More Cheapies from AliExpress and a VALUABLE Experience

AliExpress solar grasshoppper

I couldn’t help myself – AliExpress had one of those “3 items for a fiver” sales and I simply couldn’t stop myself.

The Not Worth-a-Light Solar Grasshopper

First on the list – a solar grasshopper. Marvelous idea for a toy to annoy the cats… the grasshopper works (worked) in the sun on any smooth surface (it does NOT work on a tablecloth). I’ve included a couple of pics at the top to give you an idea – what do you do when you’re factory is short of useful things to do, have some spare plastic, some old phone vibrators and solar panels lying around?

Make grasshoppers of course. Good and I was hoping the cats would love it – but 5 minutes into demonstrating it to my neighbour and it stopped – dead. That’s taking built-in obsolescence to a whole new level. No loose wires, plenty of hot sun – it’s just DEAD. We had a look, it seems something is loose inside the motor – BIN.

Beheaded grasshopper complete with solar panel and motor/vibrator

The Marvellous Screwdriver/Tester

The next item on the list was too boring to detail (spiral metal ear cleaner) but the third item… I’m sure many of you have used cheap electricity-testing screwdrivers – I’ve been using them for decades – not only are they an often-handy flat-blade screwdriver but they are genuinely handy for avoiding injury or worse by electric shock around the house if you happen to be the type of person who messes with appliances from time to time.

In my humble homes in spain and the UK I’m constantly involved with mains wiring-up and it’s always best to ENSURE that the power is turned off before touching anything. USA techy readers MAY think I’m over-reacting but remember, here we have 220-250v all over the house.

Mains power testing screwdriver

Ok, so – the standard version of these devices uses and always has done in my experience – a tiny neon light which only glows if there is mains power flowing onto the sharp end and you’re holding the top. Nice, the neons tend not to last forever but I would not be without one – SO – could I resist a newer version for next to no cost? Of course not.

Inside this beast is a tiny PCB, 3 tiny (cheap, readily available) batteries and the PCB contains red and green LEDs. Thumb on the back, finger on the front and the screwdriver lights up quite bright green.

AliExpress test screwdriver

How about that – a good start. That is visible even in winter sunlight. The device is described as an Induction Digital Display Pen. As you can see in the bottom corner of the photo on the left, you even get instructions.. and from there it goes downhill – some bright spark at AliExpress put a sticker all over the instructions with particularly powerful adhesive so I spent all of 10 minutes ripping that off to be able to check to see if there was anything special about the screwdriver – it turns out not really, an absolutely straight forward – touch the top, point the sharp end at a mains wire and hope for the best, screwdriver.

Just as well it is obvious as “The voltage step values is shown on the liquid crystal, the last step value is the toating voltage”. What “liquid crystal”? and I’ll tell you in a minute if that was “testing” or toasting.. that is – if I survive the test. The rest of the instructions are just as bad “Distinguish zero phase line and find the broken point (press the inducstion key)” – really?

AliExpress test screwdriver

Ok, so, someone has to be the guinea-pig – I stuck the screwdriver into a handy live power socket (don’t try this at home) while touching the back end with my thumb (which I still have)… and lo – the device lit up both green and red – lovely. What I DID discover was…. of the two wires coming out of the bulb socket – one produced brighter red than the other – interesting because unlike the UK, in at least here in rural southern Spain, there seems to be no concept of LIVE and NEUTRAL – no-where do you see any markings on sockets, plugs etc and of course lighting plugs are generally 2-pin fully reversible.

First Revelation of the Day

BUT – the two in our case are NOT quite the same voltage with respect to earth (me) – that came as a surprise and this has prompted me to do something I never thought of before – putting my PROPER METER on voltage test between ground (3 pin socket) and the 2 power connections (one at a time in case that wasn’t obvious – and don’t try this at home either) to look for differences… I tried putting the meter (on AC 600v range) between the two power wires – 243vAC as expected. Ground to one wire, 58vAC, ground to the other wire, 278vAC – WHAT? NOT expected,

Not being ENTIRELY stupid, I then took a handy bulb (5w LED) in it’s socket with a flying lead – an connected that first across the power lines and achieved the expected result – the lamp came on. Next, with an idea of what to expect back at our modern fusebox which has an auto-reset earth leakage device after the main breaker) I tried connecting it from ground to the line which produced 58v on my voltage meter – nothing. Finally I connected the lamp from earth to the line which shows 278v on my voltage meter – the house fusebox went off – I expected this but given my comments above about live and neutral – I’d expected this from either wire.

I disconnected the lamp and went over to the mains fusebox and checked, the main breaker was off. I reconnected the breaker and 30 seconds later the power should have returned once the leakage device reset – instead – the main breaker went again – third time lucky the breaker held and power was restored – but all of this brought to my attention a problem with the wiring in the house…

But there’s MORE

Taxnele TVPS1-63T

OH AND IF YOU’RE STILL HERE – the best is yet to come – this whole screwdriver thing took me to the fusebox and THIS device I bought some time ago from AliExpress (see photo – right)..

You ready for this? I live in a Spanish cavehome down in the south of Spain (yes we have hot water, electricity and Internet before you ask – see elsewhere about all of that).

