flashing green lights on home base and charger

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flashing green lights on home base and charger

Postby linyakov » December 25th, 2009, 9:15 am

Since getting my 500 series robot several months ago I have had continual problems with charging it. The company has already sent me 3 new batteries and a new roomba and now they want me to return everything! What has happened is that intermittently the green lights on the charger and the home base will flash green which I know now it is not supposed to do if it is charging correctly. Eventually the roomba would go back to pulsing orange and then eventually lose its charge altogether. Now I am finding if I plug and un plug the current roomba the lights will become solid again and continue to charge. The last tech told me the problem is that I shouldn't be leaving my roomba plugged in and on the base all the time (the manual says exactly the opposite)

At this moment as I write it is peacefully charging with all green lights solid. I would love to figure out how to fix this myself so I don't need to send it back and wait again for new parts that still might not work properly. Or if you think the proplem is just in the charger maybe I should just but a new charger?
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Re: flashing green lights on home base and charger

Postby Gordon » December 25th, 2009, 3:57 pm

A flashing pilot LED on the PSU (charging power supply) indicates the PSU is struggling with an overload situation. Internally, it turns ON and presents its output dc-voltage to the 'load' (the Home Base + Roomba), and when the load draws no more than ~1.3 amperes the PSU remains happy.

When the load draws excessive current, the PSU's circuit responds by lowering its output voltage as it goes into a reset cycle. It automatically comes out of that reset and raises its output voltage as if no problem exists. If the fault current remains, the reset cycle repeats at the rate you see that PSU's green LED flashing.

The over-current fault may be within the PSU, or the Home Base, or Roomba (or even a combination thereof). While there was a common fault in 2004 vintage 4XXX-Discovery PSUs that made thousands flash their LEDs, there has been no hint of a similar rash of 5XX-PSU failures.

A non-technical Roomba owner, and one also lacking basic electrical measuring equipment, who becomes faced with this train of flashing LEDs has only substitution tactics at had to help localize the fault area. One sub-tactic of that substitution process is to substitute nothing for non-essential items within the 'charging train'. The only non-essential item is the Home Base.

When faced with a charging problem, the Home Base should be disconnected and set aside until the basic series of PSU+Roomba_controller+Battery can be verified to pass current through the battery. linyakov, by plugging the PSU's powered pigtail connector into the side charging jack on your Roomba you can identify the Home Base as suspect by noting whether the PSU's LED holds steady ON. Then, following that, if the robot's Power button does its amber pulsing for two to three hours, followed by switching to green, and followed by Roomba being able to do a meaningful cleaning mission, you will have verified the robot's charging-controller section, the PSU, and the battery are all workable.

You might try that to see what happens.

It might be useful if you could elaborate a bit on this statement of yours:
linyakov wrote:...What has happened is that intermittently the green lights on the charger and the home base will flash green which I know now it is not supposed to do...
Essentially, what is meant by "intermittently"? Is it ON/OFF during a specific charging episode? Or does it pertain to happenstance interrupted charging within any one of a series of charging attempts? That sort of thing.
linyakov wrote:...the roomba would go back to pulsing orange and then eventually lose its charge altogether.
That behavior does not bode well for the robot, however, since two robots have been testeed, I tend to discount that threat.
linyakov wrote:...I am finding if I plug and un plug the current roomba the lights will become solid again and continue to charge.
Two Qs: Do you find that charging actually followed? Is it correct to assume that the "plug and un plug" action was at the PSU to Home Base interface?
linyakov wrote:...The last tech told me the problem is that I shouldn't be leaving my roomba plugged in and on the base all the time (the manual says exactly the opposite)
Both sources can be correct when properly qualified. Here are ways to consider those statements:

1) Don't leave on base (HB) continuously: Battery life may be reduced when extended trickle-charging (maintenance-charging) results in adding excess charge to a fully charged battery. There is no (easy) way to determine whether that may be happening, but, a robot that is not frequently sent on mission, say only once every two to four weeks, could be a subject of damaging over-charge.

2) Do leave on base (HB) continuously: Battery life is not threatened so long as Roomba is run on missions frequently, say, several time per week. Fundamentally you want to: high-rate charge the battery, then let it trickle-charge for some (unknown) period while several things are accomplished, and then the battery should be used for the work intended, followed by repeating the cycle. If an owner does not adhere to that regimen there could be early battery trouble. Here is a post that attempts to address the cause:
viewtopic.php?p=70566#p70566

iRobot apparently believes frequent use to be Roomba's M.O., because the Company semi-sealed the battery under each 5XX-model's bolt-on bottom-cover, thus preventing easy battery disconnect to prevent the robot's "phantom" current draw from draining a battery that is disconnected from a charger.

