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!

This Lobby is closed to new comments

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:

You may go off-topic… that is the purpose of The Lobby.  🙂

Looking for other areas to talk?

• Website feedback: Let us know about any technical issues, and share your ideas on the future of Which? Conversation closure: A discussion about the closure of

Which? Members: Discuss issues related to our organisation, including governance

Welcome to the Lobby!

So without further ado… welcome! What are you waiting for!?


Spellbinding: the cover of a dictionary.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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