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Old 06-03-2008, 12:25   #1
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EPIRB Battery

Hello:

Does anyone know of a place to get a new Epirb Battery. The prices I have been quoted are around $300. Seems excessive to me. Anybody have a good source?
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Old 06-03-2008, 12:50   #2
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Charlie,

There have been several posts on this topic lately; one I remember was on SailNet.

Unfortunately, the EPIRB companies have you over a barrel. $300 is the going rate.

Mine is due soon; not looking forward to shelling out the $$$ again (especially as I'm an electronics techie and know what [little work] the job entails).

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Old 06-03-2008, 13:13   #3
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One of the guys on the Island Packet list posted this:

"Replaced the battery on my epirb for $275.00. It was done by lifeline inflatables in Cocoa Beach, Florida.
They do ask for the eprib to be in their shop for testing- so I'm not sure how much the shipping would be to get it there and then have it sent back out to you.

In any case, here's their phone number 321-636-5212"
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Old 06-03-2008, 13:52   #4
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Thanks Hubd and Bill:

I have talked to the Nicad Lady. She could not quote me a price but said to send her the batteries and she would quote me a price for replacing the batteries. I am going to see if she can give a more reasonable price for the batteries. I will let you know how that works out. Of course that doesn't give me a check to see if it works or not I figure for that I'll just turn it on and see how long it takes NOAA to call my brother who is the Emergency Contact. LOL No I'll take it to one of the companies and ask them to test it. Hopefully that will work out.
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Old 06-03-2008, 15:42   #5
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I hear that the batteries can last 10 years or more with out major loss of power. My epirb is over due for a new battery but I decided to use it until we start our cruise then use the $300. toward buying a new epirb. My Wife can get a nice discount on a new epirb with gps when the time comes.
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Old 06-03-2008, 17:04   #6
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Gunner:

Sounds like that may be a better plan than replacing the battery. I have two EPIRB's and one of them ACR will not sell batteries for b/c it has "outlived its useful life." It is a 406 EPIRB. I want to have one when I go to Mexico next year and when I sail down the coast in a few months. I'm thinking of trying to get a new battery from the Nicad Lady for the one that has outsued its useful life and then if that works out see what happens at the end of the year.
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Old 06-03-2008, 20:02   #7
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Quote:
My epirb is over due for a new battery but I decided to use it until we start our cruise then use the $300. toward buying a new epirb. My Wife can get a nice discount on a new epirb with gps when the time comes.
I think the battery service is supposed to include a test of the unit as well. Can't help but agreeing with you on just trashing it and getting a new one. Of course if you never needed it why should you, but then if you needed it I can't help be feeling thankful you did.
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Old 06-03-2008, 21:48   #8
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Charlie-
There have been reports of EPIRBs not working "brand new" as well as after a supposed battery replacement and test. Our terribly underfunded friends at the USCG have addressed this by placing test equipment at some USCG stations, so you might want to contact your USCG District Office and ask where the nearest one is to you. Basically, the test gear is a small shielded box, they put the EPIRB inside it, trigger it, and an antenna inside the sealed box picks up the signal--so the operation can be confirmed without sending a real signal into the SAR system.

The Nicad Lady has a top reputation. The question is, how exotic is the battery for your particular EPIRB and whether anyone besides the authorized shops can get ahold of one. They tend to make that a proprietary income source, arguably justified by replacing the waterproof seals (yada yada) and ensuring the reliability of the whole unit. Personally, $300 for a battery and gasket still makes me think of the phrase "highway robbery" no matter how nicely someone asks it. "Outlived it's usefull life" also is kinda curious, since even simple transistor radios are considered to have a one hundred year service life when properly designed, built, and operated. Aside from the battery.[g]

Typically those batteries are rated for a 10-year shelf life with a recommendation that they be replaced every 5 years. That's because a new battery may be good for 24 hours in icy waters--and after five years, you are down to 12 hours, which is already a fairly short transmission time. (How long could a good strong solar flare disrupt the system for? Or some other glitch?)
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Old 06-03-2008, 22:01   #9
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I think the battery service is supposed to include a test of the unit as well.
And also supposed to check the physical integrity of the unit including that of the waterproof seals. Some countries they also check it is correctly registered to the named boat.

One should get a form back from the servicing centre (in most countries) verifying the HEX coding matches the vessel name and MMSI (or serial if serialised) as well. On new builds I have managed I always check the HEX coding myself after the EPIRB's have been delivered using the COSPAS/SARSAT check software and to date I have come across 2 that have been incorrectly programmed when delivered new.

Frankly, I would not waste my time and possible risk to myself by playing around with changing 406 EPIRB batteries myself. My current EPIRB is an ACR one which will be over 12 years old when due for next service so will then be junk - I will be buying a new one, I have no argument with their policy so will be another ACR one for me. It is the basic and most reliable alerting system for any cruising boat now (and in the GMDSS) assuming it is properly registered and maintained.

If buying new, something many are not aware of is that some of the cheaper EPIRB's do not auto actuate when placed in water (I am not talking about float free ones here, just the non float free ones which until recent allowable specification relaxations have all auto actuated if just put into water). Is important to me that they do auto actuate and may be to others in which case is something to watch for when buying new.