Nor will it do, to just disconnect the PSU from the charging setup. Here's a post which estimates what will happen:
viewtopic.php?p=69131#p69131

A 5XX-Roomba owner who plans on not using his/her robot for a couple weeks or more, may very well extend battery life by disconnecting the battery for that away period.

I'm wondering...
linyakov wrote:...At this moment as I write it is peacefully charging with all green lights solid....
...did the battery actually get charged?
Last edited by Gordon on December 25th, 2009, 7:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: flashing green lights on home base and charger

Postby linyakov » December 25th, 2009, 5:11 pm

Gordon your response is a wonderful xmas present..thank you!!! I don't have time now to carefully consider all you have said and to respond to some of your questions but your thorough response is what I have been wanting and has been lacking in the tech department. Thank you again for your good help and I will be back tomorrow. Meanwhile I am curious if you area an employee of I robot?
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Re: flashing green lights on home base and charger

Postby vic7767 » December 25th, 2009, 5:43 pm

linyakov wrote:Meanwhile I am curious if you area an employee of I robot?


iRobot can only wish Gordon was/is an employee. If so your Roomba would probably already run better.
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Re: flashing green lights on home base and charger

Postby Gordon » December 25th, 2009, 8:01 pm

linyakov wrote:Gordon your response is a wonderful xmas present..thank you!!!
Great! Glad you like it! Respond at your leisure.
... Meanwhile I am curious if you area an employee of I robot?
No. I just try to figure out what they've done.

That vic7767 is just too kind. Its just not feasible for me to work for the Company... my salary would be so high that it would impact (read as "increase") the selling price of these robots and accessories! In addition, a problem with being paid by an employer is they expect you to do some value-added work!; and, that is work! No can do, I'm retired from work. :-)

(Seriously, I can see that iRobot's designers do a marvelous job in bringing these robots to market, and do so while working against a 'price wall' set by management. I doubt I could add to their capabilities. For the most part I'd be asking questions, such as "Why is this not fixed?". Its quite frustrating and mystifying to see management assign designers to add non-essential goo-gaws to Roomba instead of letting them solve a couple major sore spots that have been with Roomba since its inception).
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Re: flashing green lights on home base and charger

Postby linyakov » December 26th, 2009, 3:22 pm

Hi again Gordon

Although I wished you did work for I robot I totally understand why you wouldn't want to as I also enjoy the benefits of "retirement" and "working" as I choose. Truth is whatever you call it you are performing a great "mitzva" a hebrew word which best describes what you are doing!

OK here is my update which I think will answer the questions you asked. I used the roomba yesterday and then returned it to its home base about 3:00 PM I was home and kept an eye on it and it maintained steady green lights on the home base and the charger until about 7:00 PM when I found it blinking again. I unplugged it for a few minutes then plugged it back in and it remained solid overnight. Then once again early this AM about 8:00 I found it blinking again and I did the same thing and now it has been steady ever since (now 2:00 PM)

In the past I didn't understand that it should not be blinking and at times I would find the roomba had gone from fully charged to orange and the home base and the charger would be blinking. I thought it was because the roomba would lose some battery just standing and was just recharging. Now I am assuming it was because I allowed this to happen that 2 batteries died?

I have been using the roomba at least once a week ..sometimes 2 times, when I do use it I usually recharge at least once on the same day and use it again (I have cleaning days)

One more thing I moved the roomba to another outlet as I thought perhaps that was the problem..but like I said above it has gone into blinking mode two times since then.

I also live in South Florida and sometimes temperature inside can be quite warm (80's) as I don't like AC too much..could this have anything to do with it?

Many many thanks again!! Linda
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Re: flashing green lights on home base and charger

