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Surge Protectors??

Discussion in 'General Scuba Equipment Discussions' started by NoRust, Jun 30, 2019.

  1. NoRust

    NoRust Angel Fish

    I just came back from a live-aboard in the Philippines, and I'm wondering about an equipment failure.

    My beloved Atomic Cobalt computer suddenly stopped charging when using the AC side of the power block. My roommate has the same computer, and we tried various configurations of cords and power blocks. We are pretty sure that the failure was in the power block, on the AC side (the USB side still worked). Interestingly, she has had to replace a power block previously because of a failure on the AC side.

    Question : could the two power blocks both have been fried by power surges? If so, would a "travel" surge protector have been useful in protecting our systems?

    I have done some Googling, and I keep finding posts saying that if you don't have a ground plug (and I often find that there is no third wire when travelling in remote places...), a "surge protector" is basically useless.

    Wisdom, please???
  2. WarrenZ

    WarrenZ The Ultimate Bad Example ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Las Cruces NM
    I think you are saying that you have had the plug in transformer fail but the USB cord still works of a different port or adapter?

    It isn't uncommon for cheap power bricks to fail. They are just a simple transformer and step down circuit providing 5v output to a USB port or other voltage to a charging plug Normally they are made of very cheap components and subject to overheating and eventual failure. It may have been subjected to "dirty" AC power due to the way a boat generator or inverter works. The atomics have a dual feed adapter plug that may have some sort of fusing in it. If you were able to give us a voltage reading on the charger output that could shed some light on the problem.

    I have seen power bricks do odd things after a surge. Weirdest one was one that had normal output + to - but when you went to ground there was 75v ac potential. Everytime I grounded the affected weather station to ground with my body I got a shock and the rain gauge reported 4+ inches of rain per minute.

    I travel with a 2 port surge protector that has 4 USB ports on it. I look to get a higher amperage rated USB charger I believe my surge protector will do a combined 10A across the USB ports. Traveling I have found that having one device that will charge 4 items saves time and space when you may only have one open plug that is accessable.

    Also in a liveaboard situation I have yet to have anyone not jump on the let me plug in the power strip so I can charge and you plug your charger into one of the 2 additional outlets.
  3. jerbee

    jerbee Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: I'm a Fish!
    Location: Baton Rouge, LA
    Without the grounding pin, surge protectors don’t protect against spikes. It’s usually just an MOV or clamp diode that shorts to ground in the event of an over voltage condition. If the ground isn’t connected then essentially it doesn’t do anything but act as a power strip. If it says that it has a circuit breaker for over current protection, then that could still work out for you. Best bet will be to find a compact surge protector with a circuit breaker.

    That being said, I have the Cobalt also and am headed back to the Philippines next month, so I’ll share what I’ve done on previous trips. Bring a portable power bank with you, charge that from the wall, then unplug it and use the power pack to charge your cobalt on the USB side of the adapter. The only time you really need to use the AC side of the cobalt adapter is if you’ve let the cobalt drain to 0%... then charging it from USB typically won’t work. If it has any juice left in it, go USB. It takes twice as long, so to get from nearly empty will take about 2 hours, but realistically you shouldn’t let it get that low in the first place… I typically re-charge around 40-50% or so, which is still enough for another 20-25 hours of diving.

    Before I forget, be careful when buying a power pack - I recall last time I went to Thailand and had to go through Chinese customs and they confiscated any portable power banks over a certain capacity. Not sure why, but if it was over some specific mAh, or if the pack didn’t have the mAh printed on it, they weren’t letting people through customs with them.

    Edit: here’s an article going into greater detail on the China power bank thing:
    Chinese Aviation Law - Restricted Power Banks
    Long story short, you can only have 2 power packs, none in checked luggage, and they have to be under 100WA, or up to 160WA with the permission of the airline.

    To get WA from mAh, divide mAh by 1000 for Ah, then multiply voltage by Ah for WA.

    I googled it more.. turns out the FAA also says you can’t carry on packs of 100 or over (or from 100.01 to 160 with carrier permission). So apparently it isn’t just China.

    So, if I were you, I would buy an Omnicharge Omni 20. Not cheap, but it does EVERYTHING.

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