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I start and run my TIU/WIU on only when running trains. This means for each operating session I need to wait several minutes for everything to boot up, wait for the  DCS internet to start so my iphone can find the network, etc.   Does anyone just leave their TIU/WIU up  and running all the time?   This would reduce the amount of startup time when its time to run trains. As time goes on I'm finding the startup process is killing the spontaneous running of trains for a few minutes here and there.

Dale

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I never leave anything running when I'm not in the train room.  It doesn't take my stuff that long to boot up, I think the MTH WIU is the last thing that is on-line for use.  The TIU and Legacy command base are up in a few seconds.  The Lionel WiFi is up in around 15-20 seconds.  The MTH WIU seems to take the longest, but I only use it occasionally as I still prefer the plain old remote.

I always unplug everything when not in use.  A few years ago, I had a power surge (nearby lightning strike?) that fried a TV, cable box, garbage disposal, and the electronics in my tablesaw.  There was just enough loss to make it not worth making an insurance claim.

I'm REALLY happy that my Z4000s and other train-related electronics were spared.  It would have been a case of instant un-gratification.

When I go downstairs to run the layouts, it's for relaxation. I take my time. Sometimes, I just go into the train room and admire the layouts and don't even run any trains. The trains and layouts are interesting to look at, even when nothing is running, although they've been there for many years. So, there's no hurry to get things moving. It's part of enjoying the hobby.

MELGAR

I have ( 2) 5 volt transformers that stay plugged in all the time, since they are essentially just phone chargers. They run a few LED lights. They're cool to look at night when I get up to pee (sorry for the TMI...it's an old man thing...LOL).

Other than that, I have everything on power strips, which get shut off. I have had lightening strikes fry stuff and I think that overall, its a good idea to leave your DCS wifi off. Not to mention, my other devices are always trying to connect to it.

On a related note, my wife asked why there was a fire extinguisher in there. She got the "deer in the headlights look".

Last edited by endless tracks

Verbatim from a FDNY Fire Marshal - the most common cause of residential fires is poorly made electrical power strips (read cheap Chinese imports). Not candles and not cigarettes. If you aren’t paying $75 for a USA made, UL tested power strip, you a running a very real risk of having a house fire. No baloney.

Well... maybe, maybe not.

5 Leading Causes of House Fires

The Top 3 Reasons Fires Start in Your Home

I would never leave the train equipment powered up 24 hours a  day your asking for problems, especially because the power company can have any power transients at any time especially if there is a car accident and a pole is take out or power grid sends a voltage spike which can cause hi voltage emf spikes which can damage electronics components easily !

Alan

I suspect there are many other places in the house that are far more likely to have fire issues than the layout, especially if you have done proper wiring and have circuit protection in place.  Think of how many toaster ovens and coffee makers burn down houses!

That is why I have extinguishers everywhere in the house, especially the kitchen.  We do unplug appliances when not in use.  Our extended family has had two house fires with injuries (older homes).  And yes, I am overly careful.

I highly recommend you turn off all power to the trains when leaving the room.

Last edited by CAPPilot

Yup - Works for me🥸 Probably guilding the lily, but he was speaking from his experience, not an opinion, nor a statistic from the UFA, or the NFPA. And, I’ll go by his opinion. I’m sure you know that FDNY Fire Marshals teach the Arson Investigation curriculum to the FBI?

"The 356,500 home structure fires in 2020 (26 percent) caused 2,580 civilian fire deaths (74 percent); 11,500 civilian injuries (76 percent), and $8.4 billion in direct property damage (38 percent)."

"According to the ESFI, over 3,300 home fires originate in extension cords and power strips each year, killing 50 people and injuring 270 more."

Interestingly enough, apparently the defective power strips account for about 2% of the annual fatalities, probably because they might happen while you're sleeping.  It also appears that when I search for reasons for power strips causing fires, most of the time it's stated that overloads are the top cause.

Now, I may not be the worlds greatest mathematician, but that looks more like 1% of the structure fires are caused by power strips and extension cords.  I'm not saying that's a good thing, but inflating a 1% chance to the leading cause of fires is a bit over the top, at least IMO.

I'm also sure that one guy can easily be biased against Chinese imports and form an opinion not based on actual facts.  Just because someone teaches something, that doesn't make him unbiased.  I don't apologize for considering the opinion of a national organization over the opinion of one man who I know nothing about.   I try to do a bit more research and not blindly trust a single opinion on matters that are important to me.

