How to improve the performance of a switch 120/220VAC 3500W?

Thread Starter

rambomhtri

Joined Nov 9, 2015
574
Hi, I always love to have everything as smooth and clean (neat, well built) as possible. This time I am focusing on electrical switches, the ones for power strips. I want to talk only about "low power" appliances, meaning the switch controles a wall outlet or power strip of a maximum 3500W.

Why?

Becase I am "tired" of fixing power strips that get broken because the metal pieces of the switch, the little dots that create the contact and where arcing occurs, get burnt and black.

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First, a few years ago, I thought, although quickly discarded: "I should put some kind of conductive grease on the dots so the contact is better and there's no arcing and all is smooth"
If I am not wrong, besides considering conducting grease, in general, as an agent of chaos (high chances of making a mess), that would only worsen the arcing situation as then there could be small "threads" of conducting goo arcing all over the place. I think conducting grease is applied when you need the most extreme continuous 100% guaranteed contact between 2 parts, and there are no movable parts. I am thinking of some contacts in medical machines...

Then, I discovered dielectric grease, and I think that's exactly what I need. Since air is ionizable, that's when arcing occurs, but if I put a slight film of this grease in both dots, I think there won't be any arcing at all, and only when the 2 dots are in contact, that's when the switch turns on. The only problem is now that I don't want my connection to be unstable, for example, imagine I put this grease and sometimes the 2 dots are not able to "break" the grease barrier and it doesn't turn on and I have to switch a few times.

Basically, my question is: what do you use to improve the feel, sound (no pop due to arcing) and life of switches? Do you recommend using grease to avoid arcing so the switch will last pretty much forever?

Designing an electric circuit to suppress the arcing is not an option since that's way over the top over kill mindset. Besides, you are not going to make one and put it inside every switch you want to improve, it would be time consuming and not worth it.
 

Ya’akov

Joined Jan 27, 2019
9,233
Dielectric grease will not suppress arcing. A simple, two component arc suppression circuit will help. The RC circuit is what we are concerned with, you can ignore the inductor. The lower right is better because it doesn't bridge the switch.

Jut two parts, in parallel with the load—not very hard.

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[source]​
 

Thread Starter

rambomhtri

Joined Nov 9, 2015
574
Dielectric grease will not suppress arcing. A simple, two component arc suppression circuit will help. The RC circuit is what we are concerned with, you can ignore the inductor. The lower right is better because it doesn't bridge the switch.

Jut two parts, in parallel with the load—not very hard.

...but, won't grease have way higher resistance than air (act as an almost insulator), hence creating the arc, if anything, way closer to both metal pieces?
The arc would be smaller and for a shorter period of time, right?

Creating an additional circuit is not an option, I won't be creating and adding a circuit, and make it fit wherever the switch is, each time I want to improve a switch in a power strip or machine. It must be something maintenance-like: a grease, a paste, a liquid...

The target is to improve considerably the life of the switch and reduce notably the arcing, not achieving a military grade switch with absolutely no arcing and the smoothest voltage curve. That might be fun to do in a very fancy machine to make it even better, not general maintenance for all purpose little tools and devices.
 

Thread Starter

rambomhtri

Joined Nov 9, 2015
574

BobTPH

Joined Jun 5, 2013
9,132
I don't know where you are located, but in the US, the max power from a normal outlet is 1800W (15A) or 2400W (20A.)
 

Thread Starter

rambomhtri

Joined Nov 9, 2015
574
Why are you focusing on some "random" number instead of focusing on what I asked for?

Yeah, I said those 3500W because that's what I've found to be the "maximum" power for a low power outlet in general, in the world. I gave that number to give you an idea of what kind of power I am talking about. Of course there are going to be lowered spec switches... come on...

Just so you know, I just bought some air tight switches for "outdoors" and they are rated 220V/16A or 120V/20A... so no, those switches are rated for 3500W too...

1670870566887.png1670870630400.png
 
Last edited:

SamR

Joined Mar 19, 2019
5,059
The axiom "You get what you pay for" comes to mind. Cheap power strips have cheap switches... It might be possible to retrofit a quality switch but it is probably cheaper to buy a better-quality power strip. On the other hand, I don't use the switch on power strips for that very reason. I do depend (more like a hope and a prayer) on their surge suppression ability. Also, so far, I've never had the breaker on a power strip trip either.

Edit: I've been sitting here thinking about switch durability. Wall switches, typically for lighting which is not a really big load, last for decades of multiple uses daily without failure. Whereas, most of the switches used on power strips were made for panel use and I can't help but wonder just what kind of cycling life they were designed for? Most that I've seen (similar to the one pictured above) seem to be very simply constructed using a LOT of plastic of questionable quality as to durability... And that is just the switch mechanism and not the actual contacts.
 
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BobTPH

Joined Jun 5, 2013
9,132
Why are you focusing on some "random" number instead of focusing on what I asked for?

Yeah, I said those 3500W because that's what I've found to be the "maximum" power for a low power outlet in general, in the world. I gave that number to give you an idea of what kind of power I am talking about. Of course there are going to be lowered spec switches... come on...

