Jump to content
gbigs

Cellular Power Plug Control

Recommended Posts

This affects all of us who need and/or have engine block heaters for our planes.  Does anyone know of a non GSM cell phone activated power outlet device?  The idea is to be able to call and turn on the power remotely ahead of getting to the airport and get a text message confirmation that it worked.  GSM is being yanked next year so any non 3G or 4G device is useless now.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We got the U Phone It 4G.  It is made in the USA and is industrial quality.  The SwitchBox has no customer support and could not answer any quesions unless by email...we found out it's made in China and that is why you can't get one without a big lead time...it also has questionable warranty support. 

 

The 4G Regal is made by the same company that makes the U Phone It which is purchased on Aircraft Spruce site.

 

The device will allow up to two engines to be heated.  It recieves and sends SMS text messages via the cell system.  One mode allows the unit to turn on/off each of the plugs using just a text message and return a text status message.  Another mode has a stored program in the unit that can be set with a delayed start and run time and is activated via a cell phone call.  The unit will allow up to 1000w per plug which is double what is needed to run the Cirrrus Tanis built-in heater.  The device ships with both an iPhone and Android ap that will create the text command strings for you.

 

The unit is $292 and and ships with a free quarter of phone service and a sim card.  the fee to get phone service for it is $10 a quarter.

 

We were told that leaving heat on all night is not advised (about 6 hours max) as constant low level heat will corrode the block over time.  So this solution allows the right amount of Tanis time when it is actually needed a few hours before flight time.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Your experience with Switchbox service is not the same as mine although it has been a couple of years since I needed to call.

What you describe operationally is exactly like mine although the max is 1500 watts for both connections. (Most plug in circuits can only handle 1500.)

I use one for my engine heater (Rieff) and the other for a small space heater I put in the cabin. I turn on the engine heater a number of hours ahead of time and the space heater when I am on my way to the hangar.

Glad you could find something built here.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Look up thermo cube on web the device turns on when temps get cold you can get them to come

on when its between 20 to 30 and 30 to 40 order what ever you need $16 2 devices can be plugged in,

 I have one for my CT

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have had great support from Phil at Switchbox. I bought my unit used a few years ago and Phil had no problem helping me with questions.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Look up thermo cube on web the device turns on when temps get cold you can get them to come

on when its between 20 to 30 and 30 to 40 order what ever you need $16 2 devices can be plugged in,

 I have one for my CT

 

A device like this will run too long and and too often when you are not going to fly.  You should only heat the engine 6 hours before flying. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sounds interesting, but in my case it would be on all winter. The high today is going to be 3F. Colder later in the week.

 

Yes. I have heard when temps are extreme damage can happen just sitting (as is true in Alaska).  And the heat is needed all the time.  I am in Reno so we get 20f temps at night and 40-50 during the day.  So we didn't want to keep the heat on all the time.  Esp. since Continental and Cirrus said not to heat constantly because it may produce corrosion.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Not quite as cold in the hangar and I have never heard anything about corrosion issues in a 912. Maybe a difference in technology.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Not quite as cold in the hangar and I have never heard anything about corrosion issues in a 912. Maybe a difference in technology.

 

The corrosion happens inside the engine on the cams and other steel components.  The heat is low and can cause moisture to condense on the steel parts that may not be hot enough to evaporate the water.  The subject is controverial.  But I presume the Rotax engine is just as prone to this possiblility as the other aircraft engine makes. 

 

Given the expense of the plane I did not want to tempt fate and find out later the 'heat before use' crowd were right and the 'heat all the time guys' were wrong.  So we invested in the more expensive cellphone solution so we could set the timer and heat the engine (it is hangared) the recommended amount of time before flight.   We are also told not to let the engine sit unheated more than 15 minutes before starting and to turn the prop (this is done anyway on Rotax) a few times to get the oil circulating a bit before starting on such cold morning.

 

Cirrus in Minnesota has a lot of planes outside so they leave the heat on all night with a blanket over the cowling before each flight.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just so you know I have a lot of relatives in Duluth and have been there many times. I have also lived just outside of Grand Forks, ND where the airframes are built.

It is colder in ND (where I live) than MN. Duluth has the benefit of heat from Lake Superior.

Actually we are considerably colder, on average, than most of coastal Alaska.

Yeah, I use a Tanis blanket to cover my engine, even in the hangar.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I made a blanket out of a hot water heater insulating cover works great

with a light bulb

I used to use a cargo blanket until I found someone getting rid of a Tanis. Don't know that it is that much better, especially in the hangar.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

However long you heat your engine, make sure it is long enough to get the oil warm. It's very easy to heat the engine for a short time, enough to get the cylinders warm enough to start, but not long enough to free up the oil in the tank or sump if you have an engine with a sump.

 

When I lived in Fairbanks I had a tie down with electric (very few private plane owners in Alaska have the luxury of a hangar). I would cut off my flying at -30F without a really good reason. A minus 20F cut off for my tastes was actually preferred but sometimes you could go weeks on end without warming up to that temperature.

 

Anyway, at those temperatures I would switch on the heat the evening before and that would do the job. That's with a custom fitted insulated cowl cover. And wing covers, windshield cover, and tail covers. PITA!! But, winter flying on a clear day was some of the best ever. Clear and a million. Usually no turbulence and usually an inversion that made the temperature 15-20 degrees warmer a couple of thousand feet up.

 

Now days the temperatures in Alaska are not as severe for as long a period as they used to be. Usually.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So I believe that this has affected my setup. What is the solution??? Is a different SIM card a solution or do i need a new switch box compatible with this new network?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Mine is still working. Did you check the T Mobile site? I wouldn't think their coverage has gotten smaller, and you don't need 4G to run your Switchbox.

Check Switchbox's site for a link to the T Mobile map, and ask them your question.

Did you go beyond the six months and let your SIM card expire?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So I believe that this has affected my setup. What is the solution??? Is a different SIM card a solution or do i need a new switch box compatible with this new network?

 

GSM is being discontinued as of Jan 1.  You should either get a new U-Phone-It or a Switchbox that has 4g.   Even the older 2g nets are going away.   Btw.  The U-Phone-It is a fantastic device...We have been using it for a month now and it is bullet-proof.  And it's a little cheaper than the Switchbox.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My sim plan is through Truphone. Has worked perfectly until the new year. I was using a homemade relay that can handle the higher load for a heater since the switch that I have would not handle it. I'm just wondering if the switchbox and uphoneit are the only options or if others have found something else?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My sim plan is through Truphone. Has worked perfectly until the new year. I was using a homemade relay that can handle the higher load for a heater since the switch that I have would not handle it. I'm just wondering if the switchbox and uphoneit are the only options or if others have found something else?

 

The sim card is just your phone number and your ID for the network it is loaded for....The only two units that are available with 4g are Switchbox (1 device) and U-Phone-It (2 devices). Switchbox is ordered from Switchbox, U-Phone-It is available at Aircraft Spruce.  U-Phone-iT sold by Aircraft Spruce and Specialty | FS Tech LLC

 

Each comes with a T-Mobil sim card preloaded with $10 bucks worth of text messages (each message is $.10 cents).  There are iPhone apps for each of them that do the text strings for you, but we just send the text commands directly in a text message.  A text command will often require a response from the unit so each command results in $20 cents worth of messaging. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×