Pine recommends using a line conditioner with all 120 volt variants of the AFG1 and AFG2 gyratory compactors. These include AFG1A, AFG1AS, AFG2A, and AFG2AS.
What is a Line Conditioner?
A line conditioner is an electrical device that automatically responds to limited over- and under-voltages that would otherwise adversely affect operation of your machine. Approximately the size of a small toaster, the line conditioner plugs into an ordinary 120 VAC outlet and usually has several outlets itself for connecting equipment downstream. It is primarily intended to dampen voltage anomalies, rather than current spikes, although individual models may include a circuit breaker. A line conditioner is not a UPS (uninterruptible power supply) to carry a load during power failures.
A Simple System Explanation
Your compactor has three stepper motors to operate the ram (one motor) and the swivel frame (two motors). These motors are controlled by circuit boards known as “drivers” in the power enclosure at the rear of the machine. DC power is fed to the driver via a large capacitor. Command signals are sent to the driver by another circuit board in the smaller control enclosure. With good power and command inputs, the driver sends power signals to turn the stepper motor.
Drivers and Power Surges
Like any electronic component, a driver can fail unexpectedly and show no visible sign of damage. Line power to the compactor is usually suspected to be a factor when drivers fail. While the power enclosure includes components such as a noise filter, breaker switch, and fuses, a surge in line voltage will be felt by the drivers.
As a power surge approaches 115% of normal voltage, the drivers shut down and all motors will be inoperable. This situation results in error codes when attempting to park the machine. Often, a one-time surge is remedied by turning off power for about 15 to 20 seconds and then restarting the machine.
Voltage surges at the driver boards can be compared to cannon balls hitting a castle wall. The size of the ball determines if damage can be done. Then, the number of hits also becomes a factor. With enough hits of sufficient energy, the wall will eventually be breached.
This is also true of the drivers in your compactor. There have been occasions where we saw evidence of damage to the circuit board such as burn marks or cracked/split voltage regulators, but not always. There have also been situations where a single board has failed and one or both of the others fail shortly afterward. One can only speculate that the cumulative effect of numerous voltage surges is responsible.
What does Pine Recommend?
- When your compactor is in use, Pine recommends a line conditioner between the machine and the power outlet. The cost of this device is a small fraction of the cost of a single driver, let alone all three plus the cost of downtime and an interruption to paving operations.
- If your machine is not being used for an extended period of time, turn it off and unplug it. This is especially true if electrical storms may be in your local weather forecast. With the G1 and G2, nothing is gained by leaving the machine plugged in. If you would like to keep the control electronics warm and the machine ready during the day, engage the emergency stop button. This cuts power to most of the circuitry in the power enclosure, providing at least some degree of protection while reducing power consumption and eliminating the hissing sound. Release the button and you’re ready to go.
- If your equipment is running on generator power or you have continuous trouble parking it, measure line voltage periodically.
- Where can I get a line conditioner? Line conditioners are available in hardware stores, department stores, online, and from Pine among other places. Our part number is RANLC12. It includes a circuit breaker for some degree of over-current protection.
- What are the specifications? For the G1 and G2, you need a 1200 watt model. You may also see this written as 1200 V-A, for volt-amps.
- Will this provide 100% protection? No, it will not. But, short of keeping the machine unplugged, a line conditioner is a good line of defense. Compare it to an athlete wearing protecting equipment or padding, or the use of seat belts and air bags in a vehicle. Over the long term, a line conditioner will likely pay for itself.
- Do I need a line conditioner for my other Pine gyros? Most devices downstream of a line conditioner will benefit from extra protection against voltage surges. However, compared to the 120 volt G1 and G2, Pine’s database has far fewer similar incidents involving 208 or 240 volt power. Thus, the AFG2B, AFG1C, and AFG2C are believed to have a lower risk. The Pine AFGB1 “Brovold” and AFGC125X “Big Pine” compactors have AC motors, so a line conditioner is not appropriate.
- Is it too late to bother since I’ve been using my gyro without a line conditioner for years? There is no simple means that we are aware of to determine if damage has been done, reducing the life expectancy of electronic components. Nonetheless, belated protection is believed to be better than none at all.
- What do other customers say? An email from a customer after reading an email notice similar to what you just read said, “We have been using one for years on our 2 Pine SGC’s and it has eliminated most of our operational issues. We even started putting these conditioners on other equipment and it has helped tremendously.” Note that for other equipment, you may need a device with a different rating.