Author Topic: How long should electronics last  (Read 4325 times)

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Offline Simon

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How long should electronics last
« on: December 24, 2017, 07:46:09 pm »
My boiler has been in service for exactly 9 years. the control board just failed, in fact it appears it's ability to read a thermistor is all that went wrong. Surely it should last longer than this? It's not like a relay failed but I would assume the micro controller failed.

So how long is this stuff supposed to last? Needless to say I am highly suspicious of a built in fail timer, the whole thing worked fine, it was simply an analogue input that failed on a uC, which is hardly likely, yes the thermistor has been replaced but that worked fine. What the manual should have said in stead of "a constant yellow light means the thermistor has failed", is "replace control board"
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Offline chriswebb

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Re: How long should electronics last
« Reply #1 on: December 24, 2017, 08:02:24 pm »
Cynical answer: Warranty period + 1?

I think it's going to be hard to answer this question, because it will be so dependent on so many factors. Was the thing built for pennies? Was it designed to last? Will it be serviced? Was it built by people who take pride in their work? So many questions to ask to figure out the thought behind the product.

For your specific product, is it still under warranty? I see some boiler manufacturers in the US offer limited 10 year warranties and some can extend to lifetime warranties (of the product no doubt which you'd hope they'd stipulate), but I don't have much knowledge of boilers from living in apartment all of my adult life so I am not sure what they cover. Obviously for them, it's better not to have to pay out over the lifetime of the product, so they will probably build it to last. So it all basically comes back to that original cynical statement.
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Offline Gyro

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Re: How long should electronics last
« Reply #2 on: December 24, 2017, 08:39:52 pm »
I regard the use of 85'C electrolytics on a board inside a boiler casing as a definite case of built in obsolescence. They're usually the first thing to fail (rapid cycling of the ignition sequence, trips etc.). That's assuming that things like the relay pins were flow soldered correctly in the first place.
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Offline chris_leyson

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Re: How long should electronics last
« Reply #3 on: December 24, 2017, 08:40:01 pm »
I managed to get 15 years out my last boiler but it cost more in spares than the original cost of the boiler, three replacement water pumps, three replacement flue fans with a forth one sitting in a box somewhere, two diverter valves, two sets of elbow couplings with both metric and imperial threads that you can't buy anywhere, a set of manifold couplings and a repair to the controller board where one side of the PCB mounted 20mm fuse holder got so hot it turned the FR4 into toast. The final staw was a failed flow switch and that would also have needed a replacement manifold at £600 because the old one was pissing a few pints of water out everyday, at that point I gave up. It was a cheap boiler built to a price.
An Ariston washing machine that had four replacement controller boards and when the fifth one didn't work it was time to buy new one. The guy who came round to fit either the first or second controller board said they were crap and you need to fit a surge protector. I had a stab at trying to repair some of the failed controller boards but couldn't find the fault.
Consumer goods are built to a price and you have to "Muntz" the electronics and mechanics to get it down as cheap as possible. Some companies put a lot of effort into R&D in order to get 10 or maybe 15 years out of a product whereas other companies don't put much effort into R&D, you get what you pay for. EDIT: Just remembered, one of the designers at Thorn EMI Ferguson told me that they didn't fit better rated diodes around the TV line output stage because you could get 5 years life with the ones fitted.
« Last Edit: December 24, 2017, 08:47:13 pm by chris_leyson »
 

Offline BrianHG

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Re: How long should electronics last
« Reply #4 on: December 24, 2017, 08:50:00 pm »
My boiler has been in service for exactly 9 years. the control board just failed, in fact it appears it's ability to read a thermistor is all that went wrong. Surely it should last longer than this? It's not like a relay failed but I would assume the micro controller failed.
Now when you say boiler, you mean for heating your home, not hot tap water right?
I know that the hot water tanks have a microscopic thin layer of glass coating in them which supposed to last only 10 years.  After that time, as the glass thins out, and the water reaches metal, the metal eventually begins to rust and your water goes brown.  My last hot water tank began browning after 16 years of use and I switched it quick before either my tank ruptured, or, too much metal rust would permanently damage my piping and faucets.  If a heater boiler has a similar glass coating, it may have a similar lifetime expectancy, or, at least check with the manufacturer and they will tell you the life time of the tank.
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Offline Simon

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Re: How long should electronics last
« Reply #5 on: December 24, 2017, 09:14:30 pm »

Now when you say boiler, you mean for heating your home, not hot tap water right?
I know that the hot water tanks have a microscopic thin layer of glass coating in them which supposed to last only 10 years.  After that time, as the glass thins out, and the water reaches metal, the metal eventually begins to rust and your water goes brown.  My last hot water tank began browning after 16 years of use and I switched it quick before either my tank ruptured, or, too much metal rust would permanently damage my piping and faucets.  If a heater boiler has a similar glass coating, it may have a similar lifetime expectancy, or, at least check with the manufacturer and they will tell you the life time of the tank.

