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A New Way of Doing Batteries

June 15th, 2011

The Horizon Group launched the country’s Smart Battery Club this week. This is a program meant to alleviate the requirement for families to shell out money on batteries annually. It is not your typcial “switch to rechargeable battery” idea that so many of us have seriously considered, maybe tried previously, and said “forget it.”
Why is this idea so inviting is threefold:

First, Smart Battery Club capitalizes on cutting edge ZeroWatt Rechargeable Technology. Unlike traditional battery chargers, Zerowatt chargers disconnect from the power source when the batteries are charged. This eliminates stand-by power consumption and saves you money on the power company bill.

Second, the application of Max E low self-discharge cells (also referred to as LSD batteries) eliminate the need for the batteries to be left on the charger as a way to stay charged. They may be saved in stand-by up to a year – with minimal loss of power. That as well, saves the family money buy not having to but throw-away batteries year after year. (Furthermore, it takes a small dent out of the 15 billion batteries being thrown-away each year on this planet)  Since Max E batteries are also high-capacity cells, you don’t have to constantly switch out the recharged cells because they are not lasting long enough. The truth is, the most of the Max E batteries outperform alkaline cells in run-time. Add to that the ability to re-use these batteries as much as 1000 times and the savings really start mounting up.

Finally, the club is set-up to refer other families to join. Whenever a new member joins due to another, the referring party earns commissions on the purchase of product. It’s this “pay it forward” attitude of the club that encourages families to do the right thing about living green buy “making some green” too.  This concept has attracted the interest of church congregations, civic organizations and other groups who have a capacity to “convert” other to this new way of doing batteries – and in essence, freeing up their wasted “battery cash” for other priorities. It’s refreshing to see an eco-friendly program that truly saves and earns green too.

Rechargeable Batteries – The 1 Year Test

March 17th, 2011

This article is REPOST from Mike Sessler at Church Tech Arts. Mike is a Tech Director that blogs about a wide variety of information in the Pro-Audio/Video arena. I have found his information to be exceptional in content. (No Fluff) If you are a tech director for a church, school or production facility, you should consider following Mike at http://www.churchtecharts.org

We were very pleased with Ansmann’s results the aa rechargeable battery review as well as the 9v rechargeable battery review

Rechargeable Batteries: The 1 Year Test

Mar 14th, 2011 
by Mike.

Last year, I wrote a series on rechargeable batteries. I’ve long been a proponent of them, having started using them in wireless mics in 2006. In that series of posts, I did some pretty extensive testing to see exactly how long two modern, NiMh AA batteries would run a Shure UHF-R mic with an SM58 capsule on it (with music played through a wedge to simulate the mic processing audio). I compared the run time to a brand new Duracell ProCell (considered the standard for alkaline–aka disposable–batteries). I expected the NiMh batteries to hold their own against the ProCell, as I’ve had good experience with them for years. What I did not expect is for the ProCells to be completely trounced by the rechargeable cells.

In that test, the best NiMh cells ran for 14 hours before the mic switched off. The ProCell only managed 9.75 hours before going dead. So not only do rechargeable batteries save you a bunch of money, they also run longer than a ProCell (by over 4 hours!). Faced with that clear and decisive victory, many people made the switch. However, some remained unconvinced. “Let’s see how they hold up in a year,” was a comment I heard often. So here we are, one year later. This time, I pulled three sets of NiMh batteries from our regular stock. These are batteries we’ve been using every week for a year. I have no idea how many cycles are on each one, because we have more stock than we actually need. I can tell you we don’t baby them, nor do we abuse them. They’ve always been charged at the soft charge setting (500 mah), and we always pull straight from the charger.

Last time around, I tested two low self-discharge chemistries, the Ansmann Max-E and the Sanyo Eneloop. Neither provided the runtime of the higher capacity NiMh batteries, but they both outlasted the ProCell. As I don’t see any compelling reason to use low self-discharge batteries in wireless mics, I’ve pulled them from our stock and didn’t re-test. I have the charger capacity to always fill mics from the charger and suggest that to everyone. I do use Eneloops at home, however, and they’re fantastic. But let’s get on to the results, shall we?

Battery Testing GraphI think this speaks for itself. Click for a larger version 

Results
As you can see from the chart, the ProCells once again lost. Big time. This time, we got 8.5 hours out of a fresh set of ProCells, while the worst NiMh battery ran over 12.5 hours. Just as importantly, the “fall off the cliff” point (as indicate by the vertical red lines) is 7 hours for the ProCell and 11.25 hours for all three NiMh batteries. I define “fall off the cliff” as the point where you really should replace the battery as the life declines very rapidly after this point. Interestingly, last year, the Sanyo ran the longest at 14 hours (beating the Ansmann by 45 minutes); this year however, the tables turned and the Ansmann outlasted Sanyo by well over an hour.

It’s also interesting that all three NiMh batteries fall off the cliff at roughly the same point, however the Ansmann lands a little softer, giving you a little more time to get them changed. Now, with that said, quibbling over the last hour of run time in the scope of a total run time of 14 hours is rather academic. And I don’t recommend you push them this far anyway, you’re really asking for trouble after about 8-9 hours with any of them. Again, it’s interesting to note that the Ansmann indicated 3 bars far longer than the rest of them, which is consistent to what we observe each weekend.

In Use
In our use, we battery up the mics around 12:30 on Saturday, and power them off at 6:45 or so. Most of the time, the mics are reading 3 bars, though the Ansmanns tend to be reading 4 at that point. When we use them in our PSM900 IEMs, we rarely see them report less than 4 at the end of the day. Sundays are similar, though the runtime is shorter.

