--it would be, after all, a 50-50 crap shoot, since metal carries electricity both ways. He really ought, said I, to put in a diode to control the direction of surge flow.

He wasn't impressed when he went to the Dept Chair to see about getting said diode--and how big would it need to be, anyway?--and the Chair explained to him.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at July 9, 2012 05:53 PM

" and how big would it need to be, anyway?"

//shakes off the channeling of Johnny Carson swatting at such a high, center of the plate, fast ball setup//

Did the Dept Chair remove the virtual Kick Me sign from grad-stu's gullible, er, trusting back of self? Or was there a smudge of Shinola on the seat of his britches afterwards?

Posted by: Faraday Cage at July 9, 2012 06:56 PM

As I am reading this I am thinking that Marines can sleep through anything, anywhere!

Posted by: Bill Brandt at July 10, 2012 12:29 AM

Might I suggest hammocks or a hammock for two in the place of your air mattress?

I used to string up a canvas hammock in a iddy biddy shop assigned to me at the pointy end of the bird-farm, one level below the flight deck...


That hammock was so wunerful, particularly compared to assigned sleeping quarters, I could sleep through heat/cold/launch/recovery/rough-seas/etc. in that rascal and wake up feeling like a million bucks, in 1970 dollars.

Posted by: bthun at July 10, 2012 08:58 AM

In my youth, Bill, I could sleep on a moving cattle truck over rough roads in the back woods of Ft Jackson. Now... not so much. The habits go away if you don't exercise them.

Posted by: MikeD at July 10, 2012 09:00 AM

Does anyone else here remember Dad having to replace a vacuum tube in the TV every few days? Rummaging around back there and figuring out which one has gone out this time, and replacing it from a variety kept on hand. Back before transistors and then semiconductors. Well, not exactly before transistors, I guess, but before the average household was benefiting from them.

Posted by: Texan99 at July 10, 2012 10:28 AM

Ben Franklin's jar, in which he stored electricity from lightning, was basically a capacitor.

Posted by: david foster at July 10, 2012 11:28 AM

"Does anyone else here remember Dad having to replace a vacuum tube in the TV every few days?"

Dad? No... He paid a fellow, who would make house calls and repair our TV's when they winked out! The early TV's winked and blinked a lot as I recall.

I do remember taking apart my parents Philco HiFi AM/FM radio with a turntable that played 78 & 33⅓ rpm records, all enclosed in a mahogany cabinet. I was about four, or five, maybe six at the time.

That Philco HiFi was state of the art in the late '40's early '50's. State of the Art meaning it contained Eleven, count 'em, ELEVEN vacuum tubes!

When me mum saw the pile of parts and tubes, she started crying and she shook her hairbrush at me. Sensing TEOTWAIKI, I put the Philco back together... And everything worked!

Don't get me started on old computers, or some of the electronic equipment our Military used all the way up until the late 1980's.

Posted by: bthun at July 10, 2012 11:51 AM

I don't know how many of you remember Heathkit, but our family's very first color TV was one my Dad built from one of their kits.

Posted by: Cass at July 10, 2012 12:22 PM

re: Marines sleeping through things.

When I was in labor with our second boy, the Spousal Unit managed to sleep through most of my labor. When my contractions finally got so intense that I couldn't take it anymore, I got up out of bed and waddled over to the nurses' station.

They fetched the doctor, who (as he came through the door to my room) said, "She's not going anywhere soon....."

They barely got me into the delivery room in time - our youngest was born 15 minutes later. Too funny :p

Posted by: Cass at July 10, 2012 12:25 PM

"I don't know how many of you remember Heathkit, but our family's very first color TV was one my Dad built from one of their kits."
Oh yeah... The first color TV Walkin' Boss and I could afford was a Heathkit/Zenith 25" color TV kit in a golden oak cabinet.

As I recall it was fairly easy to build with a few basic tools that most homes have in the basement, like a soldiering iron, a DVM, and an oscilloscope. Come to think of it... IIRC that TV had a built-in signal generator for doing convergence adjustments to the tube. Anyway, I put the thing together on the kitchen table in our Laurel Maryland townhouse over the course of a few days.

That TV had a nifty Space Phone feature allowing you to mute the TV and talk through the TV to folks on your telephone line. Just what everyone needed at that time.

