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My Wine Fridge Ate Its Fuse

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Beth Stackpole
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Blogger
Overlooking the fundamentals
Beth Stackpole   7/30/2012 8:01:01 AM
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Nice catch--both for figuring out the fuse issue and for scoring a working wine fridge. Seems like a pretty basic case of specing the wrong part and overlooking fundamental design principles. You have to wonder if it's a case of oversight or a design choice caused by pressure to reduce costs. Either way, a pretty overavoidable design flaw.

notarboca
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Gold
Re: Overlooking the fundamentals
notarboca   7/31/2012 8:39:57 AM
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Yes, yes, a little practical engineering knowledge goes a long way!  What a sweet deal--2 operational wine fridges for next to naught cost.

warren@fourward.com
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Platinum
Re: Overlooking the fundamentals
warren@fourward.com   7/31/2012 9:45:22 AM
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In many ways, fuse ratings is an art form.  Inrush current, load current, spikes, motors starting up, and numerous other factors come into play.  You have to consider the steady state of the device, but what if all peripheral functions operate at the same time?  So rating a fuse can be tricky.  I assume the cooler design engineer was looking at the steady state current and not considering inrush from start-up.  But then again, running a fuse so close to steady state was foolish, unless he was forced to use wiring or other devices that could not handle much more current.  Then. that was just plain stupid, but cost effective.  Fused flex on start-up or an increase in current, so they will wear out if they aren't designed properly.  But, if there was no warranty, then who cares?

I wish I could find a Ferrari that someone threw away because of blown fuses.  I am sure I could find the fix...

Fuseman
User Rank
Iron
Re: Overlooking the fundamentals
Fuseman   7/31/2012 12:02:51 PM
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Fuses are not simple devices.  Standards agencies provide a very broad guideline regarding a device's current and voltage ratings.  However, differences between "equivalent" fuses from different manufacturers can cause trouble in precision applications.


Fuses can have an AC or DC rating, or both.  Each will likely have different levels of capability when it comes to interrupting the current.  There is also a very significent difference between a European fuse vs. a North American fuse for small fuses.  The different standards required make these two "mutually exclusive" when seeking a replacement.  If a European fuse is employed, it is designed to carry 100% rated current and typically at 250 Vac.  A similar looking North American fuse (UL) is designed to carry no more than 75% rated current to achieve a satisfactory life and safe operation.  These are typically rated 125 Vac. 


A North American application can use a European fuse if it is not able to be easily replaced by the consumer.  A soldered fuse meets this criterion.  The description given of a leaded fuse standing on end (typically referred to as "hairpin lead configuration) with a heat shrink cover is standard. 


I have worked in the fuse and protection industry for 30 years with my main responsibility being interfacing with manufacturers employing fuses and their engineers.  Much of my time was also dedicated to standards committees covering these components.

warren@fourward.com
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Overlooking the fundamentals
warren@fourward.com   7/31/2012 12:42:36 PM
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I always yield the floor to the pro.   Thanks for filling in the gaps.  As I said, and as they said in "Galaxy Quest," it is more of an art-form.

tekochip
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Overlooking the fundamentals
tekochip   8/7/2012 2:16:25 PM
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Sometimes it's really tough to pick the right fuse, and it really is an art form.  In addition to all the fuse specifications you have to deal with agency requirements and how the device will respond to surges and faults on the line.  I too had a Phillips plasma that kept blowing its fuse for no reason.  The failure was amplified by having to remove the heavy appliance from the wall and removing more than a dozen screws to get to the fuse.  I changed the fuse to a different manufacturer and that has cured the problem.


Cadman-LT
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Overlooking the fundamentals
Cadman-LT   8/2/2012 4:32:57 PM
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notarboca: I agree. Use that knowledge! Major score! Good for you! I got a 60" bigscreen TV that way once, it wasn't a fuse, but a $2 part. :)

Cadman-LT
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Overlooking the fundamentals
Cadman-LT   8/2/2012 4:35:51 PM
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That TV was about 10 years ago. It still works just fine. I've bought new stuff that doesn't last that long.

