Espresso machines on timers...

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Randy G.

Postby Randy G. » Mar 15, 2010, 12:28 pm

I recently put my VBM on a digital timer. The timer is the Amertac TE05W (PDF instructions available HERE) which has 20 memory locations to save 20 time programs. It also has battery backup to save the settings in an outage. It works great and sells for about $20 on Amazon (I got it new for $4 at the local Grocery Outlet!). It's wonderful to wake up to a machine that is hot and ready to go without having to leave it on all night.

A reader of my website who recently purchased a new EDIT: Isomac Tea SORRY- It was actually a NS Oscar.. was told by the seller that in no case should it ever be placed on a timer. Many of us do not recommend placing a single boiler machine on a timer (few of them, if any, have auto refill or low-water shutoff other than the overheat protection on the boiler). But the comment by the seller made me wonder why a machine which is equipped with auto-refill and low-water auto shutoff could not be run on a timer. Another person has mentioned that the use of some timers can cause a power surge which can damage the machine in some way (presumably electronics).

I am not worried about the VBM- the line in side of the power cord goes through the microswitch for the low-water shutoff, and if the reservoir is bounced (as when relocating or refilling it when the water is low) the switch can open and close repeatedly in rapid succession, so it would seem that VBM was not too worried about surges (which points to the need to refill the machine before the reservoir gets too low, and if not, doing so with the machine switched off to protect the contacts of the switch).

So my goal here is not to question the seller's advice, but to open a conversation about which machines should or should not be placed on a timer and to question the issue of power surges caused by timers. Logically (to me) having an external switch (the timer) to send power to the machine would be equivalent to using the machine's power switch to complete the circuit. Is there more than that going on here?
Espresso! My Espresso!
http://www.EspressoMyEspresso.com

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Bex

Postby Bex » Mar 15, 2010, 12:38 pm

Not sure it's entirely relevant here, but my VBM would occasionally trip the GFI on the circuit when the low water shutoff triggered.

Of course, my low water shutoff switch stopped working, too.

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Fullsack

Postby Fullsack » Mar 15, 2010, 12:52 pm

This old thread of mine might have spooked some people, but it should be noted, this Lusso did not have a low-water-cut-off

The risk of using a timer
LMWDP #017
Kill all my demons and my angels might die too. T. Williams

danaleighton

Postby danaleighton » Mar 15, 2010, 1:10 pm

Randy G. wrote:A reader of my website who recently purchased a new Isomac Tea was told by the seller that in no case should it ever be placed on a timer. ... the comment by the seller made me wonder why a machine which is equipped with auto-refill and low-water auto shutoff could not be run on a timer. Another person has mentioned that the use of some timers can cause a power surge which can damage the machine in some way (presumably electronics). ... my goal here is not to question the seller's advice, but to open a conversation about which machines should or should not be placed on a timer and to question the issue of power surges caused by timers.

In the case of the Isomacs I am familiar with (Tea, Millenium, & Relax, which share components), the switch for low reservoir water cuts the power in the main circuit, so it should not be much different than a timer. Anecdotally, I have run my machine on a timer for the last 4 years, without any problems. I had to replace the Giemme electronics box on my Relax, but it was because of a sticking relay, not electronics damage.
Dana Leighton
LMWDP #269

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Randy G.

Postby Randy G. » Mar 15, 2010, 2:09 pm

JEFF: In the past I had questioned the wiring of the low-water cutoff of the VBM. It would have been a lot more reasonable to run that switch into the control unit to disable the machine electronically, or at allow the switch to control an SSR instead of taking the entire load of the machine. If the switch opens when the heating element is on and the machine pumping water, the full amperage of the machine goes through the contacts. it is not one of the more affordable switchs I have seen! $$$! And then we could also discuss how wise it is to have the unsealed connections of the switch right under the reservoir, but that's another thread..

DOUG: Yes, the low-water cut off is a critical consideration for anyone thinking about putting a machine on a timer. With the switch (f so equipped) working properly, the most critical situation would be a flood equal to a minimum of:
(volume of water in the reservoir)-(capacity of drip tray)
But as I stated, I never recommend putting a machine without low-water safety of some sort on a timer. For one to depend on the overheat thermostat for the safety of the machine (and the structure in which it is located) is a bad bet. The failure of your machine and the damage done is troubling as the overheat thermostat did not do its supposed job of protecting the machine, although it presumably prevented a possible fire.