Postby Gordon » December 26th, 2009, 4:02 pm

Linda, this reply must be brief, as I am preparing to leave for an afternoon appt.
linyakov wrote:...Although I wished you did work for I robot ....
If I were an iRobot employee, my lips would be zippered, and there would be no "mitzva"! iRobot has permitted a few employees to communicate to the users' world, and they have tossed out a few crumbs to us. They either do not know the details we required, or they are restricted from going into detail. Certainly, it is reasonable for the Company to hold back all software design particulars.
OK here is my update which I think will answer the questions you asked. I used the roomba yesterday and then returned it to its home base ... kept an eye on it and it maintained steady green lights on the home base and the charger until about 7:00 PM when I found it blinking again. I unplugged it for a few minutes then plugged it back in and it remained solid overnight. Then once again early this AM about 8:00 I found it blinking again and I did the same thing and now it has been steady ever since (now 2:00 PM)
Yes, that answers the 'intermittent' action question, but, it would be nice to know whether that apparently charged battery can carry Roomba through a mission.
... I thought it was because the roomba would lose some battery just standing and was just recharging. ...
I don't know that the charging controller is designed to re-initiate high-rate charging for a battery that decays that much while on trickle charge. The battery is obviously toast under such circumstance, so I can;t imagine the system having been designed to accommodate a duff battery. I would expect an error notice to be issued by a 5XX Roomba.
...I also live in South Florida and sometimes temperature inside can be quite warm (80's) as I don't like AC too much..could this have anything to do with it? ...
Probably not, even though there is little question that higher ambient temperatures can stress electronic parts, especially when adequate cooling of them has not been provided by iRobot, or when an owner exacerbates that condition by allowing a heating source, e.g., sunshine, to bear down on the equipment.

In general, the mfr of electronic products -- such as these robots -- must design them to withstand all normal ranges of temperature, pressure, and humidity.

Gotta go.
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Re: flashing green lights on home base and charger

Postby linyakov » December 26th, 2009, 7:08 pm

Gordon after charging it runs for about 45 minutes. I am now using the original battery that came with my roomba and this is the run time it always had. My first call to tech support was to ask them why this time was short and that is when they sent me my first new battery ...then when that failed another. I had meanwhile charged and saved this first one for an extra so now I am using it again.

I also meant to tell you that when the green lights are flashing it doesn't matter if I plug the charger directly into the roomba or if I use the home base either way the lashing continues on the charger (and the home base if I use it)

Uh oh as I am writing this my roomba just talked to me and said there was a charging error .....it says "charging error # 5." I had this once before awhile back and forgot to mention as it never happened again

Have I given enough clues to the problem? I will also look in the manual and see what that error means
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Re: flashing green lights on home base and charger

Postby mfortuna » December 26th, 2009, 10:35 pm

A little bit off topic but I know a couple engineers that came out of retirement to work part time. I wouldn't mind doing that in the not so distant future.
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Re: flashing green lights on home base and charger

Postby Gordon » December 26th, 2009, 10:55 pm

linyakov wrote:Gordon after charging it runs for about 45 minutes. I am now using the original battery that came with my roomba and this is the run time it always had. ...
Since iRobot is providing several different batteries (colors, capacities, and two chemistries) with Roomba shipments and for replacement batteries, it is essential to announce battery-capacity data for each battery under discussion. For example, if this 45-mins run-time battery has a capacity of 1800mAh (a value posted by other members) then that running time may be expected. This is based on an assumed 2 ampere (2000mA) operating current that the robot requires: dividing 1800mAh by 2000mA gives 0.9, or about 90% of what is needed to run for an hour, so 45mins/60mins = 0.75, or 75% is in the ball park. However, if your battery is yellow and rated at 3000mAh, which theoretically, and under some assumptions, should provide a 3000mAh/2000mA = 1.5 hours of run-time, then that #1 battery is not doing well.

Look at your three batteries, note the color of the shrink-wrap encasing them, see if they have a side label thet looks like this (notice the 2200mAh "capacity" indicated at lower right on this label):
Image
Report the findings, then we'll be better informed and more able to guess about battery performance.
... when the green lights are flashing it doesn't matter if I plug the charger directly into the roomba or if I use the home base either way the lashing continues on the charger (and the home base if I use it)...
I reckon we can't blame the HB, then! :-)
... my roomba just talked to me and said there was a charging error .....it says "charging error # 5."
You can search (using the Advanced search box, upper right) for other posts discussing "err5" (use err5 for the search string), and one of those is this one:
viewtopic.php?p=71120#p71120
By studying the table imaged in that post, you may conclude that both the PSU and the robot may be implicated. Then, since the robot has been replaced with a new unit, while the PSU is the original device, it seems fair to cast suspicion on the PSU. Why it switches between good & useless modes on its own, will remain a mystery.
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Re: deferred retirement

Postby Gordon » December 26th, 2009, 11:09 pm

mfortuna wrote:... I know a couple engineers that came out of retirement to work part time. ...
Been there, done that, Mike! I contracted labor over 1996-1998, and 2001-2003 to same Co., same job (more $), from which I retired in 1995. 8)
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Re: flashing green lights on home base and charger

Postby linyakov » December 28th, 2009, 9:12 am

Hi Gordon re:batteries my one surviving battery is yellow and doesn't have any numbers. The two deceased are black and are 2200. I don't know if I mentioned that I have another one on the way! (another black one)

OK so about the error message which has happened several times again since I last wrote. (I did read your other post and also I now have a copy of that manual referenced on my computer) Your assessment that the problem is in the power supply makes sense to me. The problem now is that the company is asking me to send back the power supply the homebase and the robot. I am going to call them this AM and see if they will go along with idea of just returning the power suppy. However if they insist do you think from your experience that they would know the difference if I returned my first robot (which was truly a problem) and held onto the 2nd and good one?

