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Thread: VBM domobar Jr after 8 years - and some Questions on upgrades

  1. #1
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    VBM domobar Jr after 8 years - and some Questions on upgrades

    My service history:

    Year 1-2: no issues
    Year 3: Pressure switch replaced (mater) ($300)
    Year 4: service plus new boiler element (blown) $400
    Year 5: service plus boiler descale ($250)
    Year 6: service plus new vibe pump (ulka) ($380)
    Year 7: solid state relay replaced ($340)
    Year 8: new control unit ($TBC - probably $500ish???)

    (service items include things like valves, gaskets, seals, probes, shower screen, etc. which are done as required)
    Prices include labour which is often at least 50% of the repair/service cost.

    Questions:
    I notice many of my problems might be heat related; melted parts and wiring are common sights. Right now i have a melted control unit.

    1) I've seen photos of the VBM Jr with a heat-wrapped boiler - Is this something I should do?
    2) In later years VBM updated the mater pressure stat to a parker, then a sirai. Is the parker upgrade something I should do? Is it an easy swap?
    3) I've seen differences in control boards. The factory Pro.el.ind control unit has a replacement made by Gicar (though im unsure if this is available in 240v). Is this an upgrade?
    4) Are there any other improvements (including DIY hacks) that can be made to this machine? Better ventilation - better acousitc dampening or water res

    Overall I think it's been a good machine but there are possibly a couple of design flaws that were rectified in later iterations of the design. Mine is the earliest model.

    I am considering an upgrade to a bigger more robust machine (eg vbm super) though not sure if that would save money in the long run - any thoughts/advice??

    Cheers
    Sam

  2. #2
    Rbn
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    I am intrigued. Will be interested in replies. It seems like a lot of repairs and maintenance.

  3. #3
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    Wow, I've been lucky, mine is the same age, I have good water and use a Brita filter, so have not needed a descale. Apart replacing the pressurestat and pump (failures) I've only ever needed general service items.

    How much use/ how long each day is your machine on for? Mine is on for 1 -1 1/2 hours twice a day and depending on weekends I pull 16-20 pours a week.

    Were these items causing problems or 'identified' at service? (over servicing?)

  4. #4
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    (Sorry - forgot to mentuion costs are in $NZ )
    I replaced the brew level control unit myself ($280) and took the opportunity to apply heat-sheild wrap to some of the nearby pipes and the boiler.


    My machine is on a timer and approx 1hr on weekdays making 1-2 coffees, then on weekends its on for 4-5 hours and makes about 4 coffees.

    Each time i took it in for a service was because there was a problem - eg machine wouldn't heat up, or steam was leaking from valve, or machine not turning on.
    We have soft water in the north of NZ (rain-sourced) so nobody I know even uses filters. The boiler descale was more of a precaution and it didnt reveal a signficant amount of scale buildup. There were a number of symptoms that prompted me to get it serviced and descaled at that time - from memory the steam from the want began to have a chemical smell - i think the relay or one of the valves was stuck open and allowed certain things to get too hot, possibly burning some of the coffee or milk residue in the system (I forget the details).

  5. #5
    Senior Member CafeLotta's Avatar
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    What is the stability/reliability of your power supply like? Maybe some protection on your outlet needed?
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  6. #6
    Mal Dimal's Avatar
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    Always a good idea 'CL'...

    Everything in our house is protected and so far (after nearly 20 years at this address), we've had no failures due to electronic issues (touch wood - don't want to tempt fate)...

    Mal.
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  7. #7
    Senior Member CafeLotta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dimal View Post
    Everything in our house is protected and so far (after nearly 20 years at this address), we've had no failures due to electronic issues.
    Same here.

    A few years back we had a massive failure of a pole transformer nearby that had the street lines arcing. The smell of ozone in the air was quite amazing! Luckily we had no damage.
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by CafeLotta View Post
    What is the stability/reliability of your power supply like? Maybe some protection on your outlet needed?
    I'm not really sure - haven't had any obvious issues with other appliances in either of my houses. We do get the occassional power cut in Auckland. Are espresso machines particularly sensitive to poor quality power?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dimal
    Everything in our house is protected and so far (after nearly 20 years at this address), we've had no failures due to electronic issues
    How do you protect things? Simple surge/spike protector, or a proper UPS/battery system?


    Do commercial machines have more robust electronic parts? I'm looking at one across the room now (la scala eroica) with no surge protector attached.

  9. #9
    Mal Dimal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skelly View Post
    How do you protect things? Simple surge/spike protector, or a proper UPS/battery system?
    Yep, all these and more, depending on the equipment being protected.

    Quote Originally Posted by skelly View Post
    Do commercial machines have more robust electronic parts? I'm looking at one across the room now (la scala eroica) with no surge protector attached.
    I guess they would be somewhat more robust than a standard appliance device but still not immune from a range of electrical "issues" that may be present (from the local grid) from time to time and of course, weather related phenomena. If one lives close by to an industrial area or large plant, additional protection would be an excellent idea.
    Some of the electronics (black boxes) I've repaired would not stand up to industrial quality scrutiny and quite a few (even current models) use pretty outdated designs given what is available today. Always best to play it safe with any electronics in the home...

    Mal.

  10. #10
    Senior Member CafeLotta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skelly View Post
    Are espresso machines particularly sensitive to poor quality power?
    No more so than any other "appliance" I'd say. With the list of electrical/electronic items that have been replaced as well as your comment about "melted" parts & wiring, some form of power supply protection might be warranted.

    Maybe contact a different service centre for their opinion? A new service person might provide fresh insights?

