Christmas time is fast approaching. Surely you have those one or two finicky family members who are just impossible to shop for. Allow me to share a secret to my Christmas shopping that has alleviated much of the pressure, and restored the sense of peace to what is often the most dreaded experience at this time of year.
My secret is found in our family’s running joke: “What do you get for the one who has everything?”
Going somewhere with no charge at all
Earlier this year, the NiMH batteries in my digital camera ran out of juice just as we entered the restaurant to celebrate my wife’s birthday. I usually remember to charge the batteries before important events, but this time I had forgotten. The spare set, also being NiMH, were useless as well. NiMH batteries drain slowly, even when not being used.
Fortunately, we were close to the Superstore, so I rushed in to pick up a pack of alkaline batteries. From my experience, alkaline batteries work better in electronics devices. They generate a higher current, run devices for a longer period, and best of all, don’t drain when they’re not being used. Alkaline batteries make ideal backups.
However, once I reached the battery aisle I was hit with a dilemma: Staring out at me from the shelves were two stacks of Pure Energy brand alkaline rechargeable batteries. I remember using them ten years ago, but hadn’t seen them since. I thought the company had vanished off the face of the earth. But here they were.
Left standing in the aisle
What made my decision more difficult is that I had caught the product in between release cycles. On the same shelf were three different versions: their old green-packaged batteries from long ago, their recent black XL brand product, and their newly revived bright green and yellow packaging that showcases their environmental consciousness. I wasn’t sure which version of the product to buy.
All the packages boasted batteries that could be charged 500 times or more. All the batteries boasted a higher output than NiMH. And even more confusing, each package offered a charger with different features, and one “starter kit” came with twelve batteries instead of the usual eight.
Eventually I went with the black XLs, (no longer sold). The four AA and four AAA batteries came with a smart charger that also charged NiMH batteries. As I still owned stock in Energizer NiMH batteries I thought I should make an attempt at backwards compatibility.
Ready for use with no charge required
The best deal of all was that these batteries came already charged up. As I needed the batteries for my camera that minute, this product met my immediate need. I didn’t need to purchase an additional set of disposable alkaline batteries for use while waiting for these to charge. Add to this the benefit that they have a 7-year shelf life: You can always count on your spare rechargeable alkaline batteries because they hold their charge when not being used.
More strangeness: the company boasts that these batteries don’t suffer the dreaded “memory” effect, which reduces the total potential charge if recharged too frequently. In fact, quite the opposite: recharge them early, recharge them often, and the batteries will last longer.
Canadian bakin’, eh?
I think my all-time favourite part about Pure Energy is that it is a Canadian company, and their product is a Canadian innovation. Through their feedback form I asked if they were planning to develop other sizes besides AA and AAA, because I regularly use 9-volt and D cells. In my message, I gushed:
“Your products are amazing. I have been using rechargeable batteries in my CD player, flashlights, digital camera, and bluetooth keyboard and mouse for my computer for the past 5 years. I was frustrated that my NiMh batteries would drain even while still in the case, waiting to be used.”
Stephen Meldrum, the Vice President of Sales, responded immediately. While they would like opportunities to develop C and D size batteries, AA and AAA reach over 80% of the battery market. However, they partner with OEM manufacturers to develop custom products for different markets, and recently developed both NiMH and rechargeable alkaline cells for cordless telephones.
When I mentioned I’d be blogging their story, he asked me specifically to point out the environmental benefit of rechargeable alkaline batteries. As the only true direct replacement to disposable batteries this product enables us to have a significant impact on reducing waste entering landfills and green house gas emissions.
Freedom has its price
On average, the smart charger completes the charge cycle in under 6 hours. Each compartment charges independently. The green LED above each battery blinks during the charging cycle, and lights solid when finished. This instructs the user to remove the batteries.
When I used NiMH batteries exclusively, I got frustrated that my spare set never held their charge, so I got lazy. I left the batteries in the charger 24/7, because NiMH can’t be overcharged. Not so true with rechargeable alkaline.
Again, I got lazy, and didn’t obey the solid green LEDs instructing me to remove my batteries from the charger. I left them in overnight. Actually, I left them charging for about a week.
One morning I awoke and noticed that two of the LEDs were lit red.
On further inspection, I realized the charger had been corroded entirely. I was beside myself. The tech in me reamed out the writer:
The word alkaline should have been a clue.
The only downside of my Pure Energy experience is due to my own neglect, which should serve as a warning to all: Pay attention to the little green lights, and don’t leave the batteries in the charger longer than twenty-four hours. Twelve hours should be sufficient, as a standard charge completes within six to eight hours.
From Pure Energy’s website news releases, I learned that they are the world’s only manufacturer of rechargeable alkaline batteries. All this and Canadian to boot. I hope this technology takes off.
Update 2008/12/24: A recent post on redflagdeals.com linked to an online book that compared the power output of rechargeable vs. standard alkaline batteries. Visit Batteries in a Portable World for more information. I never noticed this problem with my batteries, but then I only use them in my low-power consumer electronics.