This is a gas combi boiler, it heats both radiators for heating and hot water instantly for domestic use. The controller board looks brand new, like i say a thermistor would go straight to the uC so if it's saying that the fault is there then it must be the uC itself, one of the hardiest components surely?
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Offline Simon

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Re: How long should electronics last
« Reply #6 on: December 24, 2017, 09:16:19 pm »
I regard the use of 85'C electrolytics on a board inside a boiler casing as a definite case of built in obsolescence. They're usually the first thing to fail (rapid cycling of the ignition sequence, trips etc.). That's assuming that things like the relay pins were flow soldered correctly in the first place.

nope simply the uC seems to have failed, silicon that lasts just 9 years..... really?.....
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Offline grumpydoc

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Re: How long should electronics last
« Reply #7 on: December 24, 2017, 09:25:03 pm »
Things do fail and a lot of the electronics that goes into domestic appliances is designed down to a price so components get run close to or even beyond specified ratings. In a boiler temperature is probably the biggest killer of electronics.

FWIW my boiler is 21 years old and still works. The control board is a simple all analogue affair - a couple of time delays and checks that the fan is running and pilot lit before the main gas supply is turned on. It has required two repairs by me, one to resolder the main connector which has pretty heavy pins and I think thermal cycling and the physical strain of a bulky connector eventually fractured all the solder joints. The other repair was to replace all the caps. I'll probably have to do both again, especially the caps as the only spares I had in the junk box were pretty close on max voltage (55v rated in a 48V circuit IIRC).


 

Offline Seekonk

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Re: How long should electronics last
« Reply #8 on: December 24, 2017, 09:26:18 pm »
Ten years is a good service life. I worked for a company that built control electronics for equipment fabricators.  You can be sure that no one at the boiler company designed this.  We were given a specification and asked to quote a price for hundreds of companies like this.  There were discussions about how to make it fool proof, but never on how long it should last. I'd be in cosmic angst over adding a 1/3 cent resistor to make a module a little better. It was always a relentless push to get cost lower.  I'm surprised many things last as long as they do.  My furnace has an over temp snap disk that goes bad now and then. I just give it a whack and it runs for a couple more months. In my 50 years experience it is almost a given that switches will fail because of oxidation from low voltage and current.  There are proper materials, but you can get a reasonable service life out of low cost parts.
 

Offline BrianHG

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Re: How long should electronics last
« Reply #9 on: December 24, 2017, 09:28:07 pm »

Now when you say boiler, you mean for heating your home, not hot tap water right?
I know that the hot water tanks have a microscopic thin layer of glass coating in them which supposed to last only 10 years.  After that time, as the glass thins out, and the water reaches metal, the metal eventually begins to rust and your water goes brown.  My last hot water tank began browning after 16 years of use and I switched it quick before either my tank ruptured, or, too much metal rust would permanently damage my piping and faucets.  If a heater boiler has a similar glass coating, it may have a similar lifetime expectancy, or, at least check with the manufacturer and they will tell you the life time of the tank.

This is a gas combi boiler, it heats both radiators for heating and hot water instantly for domestic use. The controller board looks brand new, like i say a thermistor would go straight to the uC so if it's saying that the fault is there then it must be the uC itself, one of the hardiest components surely?
Hot water tanks for domestic use have the glass lining, otherwise the hot water will begin to taste funny after 2 years or so...  You may stretch your tank to around 15 years if you fix your controller board, however, it is recommended in the industry to swap tanks every 9-10 years.  I never kept my hot water tank boiling steaming hot, so the heat from the gas burner below the tank didn't erode away the glass lining too fast (thermal stress) and I managed a 16 years.  I guess if you are in a more mild climate compared to here in Montreal, you may get away with 20 years...

« Last Edit: December 24, 2017, 09:31:08 pm by BrianHG »
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Offline Gyro

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Re: How long should electronics last
« Reply #10 on: December 24, 2017, 09:31:08 pm »
Things do fail and a lot of the electronics that goes into domestic appliances is designed down to a price so components get run close to or even beyond specified ratings. In a boiler temperature is probably the biggest killer of electronics.