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Old 07-03-2008, 01:33   #10
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Originally Posted by hellosailor View Post
Typically those batteries are rated for a 10-year shelf life with a recommendation that they be replaced every 5 years. That's because a new battery may be good for 24 hours in icy waters--and after five years, you are down to 12 hours, which is already a fairly short transmission time. (How long could a good strong solar flare disrupt the system for? Or some other glitch?)
The beacons (EPIRB's) I am familiar with are built to any of these specs: - AS/NZS 4280; COSPAS-SARSAT; C/S T.001/007; European MED; SAMSA which require the beacon to operate for a minimum of 48 hours at its minimum operating temperature which is usually -20 degrees C at its maximun battery expiry date. Note that PLB's are only required to operate for 24 hours.

I don't know if the followings applies to ALL 406 beacons but the units I service have the following attributes.

The first 50 seconds of 406 transmission (from initial turn on) are encoded so that the receiving satellite does not consider the signal to be "active". The HEX ID, country code etc can still be read during this time but the satellite does not process the signal to a RCC. After 60 seconds, the coding of the transmission changes and the signal becomes active and is relayed to the appropriate RCC. This allows real time testing without causing a emergency response. Note: the 121.5 transmission is live during this time.

The 406 transmissions switch off after 24 hours and only the 121.5 transmissions continue at full (nominally) power for another 24 hours. After that, the 121.5 transmissions continue at reducing power levels until the battery is flat. The length of time (after the 48 hours) is dependant mainly on battery temperature.
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Old 07-03-2008, 08:39   #11
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Frankly, I would not waste my time and possible risk to myself by playing around with changing 406 EPIRB batteries myself. My current EPIRB is an ACR one which will be over 12 years old when due for next service so will then be junk - I will be buying a new one, I have no argument with their policy so will be another ACR one for me. It is the basic and most reliable alerting system for any cruising boat now (and in the GMDSS) assuming it is properly registered and maintained.
John
I don't know how you can hurt yourself taking apart an EPIRB. The batteries are three "D" cell size 3v batteries that are Lithium Magnese Dioxide that are run together to make 9v. Not very complicated They are tied together with string wraped with packing tape and then shrink wrapped. The shrink wrap will be the toughest part to replace. But I'm sure that that tape that is used to seal leaks (can't remember the name) would work just fine as it really only holds the batteries together not a waterproofing agent of any source. The seals are O ringscovered in vasaline. The biggest problem that I have is how to dispose of the batteries in an environmentally sound way.

HS thanks for the info on the Test site for USCG. It would probably serve me well to test both of these before I ship the batteries off to be replaced.

Wot:
Thanks for the info on how an EPIRB works. That is very interesting to me.
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Old 07-03-2008, 08:42   #12
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Wotname, thanks for the details.

MidLand, why would you expect an unused 12-year old radio to have become "junk" ? Aside from a rash of defective capacitors manufactured in China about 10 year ago that caused some widespread computer motherboard failures...that kind of electronics just doesn't go bad on the shelf.
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Old 07-03-2008, 15:27   #13
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MidLand, why would you expect an unused 12-year old radio to have become "junk" ? Aside from a rash of defective capacitors manufactured in China about 10 year ago that caused some widespread computer motherboard failures...that kind of electronics just doesn't go bad on the shelf.
Well, we will have to differ - electronic equipment does deteriorate and become less reliable with age.

I expect that your radios, computers, etc, etc all last forever without failing from age related (ie later than intitial burn in) problems - if so maybe you can enlighten me as to how you achieve that, because mine do not?

Charlie - I did not say anything about replacing the batteries oneself would/may hurt you. Just it might prove to be a problem if you find that the EPIRB doesn't work correctly when you need it. Maybe some unknowns you have not thought about - just one example of many thoughts and I don't know the answer to this, but can you tell me how long your EPIRB will retain its programming with the batteries out while you are doing the replacement - forever, 2 hours, 5 minutes, never?
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Old 07-03-2008, 15:39   #14
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How Long Do Electronics Last?

Once past the "infant mortality period", most electronics with no moving parts last a very long time.

I am in the business. Also have been a ham for nearly 40 years. My house and shop are full of radios, some 50 years old or more. They all work, and work, and work.

In my house we listen to a local AM radio station all day long. Every day. Use two 30-year old portable RDF radios, which take "D" batteries. They work perfectly, year in and year out.

If you take care of your equipment and don't abuse it, the likelihood is that it will last longer than you will.

Re: EPIRB "programming" being lost when you change batteries, I suspect the info is in EPROM anyway....it will be retained. However, if you're worried, you could most likely take a small 9V flat battery and, using a couple of tiny jumpers, clip on to supply voltage while you change out the EPIRB battery bank.

Bill
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Old 07-03-2008, 15:52   #15
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(How long could a good strong solar flare disrupt the system for? Or some other glitch?)
Current generation beacons are subject to EMI due to their digital design. I have experienced a known problem with one very reputable manufacturered beacon fitted to a reputable biz jet where the EMI from the strobe light wiring causes the beacon brains to lock up to a point where it won't operate regardless of how you attempt to turn it on e.g. remote switch, unit switch, crash sensor (G) switch etc. It can ONLY be reset by removing the battery. While this is an unusal problem and so far has only been documented in a handful of instances out of tens of thousands of beacon installations, it is a real problem. Given the sweeping tide of digital devices and electronics on board, it is something to know about and to consider.
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