I also have one other technical question for you just for my own understanding of how this all works. Am I correct that when the power starts blinking and in the past I left my robot plugged in for extended periods in this state that it will start to drain the battery and kill the battery?

I am myself a handywoman of sorts and actually am happy in spite of the frustration that I am learning to understand my roomba at a deeper level!

Many thanks for your help in my growth!
Linda
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Re: flashing green lights on home base and charger

Postby mfortuna » December 28th, 2009, 9:17 am

If your battery is in the roomba and is not being charged (due to an unplugged or defective charger) it will drain to a point that is bad for both the roomba and battery. Since you have a 500 series there may be less of a chance with a deeply discharged battery damaging the roomba's internal charging circuit.
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Re: flashing green lights on home base and charger

Postby Gordon » December 28th, 2009, 1:14 pm

linyakov wrote:Hi Gordon re:batteries my one surviving battery is yellow and doesn't have any numbers.
They never did. To learn their capacity, we had to tear them open and read numbers on the cell sleeves. Yellow battery casings signified "APS" battery (Advanced Power System), and, had NiMH capacities of 3000mAh or 3300mAh.
The two deceased are black and are 2200. I don't know if I mentioned that I have another one on the way! (another black one)
Yes, but w/o stating that you knew its color. iRobot seems to be shifting to NiCd, totally.
... the company is asking me to send back the power supply the homebase and the robot. I am going to call them this AM and see if they will go along with idea of just returning the power suppy. However if they insist do you think from your experience that they would know the difference if I returned my first robot (which was truly a problem) and held onto the 2nd and good one?
Any "experience" that I possess in this arena is due to reading what others have done! :-) If I were to guess, I would say it depends on whether both of your 5XXs have the same model number, coupled with how precisely you have identified the offending robot.

Rather than returning the whole kit, I would be more inclined to keep everything, but buy a new PSU, to try. They are not too expensive, and a 2nd PSU on hand can be a good troubleshooting aid.
... Am I correct that when the power starts blinking and in the past I left my robot plugged in for extended periods in this state that it will start to drain the battery and kill the battery?
Providing a full answer to this question can require many words. You may not need or want them all. Mike's post might have come close to giving you the answers, but I can see it might require a little elaboration, so I will play off of his inputs in an attempt to be brief.
mfortuna wrote:If your battery is in the roomba and is not being charged (due to an unplugged or defective charger) it will drain to a point that is bad for both the roomba and battery.
First, I would replace the "or defective charger" phrase with "or inactive charging system" to encompass both the PSU and robot's charging controller elex. Then, to expand on Mike's first sentence: An inactive charging system may be due to:
a) No AC power being supplied to the PSU.
b) the PSU has an internal fault (flashes its pilot LED ON/OFF), and can't deliver 22.5Vdc to the robot, or
c) the robot has an internal short-circuit which prevents a working PSU from increasing its output current to the normal 1.25A level (an action that causes the PSU to pulse its LED as it endlessly cycles between high power then low power, as a self-preservation tactic).

Any of (a) through (c) will prevent the robot from the normal switchover to "charging mode" (when IN charging mode, the system is powered by the PSU, and the battery-voltage is isolated (by bucking via a diode) by the higher level charging voltage') and the MCU senses this state, causing it to invokes its battery-charging routine). Hence, if the battery is not isolated (due to an inactive charging system) from powering the system, it must continue to power the MCU, as well as power what we call the "phantom load" which monitors Roomba's external space for a remote-control signal.

If no electrical fault exists in the battery section of the "system", it is the slow drain (only 0.006A, in a 4XXX Roomba) that will drain charge from the battery when an owner leaves the "...robot plugged in for extended periods in this state ...".

It is that tiny drain current, plus the battery's own self-discharge rate that can pull battery voltage down into dangerous (for the cells) territory below 12-volts (no load) in two to three weeks.