FWIW my boiler is 21 years old and still works. The control board is a simple all analogue affair - a couple of time delays and checks that the fan is running and pilot lit before the main gas supply is turned on. It has required two repairs by me, one to resolder the main connector which has pretty heavy pins and I think thermal cycling and the physical strain of a bulky connector eventually fractured all the solder joints. The other repair was to replace all the caps. I'll probably have to do both again, especially the caps as the only spares I had in the junk box were pretty close on max voltage (55v rated in a 48V circuit IIRC).

I suspect that we have the same boilers - at least the same vintage. Cries of "They don't make 'em like they used to!" etc.  :)
« Last Edit: December 24, 2017, 09:33:23 pm by Gyro »
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Offline nali

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Re: How long should electronics last
« Reply #11 on: December 24, 2017, 09:34:37 pm »
nope simply the uC seems to have failed, silicon that lasts just 9 years..... really?.....

You seem to be extrapolating your single event into a generic design flaw. It COULD be a random failure, or could just be bad connections as Grumpydoc had. What exactly does "ability to read the thermistor" actually mean?
 

Offline grumpydoc

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Re: How long should electronics last
« Reply #12 on: December 24, 2017, 09:39:08 pm »
I suspect that we have the same boilers - at least the same vintage. Cries of "They don't make 'em like they used to!" etc.  :)
Potterton Prima - I think the 60F; late 1995/early 1996 vintage.
 

Offline JohnPen

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Re: How long should electronics last
« Reply #13 on: December 24, 2017, 10:12:30 pm »
In Simon's case it could still be the capacitors dying as excessive supply ripple could still confuse the uC with a false reading.  Processors are usually pretty reliable, after the running in period, unless they operate long term in an excessively warm environment. This could of course be the situation in a boiler. :(
 

Offline Gyro

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Re: How long should electronics last
« Reply #14 on: December 24, 2017, 10:24:30 pm »
I suspect that we have the same boilers - at least the same vintage. Cries of "They don't make 'em like they used to!" etc.  :)
Potterton Prima - I think the 60F; late 1995/early 1996 vintage.

Haha, knew it! Potterton Prima 50F  :D

Apart from the same board repairs, the only other thing I've had to do was repair the overly thin inner tube of the balanced flue which tends to rot through (worth checking). There's a remedial Flue kit for that, it is done completely from outside, no need to open the boiler...

https://www.ebay.co.uk/sch/i.html?_odkw=prima+F+flue&_osacat=0&_from=R40&_trksid=p2045573.m570.l1313.TR0.TRC0.H0.Xprima+F+remedial.TRS0&_nkw=prima+F+remedial&_sacat=0
« Last Edit: December 24, 2017, 10:30:12 pm by Gyro »
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Offline Simon

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Re: How long should electronics last
« Reply #15 on: December 24, 2017, 11:32:38 pm »
nope simply the uC seems to have failed, silicon that lasts just 9 years..... really?.....

You seem to be extrapolating your single event into a generic design flaw. It COULD be a random failure, or could just be bad connections as Grumpydoc had. What exactly does "ability to read the thermistor" actually mean?

Well the whole thing only has 3 electrolytics all looking good. As I said you cannot tell the old from the new and i was very careful to not mix them up. the uC does not have any elecy caps near it, there are a number of SMD ceramics under the through hole PCB near the uC.

What I am saying is that for a uC to read a thermistor it only needs another resistor, so the "weakest" part in the chain is the uC (thermistor already changed). This leads me to deduce the uC failed. The boiler still produce heating water with no problem, it was specifically domestic hot water that failed. In fact the boiler cover has been off for these last 7 years so the PCB has not been overheating as it's been in a separate plastic compartment in free air. Being an efficient combi boiler there is not much heat iradiated by the combustion chamber.

no there is no tank here, it's basically a radiator with a gas burner under it, a pump, heat exchanger various solenoids and the controller. Strangely the igniter module that plugs into the main PCB is doing just fine.......
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Offline NivagSwerdna

