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 Post subject: Gas Meter Questions
PostPosted: Mon Nov 13, 2006 4:19 pm 
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Joined: Mon Nov 13, 2006 4:13 pm
Posts: 2
Location: Seattle, WA
Greetings!

Hello to all our fellow mine explorer friends to the East from the great Pacific Northwest! I first want to thank you for an excellent website. It is very well done and a joy to navigate. Keep up the good work!

Out here, we mostly have mines dating from the 1870’s through the 1950’s. Although there was extensive coal mining done to the East of Seattle, we usually stick to exploring and documenting the metal-mines high up in the mountains (hard-rock).

The areas in which we explore are usually located in or near the Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest of the Cascade Range. This is a huge area in very rough terrain, and it is not unusual to have to hike 6 hours up into a site (up being the operative word – 1000 to 3000+ feet elevation gain at times is not uncommon). These sites range anywhere from small prospect adits to multi-level monsters with stopes the size of small cities.

Anyway, I noticed that some of you use gas-monitors in your explorations. We are planning on purchasing a unit next year, and wanted some real “user’ feedback. We generally do not run into some of the nasty gases you would find elsewhere, but we do occasionally have a problem with Black Damp at various mines in our travels.

So we can get better educated in what we need to purchase, I would appreciate some feedback on the following:

1. We are looking at the MSA Solaris (LEL, O2, CO and H2S) since we can find used (but calibrated) units on the market. Has anyone used this monitor? If so, what did you think?

2. What do the rest of you use at this time, and how do you like it?

3. For ruggedness, reliability, and ease of use, what model would you recommend?

4. I noticed most of the monitors do not sniff for CO2. It is my assumption that if the CO2 gets high enough, the O2 gets low, and the monitor would pop off. Is my assumption correct, or is my lack of knowledge on the subject showing?

5. Any other advice that would help keep us out of trouble?

Thank you once again for maintaining such a great sight! It’s good to know we are not the only ones trying to explore, preserve, and document our mining heritage.

Thank you in advance for your replies, and stay safe!

Sincerely,

Mark “Tunnel Rat” Pringle
Seattle, WA


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Nov 13, 2006 9:08 pm 
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Location: Within 60 Miles of the Northern Anthracite Field
Hey, glad you like the site. i run the coal research and exploration side of it at www.undergroundminers.com we use an industrial scientific m40m. its an msha approved gas detector, which will do all the gasses of the solaris. new, its around 600 bucks and is gaurnteed for 2 years. after that you are supposed to replace the sensors. they are almost as expensive as the unit so its considered a "throw away" detector. after 2 years you just get a new one. but ours has been on some good trips and has sentimental value :D so we will probably do the sensors. they reccomend calibrating it every month with a gas tank, but talking to the manufacturer on the phone, he said every 3 would be fine. for durability, it has a nice leather case to protect it. trust me, we beat it up! but the nice thing is its so small that you really dont have to worry about it. it has a nice audible alarm, vibrates and lights up when it becomes unhappy! i know the rock boys here have a few msa passports. which work nicely but are a bit larger and heavier. but again that unit works well too and they seem to be fairly common. you can get alot of parts and what not on ebay for them. but anyways i can tell from experience that the m40m by industrial scientific is a nice little unit. heres a video of it in action in a bituminous coal mine in western pa:

http://www2.ironminers.com/chris/MOV02769.MPG

and then theres the old school way.....................

http://www2.ironminers.com/chris/MOV08697.MPG

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Nov 14, 2006 12:26 pm 
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Location: Above the Sterling Hill Mine
We have never used the MSA Solaris unit before. From the research I have done, this appears to be a very good unit. It is the newest MSA gas meter and is also much smaller than the other multi-gas units manufactured by MSA. It can be serviced (no fixed sensors) and can be calibrated using the standard MSA calibration gas used with other MSA units. The Solaris is not their industrial meter and doesn't carry the warranty and all of the regulation approvals of some of MSA's other gas detectors like the Passport, FiveStar, and Orion. It probably isn't considered as rugged because it isn't the industrial unit, but it looks to be an all around best for the buck MSA gas meter.

As Chris stated, we also own a few MSA Passports. The Passport while being an older unit which is no longer manufactured, is a very reliable unit. Parts for servicing it is VERY easy to find as these units are all over the place. The MSA Passport works flawlessly, but I wish it was a little smaller.

Somewhat elevated levels of CO2 in itself is not lethal. Therefore there is no reason to really test for this gas. O2 detection is done in terms of the percentage of it's presence in air. When testing air, normally 20.8 per cent of it is the molecule Oxygen. The majority of the rest of air contains MOSTLY CO2 and Nitrogen. For your percentages of CO2 levels to go up in air, other gases would need to go down. In terms of the generation of black damp in coal mines, micro-organisms break down coal in the mine. They use O2 to break down coal and release CO2 in the process. With enough of this in an unventilated mine, you will have pockets of CO2 with low O2 levels which isn't human life sustaining.

