The Lobby: Off-topic discussion

Hello and welcome to The Lobby! Your place to discuss subjects that just don’t fit in our other conversations. Make yourself at home!

Do you want to discuss an issue but can’t find the right place to post it? Or maybe you’re looking for somewhere to chat with your community pals? Well, you’ve come to the right place…

As with any community or conversation it can – and does – wander off-topic. This is perfectly natural, but it hasn’t always been possible to do so on some of our posts because of the precisely defined nature of each subject.

So, at the behest of some of our community members, we created this off-topic discussion area – The Lobby.

Any ideas spawned here in The Lobby could generate new posts for debate and discussion on Which? Conversation, so you – our community members – are able to help shape the direction of our community.

What happened to the original Lobby?

Why do we have two Lobbies? Well, like all good franchises, we wanted to experiment with a sequel. But seriously, the original Lobby was so popular (with almost 13,000 comments), it was becoming hard to load the page.

So we’re starting fresh with what we’re affectionately calling “The Lobby 2”.

No comments from first Lobby have been deleted, and you can still link to comments, but you won’t be able to add new comments.


To ensure The Lobby remains a healthy and friendly place for you all to share your thoughts, musings all of our Community Guidelines apply, with the exception of one:

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Welcome to the Lobby!

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Spellbinding: the cover of a dictionary.

Was it a bird or a plane or even Superman ?— nope
Was it my TV –nope
Was it my sat box –nope
Was it my computers –nope
just where was that “chirruping noise coming from ??

After a day of searching I found it was coming above my head ,
A bird in the attic- nope
but my fire detector courtesy of “Fireangel ” via China .
Read the words –Warning ! — battery not replaceable
accompanying that – life of unit – 2022 –figures.
You have guessed it , I took it apart which means it just unclipped from the base in the ceiling– that should have been a warning in itself .
3 tubular 1500ah batteries soldered inside in a plastic compartment –took off lid (well forced it off )
Nice size to easily fit a PP9 battery but not the same ah
action required — fit a 9 volt wallwart power supply ( I have many never threw them out )
Conclusion– a profitable engineering design to make you spend £50 instead of a dry cell battery –very UN -Eco.

But doesn’t a wallwart require a connexion to the mains power supply which it transforms to the required voltage and current? The point of battery power supply to a fire detector is that it is independent of the electricity supply which could fail in the event of a fire.

I hate waste too.

It’s important to distinguish between smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms, because the sensor used in CO alarms has a limited life. Ionisation smoke alarms (the most common type) can have a long working life. I bought two in 1980 and scrapped them when I moved home in 2016. I knew they were still working because if I left the kitchen door open, cooking smoke would set them off. I don’t know about optical smoke alarms.

John’s point is valid and the best option would be to replace the battery, which I presume consists of three tagged NiMH AA cells, which are readily available.

The last time I bought smoke alarms, which was for a friend, I chose ones with a replaceable PP3 battery.

Should have mentioned – rechargeable battery fitted which would still work in power fail John .

I have a CO alarm right next to it battery still working there again its a Chubb yes its owned by UTC so is now “American ” but have much more faith in that product than “Fireangels ” .
I never checked the current drain Wavechange so I don’t know how long a standard 9 volt battery would last – rechargeable version – 120mah nowhere near enough I have one handy .

Fireangel “about us “– first US website – safety certificate expired + self signed.
It seems they issued faulty batteries some years ago that do exactly what mine is doing.
They changed their name in 2018 from Sprue Aegis PLC (FA) to Fireangel Safety Technology Group PLC –
courtesy-RNS news service of the LSE .

As far as I know, Building Regs require houses built or extended since 1992 to have mains powered smoke alarms, wired or radio linked together, each with a back up power supply such as a battery (rechargeable or non-rechargeable) or capacitor.

Duncan – I should have written alkaline rather than NiMH, which would be a rechargeable battery. I have not seen any smoke alarms with a rechargeable battery and the mains-powered ones in my home have a non-rechargeable PP3-size alkaline battery in case the mains fails.

