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Archive for April, 2010

Stewardship and Rechargable Batteries

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

Equipment Planning and Purchasing

Balancing the desire to make wise decisions with the need to save money.

by Jim Kumorek

Any technical ministry leadership role includes planning for equipment purchases. For the typical church tech, this can be a daunting task—there are so many options, and the desire to make wise decisions can be overwhelming.

Here’s what some of the experts have to say about different aspects of planning your acquisitions.

Long-Term Planning

It’s important to consider the long-range goals of your ministry when adding equipment. Donnie Haulk, President of Audio Ethics in Charlotte, N.C., promotes the Technology Master Plan approach. “We look not only at what the church wants to do for the first service after the technology installation, but what the long

term goals are,” Haulk says. “This allows us to choose technology that not only works for the pressing need but can be a part of the bigger picture. When looking at the whole instead of merely individual components, we can enable a technical ministry to grow through multiple phases, with each phase become easier to manage as the long-term goal starts coming together.”

So, consider the long-term, and let that drive your short-term decisions. If your plan is to add moving lights to your sanctuary in the next year or two, and your current lighting consoles dies, don’t replace it with a new console that can’t handle moving lights. Doing so would force you into buying another console in the near future, wasting what you spend to solve the short-term problem.

 Volunteer Skill Level

“The skill level of the operators is always a concern,” adds John Fuqua, vice president/COO of All Pro Sound in Pensacola, Florida. “We make sure that our training sessions are oriented to the abilities of the operators. However, with the ever-growing desire for more complex systems, the operators are typically working with more advanced equipment , requiring dedicated efforts.”

“The skill level of volunteers definitely enters in to the equation,” states Eric Myers, AVL Manager of Colonial Baptist Church in Cary, N.C. “When it came time to put in a new lighting console in our 600- seat student chapel, I went with the exact same piece of equipment that was already installed in our  gymnatorium. Our lighting volunteers already knew it well, so there was no learning curve, and we’re training folks for one console.”

 Track Record

Both the track record of a specific product as well as the track record of the company should be considered. Should a church install the latest and greatest, or the tried and true? Fuqua comments, “This is tough territory. Even though we must stay on the cutting edge of technology, sometimes what is considered to be the latest and greatest ends up with some problems that are only realized after it is installed and put in service. As an integrator, we rely on our relationship with manufacturers to stand behind their products and to be there if something does occur. There is a lot to be said for using proven equipment as much as possible. The track record of the manufacturer plays a big role in this process.”

Glenn Peacock, contracting division director at Sound Image in Phoenix, Ariz., adds, “The track record of a product and a company is a very significant concern with Sound Image. We don’t like to experiment on our clients.” 

When Myers chose his lighting console for the student chapel, he also considered reputation. “The manufacturer, ETC, is rock solid, and furthermore, that piece of gear has a rock solid reputation. This results in a lot of peace of mind.”

 Training

When you need to purchase equipment that is beyond the current skill sets of your team, you need to plan for training sessions and support mechanisms for your volunteers. When specifying equipment that’s beyond the capabilities of the technical team, Haulk sees this as a critical issue. “We see what the various skill sets the ministry team has in place and talk about recruiting new assets if the ministry goals are outside of the existing talent. We can then also set up training sessions to help the team achieve these new skills that are required to operate the various new technologies.”

 When you decide to go with new gear that’s going to stretch (or stress!) your team, make sure you can announce an effective training and support plan at the same time you inform them of the decision. For training, provide no-stress times where the volunteers can gain experience and confidence. After formal training, make sure that the first few times they use the equipment in a “live” environment, someone experienced is at their side to support them. No onewants to work “without a net” before they have developed their confidence.

Stewardship

Peacock defines good stewardship in the A/V environment this way. “Always make sure that there is a direct correlation to the church’s mission. Should we upgrade the mixer we purchased last year with the latest and greatest model when the business case or return on investment is not obvious to the church leadership? The answer should be ‘no’.” 

JamesWojtowicz, worship leader at Grace Point Church in Las Vegas, adds, “The main thing for me is, how will it benefit us over the long haul? Does it add value to our overall worship environment, or is it just ‘cool’ to have? We avoided getting a digital console this year because of the fact that it really wouldn’t bring a noticeable change in our sound compared to the price. We ended up purchasing a higher-end analog board for half the price instead. I am all for digital consoles, but it made more sense for us both from a technical/functional side and a stewardship side to go analog. In addition, our volunteers didn’t have to learn a whole new way to run a console.”