We’ve gotten pretty confident in the run time of these batteries; to the point where we really don’t spend much time thinking about it. Sure, I have Workbench open at FOH and glance over occasionally, but it’s more to make sure they’re all turned on; I rarely consider the battery gauge. For me, that’s a big benefit of using the rechargeable batteries; I just don’t think about them anymore. When I’m at FOH, I’d much rather spend my time thinking about the mix than wondering whether my batteries are going to hold out for one more song (and I’ve been in that boat far too many times with ProCells).

Other Observations
Last time around, I gave the nod to PowerEx batteries as the winner, though I acknowledged the other two as being so close that it really doesn’t matter. A year of use has changed my mind. We have a bunch of all three batteries, but we use the Ansmann more than the others most of the time. This is for a few reasons. First, the Sanyos are bigger than the others and don’t fit well in the UR2s. We have to pull them out, and that’s caused some degradation of the plastic wrap on the outside. Some of them are really coming apart. The PowerEx are also breaking down a little bit, and again are slightly bigger than the Ansmanns. They come out of the mics better than the Sanyos, but the smaller Ansmanns fit the best. Overall, the Ansmann cells are holding up very well, both in charge capacity and physically. We have had two Ansmann batteries short out internally, however. I’m not sure what caused this; the vocalist noticed the mic heating up, so we pulled the cells and found a clear dark line on the top of the cell. This happened twice in the first 6 months of operation, and hasn’t been repeated. We assume we got a few bad cells, because I’ve used at least 150 Ansmann batteries over the years and these are only two to ever go bad.

As I’ve said over and over, we’re saving a ton of money every year on batteries; at least $1,000 and probably more. Given that it cost us less than $300 to get into it, it’s a pretty fair bargain. I expect the batteries to last 5 years before we have to replace them, our savings is pretty significant. It’s also considerably more environmentally friendly to not dump thousands of used AAs in the trash every year. We use them and don’t think about it, which I really like.

I’m not sure how you could remain unconvinced about the effectiveness of rechargeable batteries at this point, but in case you are, we’ll revisit these same cells a year from now and see how they’re doing. Until then, I’m going to find something else to spend that $1,000 on. Maybe some new mics…

3 Things You Need To Know About Rechargeable Batteries

February 21st, 2011

Part 1: Understanding Your Electronic Devices

We all use rechargeable batteries. Cell phones, digital cameras, and a host of electronic devices are prevalent in every household and business. In this three part series, we provide some important guidelines that will save money, prevent frustration and disappointment and ultimately make the most of using rechargeable batteries.

First and foremost, everything depends on what you are trying to achieve by using rechargeable batteries. How do you plan to use them? More importantly, what are the specifics of your portable electronic devices? Let’s explore some of the “need to know” rules about your electronic gear in order to effectively use rechargeable batteries.

1. Is it a high drain device? Wireless microphones, in-ear monitors, flash units, digital cameras, CD and MP3 players and other high-drain devices all work just fine with rechargeable batteries. In fact, rechargeable batteries are preferred because of their faster recovery times between power usage. For example, a photo flash unit will recycle faster using rechargeable batteries over a standard alkaline. In addition, man times, the overall strength or capacity (measured in milli-amp hours or mah) of a rechargeable battery is much higher than a standard alkaline battery. Some other examples of high-drain devices are portable fans, paintball guns and hoppers, and portable TV’s.

2. Is it a low drain device? Not many people realize that devices such as smoke detectors, wireless mouse and keyboards, video game controllers and remotes can also utilize rechargeable batteries. Personal electronics such as hair trimmers and electric toothbrushes, as well as thermostats, penlights and LED lamps can all use rechargeables. Typically, these devices do not draw a large amount of current and are used intermittently. With new advances in rechargeable technology, just about any household item that uses AA, AAA, 9V, C or D’s can be powered by a rechargeable battery.

3. Know your run-time requirements. To properly choose the right rechargeable system, you need to know the run-time requirements of your wireless devices. For example, you may need to run a wireless microphone for 2 hours or 12 hours per use. It may be used daily or once a week. A digital camera may be used professionally everyday for 4 – 6 hours or a couple hours twice a month for personal consumption.

4. Here are a few other factors to consider: How long does the device sit dormant or in stand-by? A video game controller may be used for 2 hours but only once a week. Are your electronics stationary or on-the go? Is it important to be portable when considering a charging unit? Understanding your pattern of usage and run-time requirements will help in choosing the best batteries and minimize frustration.

5. Finally, consider what you are spending a year on throw-away batteries. Is it $50 or $5000? When we switched all the Cirque du Soleil touring and resident shows over to rechargeable technology, they were spending over $1000 per week in disposable batteries. Talk about saving money! In contrast, a church or school facility may spend $250 -$1000 per year. Even most families spend an average of $150 -$200 per year. As a family, that adds up to over $10,000 in a lifetime! Have you ever thought about how you could be spending 10K instead of on throw-away batteries?

Your first step in making the switch to rechargeables is to compile a list of all your wireless gear and classify it by low-drain or high-drain and by battery size. Also jot down a note about your usage pattern for each device. You’d be surprised how many batteries you use in your facility or household.

In Part 2, we discuss the various types of rechargeable batteries – and how to choose the proper ones for each of your electronic devices.

It’s About Time

February 17th, 2011

Well, we realized that all this good information we share with our customers when they phone us could sure be duplicated here on the Horizon Battery Blog — and help a lot more people.  So, check back weekly to catch up on all the tips and tricks of rechargeable batteries.  We have a boatload just waiting to make it’s way to you.  Stay tuned.

Stewardship and Rechargable Batteries

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

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

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

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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