I guess you should also consider not buying Chinese manufactured appliances either, since they doubtless have more risk than a simple power strip.  Oops, better avoid those Chinese manufactured trains, they're so likely to catch on fire...

Since I don't wish to get into a shoving contest on this point, this will be my last word on the topic, feel free to have your last word.

I turn everything off. Also have two gas/fire detectors under the layout and an extinguisher ready.

You might be able to turn on your layout with some circuit that you turn on when ever you are home and awake. That way it’s at the ready and still not at the risk of being unsupervised. The gas/fire detectors will go a long way to answer the cautions noted here as well.

There are two smoke detectors in my train room, one is on the central station alarm system, the other one is a local one but it's also wired throughout the house and all the detectors will sound if it detects a fire.  All of the smoke detectors were replaced in 2018 after we moved into this house.  The central station smoke detectors are also CO detectors.  I have a combustible gas detector in the heater room as well.

The train room outlets are all Amazon Echo compatible, and I've set up to turn the lights on with "Alexa, turn the train room on" (there are other scenarios i've set up for different lighting like , sunset, midday and night).  As far as train power goes (controlling transformers, TIU/AIUs, wireless modules, etc, it's a simple "Alexa, turn train power on".

Makes it all simple & convenient.

Short answer: nothing is left powered when I'm away.

I have Alexa everywhere .... and have never had that occur in the 3 years I've had this set up.  I have an app on my phone that shows all outlets currently in-use, and can remotely turn it off too.  



The bigger inconvenience is if my network goes down for some reason, then I have to manually turn the switches on to run my trains.

Last edited by ScottV

When it comes to power strips always look for a testing agency approval such as UL, CSA,  etc. There are others, but those two are the most common testing agencies.

No apparent testing agency approval on the power strip?  Then don't buy it. Look extra hard on very cheap power strips - that testing isn't free, and it gets rolled into the price of the power strip.

Dale

For me everything is unplugged when not in use.  Last year a tree root broke the neutral feeding the house, fortunately we were home.   Each of the "Protected" power strips started smoking and would have caused a fire if we were not home to shut off the power, all the dumb strips were fine.  Fortunately none of the major appliances were damaged and are all still working.   What did die along with the protected power strips were all the LED lights that were on, the garage door openers, the Craftsman tool battery chargers, and one radio.   There are still burn marks on the floor where the computer power strip was sitting. 

After the power line was repaired and a new meter put in I looked at getting the garage openers fixed.   After removing the control boards I notice two can capacitors that looked funny.  In my parts box I had the correct items and once replaced the one garage door opener worked.   Encouraged I opened the Craftsman V20 chargers, sure enough there were some swollen capacitors.   When the parts came in from Digikey I got them working again.

  Had I not been home I would have returned to a smoking ruin due to the power strips.  Overall I got off cheap, about $10 in parts and some replacement LED lights.   I now pay extra to have full house surge protection from the power company, but still I keep things unplugged since you never know. 

Need something else to worry about?    When is the last time you checked the frequency of the power at the outlets? Power companies are responsible for this and usually get it right, but not always. This occurred to me while I was servicing my Generac for the upcoming winter and found it was running about 68 Hz.

I'd suspect your measurement equipment before the power company frequency.  Any significant deviation of the frequency would cause the generating station to trip off the line.  If the generator outputs are more than about 0.02% from 60hz, the generator risks tripping off the line, being over 10% off frequency would be impossible!  All the generators on the grid have to remain lock-step in phase or all **** will break loose!  68hz, that would be impossible within the US power grid, that would force an immediate trip and kick that generator off the grid.  Even the tiny fractional variations of frequency are made up over a 24 hour period with TPC (Time Period Correction) of the grid frequency.

If your Generator is outputting 68hz then it has serious problems. We run quite a few diesel powered generators for center pivot irrigation and the most they ever get out sync is 61.5hz. At that point they get pulled and serviced.

The power at our mill and grain leg have never seen anything beyond 60.2hz and I'll bet that .1hz of that reading is instrumentation error.

Last edited by H1000

My power company delivers a perfect 120 at 60 Hz. I'm not worried about them, they're big enough to be sued so they can afford to do it right. Not everyone is on the national grid.

@H1000 posted:

If your Generator is outputting 68hz then it has serious problems. We run quite a few diesel powered generators for center pivot irrigation and the most they ever get out sync is 61.5hz. At that point they get pulled and serviced.

The power at our mill and grain leg have never seen anything beyond 60.2hz and I'll bet that .1hz of that reading is instrumentation error.