William K.
User Rank
Platinum
Wine refrigerators, and solid state cooler inrush???
William K.   8/6/2012 9:31:48 PM
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I don't think that an inrush current surge would exist with a thermoelectric cooler. That just does not make any sense. And, in the output circuit of a regulated switching power supply, I have a hard time imagining any surges big enough to pop a fuse. It seems that most switchers are regulated on the output side. I can easily imagine a cheap fuse failing mechanicaly, I have seen that kind of failure. In that application the fuse would be there to protect from a short circuit, not from an overload, and so the big question would be about what protection the supply needed. Probably the system would have been safe with NO secondary fuse. 

It is quite amazing the number of appliance type things that include a fuse that is obviously never intended to be replaced, and have no marking to indicate that they contain a protective fuse.

Ann R. Thryft
User Rank
Blogger
Easier to replace a fuse than 200 nails
Ann R. Thryft   8/7/2012 12:42:01 PM
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Another case of what one would think should be screamingly obvious to the design engineer. A carpentry parallel would be using the wrong size nail or screw. OTOH, my county has an overabundance of construction contractors and a (perhaps corresponding) overabundance of people who use the wrong screw, don't measure correctly, can't choose lumber correctly, and ad nauseum. It's a lot harder to retrofit the wrong nail or screw--thanks for letting us know that a fuse change may be all that's needed in this case.

Critic
User Rank
Platinum
Penny in the Fuse Box
Critic   8/9/2012 5:36:21 PM
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Replacing a fuse with one having a higher current rating because the original one blew is like installing a penny under a (screw-in) fuse in an old house.  It gets the circuit back online, but does not necessarily provide the correct level of over-current protection.  Perhaps the power supply had a maximum current capability of 3 A or less.  Perhaps the power supply should have had higher current cpability, but was chosen to keep costs low!  I am assuming that someone actually thought about the electrical design, but this might be an incorrect assumption on my part. 

This story reminds me of experiences I had many years ago with a power supply engineer.  He designed and built a 28-VDC, 100-A power supply which fed several curcuits requiring different current levels.  One circuit only required about 1 A, so he used small-gauge (AWG 24) wire for the 1 A circuit.  I asked him if he was afraid the wire would melt and start a fire if there was a short, and he responded that there was a 1-A fuse in the circuit in case there was a short.  What he neglected to consider was that there was 24-gauge wire connecting the power supply to the fuse!  If there was a short between the supply and fuse, then there would have been a fire.  In this case, the wiring up to the over-current devices had to be capable of 100 A.

BudM
User Rank
Silver
what is the real current draw should be?
BudM   8/16/2012 11:20:57 AM
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So if the measured current of the broken unit is close to 3A and the unit is using 3A fuse. How do we know  what the GOOD load current should be since we do not have the spec of the load? We are assuming that the load is OK, may be it is failing. Looks like more research need to be done before assuming it is bad design.

loadster
User Rank
Gold
Re: what is the real current draw should be?
loadster   8/16/2012 3:39:18 PM
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I concur with the comment that its important to know the rated current of the supply output as well as its nice to score a "free" vino cooler. I've played around with lots of the peltier thermoelectic cooling (TEC) modules and most work at 12 V with 3 A to 8 A current depending on their surface area and correlated P-N junctions. So they typically require a fan pulling less than a quarter amp and a power supply with 40 to 90 W capacity. What's important is what the switches and wires and ancillary circuitry were built to for current rating and dielectric breakdown. Derating from 3 A fuse to 4 A probably can't hurt you. No one reading these blogs should take away that its okay to double (or more!) fuse rating on any consumer electronics. What may have been a penny fix could result in a serious insurance claim and if the fire inspector finds the wrong fuse, your claim is done. Another consideration is those TEC used in chip coolers, auto coolers and wine coolers are woefully inefficient and limited and when they fail (due to condensation, fan failing or other), they're done. A standard dorm refrigerator uses approx. 300 kwhr per year, keeping food at chilly 40 deg. F with a thermostat. An equivalent TEC cooler will pull double that annual cost, run 100% duty cycle and the best they can do is about 35 degrees below ambient.  Not too green, that. For a wine cooler, that's okay but not if you like your beer frosty.

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