For keeping out of trouble, the only thing I can officially recommend is to STAY OUT. But keep in mind that a gas meter is a complex device which requires service to be accurate. You really will need to get up to speed (or plan to get up to speed) on how to service one if you plan to purchase one. Mining regulations require the unit to be bump tested (exposed to gas briefly to verify that they react to harmful gas) every day before bringing it into a mine and that the unit is officially calibrated every so often (probably monthly). O2 sensors can be calibrated without calibration gas, but the other sensors need a gas to test against. You really want to ensure that your sensors are working reliably before entering a mine. I'd also recommend getting a 4 sensor unit. Ours all have O2, H2S, CO, and a LEL sensors. Last thing to keep in mind is that sensors are expensive. The O2 sensor is going to die the quickest as it is always exposed to Oxygen when storing it. You might get 1 - 2 years from one and it will need to be replaced. A NEW replacement sensor for an MSA unit will go for $175 - $200 depending on where you get it. Replacing your O2 sensor with a new one can be economical, but buying 4 new sensors will cost more than the unit will cost new. Make sure you buy a gas detector already calibrated with good sensors unless you already have spares on hand. The other sensors could last 10 years, but you don't want to buy an uncalibrated tester and risk having a bunch of bad sensors.

Miner Greg


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Nov 15, 2006 12:59 pm 
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Joined: Mon Nov 13, 2006 4:13 pm
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Location: Seattle, WA
Gentlemen:

Thank you for all the information. I will look further into the M40M unit. We would prefer to get a new unit that comes with a warranty, and for the price of the M40M, that is a reality.

By the way, did you receive any training on the unit, and/or is the operation pretty intuitive? My guess is after calibration they are turn on and go. Is this correct?

Our concern is that we will secure a unit and (like with other high-tech equipment) may have difficulty setting it up, or interpreting the information without a little training. (Other than “beep” means get the heck out of course!) :D

Thanks again for all your input, and for the links to the videos!

Stay Safe!

Mark “Tunnel Rat” Pringle


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 15, 2006 1:08 pm 
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Location: Within 60 Miles of the Northern Anthracite Field
the m40m is pretty easy to set up and calibrate. it comes with an easy to understand and follow instruction book that takes you step by step through, setup, calibration and usage. and yes like you said, once properly set up all you have to do before a trip is turn it on.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Nov 15, 2006 4:20 pm 
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Location: Above the Sterling Hill Mine
You can get brand new MSA Solaris's on EBay for $750 Buy it Now. There are 20 of them up there now if your looking for something brand new. You can get a used calibrated one for $350 Buy it Now..

For O2 detection, you calibrate the O2 every time you turn it on. O2 readings will fluctuate based on changes in the outside air pressure. Calibrating the sensor will ensure that it is accurate with the current air pressure. Depending on the mine you are going in and the type of gases which you could run into, I always do some type of bump test to ensure that my meter is working before leaving my house. The LEL sensor will react to ANY explosive gas, so I have used my UNLIT propane torch to make sure the LEL sensor works to detect methane. If it goes off then it is at the very least reacting to the exposure of an explosive gas. H2S you would need a calibration tank to bump test for. Your car will emit lots of CO before it is warmed up (when it is running rich), I wouldn't recommend holding the meter up to it to bump test it, but my meter has gone off standing next to someone's car while it warms up.

Miner Greg


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Nov 15, 2006 9:01 pm 
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the m40m calibrates the o2 sensor itself when you first turn it on. it goes through a 20 sec self check and during that time it is calibrating the o2 sensor.

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 15, 2006 11:24 pm 
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Location: Central Ohio
Highly recommend the m40m and it is the way to go!! We use it with our safety light but when researching mines you check the safety light often but not often enough. When that alarm goes off you can not miss it. We were just checking out a coal mine in western,pa & all of our mines are enormous (some are 20+ miles in length) but flat once underground. We usually hit black damp entering the mine as we descend down & boy do we hit it quick. Our meter has dropped from 20.7% to 15.4% within 15ft on our way down in places. Everyone knows 15.4% is very bad. The meter goes off somwhere at 17% then it is time to turn around & get out.

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 15, 2006 11:32 pm 
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yes also with the m40m you can adjust all the alarm levels. it comes set to 19.5. but then it would be going off all the time :lol: no seriously we set ours to 17 as thats just before a safety lamp would extinguish and i believe the ohio boys did the same.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Feb 05, 2009 7:51 pm 
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Location: SW Indiana
Miner Greg wrote:
As Chris stated, we also own a few MSA Passports. The Passport while being an older unit which is no longer manufactured, is a very reliable unit. Parts for servicing it is VERY easy to find as these units are all over the place. The MSA Passport works flawlessly, but I wish it was a little smaller.