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Re: How long should electronics last
« Reply #16 on: December 24, 2017, 11:34:15 pm »
My boiler has been in service for exactly 9 years. the control board just failed, in fact it appears it's ability to read a thermistor is all that went wrong. Surely it should last longer than this? It's not like a relay failed but I would assume the micro controller failed.
Control boards are readily available because they do fail, presumably due to environment they live in.  I swapped a board in my boiler a few years back and it just started working again... I have the old one somewhere I should diagnose for the LOLs.  Likewise, thermistors do fail... and fans definitely fail but I guess that's not so surprising due to mechanical wear.
I have rather traumatic memories of replacing the pressure relief valve on my boiler on Christmas eve a few years back since my boiler company told me they were shut for Christmas so couldn't help, getting the parts was a nightmare, and it took me two days,... that was a job too far but it was cold...  however with a lot of stress... warm and toasty by the end of Christmas Day!  I've since had the boiler professionally serviced  ;)
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Offline Simon

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Re: How long should electronics last
« Reply #17 on: December 24, 2017, 11:39:12 pm »
Oh my boiler is working just fine now. first i replaced the thermistor as suggested by the manual but same fault so thermistor was fine. changed the main PCB and now it's working fine (well but for the air flow switch that was faulty after just 2 years). So yes the main PCB was at fault and we all go again but for the odd requirement to reset. One day I'll open the thing up and change the pressure flow switch. Yes i managed to get parts from stock in 24 hours.
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Offline NivagSwerdna

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Re: How long should electronics last
« Reply #18 on: December 24, 2017, 11:42:29 pm »
One day I'll open the thing up and change the pressure flow switch.
FWIW sometimes sediment builds up in the pressure flow switch.  I fixed one issue by banging it gently to shift the gunk!  Never had to replace it!
 

Offline Simon

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Re: How long should electronics last
« Reply #19 on: December 24, 2017, 11:45:32 pm »
One day I'll open the thing up and change the pressure flow switch.
FWIW sometimes sediment builds up in the pressure flow switch.  I fixed one issue by banging it gently to shift the gunk!  Never had to replace it!

no this is air flow, I think it makes sure air is being blown into the burning chamber so the boiler cuts out and goes to fault if there is no air being blown into the chamber, of course the safety device has proven less reliable than the device (fan) it is monitoring  :palm: :palm: :palm:
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Offline SparkyFX

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Re: How long should electronics last
« Reply #20 on: December 25, 2017, 12:14:20 am »
of course the safety device has proven less reliable than the device (fan) it is monitoring  :palm: :palm: :palm:
I guess that is the second preferred outcome for a safety device, next to not failing at all. :-)
If the monitor underlies the same stresses/principles as the monitored device earlier fail might be a good thing after all.

The build-up and cycling of gunk is a science of its own, anyway.
 

Offline Simon

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Re: How long should electronics last
« Reply #21 on: December 25, 2017, 12:22:50 am »
This is a simple diaphram switch that picks up a small pressure difference indicating air flow into the combustion chamber
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Offline Cerebus

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Re: How long should electronics last
« Reply #22 on: December 25, 2017, 12:26:31 am »
I regard the use of 85'C electrolytics on a board inside a boiler casing as a definite case of built in obsolescence. They're usually the first thing to fail (rapid cycling of the ignition sequence, trips etc.). That's assuming that things like the relay pins were flow soldered correctly in the first place.

You'd think so, wouldn't you?

I had cause to tape a thermocouple to one of the pipes inside my boiler a while back. After I'd got the readings I needed I couldn't be bothered to disassemble and reassemble the boiler to recover the thermocouple, so for a few months there was a type K thermocouple plug hanging out of my boiler.

Eventually I did need the thermocouple back and before removing it from the boiler I tried taking readings again. Low, way too low. On the pipe it was reading 50-60C, it was about 30C. So off comes the case and the tape that was holding the thermocouple had let go, leaving the thermocouple tip hanging in the breeze between the hot water outlet and the control board.

So the control board was sitting at about 30C ambient, no hotter, and in many cases  cooler than inside bits of electronics that don't have a 30 kW boiler 15 centimetres away inside the case.

Moral of the story: the apparently reasonable assumption that inside the case of a boiler is really hot is, in fact, not necessarily true.
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Offline Simon

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Re: How long should electronics last
« Reply #23 on: December 25, 2017, 12:36:46 am »
Indeed. My board has not seen high temperatures. I don't know what uC they are using but really can you deliberately make such poor quality chips on purpose?
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Offline Simon

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Re: How long should electronics last
« Reply #24 on: December 25, 2017, 12:39:19 am »
well you can actually, I once bought an SD card reader that lasted just 3 months.
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