 Myers adds, “It means buying the right tool for the job, so you aren’t buying it three times. It means buying something that saves volunteer man hours. It means buying something that entices volunteers to want to serve because it makes your productions look or sound better. Nothing grows a team and saves you labor hours like doing your job really well. The best way to do your job well is with the right tools.”

 Myers comments further on the topic of good stewardship: “Good stewardship also means listening to good tips. Our senior pastor sent me a link about several churches using Ansmann rechargeable batteries. I researched this, and read a Shure report on the use of rechargeable batteries. Then, when I went to the InfoComm show in Las Vegas last year, I found out that all of the Cirque shows were using them. That, combined with the Shure study, was enough of an answer for me. These Ansmann rechargeable batteries will save us almost $1,000 a year. And they work flawlessly. So, that system paid for itself in about a year.”

Support

Another key consideration in equipment selection is the question of how much support you are likely to need, and on the support reputation of the company you are considering purchasing from. Haulk comments, “You want to have the support of a company that is going to be there not only when you buy the equipment, but also three to five years down the road to support it.”

For most churches, their critical time of equipment use is Sunday morning. When you get into the church at 7 AM and the lights don’t come on, will your consultant or the manufacturer’s tech support department answer the phone when you call?

Getting Assistance

So when does it make sense to go it alone on a purchasing decision, and when should you seek outside help? The first thing to consider is experience—will the selection process benefit from the experience of someone in the industry?

Peacock explains, “It is common for a church to go through two or three system purchases before they begin to benefit from the experience and realize that they needed professional advice. The more experienced churches tend to find and enlist the help of full-time professionals.”

Another Rechargable Battery Recall

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

Mar 3—Frontrow recalls PA System Microphone BATTERIES

Manufacturer: See Below
Product: Electrical
Start Date: 2009-03-03  End Date: 2009-04-03
Frontrow Recalls to Replace Rechargeable Batteries Sold with PA System Microphones Due to Burn HazardThe following product safety recall was voluntarily conducted by the firm in cooperation with the CPSC. Consumers should stop using the product immediately unless otherwise instructed.

Name of Product: NIMH AA Rechargeable Batteries

Units: About 41,000

Distributor: Frontrow, of Petaluma, Calif.

Manufacturer: Gold Peak Industries, of San Diego, Calif.

Hazard: The batteries can rapidly overheat, posing a burn hazard to the user.

Incidents/Injuries: The firm has received four reports of batteries overheating during use in wireless public announcement systems and microphones. No injuries have been reported.

Description: The recalled 2400-mAH NIMH batteries are used in the 930TM, 930HT and 940TM public announcement system microphones. Only batteries with part number 374-30-400-00, printed on the light green sleeve of the battery, are included in the recall.

Sold by: Frontrow distributors nationwide from June 2005 through December 2008 for about $7 for the battery only and about $300 when sold with the transmitter.

Manufactured in: China

Remedy: Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled batteries and contact their FrontRow agent to receive free replacement batteries. Alkaline batteries can be used while waiting for replacement batteries. All known purchasers have been contacted about the recall.

Consumer Contact: For additional information, contact Frontrow at (800) 227-0735 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              (800) 227-0735      end_of_the_skype_highlighting between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. PT, Monday through Friday or visit the firm’s Web site at www.gofrontrow.com/battery

LA Times – Shrinking Your Energy Footprint

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

latimes.com

Shrink your energy footprint

For the gear you have: Even when they’re not in use, many house-hold appliances suck up juice. Pull the plug on wasteful habits and save.

By Alex Pham

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

February 24, 2008

The average American home contains 25 consumer electronics devices. So to go green, start with what you’ve got.

First, get a handle on your current electricity usage. A device called Kill A Watt, from P3 International Corp., makes for a nifty parlor game of Guess Watt with anything that plugs into a socket.

One surprise might be how much energy some devices use even when idle or turned off. Consumer electronics suck as much as 25% of their power when not in use, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. For computers, the figure can be much higher — up to 85% for a PC that’s always left on.

That’s because many devices don’t really turn off — they operate in standby mode, awaiting commands from a remote control. Many also have digital displays that stay on.

For example, a computer, monitor and cable modem together suck 11 watts even when powered down, adding 66 cents to a typical Californian’s monthly energy bill. An idle CD player can munch 6 watts. So can a switched-off TV.

It adds up. These silent siphons of energy, known as phantom loads, add about $28 to the average annual household power bill, according to the energy department.

You can tame these electricity vampires by unplugging devices between uses. If that’s too much effort, consider buying a SmartStrip, a power strip and surge protector that automatically cuts off power to devices that are shut down.