Miner Greg


Greg,

PM me if this question gets too deep. I'm playing with three Passports I picked up off of E-Bay. Obviously, their condition is questionable, but I'm not in for much money.

I'm not set up to do a gas calibration, but all three seem to have the same problem. I've checked the switch settings, but none of them will get through "Fresh Air Set-Up" Methane works and give a reading. O2 reads 0 and CO reads "DOWN" .

From the technical manual this might indicate a main board failure. But with three acting the same way, I wonder if I'm doing something wrong?

Do you know of any information out there beside the MSA Technical Manual?


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 07, 2009 5:57 pm 
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No, the question isn't too deep. Generally DOWN means the sensor is completely not working. I had a CO sensor on a Passport fail like that and it reacted the same way. If your going into an abandoned mine, CO really isn't something you would be overly worried about (since you generally wouldn't find incomplete combustion in an abandoned place), so you normally would be able to remove the sensor. While on the Passport you are suppose to switch the sensor off via dip switches, I have been able to just remove the CO sensor without turning off the dip switch. (make sure the unit is powered off)

However you have a larger problem there, your getting a 0 reading on the O2 Sensors. How old are these units? O2 sensors have a 2 year warranty, and they don't usually last that much longer than that. The sensor has a date on it and that would tell you how old it is. My guess is that all of the O2 sensors and CO sensors are shot on these passports.

Fresh Air setup will Zero out the O2 sensor within the limits it was last calibrated in, and also if it is still good. This setup when successful would give you a reading of 20.8 on it, however you are getting a reading of 0. While it sounds like you don't have calibration gas, you can try totally Zeroing out the sensors which is normally a step you would perform only when calibrating the Passport. After you remove the bad CO sensor, if you turn the passport on while holding PAGE and RESET together, it will go into calibration mode. It will ask you to CALIBRATE NOW, selecte Yes. The first question will be to Apply Fresh Air which is a Zeroing out phase of the calibration. It will actually Zero out the sensors a step further than the Fresh Air Setup that you get when you first turn it on. If the sensors left in the unit are still good, it will zero them out for Fresh Air and allow you to proceed in calibrating it. If the O2 sensor is bad, it will give you an error and your pretty much done. If you are able to get past this step, you can skip the rest of the calibration since you probably don't have calibration gas.

While not completely safe in all conditions, the above steps would at least allow you to use the Passport as an O2 sensor. It won't help you with Methane, as you don't have calibration gas, your CO sensor is bad so it would need to be removed, and you have no H2S sensor. Let us know if you have any luck..

Miner Greg


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 08, 2009 6:11 pm 
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Location: SW Indiana
Quote:
If the O2 sensor is bad, it will give you an error and your pretty much done.


I'm toast.

Three units to play with and an O2 Sensor in the factory package. All give an ERROR in the fresh air section of Calibrate.

Removed the CO sensors in 2 of the units and there were lightly corroded to the board.

Do the O2 sensors age while in factory packaging? I may try to more the "new" senors to one of the other units to rule out other problems.

Worse case senario. I'm out less than 100 bucks. and have three working methane detectors


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 08, 2009 10:58 pm 
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I tool the CO sensor out of the third unit and it was seriously corroded. Enough that I wonder if the board may be ruined.

Can the unit be tested without the toxic gas sensor board?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Feb 12, 2009 1:53 am 
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Location: Above the Sterling Hill Mine
The O2 sensors SUPPOSEDLY still wear out sitting on the shelves. I was under the impression they were sealed without oxygen in the package to prevent them from aging, but I have heard that they still do not last sitting on the shelves. I am not completely sure to be honest.. What are the date codes on the O2 sensors?

As for the CO sensor, I am not sure what they are made out of, but I have found the same thing with old ones. They start leaking... You can use the passports with as many sensors as you want, however you are suppose to reconfigure the unit for the sensors you have installed. There are dip switches under the main board for configuring what sensors are installed. Does the board look damaged? Usually even with leaking batteries, while they make a mess, they usually don't damage anything..

When you run a full calibration, what error are you getting after the Fresh Air test? I'd recommend running this test with the CO sensor removed since it is showing up as DOWN. Have you tried your newer O2 sensor on different passports?

Miner Greg


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 12, 2009 11:09 am 
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hey doug.... and greg is gonna love this..... if you want one that works great get an industrial scientific m40m. 600 bucks brand new, 2 year warranty you can mail it to me for calibration and ill send it back, very small and compact. there is no way you would be able to work in a mine with one of those passports hanging on you! for exploration they are ok but to work no way. we use m40 here, we have 2 of them at the mine, i have one, banks has one and they are what our mine rescue team uses. the solaris is a pain in the nuts too cause every minute it beeps. i dont remember if the passport does this but we had a solaris at the mine and it went down the chute cause it was too annoying! :lol: if you can stand the beeping every minute telling you its still there thats fine, but the m40m is a great little gas detector!

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