DANA: Nice to see you "slumming" around these here parts. :wink:
There are lots of folks who have run timers for years without problem, and I agree that I cannot see the difference between the switching of a timer and the switching of the machine's own contacts. I am hoping that the seller in question (whom I purposely did not name) participates in this thread to add some clarity to the discussion, if for no other reason than to quench my curiosity.
Espresso! My Espresso!
http://www.EspressoMyEspresso.com

zin1953

Postby zin1953 » Mar 15, 2010, 4:32 pm

Just adding data points . . .

Both my (plumbed-in) Elektra and my (pourover) La Valentina are run off timers, the latter for 4+ years, with no ill-effects.

Cheers,
Jason
A morning without coffee is sleep. -- Anon.

erik996

Postby erik996 » Mar 15, 2010, 6:05 pm

Good to hear Jason. My wife was complaining that our electricity bill had gone up noticeable as of late. The most logical answer is because of our espresso machine (La Valentina) because the bill went up about the same time we got the machine. It's about $20-$25 per month in added electricity fees.

How long do you let your machine warm up? I would consider getting a timer to turn the machine on at 4:30am (I would be using it at 5:45-6:15), but we also sometimes use it in the evenings and from time to time on weekends.

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GC7

Postby GC7 » Mar 15, 2010, 6:50 pm

My QM Anita has been on a simple $10 timer for the past year. It turns the machine on at 6 AM and off at 10 AM. If I need the machine later in the day or weekend I just plug it into an outlet and let it heat up and stay on as long as needed or continuously.

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Randy G.

Postby Randy G. » Mar 15, 2010, 8:03 pm

ADDENDUM: As I noted with the edit in the original post of this thread, the machine in question is a Nuova Simonelli Oscar (not the Tea as originally stated by me). The confusion was mine. In any case, the Oscar is not equipped with a vacuum breaker and so the pressurestat is likely to sense a false pressure upon first warm up and so I have been informed by the owner of the company from which the machine came that having an Oscar on a timer will not damage the machine, but because of the false pressure situation, a timer is a waste of effort.

Interestingly enough, the downloaded copy of the Oscar manual from the Espressoparts.com page does not seem to mention false pressure or its consequences anywhere, including no mention of this situation in the troubleshooting section. If anything, the manual seems to indicate the opposite, as it states in two places to be sure that the steam valve is closed before use:

INSTALLATION
18)Only if the steam valve (8) is closed, buttons (1 and 4) are not pressed and the line voltage matches the label requirements, plug the unit into the power supply outlet.
..and in the beginning of the section immediately following "INSTALLATION":
SETTING UP THE MACHINE
After having completed the preliminary operations:
1) Make certain that the steam valve (8) is closed.
2) Press the main switch (1) to turn on the unit; the machine automatically feeds water into the boiler (initial time: approximately 3 min), once the water has reached the set level, the units starts heating and the heating light goes on.
Note: the machine has an electronic level valve so it automatically feeds in water to the boiler as needed to restore the level.

No wonder resources such as dependable resellers with good after-sale support and home-barista.com are so valuable!

Timer vs. no timer is still interesting, so any more comments, facts, or actual photos of UFOs or spirits roaming the hallways are welcome.
Espresso! My Espresso!
http://www.EspressoMyEspresso.com

zin1953

Postby zin1953 » Mar 15, 2010, 10:33 pm

erik996 wrote:How long do you let your machine warm up? I would consider getting a timer to turn the machine on at 4:30am (I would be using it at 5:45-6:15), but we also sometimes use it in the evenings and from time to time on weekends.

I have the Elektra "Sixties" T1 at home. The timer goes ON at 5:00 am, and I make the first drink around 6:00; it shut off at 9:00 am. It comes back on at 5:00 pm, and is set to shut off at 10:00. Saturday and Sunday, it's on from 5:00 am until 10:00 pm.

The La Val is in my office; it is on a timer that comes on Monday through Friday at 8:00 am, and stays on until 6:00 pm. It stays off on the weekends.
A morning without coffee is sleep. -- Anon.