This one required a much higher amp/hour than a single 9 volt battery Wavechange and I have three of them connected to a central shire supported answering service where the signal goes to a unit connected to an emergency services landline unit which I test every month ,it autodials when a button is pressed and a call centre worker answers .
The system works I burnt toast 2 years ago the fire dept rushed out and I was embarrassed ( something that I don’t usually suffer from ) as the whole street in the village was out watching.
You get a quick response from all three services and where I am its only about £150/year , dearer in parts of England and other parts of Scotland .
This is independent of any computer/router wi-fi as I have wi-fi turned off in my PC,s .

“Nice size to easily fit a PP9 battery but not the same ah” I haven’t used a PP9 in years – I think the old 1960s Bush trannie used one – and I doubt they ever made it beyond Zinc Chloride. You’ll find a Duracell top range PP3 – much smaller – probably has more capacity.

Correct Malcolm – I have two smoke alarms and a heat alarm (in the kitchen) all powered and linked as you describe. They are on a separate radial from the CU.

You could always parallel up a few PP3s within the cavernous compartment…

I have not delved into a smoke alarm like the ones that Duncan has. 1500Ah does seem a bit high. 🙂

I use Maplin battery holders plus six AA alkaline cells as replacements to replace PP7 and PP9 layer batteries in old equipment.

Thanks for the info Wavechange and Roger -good idea paralleling them up .
Wavechange they are -CR123A-3V-1500mah-Lithium-seried .

That’s a common size, though they are not usually tagged. I expect that we will see more products that incorporate non-replaceable lithium batteries. Normally they are very reliable and will retain capacity well in storage.

Just to add – although you likely know this – it’s a misnomer that paralleling alkalines is bad. Provided they are from the same batch and new at installation they will be just fine – discharge voltage/time curves at a given temperature are monatonic so will discharge equally and no worries of circulating current.

Ionising smoke detectors do have a finite life. General rule is to replace every ten years but the “use by” date is usually printed or moulded on near the battery holder.

Yes Roger older batteries build up an internal resistance over time so causing a variation in the current .

In mine it isn’t a “use by ” date Phil (as in supermarket produce ) but first a code with the manufactured date and then a box with the date of length of life .
Mine had -2014 in code and – end of life – 2022, pity that wasn’t true.

I did have up to date smoke detectors as well, but was interested to know how long the old ones would carry on working. Mine were in bedrooms and not subject to grease or dirt, and never painted.

The ten year life became the norm long after these smoke detectors were in common use.

The half life of the Americium isotope used in smoke detectors is over 400 years, so radioactive decay will not affect the life of ionisation alarms.

As your dwelling is likely to have an accidental fire only once in 800 years, Americium seems a good choice.

I hope that statisticians have smoke alarms.

I was speaking to a friend on the phone and our call was abruptly terminated when a smoke alarm went off. A log drying beside their wood burner had started charring and by the time it had been moved away, three smoke alarms were sounding.

I have been criticised for being over cautious even a bit “paranoic ” when it comes to internet protection but it seems 480.1 million mobile users agree with me as they are now very worried about snooping so are now using VPN,s .
While a VPN isn’t 100 % safe its a lot more able to to keep your movements private , using Tor helps as well using a VPN with it.
Your ISP will know you are using it but it cuts down their “Information Retrieval ” (as in Brazil the Movie ).

Duncan, have you now decided to get and use a smart phone?

Its a bit more tempting now Derek,especially as my “newish ” car is telling them my location.
Give BT their due they never give up emailing and letter boxing me with mobile offers.
Blocking it (and I have asked ) means I will receive zero information from BT so I left things as they are.
Yesterday I received a letter from them-
Hello Duncan-
This Black Friday we’ve got our “lowest ever ” prices on iPhone 7 and Samsung Galaxy A40 —hand-picked just for you ( some marketing eh ? ) ,as a thanks for being with us .
Plus as a Halo customer you will get double data as well as access to go “Unlimited ” with our “No Limits ” SIM plan –yours to December 12th— no pressure then Derek ?

Thanks Duncan.

If you do choose to join those 480 million other users, I guess you won’t be going down the Android route, so then I guess your lowest cost option for a new phone is now an iPhone 7.

