Monthly Archives: December 2015

Know Your Appliance; Voltage, Current and Resistance

The concepts of voltage, current and resistance are little-understood by most of the people who benefit from them, which is understandable considering how much faster science is moving than culture is, but is still strange and should probably be changed. If you’d like to better understand your electric appliances and how they work, here’s an article to help you brush up on the innerworkings of voltage, current, and resistance, and how they affect the way your stuff functions.

Electric current refers to the number of electrons in motion in a circuit. It’s measured in amps.

electric circuitsVoltage refers to the “pressure” that pushes electrons along through a circuit. As one would expect, the unit “volts” refers to the voltage of a current. If you live in the United States like I do, it’s likely that the power outlets in the wall of your house or apartment serve up 120 volts each.

Once you have these two terms down and know how many amps and volts are involved in a specific circuit, you can actually determine the exact amount of electricity consumed. This particular figure is generally measured in something called watt-hours or kilowatt-hours.The time-aspect of the unit may be somewhat unexpected, but its necessary part int he measurement becomes elucidated if you think about it in the following way:

Imagine that you own a space heater and it’s a cold winter day. You plug it into your wall outlet and measure the amount of current flowing from the wall outlet to the heater, which comes out to 10 amps. You can therefore deduce that it’s a 1,200-watt heater because that’s the amps (10) multiplied by the volts (120 [we assumed you were in the United States again]). This method holds true for any electrically powered appliance. If you have a light that draws only a third of an amp, you’ve got a 60-watt light bulb.

Ok but wait, what about the hour part? Right so let’s assume you’ve only got the space-heater plugged in and you’re checking out the power meter outside. The meter is there so that it can measure the amount of electricity flowing into your house and the power company can bill you for it. If your space heater is using 1.2 kilowatts and you leave it on for one hour, it will have used 1.2 kilowatt-hours of power. If your power company then charges you 10 cents per kilowatt-hour of power, the company will end up charging you 12 cents for every hour that your space heater is left on.

toaster2Now let’s cover resistance: Resistance is limit of how much electricity can travel through a wire at once and is measured in Ohms. According to Ohm’s law,

I (current) = V (voltage) / R (resistance).

Resistance sounds like a hindrance to the effort to use electrical appliances, but it’s actually a property that’s utilized all the time. For example, your toaster functions by sending wire through a wire that has high electrical resistance, forcing a lot of the energy of the moving electrons to be converted into heat while traveling through the wire. That heat turns your bread into toast.

The Ins and Outs of Garbage Disposals

Most people don’t appreciate how handy their garbage disposals are until something goes wrong. Suddenly owners are left with swamp sinks and broken appliances that threaten to liquidate the hands that feeds them. If that sounds like your situation, don’t worry; this article can be your crash course on garbage disposal repair.

First off, here’s a quick explanation of how garbage disposals work: As you can see from the diagram provided by howstuffworks.com, a garbage disposal consists of a motor, a motor shaft, a drain, a flywheel, an impeller, a grind ring, a dishwasher intake, a hopper, mounting bolts, a support ring, and a flange (listed from bottom to top). There are of course other smaller and more intricate parts, but these are the primary ones that you need to understand to grasp how the device functions.

When the garbage disposal is plugged in and you flip the switch that initiates the motor, it turns the flywheel. The impellers, which are responsible for grinding up the food, are attached to the flywheel and rotate along with it. When food enters the chamber where all this is happening, it is ground up by these spinning parts. Once the food is cut into smaller particles, it can be flushed through the drain pipe on the side of the chamber and flow into your house’s septic system.

garbage disposal pp…At least that’s what’s supposed to happen. It’s common for garbage disposals to break down, in which case a variety of things could have gone wrong. Luckily, a lot of common garbage disposal issues are simple to understand and easily repaired, meaning even home owners can take care of the problem on their own.

For example, you might have issues with the flywheel. If it’s stuck, it can’t spin the impellers that grind up your food. This could in turn cause issues with your motor. To check the status of the flywheel, look at the bottom side of the disposal and see if it has a hex (six-sided) hole. If it has one, there should also be a hex wrench in a pouch near the disposal that will allow you to rotate the motor shaft and flywheel from the outside. If it doesn’t, you’ll have to purchase one. Insert the wrench in the hex hole and rotate it in a circle in both directions to break the flywheel out of its jammed position.

garbage disposal pppSay your issue is that the disposal is leaking. Before you set out on a disposal issue, do make sure that the water isn’t warm (in which case it’s likely coming from your dishwasher) or completely clear (in which case it’s likely coming from your sink). If the water is room temperature and nasty like what you’d expect to come out of a garbage disposal, then you probably have an issue with the disposal’s hoses and seals.

To check, pinpoint the source of the leak. If it’s coming from underneath the disposal, it’s probably leaking through the flywheel seal and directly into the motor, in which case you’ll need to disassemble everything, clean and cry it, and replace the seals.

Finally, you may find that the disposal seems to be running but the food for some reason takes forever to get ground up. This is a big indicator that the impellers on your flywheel have become worn down and need replacement. To check, unplug the disposal and/or trip the circuit breaker if necessary to ensure that it cannot turn on. Then remove all the hose fittings and twist the disposal free from the support ring. It may need to be unscrewed depending on the design. Loosen the flywheel lock nut and either remove and replace the impellers or sharpen them in place. You may need to replace the entire flywheel assembly depending on if the design lends itself to impeller sharpening.