Friday, March 15, 2013

Powered On: To Leave or Not to Leave?

One question comes up quite frequently for all espresso machines....

Can I or should I leave my espresso machine powered on all day?

 As an attorney would answer, it depends. First and foremost, if the machine does not have an automatic water refill relay (this is the electronics usually found on a heat exchanger machine or double boiler machine and also known as motherboard or brain unit), the machine should be turned off when not in use. These machines are typically those that have a separate button/switch to get to steam mode.

The reason is that although there is water in the machine's reservoir, this does not mean the internal boiler is filled. Now, some may argue that after making an espresso or running water through the steam wand, the boiler is filled. This is true. However, if the machine was left on in steam mode or if the machine has an overpressure valve (OPV) that leaks from limescale build up, the internal boiler will eventually run dry. When the internal boiler runs dry, the heating element is no longer submerged in water, and it can start to melt down. This becomes a costly repair, which usually is not covered under any manufacturer's warranty.

On machines that have the automatic water refill relay, one can leave the machine powered on all day and night. However, one needs to keep in mind the following:

a) Wear & Tear - All electrical components will have more wear and tear as the machine has to cycle on/off to maintain temperature. The portafilter gasket will dry rot faster due to the heat, and
b) Electrical Usage - Typically, energy savings is achieved when an espresso machine is powered on all day as there is more energy usage powering a unit from a cold state to a fully heated state. 110 volt espresso machines are less efficient than 220 volt espresso machines, and
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c) Electrical Spikes - 110 volt espresso machines are more susceptible to voltage spikes and surges than 220 volt machines. Powering off the 110 volt espresso machines makes it less likely of damage to an espresso machines terminal block, power switch, wiring, heating element, and/or auto water refill relay when the machine is powered off, and
d) Limescale - Some believe there is less limescale build up in an espresso machine that is powered on all day, and there are reports that one can find more build up on an espresso machine that is powered on/off everyday. We have yet to find conclusive evidence to support either argument.

Our opinion... we prefer that all day capable espresso machines in a home environment be powered off when not in use or not used within 2 hours. In an office or commercial environment, our opinion is that the machine be powered off at the end of the day and restarted at the beginning of the day. The only case where a machine should be powered on all day is if the espresso machine has night cycle programming to reduce power consumption.

What is your opinion?

In all cases, a surge suppressor (not a GFI outlet) with a rating of 1080 joules or higher should be installed on the outlet. The suppressor should also have an indicator to notify you when the suppressor is failing and needs to be replaced. One quality brand we sell is made made by Panamax. They have 15 and 20 amp versions.


David said...

I think it depends on the machine and its intended use. Just my two-cents, but I am a certified espresso machine tech, and we tell our retail customers (note: retail) NOT to turn off their machines. Reason being that metal does not like to be turned on and off. The metal expands and contracts when it is hot and cold. We have had a lot of cafes report flooding only in the morning when they open. This is because the group-heads leak when they contract under the cold because of loose seals (caused by the cold and aging o-rings) between the o-rings and the boiler/group. That being said, I have a Silvia and only keep it on for a half hour to an hour at a time. Really just depends on what type of machine you have and the environment.

Timothy Giordano said...

I used to turn my Elektra A3 off every night; however, after a recent repair I decided to see what the difference was of leaving it on all the time. It does get used every day. There is no longer the wait time to heat up the machine. I found that the machine seems to run better and I also noticed no change in my electricity usage over the past 2 months. It all depends on the machine and its usage.