Yes Derek iPhone is much more secure than Android , I am looking at Huawei though , yes I know spied on by China (if you believe the propaganda ) but at least it wont be by the NSA.

At present, UK spec Huawei phones still tend to come with Android, but with the option of registering the phone with Huawei and a Huawei app store.

As I have no personal objection to Google, I’ve not taken up those options on my Honor 8s, so mine is just registered with Google using my regular Gmail account.

Welcome to Computer Security Day, the day in 1999 when British Aerospace and Marconi Electronic Systems merged to form BAE Systems and the day in 2005 on which John Sentamu became the first black archbishop in the Church of England.

In the early days of computers, computer security involved locking them down to preventing theft and removing the key to prevent unauthorised use. That was in the days before internet access…

“Internet access” is surely the ultimate example of a mixed blessing.

Yes, but my nomination would be the car.

“In the early days of computers, computer security involved locking them down to preventing them being taken and removing the key to prevent unauthorised use. That was in the days before internet access…”

Do you all remember the time when RAM was more pricey than almost any other component in the workplace? Certainly per unit weight it was up there with platinum. I think we suffered two what we called Ram raids – turned up to work to find desktop computers opened up and the SIM slots empty. I was one of the few who had insisted on a laptop which I kept with me pretty much 24/7 so was not affected – but it was quite a body blow to the firm. Not only the substantial cost of replacement SIMs, but the down time for several tens of folk (it was early days when most folk did not have PCs of their own at work, but one between several – except of xourse the IT folk who needed full-time access, and that was the room hit fully both times)..

I remember the high cost of RAM but not any thefts from our university buildings. The computers that were available 24 hours a day were in locked cases, secured to the desks.

John Sentamu might have been the first Archbishop of the Church of England in England but he was preceded, surely, by Desmond Tutu as an Anglican Archbishop in South Africa – and possibly by others.

Was he the dancer with a short skirt?

Porcupine: a yearning for bacon

Portable: badly made furniture

Rugged: the act of sitting on a mat

Another excellent set of word association, enjoyed as always.
I was unfortunate enough, last night, to have to make a late journey. Apart from the frustration of being kicked off the motorway twice, adding time when I would have liked to have been in bed, I was amazed at the traffic about. At one junction where I was forced to leave, there was a mile long queue waiting to get on the other side and that was at around 10. 45pm. All the side roads were busy with people trying to find out where to go and there was town traffic that could have been semi rush hour. I kept wondering why all these nocturnal travellers were not in their beds as all decent folk should be after 11. 30. pm.

That’s not much fun.

When I used to come back from visiting my parents I would usually set off about 9pm, when the roads were quiet. I’d be back just before your 11.30 curfew. I hate driving in ‘rush hour’ when many get frustrated and take risks.

My dad always used to say: If you’re not in bed by 11, go home!

Welcome to World AIDS Day, the day in 1887 when Sherlock Holmes first appeared in print and the day in 1990 on which British & French tunnellers met in the Chunnel.

Shamrock: imitation mineral

Shin: device used for locating furniture in the dark

Stalemate: aged spouse

In relation to the special batteries I took out of the smoke alarm I have found another use for them , as batteries for a remote control I have , yes it requires taping one onto the remote but I am sure they will last longer than the 2 rechargeable AAA ones I use in it .
I did a bit of “recharging ” of one of the 3V batteries – IE- small current + over-voltage for a while it brought the voltage value back up to = 2.95V—
Warning !! do not try this at home ,
I used a digital power-supply with full control of current & voltage .
The best way is pulsing the battery but I haven’t the time to build a circuit .

My apology for a somewhat proscriptive last post, I just felt that I should have been to only one travelling at that time and the bed times just slipped in- facetiously. If you are a night owl, hoot away!
I am getting fed up with my Shell loyalty card and since it is almost impossible to complain to them, I’ll moan here.
Twice now, the terminal has crashed and my visits have not been credited. I’m supposed to get free fuel every ten times I fill up. To get this free fuel I have to go ten times, and then go on line and activate it via a password. More faff. I still don’t know whether this has worked because there is no acknowledgement. I am also entitled to a free drink if I buy two others and activate my gift! I don’t like their coffee anyway and why would I drink it then and there? Oh, and the final insult. Ten full tanks of fuel entitles me to £2 20p. off the next one. Why bother!