It's a 8kW portable, the engine speed controls the frequency. It is a simple throttle adjustment to set it back to 60.

My Generac does not connect to the grid. After the grid power is off for a minute, the generator kicks on running on natural gas, connected to the house only. When the power comes back on, the generator quits and the big 200 amp relay reconnects the house to the grid. So at 68 Hz, only the stuff in the house would suffer…but of course the frequency is one of those things the guy checks every fall, changes the oil, checks the battery, sends me a bill.

Short story version, the anti-slop spring on the throttle mechanism was bent enough to upset the spring balance and allow the throttle flop back and forth ever so slightly. So it would surge a little. I was lucky that straightening out that spring fixed the surge. I'm sure that's when the throttle setting got messed up.  I pulled the gas tank and completely cleaned the carb trying to solve the surge. I was running the generator with the tank off to the side and noticed the linkage open and then get pulled closed and realized the anti-slop spring was pulling too hard. Sure enough it was bent which effectively shortened it. To set the frequency, Generac service manual says to set the engine rpms at 3600. I don't have a tach so I just watched to no load frequency until it was back below 61 Hz.

I try to save money where I can and this generator may well run my layout some snowy night.



It's a 8kW portable, the engine speed controls the frequency. It is a simple throttle adjustment to set it back to 60.

How did this problem occur in the first place? If your genset isn't auto-regulating the throttle to compensate for the correct voltage and frequency properly then (to me) it has serious problems.  So many of these emergency gensets will only monitor & correct the output speed of the engine to operate at 1800 RPM (usually through a mechanical governor) and assume that the generator is working just fine which should give the operator a nice 60hz wave at around 110 to 130 volts. Rarely are they configured to also monitor the quality of the power output and make corrections to engine speed to ensure power output is within spec. So what did you did you do correct the problem, manually adjust the throttle lower to get 60hz and now you only have 105 volts? If so, then there is an issue with the generator component itself that needs to be addressed.

Last edited by H1000

Well, if the engine is operating at the correct RPM, that's about all they would be able to do to insure 60hz power, right?

You can deploy a VFD which can correct the frequency to the correct level to an extent. We use a logging & monitoring systems on our gensets, which don't actually do any corrections, but Monitor, alert and shutdown the engine if the voltage or frequency falls out of spec for a predetermined amount of time. I have also seen models that do this plus correct the frequency (VFD), change engine speed to compensate for load variables and generator offsets on the fly.

I'm not sure I see how you're correcting the frequency of the gas powered generator short of changing the engine RPM, it's a fixed ratio.  If you're saying your VFD is adjusting the engine speed, that's all I'd expect you could do.  Obviously you can monitor the frequency and kill the generator, but that's probably not desirable in many cases.

It's a Variable Frequency Drive (VFD). It can take the input frequency and modify to a higher or lower level of any input source (generator or grid). We use them a lot on center pivot irrigation with variable speed motors. Instead of adjusting the voltage of a fixed votage AC motor that is designed only for 480 volts, we lower and raise the frequency of the power to slow down or speed up the motor. VFD's are also commonly seen used with Boiler pump motors to change the flow rate again not by changing the voltage but but changing the frequency of the power going to the motor.

Last edited by H1000

Voltage regulation on this Generac is a big cap, so if the frequency is correct the voltage regulation is also correct.

It is just old enough that parts are no longer available. It keeps the lights on, runs the boiler and well pump. I have to roll it out the back door, manual transfer switches, even the battery died years ago. It still starts on the first pull and has more than paid for itself over time.

@H1000 posted:

It's a Variable Frequency Drive (VFD). It can take the input frequency and modify to a higher or lower level of any input source (generator or grid). We use them a lot on center pivot irrigation with variable speed motors. Instead of adjusting the voltage of a fixed votage AC motor that is designed only for 480 volts, we lower and raise the frequency of the power to slow down or speed up the motor. VFD's are also commonly seen used with Boiler pump motors to change the flow rate again not by changing the voltage but but changing the frequency of the power going to the motor.

That's variable speed control. My variable speed well pump is digitally controlled by varying the frequency. It was this system that clued me in that there was a problem when I flipped the trans switches to start the well controller. It would throw up a a big FAULT alarm but didn't really explain what the issue was. Obviously the generator was suspect.

I didn't mean to start off on a tangent, but this experience got me thinking how I mostly take frequency for granted.

Last edited by turkey_hollow_rr

For high power, that seems a very expensive way to do the job!  Converting to DC and back to AC ain't cheap for high power!

