This 1st set of comments are from the same user starting from Dec 2000 to Feb 2001
The Top Hatch I have is new, and though I have examined it I have not run it. I did set it up and watched it turn; a big motor in a box under the supports, fan blade on one end and the other worm geared to a turner. From the outside looks like the old ones. It has a slot in the base now, and a small shaft sticks out for adjusting temp, 1&1/2 degrees per turn. Water ring just like the original. They have also added teflon pads on top the support posts so that the tray slides much easier. It can readily be identified by looking under the base. The new one will have black plastic box almost as large as a pound of butter housing the turner and fan mechanism. The old model had nothing under there except the tiny little matchbook turner. The new one will also have an external thermostat adjustment on the side of the base, whereas the old model had no external adjustment. Soon as I have more to report I will do so.
I have been talking to Brower about the Top Hatch off an on for over 5 years. I got one of the prototypes and tested it. There is an absolute need for a surge protector and it's sensitive to drafts. I got around the drafts by making an incubator cover of an old blanket.
This one has a much much larger motor which drives both the fan and a gear train that drives the turner. It sits up on legs a little higher than the old one, and the electronics are no longer in the tower. I am impressed that they use a multi-turn thermostat.
I have had it running for two days now and it is rock steady in my living room. I put the incubator blanket on it as a test and the temp ran up. Took it off and the temp settled down. I do not know what to make of that.
I think that the Top Hatch is going to be great now that they have beefed it up. I do not think there is any way they can cure the draft problems as the plastic is so conductive. Found a piece of bubble wrap, the kind with quarter-inch bubbles. Cut a piece just wide enough to cover the bowl of the inc. from edge of lid to about an inch below the bottom of the bowl. Stretched it around the bowl, taped it on like a wrapper. The temp stabilized and has been that way now for about 36 hours. Put in 26 silkie eggs. Noticed that it rocked up and down, 101, 98, l00, 96, etc. Candled eggs at 4 days, still alive, so started looking. Problem was drafts from A/C, I know.
The bubble wrap I put around mine has helped tremendously, but it still wobbles a little. They will never be able to match a GQF or a Dickey. I cut foam insulation board and made a snug-fit box for my GQF and made two hatches in December in my unheated garage just as a test. The temp never wavered.
The problem for most folks is that they do not have a convenient place that is temp-stable and draft free. My back bathroom is on a north wall, and there is no way that I can keep it from dropping a degree or two on a freezing winter night. Even so, the Top Hatch holds within a degree--it is drafts that ruin it. I picked up a big cardboard box today. I am going to set the TH in it on the counter, which will totally isolate it from drafts--the box and the bubble wrap.
I also think that a fully loaded incubator will work better than one half-loaded as mine is now. I have only 26 silkie eggs in it.
I really like the detailed instructions for using the incubator, and I am following them to the letter. I will give you a report in two weeks, when the eggs hatch. (They may be a day late because of the temp probs the first week.) The turner and fan on this model are first rate, a huge improvement. Only time will tell how the electronics hold up.
Right now I am sold on the machine--I think it is a great little incubator.
UPDATE FEB 01
My hatch came off last Sunday. Of the 26 silkie eggs I originally set I got l8 chicks, two of which were weak but viable. I removed 5 of the eggs at the second week as dead or infertile, and three did not hatch. Now here is the clinker.
On about the l6th day (the turner on the Top hatch quit, I am afraid I may have broken it), I moved the 21 remaining eggs to the GQF cabinet incubator where they finished.
Here are my observations: The Top hatch thermostat seems to be much improved in its location and circuitry. It is a multi-turn unit and can be precisely adjusted. Once adjusted and placed in a stable environment it will not vary.
The key is "stable environment" The Top Hatch absolutely cannot take drafts or variations in its room temperature without following the change. If the room cools, the incubator cools, if the room heats, the incubator heats.
This has implications for those of us who use programmable thermostats in our homes. If you run at 72 during the day and 68 at night, the incubator will drop when the room temp drops, and it will be slow to come back to incubating temperature. If the heat kicks back on to come back to your daytime setting, the incubator will heat up. Brower acknowledges this when they discuss location of the incubator. They expressly advise not to place the incubator in drafts or where temperature variations are excessive.
I solved this problem with two adaptations. First, I wrapped the side of the incubator bowl with bubble wrap, one layer, held on by masking tape. Then I placed the entire incubator in an open-topped cardboard box. Once I had done this the incubator was unaffected by drafts from the air conditioning or doors opening and closing. This was not a complete solution to the changes in daily temperature due to the programmable thermostat, but since the egg temperature did not fluctuate nearly so much as the air temperature, the chicks did well.
Brower's instructions for using the incubator are excellent and humidity control was simple. The turner was another matter. The turner drive is a series of nylon worm and spur gears. At about the l4th day turner started thumping as if a gear was jumping the worm. I simply rotated the bowl by hand until I had time to move the eggs, and have not yet looked at the turner to see what is wrong. I did look inside; the design is very simple, all parts are accessible and even if a gear is bad, replacement is easy. I am afraid I may have precipitated the problem by letting a piece of bubble wrap get between the bowl and the bowl supports on which it slides, thus jamming the turner. I will report on this when I have time to examine the unit.
I talked to Brower at length about the incubator, took the turner apart and examined the gears, put gear marker on the gears to check the mesh--in short did a complete diagnostic. Even changed out one of the cross shafts and gears that we decided was not meshing. It turns out that the unit must be carefully assembled or some of them, repeat some, not all, will eventually stop turning because the gear housing will part just enough to let a gear disengage from its worm drive. When I found the problem I put the unit back together, squeezed the housing shut and bolted it together, put two six-volt dry cells in it and ran it for more than a week under that overload. It is still in there churning and looks indestructible now. In doing all this I had the opportunity to look inside the works, all easily repairable if ever needed. Stout nylon gears, strong motor.
All in all, I believe the new Top Hatch to be an excellent machine for the hobby. I have geese laying, and the moment I get ten more eggs they go in the Top Hatch. I would not hesitate to recommend it. Mac
This next page of comments includes photos of the TH120 CLICK HERE