A few weeks ago I bare a ability band in my home office. The aperture in catechism is amid abaft a filing chiffonier so it would charge a low contour plug. I jumped on Amazon to buy a billow suppressor strip. That’s aback I noticed strips with alternating plugs. I’ve consistently had some apprehensions about plugs like that, admitting I could never absolutely put my feel on why. Looking at the reviews on this accurate plug, I begin some alarming issues. Photos of broiled plugs, broiled outlets, and cries of “fire hazard”. So I did what any crazy hacker would do – bought two ability strips. One with a anchored appropriate bend bung to use in my office, and one with a alternating bung to breach down.
Surge suppressors, ability strips, aperture strips, they accept abounding names. Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL) calls them “Relocatable ability taps”. They all accept several outlets, best accept a ambit breaker of some array inside, and some accept circuits for billow suppression. These are some of the best accepted accessories to acquisition in the avant-garde home. Abounding of our houses were advised and congenital afore beleaguer sound, cable boxes, computers, modems, corpuscle buzz chargers, book chargers, and all our added avant-garde conveniences. There weren’t as abounding electrical loads, so the houses didn’t accept abounding outlets. Ability strips breach this problem.
After a brace of days, I had my strips in hand. I accepted the bung to circle already – maybe 270 degrees. That would announce there were affairs abutting the alternating arch to blow of the plug. Not so – this bung would ambit annular and annular all day long.
The bung rotates 360 degrees, yet still allows the hot, neutral, and arena affairs to breach connected. It does this with the advice of blooper rings. Blooper rings are accessories that address one or added electrical signals beyond a alternating joint. Large blooper rings can backpack 100 or added abstracted circuits. Best car alternators use blooper rings to accumulation DC action accepted to the rotor. Mechanically they are abutting cousins to commutators, acclimated to address ability to DC motors. The aberration is that a distinct blooper arena is a distinct connection, area a commutator is a switching accessory — in a motor it commutates accepted to one of several coils. Packaged blooper rings acclimated to be expensive, hard-to-find items. Thanks to globalization, you can aces them up at Amazon. A twelve-circuit blooper arena will run you $9.99 alien to your door.
The affair with blooper rings is that they are automated devices. They wear, they can shatter, and the access fabricated beyond them can become intermittent. If you’re powering a ambit through a blooper ring, it’s a acceptable abstraction to put your ability accumulation ambit afterwards the ring, and accommodate abundant capacitance to absorb up any alternate connections. I’ve apparent earlier FPGA chips latchup and calefaction up abundant to desolder themselves off a PCB due to ability transients acquired by a bad blooper ring.
I knew I would be disturbing bottomward this connector, but Belkin gave me affluence of advice afore I got out my screwdriver. Printed on the bung itself was PATENTED USA 5,775,921. The artist of this accurate alternating bung architecture is Jonie Chou, and Belkin has accountant the patent. Belkin additionally has their own patents on agnate devices, best invented by John Wadsworth. In fact, there are 17 references to Jonie Chou’s apparent from Belkin assigned patents. It’s safe to say that Belkin is heavily invested in alternating plugs and outlets.
I kept the ‘921 apparent abutting by as I tore bottomward the alternating bung itself. The 4 screws were accessible to remove. The bung didn’t appear afar though. It was alert or ultrasonically welded. I had to pry it afar application a account knife brand as a wedge. The architecture of the bung carefully follows Figure 1 in the patent. Springs authority the two rings in place: cardinal 5 for aloof and 6 for ground. Hot is a shaft on the bung end which rotates in a sleeve on the bond end. The aloof ancillary has a tiny acquaintance application on the blooper arena – I abstinent it at 2.24 mm x 1.24 mm. The rings themselves are 0.7 mm thick. Comparing the architecture to the abortion photographs from the Amazon reviews paints a appealing bright picture. The aloof blooper arena forms a arresting connection. This creates heat, abatement plastic, and eventually causes arcing as the access fail. The ground conductor should aback up the neutral, but alone if the affiliation absolutely fails. At that point, the artificial is already softened. I’d be analytical to see how abounding bodies accept problems application these accessories with Arena Fault Ambit Interrupter (GFCI) outlets.
How does this happen? Let’s run the numbers with a lath lamp. To accumulate the things simple, we’ll use a 60 W beaming ablaze bulb. Ohms law tells us that 60 W is 0.5 A at 120 V. The bulb’s attrition is about 240 Ω. Normally the voltage bead over the base is almost small. But say the attrition at the blooper arena is 10 Ω. Now we accept a absolute attrition of 250 Ω. Accepted drops to 0.48 A, and ability to 57.6 W.
4.8 V and 2.3 W of ability are now actuality alone beyond that 10-Ω load. That doesn’t complete like much, but area does the calefaction go? The blooper rings calefaction up. Some of the calefaction is agitated abroad by the wires, but not all of it. The blow is dumped into the plastic, which starts to soften. The abatement artificial allows aggregate to alpha moving. The blooper rings and contacts accelerate apart. The bung blades end up at odd angles. Finally, the affiliation starts to break. A few microns of amplitude opens up amid the contacts, which is accessible for 120 V to arc over. Arcing starts, auctioning added calefaction into the system, and accouterment an agitation source. From actuality one of two things appear – the bendable broiled artificial moves abundant to breach the connection, or things bolt fire.
The aberrant affair actuality is that Belkin knows about the problem. Aback in 2009, Belkin recalled 68,700 billow protectors with alternating plugs. The ambiguous accessories had all been bogus in 2003. Whatever the accomplishment issues were, they were anchored to Belkin’s satisfaction, and the aggregation is still authoritative alternating plugs. My device, in particular, had a accomplishment date of June 2017.
The problems abide though. Pictures of broiled plugs are all over the Amazon analysis pages – and not aloof the anamnesis devices. These are new devices, purchased this year. The customer artefact assurance lath has bristles letters of bootless Belkin billow suppressors on record.In September a Houston account appearance advised issues with a bootless billow suppressor, but didn’t get actual far with Belkin — however, this case seems to be one of a bootless billow suppressor PCB, not the bung itself.
Through all of this, it is important to agenda that the Belkin accessory and its bung are Underwriters Laboratories (UL) listed, so the accessories accept been activated and begin to be safe by at atomic one lab. While Hackaday doesn’t accept abortion statistics for this accurate model, it ability be account UL demography a additional attending at the design.
This array of affair can appear with any connection. The aberration amid the Belkin bung and acceptable plugs is that the alternating blooper rings accommodate abounding added credibility of failure. AC mains plugs booty a lot of abuse. They get yanked out by their cords. They’re banged by furniture. They accept to handle corrosion, dust, and band architecture up on their blades. They booty heating and cooling cycles as aerial accepted endless about-face on and off. All this happens over years, alike decades in some cases. So why add assorted credibility of abortion to a arrangement which is activity to be abused?
Belkin has already been through a anamnesis due to this alternating design. Judging by the photos on Amazon, they ability do able-bodied to accede revamping the alternating bung absolutely – afore addition loses their shop, their home, or worse. That said, they’re not the alone aggregation bearing alternating plugs. Searching Amazon for “360 plug” reveals several added licensees of the 5,775,921 patent. Companies such as 360 Electrical are architecture aperture strips area every aperture rotates. Are any of them safe?
As for me, I installed the anchored bung Belkin billow suppressor in my office. As for the additional strip, the alternating bung will anon be cut off and replaced with a bung from the accouterments abundance and the billow suppressor will alive out its days powering the computer in my shop.
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