You are not alone Vynor — post of 1 –one star guy-
After browsing around for the best fuel rewards I decided to try a new shell card as I knew the previous rewards system was quite incentivising. No where on the website or anywhere else does it state what your mystery reward will be for fill up 10 times but I decided to give it a go and try my luck. I fill up about 40 45 every week and a couple of them v power. I also received two £1 off vouchers whilst I was on my way to my 10 fill ups and at number 8 they gave me a free boost taking me up to 9. On the 10th vist just today I filled up £45 of v power (which by the way didn’t seem to have any affect) and the reward was a mere £1.60 off my next fuel vist. I feel ripped off and like it was all a con to get the 10 fill ups and I don’t want to even use the £1.60 voucher I have received. In comparison for BPme rewards who also offer triple points and money off fuel for the same amount I put in I would have received atleast 10 pounds. Safe to say I will not be using shell again for some time.
He was not alone –nobody reached a “2 star “.
Do you remember the old Shell advert from the 60,s sung I think by Bing –
I,m going well
I,m going Shell
You can be —-“sure ” of Shell –hiccup !

I continue to use Shell, V power, because I believe – rightly or wrongly – that it is cleaner for the engine and the environment than some other fuels. I could be wasting money. Thus the Shell Go card is something that comes with the territory but is more of an annoyance than a benefit. It niggles me that Shell are hyping this reward system and, at the same time, making it difficult to use and hardly worth the effort of using. Their old vouchers were just exchanged across the counter, but these probably cost them too much to continue with. The new system is a mess.

In the early days of motoring, it was necessary to decarbonise engines every 10 or 20k miles, but fuels improved and so did engine design.

Modern car engines use fuel-injection and are computer-controlled, so can adapt to differences in fuel and return good fuel economy. If anyone mentions decarbonisation of engines nowadays they are likely to be referring to garden machinery. My diesel car has now covered about 62k miles on supermarket diesel and so far I’ve not had any problem with the DPF filter or EGR valve. Drivers who are heavy on their right foot may not be so lucky because this produces soot.

Whether premium-priced petrol and diesel return better mpg is something that any driver can test for themselves.

Fuel quality is not just about mpg but about keeping your engine in better condition – perhaps very long term. I have used Shell V power diesel in my car from new. I have no idea whether it is beneficial or not but, for the little extra cost, decided it was a reasonable thing to do. Be good if somewhere there were some objective information.

I also get Shell vouchers – paper ones until the scheme went online. For me the scheme is no hassle – I get an email when there is a money-off offer and validate it on the website. I agree it is a small reward but, added to the points rewards I get on my credit card, it provides a fish supper for two once a year.

Thats two regulars talking about shell V power , in petrol engines its a higher octane and in both it contains “cleaning agents ” .
If Shell wont tell American motorists they certainly wont tell Brits.
The nearest I can get is Shell USA-
but it still wont divulge its patented fuel , but a consensus both in the USA and UK is—running a diesel ?? then get it .
Doesn’t do anything to my Ford Fiesta ST3 (in standard form ) .

That’s ten years old, Duncan. I would be interested to know the ethanol content of the Shell fuel in the UK. It differs according to country.

I’ve nothing against anyone spending more money on products they think are better. Give me proper science (rather than marketing) and I might be convinced, but for the time being I don’t want their ‘cleaning molecules’ in my engine.

I have had no views on this at all ,never bothered about it Wavechange but now that Malcolm and Vynor have mentioned it I thought I would check into it .
Shell is very secretive about it and so far I cannot get any more depth to the chemical contents other than everybody seems to agree it “helps diesel engines stay clean ” and the petrol version is similar to the racing fuel although Formula One engines aren’t high compression .
Somebody noted quote- there were at least a 100 to 1000 chemical elements in it for cleaning purposes but I have yet to find any real data.

Ethanol content -UK Wavechange courtesy of Shell-

01 December 2019 03:14 Updated

Ethanol is a renewable non-fossil fuel. It’s made using byproducts from the sugar industry, or from grains like wheat, sorghum or corn. As part of the UK government’s commitment to energy sustainability and emissions reduction, the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) Order regulates biofuels use for transport and non-road mobile machinery.