    Others here may be able to comment as to whether heat could cause the damage you describe. Its possible heat caused some initial damage leading to an electrical short & cascading failures over time.

    Quote Originally Posted by skelly View Post
    How do you protect things? Simple surge/spike protector, or a proper UPS/battery system?
    Surge/spike protection is probably a good start. Do some research. As far as I recall, response time to a surge or spike is important. No use paying for protection that doesn't do the job.
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  11. #11
    Mal Dimal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CafeLotta View Post
    Surge/spike protection is probably a good start. Do some research. As far as I recall, response time to a surge or spike is important. No use paying for protection that doesn't do the job.
    No need to get involved with the technicalities too much, canvas a couple of specialist suppliers, describe what you're wanting to protect and stick with well known manufacturers such as Belkin, for example...

    Mal.

  12. #12
    Senior Member CafeLotta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skelly View Post
    How do you protect things? Simple surge/spike protector, or a proper UPS/battery system?
    This may be of interest with some background information re: Surge Protection.

    https://www.abtechnologies.com.au/un...ge-protection/

    One option is Belkin, as previously mentioned. Check that rating is suitable for intended use - eg. 1600 watt element in Vibiemme Junior should probably use at least 10Amp rated surge protector.

    http://www.belkin.com/au/Products/Po...9C03671F8A158/

    Another alternative is https://www.thortechnologies.com.au/?v=6cc98ba2045f

    Weighing up cost of protection v repair is a personal decision obviously!

    PS - I noticed there has been no mention of the type of usage the machine has had? How many coffees a day? Is it left powered on all day?
    Last edited by CafeLotta; 23rd December 2017 at 08:36 PM.
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  13. #13
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    ^^^ Hi, useage was mentioned in original post- 1 or 2 coffees a day and a few extra on weekends.

    This is just an update of my running tally of repairs as I think it helps to know the long-term usage scenarios)


    Year 1-2: no issues
    Year 3: Pressure switch replaced (mater) ($300)
    Year 4: service plus new boiler element (blown) $400
    Year 5: service plus boiler descale ($250)
    Year 6: service plus new vibe pump (ulka) ($380)
    Year 7: solid state relay replaced ($340)
    Year 8: new control unit ($400) - replaced this myself.
    Year 9: blown solid state relay ($350) plus is due for a full service ($350)

    At this point the repair shop has advised that the age of the machine (upon inspection of boiler and other critical parts) is approaching the end of its economic life.
    Relays, elements, etc work together so when one fails it can cause issues with other components.
    Value of repair probably exceeds value of the machine at this point.

    Repair of these machines is quite expensive for a domestic user; labour rates are around $150/hour currently.
    For a new machine I have been advised to allow $350ish per year for servicing in future. The shop tech concedes this is a substantial amount for a domestic user. I might look for a new machine that's particularly easy to self-service and/or very reliable generally.

    Reminder this is $NZD and we have 15% gst)
    The nature of the repairs seems straight forward enough and the parts are readily available and not crazy expensive ....but my problem is I can't (/not willing to) diagnose issues on my own.

  14. #14
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    Hi Mal.
    I added a small 'surge guard' to my power output. It never tripped during my time using it, so I'm unsure if it was effective. I didnt try the whole UPS approach as that's not practical in my small kitchen.
    Cheers,

  15. #15
    Senior Member Lyrebird's Avatar
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    Having just repaired / refurbished one of these things (also about 8 years old) I'll jump in.

    IMO many of your problems could be related to the fact that everything is crammed into a very small space and consequently gets pretty hot.

    I made a boiler blanket from high temperature silicone foam and it seems to reduce the heat loss greatly. Whether it materially affects reliability I'll know in about 8 years.

    BTW I also rewired / rerouted the boiler fill sensor ground wire: the stock configuration (plain PVC insulated wire right on top of the boiler with no standoff) is just plain bad design. I replaced it with high temperature (ECTFE insulated) wire on a 10mm standoff (enough to get it to the outside of the blanket).
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  16. #16
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    Good points - I've noticed some of the wires are touching very hot parts - and cracking a bit.
    Last year I wrapped my boiler with exhaust heat wrap - this was after my control board was replaced, and the old one completely melted. It was an easy job that makes me wonder why it's not done at the factory- cost?

  17. #17
    Senior Member CafeLotta's Avatar
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    Sounds like trapped heat as well as wires exposed to excessive heat are a known issue to those in the game. This would more likely be the culprit rather than spikes as far as control board failure goes. Failures at approx 5 years "normal" use seems to be common, probably due to these heat issues.

    This is from a previous thread on the Vibiemme Domobar Jr discussing some issues similar to the ones in this thread-

    "When people ask me why we won’t sell it anymore they get this: We dropped it from range: Impossible to change the anti-vac and safety valve. That ground wire on the steam boiler exposed to ~123C goes crisp and results in overfills due to massive resistance. Live wires around potential water vapour. Excess heat cooks control boards. Boiler out services inevitably result in $$$$ repairs at 5 years. Refused to sell them unless VBM does something."


  18. #18
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    In more than 30 years, we've had one surge to our electricity supply in Melbourne, and that was almost 30 years ago. It happened after a blackout when power was restored. And it only affected a 20 amp fuse on the 3-phase supply for the air conditioner. Nothing else damaged.

    I could be wrong, but the ubiquitous surge protector boards seen in every hardware shop, while cheap and cheap insurance I guess, are pretty much superfluous, and the faults with appliances comes not from surges but cheaply-made circuit boards with dry solder joints and cheap components.

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