Still way more reliable than some type of variable speed drive gearbox. Generally a VFD control box on on one of our pivots will run about $350. I've only had to replace one in the last 10 years. Considering that I can loose up to $500 per day of down time on a single pivot due to yield loss, yeah they're cheap.

That's variable speed control. My variable speed well pump is digitally controlled by varying the frequency. It was this system that clued me in that there was a problem when I flipped the trans switches to start the well controller. It would throw up a a big FAULT alarm but didn't really explain what the issue was. Obviously the generator was suspect.

I didn't mean to start off on a tangent, but this experience got me thinking how I mostly take frequency for granted.

I agree, I don't want to steer the thread to far off into the woods. You do have something that will tattle on your generator, which is good!  There are VFD controls available that can correct the output of a genset and do so automatically with or without adjusting the speed of the engine, but they are pricey!

Even the latest Genrac generators still just vary the engine RPM to adjust the output frequency, no fancy electronics or VFD boxes here.

Do they adjust for the frequency, voltage output or generator shaft input speed (1800 RPM)? If the generator component starts going south, you might have 1800 RPM and only 55 Hz at 120 volts or 1950 RPM at 60 Hz and 140 volts. Higher end gensets will monitor all three and alarm/shutdown when stable output (120v @ 60 HZ) can't be maintained by simply controlling engine speed. Even higher end units will alarm/compensate and or shutdown to maintain a perfect power output, generally only found in hospital settings.

Unless things have changed a bunch, the alternator they used to generate the electric power in the Generac determines the frequency strictly by the RPM of the motor.  The frequency and voltage "adjustment" is simply adjusting the RPM of the motor using the engine governor adjustment.  Unless the motor is running at the right RPM, you will never have the proper 60hz power frequency.

I'm sure they is done simply because it's the cheapest way to do the job, not necessarily the best or most hi-tech way to do the job.

Unless things have changed a bunch, the alternator they used to generate the electric power in the Generac determines the frequency strictly by the RPM of the motor.  The frequency and voltage "adjustment" is simply adjusting the RPM of the motor using the engine governor adjustment.  Unless the motor is running at the right RPM, you will never have the proper 60hz power frequency.

I'm sure they is done simply because it's the cheapest way to do the job, not necessarily the best or most hi-tech way to do the job.

You should come work for us, I'll show you a few generators that are supposed to work exactly as you have stated above, but for some reason (internal failure) they do not. Our gensets run unattended, meaning when they fail, we are not around to see it and hence require logic safety systems that anticipate things that defy normal operating procedure.

Last summer we had a generator failure that resulted in the it being pulled and replaced. The engine is set to run at 1400 RPM, the well at 1560 and the generator at 1800. This is a monitor only station, so the safety circuit can only log the failure details and shutdown the engine. For the first 200 hours of operation the generator was outputting 485 volts at 60hz and then at hour 207 the voltage dropped off down to 478 and the Hz were down to 53 all the while the input shaft speed was still 1800 RPM. This triggered an alarm log event and an out of spec shutdown. A simple mechanical governor would ignore the real problem and just speed the engine up to reach the desired 485 volts while not realizing there is a major problem inside of the generator.

It easy say this is how it operates, but when you throw in some mechanical failure, watch the sparks fly and toss the normal operating procedure out of the window.

Last edited by H1000

Folks- electrical safety is nothing to fiddle with. I would not trust Alexa, Google, or any other wifi device to control power to ANYTHING!

TURN IT OFF! WITH A PHYSICAL SWITCH! IT'S NOT THAT HARD.....REALLY!

As a licensed master electrician for 30+ years, I know the hazards of overloaded circuits.

Example- a 5 amp load will NEVER trip even a 15 amp circuit. However, the same 5 amps can start an electrical fire under the right circumstances.

I agree that the cheap Chinese power strips should be avoided. Look for the UL listing on all electrical devices when purchasing.

I've troubleshot many open neutrals/ grounds over my years in the business. Don't count on the electric utility to be aware of these and prevent them in the first place. I once found an open service neutral sending 2 amps onto the ground from the local Cable TV provider.

I can go on and on......

Again- KISS- turn the layout OFF!

Last edited by RSJB18
@jbmccormick posted:

I have three distinct rooms where I have power strips with various items plugged into them.  I turn each one on sequentially and when done running turning each of them off.  If I leave them on it's a user error.

I have this bulb that lights anytime there is power on the layout, that alerts me to turn it off if I'm leaving the room.

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