In accordance with this Order, “major suppliers of fossil fuels” are required to ensure that a specified percentage of the road fuels they supply in the UK is made up of renewable fuels from sustainable sources.

“Major suppliers of fossil fuels” are those that supply at least 450,000 litres of fuel a year, which includes Shell. (For the latest information on RTFO targets and European fuel specification requirements, please refer to the Department for Transport’s website.)

The RFTO target is typically met through the use of bio-derived ethanol in petrol and Fatty Acid Methyl Ester (FAME) in diesel, which are blended into Shell’s UK fuel products in compliance with current UK fuels specifications (up to 5% ethanol in petrol and up to 7% FAME in diesel fuel). This means that, in the UK, Shell regular unleaded and Shell V-Power unleaded are likely to contain some ethanol, but it will not be present at more than 5% (in accordance with current UK specification requirements).

Phil says:
2 December 2019

“I would be interested to know the ethanol content of the Shell fuel in the UK. ”

It’s 5%. It’s what the “E5” label on the pump means.

This is not limited to Shell. I’d be interested to know whether any expert organisation has examined the benefits, if any, of these “better” diesel fuels. Does anyone have that information?

As far as I am aware all the fuels we use contain “cleaning molecules”, aka detergents, along with many other additives.

If the pump is marked E5 then the fuel definitely contains 5% ethanol (like standard petrol), but I could not find that information online. The link provided by Duncan mentions 0-5%.

Duncan – I’d read the vague statements by Shell, and yes they are secretive. It’s the same with BP regarding their premium fuel.

Duncan mentioned FAME in diesel, a component that has caused more concern than ethanol in petrol. Currently most road fuel contains 7% FAME (biodiesel). Biodiesel tends to absorb moisture from the air (i.e. it is hygroscopic), which can result in microbial contamination during storage and subsequent filter blockage. Heating oil usually contains no FAME in the UK and FAME-free red diesel can be purchased, but due to lower tax, this cannot legally be used in road vehicles.

Hi everyone,

I chatted with the cars team about this to see if they have a take on it all. They are actually looking a different classes of petrol. The investigation has only just started so it will be a while before they can comment with confidence but do keep an eye out for the investigation in 2020.

Thanks Abby. It will be interesting to see some independent information.

We are also Shell V-Power users.

Hubbies car did really bad mpg when new so we tried out different fuels and logged the results. Shell V-Power gave him another 4-5mpg and actually worked out cheaper, so he switched. I also switched.

The oil companies claim their fuel contains extra additives that look after your engine. Although supermarket fuel will likely come from one of the main oil companies, it won’t contain quite the same additives.

My car is 21 years old in a couple of weeks time and has just passed his MOT.

Fast Idle
CO = 0.00 Pass : Limit 0.20
HC = 14 Pass : Limit 200
Lambda = 1.026 Pass : Limit 0.970 – 1.030

Natural Idle
CO = 0.00 Pass : Limit 0.30

Does that prove the better fuel is worth it?

Welcome to Human Rights Month, the day in 1804 when Napoleon was crowned Emperor of France, upsetting Beethoven and the day in 1883 when Brahms’ 3rd had its first outing.

Suburbs: where they tear out trees and name streets after them

Time: what stops things happening all at once.

Syntax: church collection.

Targeted at sinners, of course.

One day even thumbs will be tacksed.

You’ve nailed it 🙂

If you buy a jumper for your cat but he now hates you can you take back to the shop?

Asking for a friend. 😉

Wouldn’t you miss the cat? 🙁
Why on earth does a cat need a jumper?

I,m on the cats side , bad idea and we had a cat for 20 years , may look cute but it can cause physical harm to your cat ,you do know cats lick their fur to help them keep clean ?-

Well you can take it back to the shop, but unless their terms & conditions allow free returns I don’t think you would get far. I have seen plenty of dogs with coats, but not a cat in a jumper. Searching Google images for ‘cat jumper’ revealed some unhappy kitties, so maybe they are happiest wearing fur coats.