It’s designed to be used with computers or home entertainment systems where devices operate in clusters. If, for example, the TV is off, the SmartStrip also shuts down the DVD player, surround-sound speakers and cable box.

What about cellphones, digital cameras, iPods and other rechargeable devices? Try taking them off the grid, at least partially. A Solio charger, about the size of a computer mouse, attaches with a suction cup to a window, where it soaks up enough energy from the sun to fully power up two cellphones.

For those on the move, there’s a solar backpack from Voltaic Systems Inc. Fully charged, the backpack’s solar panels can juice up to three iPods. The company is expected to come out this spring with a version powerful enough to charge laptops.

Wind power is another alternative. The 5-inch HYmini wind turbine attaches to your arm while running, downhill skiing or biking. A 20-minute session with wind speeds of 19 mph can capture enough power to keep an iPod going for 30 minutes, according to Miniwiz, the Taiwanese company that makes HYmini.

Alternative energy isn’t always the cheapest or fastest way to charge up. The Solio costs $80 to $200. The solar backpacks are $199 to $599. And the HYmini is $50 to $70. Most take hours of movement or sunbathing to fully charge.

A more economical and easier tweak is to reduce battery usage, which might help cut down on the 15 billion disposable batteries produced each year.

A top-of-the-line AA nickel metal hydride MaxE battery from Ansmann Energy, distributed in the U.S. by Horizon Battery, costs about $4 and can be recharged 1,000 times. At 3 cents in electricity per charge, the battery’s total cost comes to about $34. By contrast, 1,000 disposable AA batteries costing 30 cents apiece would cost about $300.

Road warriors who don’t want to get loaded down with a charging unit might consider USBCell, which looks and acts just like a AA battery, except the top pops off to reveal a USB head that can plug into a laptop’s USB port to recharge. A pair will set you back $17.50.

alex.pham@latimes.com

Copyright © 2010, The Los Angeles Times

Ansmann Rechargeables for Schools and Churches

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

Going green used to be a passing thought but today, with tight budgets and greater emphasis to convert facilities to greener operations, the switch to rechargeable batteries is a literal no-brainer

Deptford, NJ (PRWEB) April 22, 2009 — Ansmann USA and Horizon Battery launches a new website, ansmann.net to assist schools, theaters and churches switching from disposable alkalines to money-saving, planet-saving rechargeable batteries and chargers. Every year, schools, theaters and churches throw away over 200 million alkaline batteries – just to run their wireless mics and other portable electronics.

“There are approximately 350,000 churches in the US,” explains David Schliep, President, Ansmann USA. “If each church uses just 2 alkaline batteries, 2x a week; the church community throws away over 72 million alkaline batteries every year. Add schools and theaters to that number and they’re well on the way to building a massive 200 million piece ‘dead battery mountain’ every year.”

Ansmann Recharging Systems
Ansmann Recharging Systems

 

“Going green used to be a passing thought but today, with tight budgets and greater emphasis to convert facilities to greener operations, the switch to rechargeable batteries is a literal no-brainer” says Schliep. “Besides saving the environment, this is one green project that actually cost you less — not more — to convert.”

The average house of worship saves about $400 per year for five to seven years by switching to an Ansmann recharging system. Production companies, like clients Cirque du Soleil and Blue Man Group, save even more. Schools and universities convert their complete AV department to Ansmann rechargeable batteries and shave thousands of the yearly battery budgets. Churches alone in the US could collectively save over 140 million dollars each year instead of throwing batteries away. In today’s tough economic times and decreased giving from church congregants, tightening up on expendables proves to be a real savings.

“Our new website and new introductory movie help clients decide what batteries and chargers are right for their application. We customize recharging systems specifically for the type and number of wireless units, run-time requirements, and other technical and performance considerations,” states Schliep.

The goal is to simply explain the nuts and bolts of rechargeable technology and eliminate the old fallacies concerning rechargeable batteries and wireless mics. In the past, a switch to rechargeable batteries was considered taboo. Those clients seeking to save money need to know that rechargeables will really work for them, without compromising performance. Still, the old school of thought lingers among some audio techs, particularly those who have tried consumer grade rechargeable batteries and battery chargers with poor results.

“That’s why we offer a 30-day trial period on all our chargers and batteries. In addition, Ansmann warrants the batteries for a two year period and battery chargers for three years,” explains Schliep. “In 11 years of offering rechargeable batteries for wireless mics our return rate is miniscule. The hardest part of our business is getting churches or schools to try our products. Once they do, we rarely hear from them again – until they need to buy more batteries, about 5-7 years later.”


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