SO, for ages I’ve seen the odd power outage wherein the main breaker trips – not good if you’re away from home and your battery-backed-up experiments (including my router and switch for remote camera access) get charged by the mains!!

I’ve NEVER gotten to the bottom of it as resetting the breaker ALWAYS restores everything. SO, this screwdriver led me to the above FIASCO – but only TODAY, I took a more careful look. The BREAKERS are in order – MAIN 25A, oven 25A, other power breakers 20A, general sockets 16A, lighting 10A.

HOLD ON – the entire colour LED lighting arrangement in our very brightly lit home comes to barely over 300W – that’s 1 and a bit AMPS with EVERYTHING on. As for the main breaker, shouldn’t that be BIGGER than the rest?

We do the sensible thing, preparing for the day we’re forced into Spanish multi-rate electricity (real soon) – we are on a 5.75KW contracted rate and run for example – dishwasher at midnight, hot water tank 1 at 2pm, hot water tank 2 at 4pm, washing machine 6pm etc etc so the WORST case use would be the oven and my office aircon (the house is heated by solid fuel)… 4KW+1KW+lights – say 5.5KW. My guess then would be the oven breaker should be 20A (extra is for for inductive heating inrush), everything else maybe 16A and the lights – 5A. That means the main breaker could be 30A and the rest maybe 16A, lights 5A. The AliExpress-sourced Taxnele TVPS1-63T all-in-one breaker could be 25A (it COULD replace the MAIN breaker but I’m not sure I want to be THAT bold).

What do I ACTUALLY have (I didn’t fit this stuff, I only replaced the 30ma earth leakage device with the Chinese device set to 50ma and 25A in the hope of improving things) is a 25A main breaker, 25A oven breaker, 20A all others except lighting which is currently a wopping 16A. Time for a rethink… from looking for a use for a cheap chinese screwdriver/tester to a potential complete gutting of the main fusebox – wow!

No doubt about it, a handy test screwdriver to be sure. Best 5 Euros I’ve spent in AGES. If this all pans out I can even monitor how things are doing when I’m out of the country – as the Taxnele device works with the SMARTLIFE phone APP. Feedback welcome.

To finish, a Complete Aside

As an aside for my readers in Southern Spain, though I bought this stuff online – you might be interested to know that in the Nevada shopping centre in Granada, AliExpress have opened up a real store… two of us went to the shopping centre yesterday looking for replacement films for our phones (I’d bought a 2-half magnetic cover for my Samsung S22 Ultra phone from AliExpress in China and it turned out, though lovely to look at, not to be watertight and let the dust from my pockets in, causing the camera lenses to get dirty – so that had to go).

The store sold the usual cases AND film screen protectors (glass is a problem for the S22 as the screen is rather stupidly IMHO curved) and weren’t we surprised – the protectors were a few Euros more expensive than normal for AliExpress BUT they were cut to size etc IN THE STORE by a young assistant who used a fancy printer-like machine which took in the phone model number, took in a standard film and custom-produced a cover to order. The assistant then carefully cleaned up our phones and fitted the protectors – good job! If the film lasts a new months, I’ll do that again.

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One thought on “More Cheapies from AliExpress and a VALUABLE Experience

  1. The reason for the 25A main breaker is that this was how the electricity company ensured that you didn’t exceed your contracted maximum power (potentia).
    This breaker is normally only single pole and in a separate section of the fusebox, and that part of the fusebox should be sealed with a lead tag on a wire seal.
    5750/230 = 25 hence the 25A main breaker.

    Now that the vast majority of properties in Spain have smart meters, the electricity company supplied and security sealed main breaker is redundant. The smart meter will disconnect your supply if you exceed your contracted potentia. It should then try to reconnect the supply, so if in the meantime you’ve turned off an appliance, or the thing that created the surge is now no longer drawing power, the power should come back on. If not then you have to go and manually press the red reset button on the smart meter.

    Because a 25A breaker typically allows 10-20% over-current, especially in short doses, many people were able to get away with having a lower potentia than they actually needed. Once they had a smart meter fitted, which is much less forgiving, they had frequent power trips at the meter and were forced into upgrading their potentia.

    Because the main single pole breaker is now no longer needed to protect against exceeding the potentia that space could be used for something else, or at the very least replaced with a double pole breaker to allow you to safely isolate the power using it.

    I had a problem with random earth leakage trips in the guest apartment of our Spanish property. It would always allow the earth leakage trip to be immediately reset, so there was no chance of tracking down the cause. I fitted a Schneider auto resetting RCD, which effectively solved the problem.
    Then, one wet day I was in Spain and the RCD tripped and refused to reset, so I had the opportunity to start doing some troubleshooting.
    After many hours I identified the circuit that was causing the problem and disconnected it, then started trying to figure-out what that circuit did.
    I eventually realised that the previous owner had an outside light which at some point was removed and the wires mist have been stuffed into the wall and chinoed (rendered) over. On this particular rainy day moisture was causing the earth leakage, so having the wires for this spur disconnected from the junction box was the solution.
    I have no idea why the RCD would trip at other times, then immediately allow power to be reset, but I’ve had zero problems since I disconnected this redundant spur (which was about 4 years ago).

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