It was an impulse purchase when I was buying my son a Christmas jumper. The idea of all four of us in Christmas jumpers was just too much for me!

I mean, my friend. Totally my friend.

I wasn’t going to keep him in it long! He loves being wrapped up in blankets (we discovered this when doing the wrap the cat in a blanket to give them a pill trick) so thought he would enjoy a jumper.

I mean, my friend. Totally my friend.

I think I will be donating it to Bob the Trusted Trader mascot.

I mean, my friend. Totally my friend will be donating it.

It was good to meet Totally your friend at the AGM…

As I obviously am not part of the “cognista” and my “in ” comments stopped after the Hippy Era could somebody tell me what this “Totally your friend ” means ?
Never heard it in the USA so it must be proper to —–?
If its a piece of advertising then its so abstruse that the product would only be bought by a tiny –excuse the hippy comment— “with it ” minority.

Duncan – I assumed that Abby was a bit embarrassed about her predicament over the cat/jumper dilemma and was trying to make out that she was enquiring on behalf of a ‘friend’. The ‘totally’ was just to reinforce the point that although she referred to herself in her comments that was an error and she was actually – and indisputably – writing on behalf of someone else who needed some consumer advice.

Thanks John my wife has often told me I sometimes open my mouth and speak without putting my mind into gear.
Its not intentional and is probably because I think I am missing some of the finer points of social etiquette due to concentration on technology.

Evidently my sense of humour needs a bit of work! 😉

You stick with your sense of humour. 😀 .I hope your cat reads Convo comments and realises how much you care. I’m sure he/she/it (might not like someone for the latter) doesn’t hate you. You could buy it some boots for the winter.

Duncan, speech is a bit like emails but worse – sent before we’ve thought to edit the content.

I have just received an email from a Scottish government team on my email agreeing with 84 % of the Scottish population that holiday homes should be taxed .
The money gathered going towards local housing , this is a Major issue in my area as regards young local people who have lived here either for all their lives or many decades who cant get accommodation and even with two jobs they can only afford a really bottom end flat in an area nobody wants to go to.
Anger is pretty strong throughout the area by locals as those holiday homes are rented out to tourists who don’t buy in village shops and are very transient . In the winter months they lie empty while many families have to keep their sons & daughters at home as they cant get council accommodation and cant afford the high rents of private property and remember those living in urban areas while jobs can be numerous where you live try living in rural areas its not so easy ,very little jobs where I live now the local white fishing industry has been closed down but that’s another issue.

Presumably holiday homes that bring in tourists also bring in income to the local area. There are organisations that help develop affordable housing that is limited to qualifying people. It might be better to support that than tax.

Holiday homes in “nice” areas are endemic; I have my reservations about preventing, or inhibiting, ownership. I wonder how much of the tax in a particular area would be used to help housing in the same area; not the way taxes are usually distributed.

You have a point with your last sentence Malcolm as the local people don’t trust the shire to pass on the full amount collected to local authority house building and that’s being looked into.
Its not a “done deal ” its only advisory at this stage .
As the area is very popular new private housing estates are spring up increasing the population and vastly increasing the bank balances of local farmers who can now afford new tractors and big 4X4,s .
There are plenty of wealthy people in the area as its not far from the “Home of Golf ” ,plenty of fresh sea air , its just getting the local people to eat something other than fish & chips which ,going by the ambulance sirens cause a lot of heart attack and strokes.
Right enough even tourists queue outside chip shops as the fish is fresh ,only comes down the road from the harbours 40 miles north .
On the other hand many live to a ripe old age due to the lack of pollution , nice rural life , lovely sea breezes and the ladies are great at making home made food every church bazaar sells out , the nearest one to me is 30 yards away an English Episcopalian church go to their bazaar every year,about a third of the population is from down south mainly southern England not many Northerners .
Not everybody likes living in London many are glad to get away going by the conversations I have.
But its got its drawbacks 2 years ago the whole area was “snowed in” for several days but if you are a “gowfer” (golfer ) its paradise as you are tripping over golf courses .-
The first documented mention of the word ‘golf’ is in Edinburgh on 6th March 1457, when King James II banned ‘ye golf’, in an attempt to encourage archery practice, which was being neglected.