Saturday, November 7, 2009

Disposable Society

Ok, I've been failing on this writing every day thing. I'm to easily distracted and have several different projects that I'm trying to work on. I started collecting some pictures for making another image for one of my tarot cards, this time The Phoenix.

However my main project of late is what I am going to talk about tonight. About a week ago I was walking out of my apartment on my way to hang out with some friends and I saw a large widescreen flat panel TV sitting by the dumpster. Now one thing I know that most people fail to realize when they have problems with electronics is that most electronics have fuses inside them that blow out before anything major inside gets damaged. I figured one of these fuses was likely the cause of whatever was wrong with this TV and hauled it into my apartment for later investigation, and then went off to hang out with my friends as planned.

I'm now going to give out some technical information on the TV and the problem that I have found so far, for anyone that might find this blog in a search for a similar problem and how to fix it. For those not interested in the technical details skip to the next paragraph for the actual point of this blog post. The TV in question turned out to be a 42" Maxent plasma HDTV, model MX-42HPM20, retail price unknown, and the problem as I could see it was that the power light would come on but the screen was blank. Some quick Internet searches lead me to believe the Y Sus board (or Y Sustain), part number EBR31872801 in this TV, about $150 part on eBay, was bad. Removing the board from the TV and taking some quick measurements I found that indeed one of the fuses, T4AH250VP ceramic time delay 4 amp fuse, had indeed blown out and would need replaced, about a $0.50-$1 part. Further more there was a transformer that appeared to be shorted but on removal from the circuit it measured ok, meaning something else in the circuit was causing the short. Looking around we found there was a small blue ceramic disc capacitor, 102K 1KV, which is apparently a 1000pF (picofarads for non-electrically inclined folk which is a measure of capacitance, a property of electricity, pico- meaning 1*10^-12 or 0.000000000001), and 1KV in this case means 1 kilovolt (volt being a measurement of electric charge, kilo- meaning 1*10^3 or 1,000; for reference house wiring in USA is 120 volts, a car battery is 12 volts). Anyway I got off topic a bit there. The point is this tiny capacitor was blown out and causing a short. This part has a cost of about $0.20-$0.40. At the point of writing this I have ordered a replacement fuse and capacitor, but have not yet been able to test if replacing these two cheap parts will fix this big expensive TV. I'll leave a comment when I know if it did or did not fix it, which should be within the next week.

Ok, for those that read that last paragraph I'm sorry for the monstrosity of which it became, and for those who skipped it welcome back. Now on with the point. We live in a disposable society. When something breaks we don't try to fix it, we just throw it away and buy something new to replace it. This is great for the economy I'm sure, and makes the companies that make this stuff tons of money. But it also means they stopped creating a quality product. Why create a product that will last 20 years when you can make one that will only last a few months past the warranty you put on it and then make the people come back and buy a replacement from you? That seems to be the way companies think anymore.

I work in a electronics factory. The end customer on most of our products is the government and they demand high quality from us, and I'd like to think we provide a high quality product. We do pretty much give a lifetime warranty on some of our products, or at least 100+ year warranty. Anyway when ever me or one of my coworkers take apart consumer electronics we can't help but notice the poor quality of them. I won't bore you with all the details but a lot of the consumer stuff we see is poorly worked and would never pass audit at our factory or be sold to our costumers.

I'm a bit of a pack rat and don't throw away everything that I often times should, but a lot of the time I realize that things can be fixed for cheap if you are really inclined to do so. In the case of this TV I have no idea how much the original owner paid for it, several hundreds I'm sure, but it could have been less than a $1 to fix it. And even if the two parts I talked about above don't fix it, the $150 for a replacement board is still cheaper than a equivalent new TV. I mean for me a 42" plasma TV for $150 sounds like an awesome deal. A 42" plasma TV for $0.80 sounds unbelievable but here's to hoping that's all it's going to take to fix it up and get me a working new TV. Just in time for my fixed Xbox 360 to be up and running, but that's another story.


  1. You make a good point that nowadays we would rather throw things and buy something new to replace it rather than fix what we have. This was a trait that American's have lost in the last century or so. A couple factoids that seem to show we are turning this attitude around: savings in America since the recession began is about 7%, and people are now fixing what they have instead of buying new more than they have than in a long time. I suppose the test will be after the economy turns around. Hopefully, it's a trend that will stick.

  2. Ok, update time. I finally got the parts for my TV and we replaced the faulty parts mentioned above. The screen still does not turn on and now when I turn on the TV I can't turn it off and have to unplug it. So it looks like I will have to replace the whole Y Sus board after all. Assuming I want to bother at this point because I can't really afford to spend the money this week.

  3. Ok so a long time ago I got a 6871QYH053B YSUS board off eBay for about $160 to replace the EBR31872801 Ysus board that was bad (the main chip on the board under the huge heat sink was shorted). At first it didn't want to work and it took me weeks to get around to figuring out what was wrong, mostly because I was too lazy or distracted by trying to get my Xbox 360 working. Not sure what was wrong exactly but I ended up disconnecting and reseating every connector or plug I could find inside the TV. And somehow that fixed it. I now have a working plasma TV. Just wanted to update this in case someone finds this post trying to figure out their own TV problem.

    This is what I was talking about. I just didn't know there was a term for it when I wrote this post.

    Oh, and thanks to Dan Ackerman at CNET this post will probably forever be my most visited. I wish some of the people that came looking for tips on their broken electronics would stick around and read some of my other stuff, but it is what it is.

  5. this is awesome dude!!!!!!, you are worthy of all my time and space, if only for me to learn more. I Live in NSW Australia, and over here we have a council throw out every Tuesday, this is when people throw anything they don't want, and the council come pick it up and take it away for us <(*v*)>, and i mean anything, well, almost anything, within reason of course. Lots and lots of TVs(cathode, flat screens, the odd plasma,computers,beds,wardrobes etc. Anyway my point is.....was.....ummmmm LEGEND!!!!. And yes planned obsolescence is the trend for the FMCG market, but honestly, I need to get up off of my arse and learn how to fix this stuff for real, give them away to anyone who can't afford them, maybe charge those who can afford it, just to get myself by. I reckon I could get most of that stuff working properly just by using all the other thrown out stuff as free surplus.

    Chur bro