We ended up giving it to Goodwill after several years of use and a couple of flyback transformer replacements. We gave it up mostly because it took up too much floor space. There was not enough room for that cabinet and the stereo components plus the all important Klipsch speakers.

Priorities doncha know. =8^}

Posted by: bthun at July 10, 2012 12:47 PM

I don't know how many of you remember Heathkit, but our family's very first color TV was one my Dad built from one of their kits.

I looked at those Heathkits. But cheap SOB that I am, I eschewed them, satisfying myself for years with an old 9" black and white that Sears had thrown into the deal when my parents upgraded their color TV--it let Sears get that dinky toy off their inventory.

Today, though, I assemble near cutting-edge-of-the-art PCs from parts I get separately from Fry's and various mail-order houses. My finished PCs are about 2/3 the price of a comparable one from Dell, so it's worth the few hours of effort. And these modern components take a whole lot less tweaking than those Heathkit components.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at July 10, 2012 03:12 PM

"I assemble near cutting-edge-of-the-art PCs from parts I get separately from Fry's and various mail-order houses. My finished PCs are about 2/3 the price of a comparable one from Dell, so it's worth the few hours of effort. "

Ditto... Although I usually buy my component pieces at the local Computer Show extravaganzas. A once to twice a year event where all the local small bid'ness puter-n-stuff vendors haul in their inventory/parts to a county community center and charge a nominal admission fee to get into the joint. A patient shopper can usually find pretty much anything from a suitable case, to the odd motherboard, cpu, memory array, whizbang component, disk, etc., etc. at deeply discounted prices.

It's similar in nature to the notorious firearms shows/get-together/hoedowns, but without the need for background checks or CCW permits.

Posted by: bthun at July 10, 2012 04:33 PM

In my youth, Bill, I could sleep on a moving cattle truck over rough roads in the back woods of Ft Jackson. Now... not so much. The habits go away if you don't exercise them. - MikeD


Mike, I don't really want to know why you would be sleeping in the back of a cattle truck, but that's really not a story I would share. {:^)


If you know what I mean........

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at July 10, 2012 06:41 PM

Mike, I don't really want to know why you would be sleeping in the back of a cattle truck, but that's really not a story I would share. {:^)

OK, Don. You know owe me a new monitor (for some odd reason, my laptop is covered in Limoncello).

Posted by: Toni Tenille, Muskrat Lover Extraordinaire at July 10, 2012 06:52 PM

To all you manly men who assemble state of the art PCs from a slightly soiled Q-tip, a twist tie, and a ripped out page from 50 Shades of Grey, I just want you to know that *I* can make an adorable Angel ornament from a slightly-worse-for-wear wad of Spanish moss, a Battenburg lace doily, and a 1" wooden ball.

TAKE THAT, DAMN YOU!!!!!

Posted by: Toni Tenille, Muskrat Lover Extraordinaire at July 10, 2012 06:54 PM

...from a slightly soiled Q-tip....

Well, there's your problem. That should be a slightly oiled Q-tip....

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at July 10, 2012 07:19 PM

"To all you manly men who assemble state of the art PCs from a slightly soiled Q-tip, a twist tie, and a ripped out page from 50 Shades of Grey,"

How nice...
//folds arms, places one hand against face //
Most folks just call me a cheapskate.

Posted by: bt_Jack_Benny_hun at July 10, 2012 07:25 PM

We took our water heater (gas-powered) off life support two years ago. We replaced the lumbering 40 gallon unit with a tankless water heater, which has already paid for itself.

The Engineer installed it himself, after being quoted prices for unit and installation from $4,000 to $6,000. We trotted over to Home Depot, which gives a military discount, purchased the unit, and he spent a couple of hours doing research.

While a water heater can be a source of potable water in an emergency, tank heaters are designed to last for 7-10 years. Our heater died after 20.

We got lucky.

Posted by: Carolyn at July 11, 2012 01:30 PM

"To all you manly men who assemble state of the art PCs from a slightly soiled Q-tip, a twist tie, and a ripped out page from 50 Shades of Grey, I just want you to know that *I* can make an adorable Angel ornament from a slightly-worse-for-wear wad of Spanish moss, a Battenburg lace doily, and a 1" wooden ball."

I need to have you on my show.

Posted by: Martha Stewart's Home Ec Talent Scout at July 11, 2012 01:32 PM

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