Miscellaneous Tips


● Recycling AA Batteries
● Cleaning Computer Screen
● Cleaning Laptop Keyboard
● Oiling Brake Sleeves and Difficult to Get at Parts
● The Many Uses of Isopropyl Alcohol (IPA) for Cleaning
● Freeing Seized Stopcocks / Gate Valves
● Measuring Power Consumption of Appliances
● Checking Infra Red Remote Controls

Recycling AA Batteries

AA size batteries are commonly available and millions are disposed of annually. About 3 billion batteries are sold every year in the US and the average person probably throws out at least eight AA's during the year. Batteries contain heavy metals such as mercury and cadmium and corrosive electrolytes. When dumped in landfills, the cadmium, mercury and other harmful substances can leak out of the cells when they corrode and this may leach into soil, surface water, or groundwater. When cells are burned the mercury can be vaporised and this isn't good for the environment.
Here's a tip for recycling AA size alkaline batteries. It won't save the world, but it may cut down on consumption of these cells!
When AA batteries have been used in cameras, portable music players etc, they are generally not fully drained. These devices usually have a high power or voltage requirement and may incorporate internal voltage regulators. Because of this they will either not work or give a low battery indication when the capacity of the batteries falls to 10 per cent or so. Because the batteries aren't fully drained, there is plenty of capacity left to power battery clocks.
It's worthwhile actually buying a battery checker at your local electronic store. These inexpensive units allow you to check the charge level in a battery and cater for AA, AAA, C, D, and 9v PP3 size batteries. The display usually indicates the state of the battery as "replace", "low" or "good".
It's worthwhile actually experimenting with other sizes of battery to see whether they can be used in other equipment after the device gives a low battery indication. I have found that the square 9v batteries taken from wireless PIR sensors can be used in digital multimeters.

Cleaning Computer Screen

For a laptop screen a quick way is just to breathe on the screen to fog it up and then just use kitchen towel or a tissue to wipe the dirt. Wipe the screen downwards in long vertical strokes rather than going around in circles.
To clean a glass CRT monitor you can use more severe methods. A cloth or tissue moistened with IPA (Isopropyl alcohol), meths or surgical spirit will clean away any dirt. Allow the tissue to dry before disposing as it could possibly ignite although the risk is probably small.

Cleaning Laptop Keyboard

Try turning the laptop upside down first and tap it gently to remove some of the dirt.
You can use a can of compressed air or a vacuum cleaner with the crevice cleaning accessory to remove some of the dirt also.
A piece of narrow, stiff wire can be used to poke out particles of dirt.
On a laptop and probably on a desktop you can prise off the keys by pulling them up by the edges. This works on most laptops but not all so if you feel a lot of resistance don't risk it. You could try removing a key which is unlikely to be used like the one to the left of 1. If you search on YouTube for "laptop + removing + keys" there are several videos on how to do this. If you are going to remove a lot of keys, take a photo of the keyboard before starting so you know how to put everything back together. The spacebar, caps lock etc may have wire supporting loops underneath so take note of where these go.

Oiling Bicycle Brake Sleeves and Difficult to Get at Parts

Oiling brake and shifter cable sleeves can be awkward. Cans of oil with nozzles and aerosols with straws can be messy and most of the oil gets wasted and doesn't go into the sleeve.
Heres a solution to the problem. Buy a small syringe from your local pharmacy or medical supplier. For safety you can file or cut off the sharp end of the needle with a small hacksaw or snips. If you fill this with oil it can be used to get the oil into the sleeves or other hard to reach parts on your bike and is easier to control than an aerosol or oil can. The syringe can also be used for applying oil in a controlled manner to items around the house.

The Many Uses of Isopropyl Alcohol (IPA) for Cleaning

Isopropyl alcohol (IPA) is widely available in aerosol form, is relatively non toxic, dissolves oil and grease and as such can be used for many cleaning applications. It is flammable though and like all solvents, should be kept away from sources of ignition and open flames and used in a well ventilated area.

Here are some uses:
* Use it for cleaning dirt and smudges from cell phones
* It can be used for cleaning the jack plugs on head phones
* The buttons on remote controls fail to respond after a time. If the control is opened, the contacts can be cleaned with a tissue or cotton bud soaked with IPA
* Battery terminals in electronic appliances can be cleaned with IPA
* Use IPA on a cotton bud to clean the heads of cassette players and also the rollers
* Use it to clean the lenses of CD players
* Keyboards can be cleaned with IPA
* It can be used to remove the stickiness left by labels on surfaces
Freeing Seized Stopcocks / Gate Valves

If the stopcocks are gate type valves there may be a nut holding on the knob/hand wheel on to the spindle on the stopcock, you could try using a socket wrench to get more torque on the shaft. Don't put excessive force on the wrench or you may wring the shaft as sometimes this is actually narrower inside the stopcock than the section you can see externally.
If you can get your hands on a heat gun you could also try heating the section of the stopcock which surrounds the shaft for about a minute. This may expand it enough to free it. You just have to be extremely careful if you are using it in a confined space close to timber, plastic, gas or other combustible material or you could end up starting a fire. You could shield the wall behind the valve with a piece of floor tile.
Measuring Power Consumption of Appliances

Check for a specification plate on the machine. This may be at the back or underside of the machine. It will give the serial number, model number, supply voltage and power consumption of the machine.
For appliances which are plugged into a socket, it is possible to buy a power measuring adapter. This is plugged into the power outlet and the appliance is then plugged into the adaptor. These useful devices give readings for voltage at the socket, current consumption, power consumption, length of time the appliance has been running and KWh used. You can set the unit price of the electricity charged by your supplier and the adaptor will display the actual cost of the electricity as the appliance is running. You can buy these devices in hardware stores or google "appliance power meter" to buy online.

Checking Infra Red Remote Controls

Cleaning Remote Controls

The membrane keypad in a remote control eventually becomes dirty due to accumulation of dust, crumbs, spilt coffee etc. Usually these devices can be cleaned quite easily by following these steps:

Remove the batteries

The shell of the control is probably manufactured as two halves, look for screws holding the halves together and remove them.
Use a screwdriver or dinner knife to split the two halves which are probably clipped together. This can be done by gently sliding the knife along the crack between the halves.
Remove the PCB and membrane keypad
Wash the PCB and keypad in warm water and washing up liquid and dry thoroughly with a hair drier set on low heat
If you have a can of IPA (Isopropyl Alcohol) you can put some on a cotton bud or tissue and use it to clean the button contacts.
Re-assemble the control and replace the batteries.

Check the Battery Contacts

The battery contacts of a remote control can become tarnished due to oxidation (like rust on iron). Place a match head size blob of toothpaste on a tissue and use it to clean the contacts. Remove any residue with a clean tissue

Checking the LED

Not all remote controls have an led giving a visual indication of whether a button has been pushed and sometimes it is convenient to know whether the batteries have gone flat or the keypad has become faulty. Here is a quick solution for checking whether the remote is actually outputting an infra red signal.
The front of a remote control contains an infra red LED and this emits an infra red beam when a key is pressed on the keypad. This beam is sensed by the appliance being controlled . Now normally you can't actually see the infra red being emitted from the remote control, however if you point it at a digital camera or cellphone and look at the viewfinder / display of the camera and press a key on the remote , you will see the LED flashing on the display of the camera. This works because the CCD sensor in a digital camera is sensitive to infra red.

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