The 4XXX Roombas sometimes suffered failures of protective devices called "transient voltage suppressor" (TVS). TVS were connected across the battery-voltage terminals, across the battery-thermistor's terminals, and across the two PSU input ports. Some of the TVS failed by shorting themselves, while in the service of their robot. If that shorted condition happened to the TVS across the battery-voltage, you might guess that the time to drain the battery's charge would be very short! (A case like that would require a "resistive short", i.e., not zero ohms, else the charging controller -- if working right -- would sense too much charging current being required, then quit, and issue an error).
mfortuna wrote:Since you have a 500 series there may be less of a chance with a deeply discharged battery damaging the roomba's internal charging circuit.
This statement is partly explained by the preceding parenthetical info, IOW, a 5XX charging control circuit & firmware ought to be able to avoid starting a re-charge of a dangerously low-voltage battery (a condition that has high initial charging current); but, if battery voltage is at an intermediate low-level, say 9 to 12 volts, the controller may decide to start the re-charge but invoke a routine that has been designed to handle that case.

I wonder how long this might have been if I had not been "brief"(?)! :-)
...Many thanks for your help in my growth! Linda
You are quite welcome!
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Re: flashing green lights on home base and charger

Postby linyakov » December 30th, 2009, 3:40 pm

Thank you Gordon and Mike for your helpful explantations. I can't say I totally understand it all but I am way more knowledgable than I was before all this started which should help me be a better roomba owner in the future!

After several more phone calls to technical help (and several different mailing instructions) the final verdict was that I could keep both the charging device and the home base as well as all the doodads on the roomba. I only had to send them the shell and in return they will mail me a new roomba and charger and home base. So when all this is over I will have two of everything including two new roombas. I am very satisfied as I started with one reconditioned system!

Gordon I did check out your idea of purchasing a new charger (when I thought I would haved to return everything) It turned out to cost about $40 so I am doing better going thiws route.

Many thanks again and I will rest in peace knowing you guys are out there!
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Re: flashing green lights on home base and charger

Postby smugfop » January 2nd, 2010, 8:38 pm

Hi Folks.

I read this thread with great interest as I have been having some issues with the battery/charging of my Discovery 5250.

My issue started a few months ago when my 14 month old Roomba was left on the homebase for a month with no power as I was on vacation and had switched off all the power without thinking about the roomba, upon my return it wouldn't charge and only ran for a few seconds.
I checked the battery pack and found that it only had 11v so I tried charging it on the fast charger but this didn't help.

I did some nvestigations into installing new battery cells and found that it was cheaper to import a complete APS battery from the US.

Upon delivery I installed and charged the new battery for 72 hours and it ran just as it did before the issue started but a week or so later my son was born and due to complications ended up living in hospital for a month.
During this time something went wrong and now the homebase is dead with no LEDs and no output and the fast charger LED flashs when plugged into the roomba even without the battery connected but outputs 22v.
The battery shows only 2.2v and obviously the Roomba won't run.

Any ideas what I can do to overcome this? I live in New Zealand so sourcing spares is very long winded and painfull on the wallet.

Cheers In advance
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Re: flashing green lights on home base and charger

Postby mfortuna » January 2nd, 2010, 10:13 pm

The battery voltage is way too low to attempt charging in a roomba. If you search techguy's posts you can see how to connect the brick directly to the battery. It could be the roomba's internal charge circuit is damaged. One place to start would be searching the forum for U2/U4 failure. This may have occurred when the original battery ran down. The charger LED blinking with no battery plugged in seems to indicate something else in the roomba circuitry has gone bad since and may have taken out the homebase.
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Re: flashing green lights on home base and charger

Postby TechGuy » January 2nd, 2010, 11:12 pm

Charge your battery directly without Roomba as suggested by mfortuna.
Please pay attention to the red and black wire. Don't reverse them.
Don't leave your battery unattended during these 15 minutes.

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Re: flashing green lights on home base and charger

Postby smugfop » January 3rd, 2010, 3:59 am

Awesome tip thanks, I've just charged the new battery direct and the Roomba is back in action, however when I install the battery into the roomba and plug it direct to the charger its back to the flashing green LED, so next I'll replace U2 and U4.
I've just found a couple of home bases here in NZ on a local auction site for a reasonable cost so I may have to go that way to repair the home base, unless of course there is a know issue with those too?

I'll post my findings :)

Cheers Techguy and Mfortuna.
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Re: flashing green lights on home base and charger

Postby mfortuna » January 3rd, 2010, 7:40 am

U2 and U4 may be bad from the original battery being left in. They normally do not cause flashing lights on the external brick. It won't hurt to replace them but you may have another issue.
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