Everything for Electronics

Tech Forum Questions

Battery Woes 2020 Issue-4

I have some brand new lead-acid batteries that have never been used. They have been stored in my garage for a while (1-1/2 to 2 yrs). My smart charger errors and won’t charge them. Why is this and is there anything that can be done to revive them?

Reva Pino
Charlotte, NC

Capacitor P&Cs 2020 Issue-4

What are the pros and cons for using electrolytic capacitors in a voltage divider circuit to provide about 24 volts AC to a heater cable from the 120 volt AC line?

Is there a possibility of having a capacitor explode from overheating? If so, could that be prevented by stringing several capacitors in parallel to provide for additional heat dissipation?

Robert Gotts
Madison, IN

Temperature Sensing LEDs 2020 Issue-4

I’m looking for a temperature sensing circuit that will light each of three LEDs at approximately 80°F, 90°F, and 100°F.

Matthew Seltzer
via Internet

Fan Indicator 2020 Issue-4

Good day to all you experts!  I have a plywood basement floor that is suspended like any other floor in the house (bentonite soil in my area requires this construction). The actual dirt ground is about two feet below the wood floor, covered by a rubber tarp.

To prevent a build-up of mold and stale air, this space has a 6” duct vent fan that turns on via a humidity sensor rheostat. The supply side duct is on one side of my basement and the evacuation duct is on the other.

In the past, I could hear this fan running, so I knew when the bearings were wearing out. It was an easy job to buy a new duct fan and replace it. We just had our basement finished, putting drywall around the perimeter wall. Now I can no longer hear this fan when it kicks on.

Does anybody have a suggestion for some sort of sensor that detects when the fan is turned on by the humidity sensor but drawing too large of a current supply, so on the verge of bearing failure? Ideally, I would like some sort of an indicator light that I can make part of the access panel that is over the fan. Even an AC ammeter movement would be adequate.

At the location of the fan, I have both the switched 120 VAC power supply and a constant 120 VAC available if needed. I don’t have the specifications on this exact fan available, but a quick search online found several that had operating currents of 0.35-0.40 amps. I know the start-up amps would be a little higher but not too much because the motor is small and has very little inertia to overcome. Thank you for any suggestions!

Bill Young
Denver, CO

Component Footprints 2020 Issue-4

Can someone please explain the standards for the footprint of electronic components? I’m trying to figure out the the best way to lay things out on a circuit board. I’m new at this and any advice would be appreciated.

James Devera
Scandinavia, WI

Electronic Candle Circuit 2020 Issue-3

I’m looking for a simple circuit for a 24 hour electronic candle that uses very little power. The candle would drive a single LED. It would run for x hours (say five), then turn off; 24 hours after it  has first activated, it would automatically turn back on for the predefined time.

I've found several ideas, but most of them surrounded the 555 chip which has a very limited time frame.

Scott Lapp
Simi Valley, CA

Home Circuit Boards 2020 Issue-3

Does anyone still make oneoff circuit boards at home? What methods are being used by hobbyists and where do you get supplies?

Alvaro Collazo
Gulfport, MS

Transformer 2020 Issue-3

How do I calculate the number of turns for both the primary and the secondary windings of a transformer?

Ibadan, Oyo

Model Train Controller 2020 Issue-3

My son has recently become a model train enthusiast and asked me how to control multiple trains on the same track. Is it possible and how would one go about building a controller?

Paul Sills
Grand Rapids, MI


To do what you want you will need to use the system called DCC. To see an explanation of how it works, see Practical Electronics, Jan 2021 where they show (on page28) how the voltage going to the tracks is encoded with digital control information as well as being the power source for all the trains and other equipment controlled by the system.

I suggest reading the magazine at a book sellers place while enjoying a drink because the magazine costs $12. I would not suggest building the circuit when similar factory built units are available, because the blank circuit board is 12 Pounds each plus VAT and shipping from GB.

Amazon lists a DCC controller called NCE PROCAB #5240010 which looks like a large TV remote with a display that can control your whole layout. This equipment is not cheap.

A review of the Bachmann HO scale "ChargerSC-44" diesel locomotive with AmTrack Cascades 1400 paint as shown in Model Railroad News, May 2021 is pretty favorable. It is part #67904 MSRP $469 from Bachmann Trains. 800 356 3910 https://bachmanntrains.com Also check out Walthers 800 487 2467 https://www.walthers.com for some less expensive models.

I hope this will be useful and get you started in the right direction.

Dale Freye
via internet

You and your son are in luck, controlling multiple trains on the same track is a problem already solved with Digital Command Control (DCC). The beauty of using DCC is that the National Model Railroad Association (NMRA) has a series of electrical standards that define the signal between the transmitter (known as the command station) and the receiver (known as the decoder). The NMRA  published the first of the DCC standards (see https://www.nmra.org/index-nmra-standards-and-recommended-practice) 20 years ago, so these standards are well established and stable.

There are multiple manufactures of DCC systems. Each system has a command station to create the signal and a booster to amplify the signal that is sent out over the rails. The manufacturers differ in the manner they input the user signal into the command station, via a throttle (also called a cab), since this in not covered by the NMRA standard. 

A decoder is placed in each locomotive. There are also multiple manufactures of decoders. Compliance with the NMRA standard allows any manufacturer’s decoder to correctly interpret any manufacturer’s DCC signal. Should you wish to purchase a “starter set”, my advice is to avoid over-researching, since given the time-honored DCC standards, there are no “bad” systems on the market. Rather, find a neighbor, friend, or local model railroad group that is willing to assist, then purchase whatever DCC system they are using.

Being a Nuts and Volts reader, you have other options to explore. Type “DYI DCC” your browser’s search. You will find numerous variations using an Arduino or Raspberry Pi to provide the signal while an old computer running a Java-based cross-platform program, JMRI (see  https://www.jmri.org), provides all interface. If your son’s locomotives do not have a manufacture installed decoder, he will be able to learn advanced soldering skills.

In summary – Jump into Digital Command Control and get much more out of the hobby than you and your son originally expected.

Dick Schwanke
Model Train Controller

There is a model train system called DCC where electronics in the train engine are controlled by a wireless remote control. Multiple trains can be controlled for speed, lights, horns, smoke etc. Visit a good hobby shop that has a train section or search online.

Richard Cox
Thousand Oaks, CA

What you're probably looking for is DCC (Digital Command Control) technology. I use the Digitrax system for my layout. There are also a few DIY projects out there: https://dccwiki.com/DCC_Projects.

The simplest explanation for this is each loco has a unique decoder embedded inside. The tracks are always energized and commands are sent along the tracks from the controller, causing the recipient loco to execute that command. Good luck!

Michael Picco
Placerville, CA

Amplifier For VHF TV 2020 Issue-3

I have a rather complicated TV reception system. I have four antennas all successfully combined into one by using modules to convert the RF signal to VHF siganls. What I am lacking is a constant input for all signals into the combiner.

I would like to take signals from 54-216 MHz with 1-8 dBmV input and put out 18-25 dBmV with as little noise as possible. It would be great if I could clamp all signals to 25 dBmV.

Howard Epstein
Gilford, NH


The Televes Avant X would be an ideal solution for that situation. The Avant X is pretty much an MATV headend in-a-box. It is a filter > processor > amplifier allowing to individually filter RF multiplexes coming from up to four different antennas, automatically adjusts the levels individually for a balanced response, and even allows to frequency-shift when needed if two same RF frequencies are coming in from two different markets.

On top of that it doubles as a launch amplifier with a programmable output level between 30 and 55dBmV.

Javier Ruano
Denver, CO

Page 1 of 40 pages  1 2 3 >  Last ›