Just so you know, I just bought some air tight switches for "outdoors" and they are rated 220V/16A or 120V/20A... so no, those switches are rated for 3500W too...

View attachment 282897View attachment 282898
Because you showed US style strips which likely cannot handle the power you talked about. Perhaps I am unaware of some location where this type of connector is used for 220V. If so, please inform me.

Also, I have been using this type of strip for probably 40 years and have never seen one fail except once when lightning struck my electrical service.

These lead up to the conjecture that you might be overloading the strips.
 

Ya’akov

Joined Jan 27, 2019
9,233
...but, won't grease have way higher resistance than air (act as an almost insulator), hence creating the arc, if anything, way closer to both metal pieces?
The arc would be smaller and for a shorter period of time, right?

Creating an additional circuit is not an option, I won't be creating and adding a circuit, and make it fit wherever the switch is, each time I want to improve a switch in a power strip or machine. It must be something maintenance-like: a grease, a paste, a liquid...

The target is to improve considerably the life of the switch and reduce notably the arcing, not achieving a military grade switch with absolutely no arcing and the smoothest voltage curve. That might be fun to do in a very fancy machine to make it even better, not general maintenance for all purpose little tools and devices.
I'm not at all clear how adding a capacitor and resistor is more effort than disassembling a switch that wasn't meant to be, applying grease, then reassembling it.

In any case, what you are asking for is not something practical which is why I suggested something practical. Switches are already designed to "snap over" in order to reduce the arcing they experience when the circuit is broken. If putting a grease or other chemical on the contacts would improve switch life, don't you think the manufacturers would already be doing that?

I really don't think you've considered how much effort your idea would require, even if it could work.
 

Thread Starter

rambomhtri

Joined Nov 9, 2015
574
Because you showed US style strips which likely cannot handle the power you talked about. Perhaps I am unaware of some location where this type of connector is used for 220V. If so, please inform me.

Also, I have been using this type of strip for probably 40 years and have never seen one fail except once when lightning struck my electrical service.

These lead up to the conjecture that you might be overloading the strips.
Please forget about the number, clearly something I said to clear things up and help you understand that it's switches for regular "low power" home appliances becomes suddenly here the main subject and topic. Wow.

I put a US type A and B just to illustrate it's for home, 120/220VAC 3500W, just like I could have put an EU type C or F, in case somebody comes here telling me how I dare to try to improve the military grade 60 000W switch he uses in submarines. I bet I don't put any picture or example and the users that have switches for 100 000W all come here to make that the main topic.

I've replaced easily 14 switches in the last 5 years (not all from my home, but from friends and family too). Some were dead burnt, some broken and dead, most of them were just deteriorating, but still "working". And final answer, no, at least the ones I use in my home are not at all near those 2500/3500W, sometimes 1700W in winter (a heater) if anything, but I barely use them. Basically 99% of the time is 50-500W. It's just the arcing that damages them.
 
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Thread Starter

rambomhtri

Joined Nov 9, 2015
574
I'm not at all clear how adding a capacitor and resistor is more effort than disassembling a switch that wasn't meant to be, applying grease, then reassembling it.

In any case, what you are asking for is not something practical which is why I suggested something practical. Switches are already designed to "snap over" in order to reduce the arcing they experience when the circuit is broken. If putting a grease or other chemical on the contacts would improve switch life, don't you think the manufacturers would already be doing that?

I really don't think you've considered how much effort your idea would require, even if it could work.
I understand that, but I like to disassemble things to the extreme AFA I am comfortable doing it and knowing what I am doing. It takes me 6s to disassemble those switches with a basic prying tool, and that's all the tools I need. If I put a dab of grease it would take me 1 min to do the whole job. It will easily take me minimum 10 minutes from start to finish to do the circuit, plus dozens of different tools needed.

If doing something extremely cheap would improve the performance of a product, why manufacturers don't do it? Are you seriously asking that?
You have WAY too much faith in manufacturers, like WAY over the top too much. The things I've seen, the horrible designs I've seen, the below the ocean level built quality I've seen... endless... say in electronics or input whatever field you desire: keyboards, tools, PC's, screws, joints, mechanical adjustments...

My main question was basically if in theory (and so in reality), putting a grease that insulates way more than air, would notably improve the arcing "issue" (reduce it). My heart says hell yeah, but I just wanted to ask here first. Also just in case somebody did it before and tells: "yeah, done that, nice idea but also this and this happened". You know, studying before doing, I work like that.
 
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BobTPH

Joined Jun 5, 2013
9,132
How often are you operating the switch? I would think it would b rare. As I said, I have never seen one fail, but then mine are pretty much on all the time.
 

Thread Starter

rambomhtri

Joined Nov 9, 2015
574
"the" switch?
I am not repairing one same switch that gets broken over and over again. I repair switches that have been around for 5-15 years, most of them because they are starting to work improperly, not because they don't work at all. 75% of the time is black burnt contacts. That's why I am trying to improve them and reduce arcing using a product for this purpose.

I can tell there are a few switches in my house that get operated every day 3 or 4 times, like power strip switches for PCs and printers and devices near PCs, and there are 3 setups, so that's each 365x3 each year approx. Those are the ones that normally get broken, the average red switch 220/16A or 220/10A.
 
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