Monthly Archives: November 2016

Reviving a Dead Mains Timer

It is that time of year when one puts electric advent stars and candlesticks in the windows. I usually use timers to control them, but this year I ran into a problem. Some of my timers were of the type “EverFlourish EMT757A”, probably bought at Clas Ohlson:

Back side of timer

Back side of timer

Despite having a notoriously bad user interface (that forces me to google the user manual each time I want to use them), the timers, that had been laying in a drawer since last season, showed an entirely blank LCD display, even when connected to a mains outlet. I guessed that an internal battery just need to be charged, so I left them connected for a day to allow them to be charged up. The display however remained blank.

Hmm. I had encountered similar timers before that needed the internal battery to be replaced, so I decided to have a look inside to determine if this was the case again. It turned out that the screws used to keep the units together had tamper proof tri-wing heads. Fortunately, I happened to have bits that fit this kind of head, so this did not deter me.

Tri-wing screw head

Tamper proof tri-wing screw head

Tri-wing bit

Tri-wing bit

I found that there was indeed a tiny chargeable NiMH battery inside the unit (the green component with white corrosion on the side, close to the center of the picture below). Despite the unwanted corrosion, I found that the battery was actually charged to 1.3 V or thereabout, which is fine for a NiMH battery. Maybe it did not need to be replaced after all?

Opened mains timer

Opened mains timer

But why then was the display dead?

I put the timer back together again and had another look at the front. Pressing any of the normal buttons did not result in any reaction, but there was also a tiny little recessed button marked RESET. I used a pen to press it and voilà! The display came to life!

The timer has been brought back to life.

The timer has been brought back to life.

Stupid me to not try this before I disassembled the unit.

I suppose the reason the timer behaves like this is that the processor controlling the display probably does not have a proper power on reset circuit. So when the supply voltage is ramped very slowly, as it is when it is powered from a battery that is trickle charged from a state of being completely dead, the processor does not jump into action properly, even after the supply voltage reaches its proper level.