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Old 05-03-2012, 08:18   #16
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Re: 1998 ACR EPIRB

" One post indicated that an EPIRB older than 12 years can not be ACR refirbed and certified."
ACR does not want to work on old EPIRBs they'd rather sell you a new one. Now, what is in an EPIRB? Discrete electronic conmponents, which have a 100-year life expectancy, and possibly some ICs which have a thousand-year life expectancy. The weakest links are the battery (5 year shelf life, easily replaceable but hard to source) and any electrolytic capacitors, which sometimes fail at 20-25 years but can last the full hundred if they were bought from a prime supplier. The failure can usually be visually confirmed as "tar" leaking from their base. If there are any in your EPIRB.

So if you know how to use a screwdriver and take some care about the o-ring or other seal on the case, and you can figure out how to do a web search for the $150 battery...You can easily (and I suggest safely) replace the battery.

ACR also had some problems in the past, like the plastic cases cracking where they installed brass bushings to take the case sealing screws. A manufacturing or design or material defect certainly--but ACR prefers to dodge that responsibility and condemn the old EPIRBs instead of doing the right thing, which would be replacing the cases or the units during battery replacement.

That wasn't their only EPIRB problem, they had one model that passed the self-tests--but didn't transmit any signal. Ooopsie.

Many of the new EPIRBs will actually SEND a test message into the SAR system, so you can be sure the whole thing actually IS working, not just claiming to be working. That might be worth an upgrade all by itself.

But an old EPIRB? If the case looked good, there was no water or UV damage, everything inside and out looked old but solid? I'd spend the $150 for the new battery and AT LEAST keep it as a spare. EPIRBs have been known to get lost, stolen, dropped on the way out. $150 for a "no reason it shouldn't work" spare would seem to be a prudent investement to me.

"The principal differences are that EPIRB's are designed to self launch, self activate,"
Wiki needs some help. That's the Class-I/Class-2 difference, NOT ALL are designed to self-launch OR to self-activate.
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Old 05-03-2012, 08:35   #17
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Re: 1998 ACR EPIRB

Quote:
I disagree that the EPRIB tops the list of safety equipment, to my mind it comes well down the list. It is essentially, a last ditch option that relies on outside help to rescue ones sorry butt. I place all the other on board items / procedures that the keeps one being self sufficient and out of harms way well above an EPRIB; but this is not the thread to expound on such aspects.
Agreed on all points, thank you for clarifying this.

Another point I'd like to bring up is that cruisers should be aware that these commercially available "help" systems, such as the "SPOT" system, are not supported by the international SAR community and as such are not a suitable replacement for a certified and registered 406 EPIRB. I think some people are being confused by these company's claims to the contrary and are lulled into believing they are the same thing.
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Old 05-03-2012, 08:46   #18
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Re: 1998 ACR EPIRB

Quote:
Originally Posted by hellosailor View Post
.......

Many of the new EPIRBs will actually SEND a test message into the SAR system, so you can be sure the whole thing actually IS working, not just claiming to be working. That might be worth an upgrade all by itself.
..........
Yes & no. All new EPRIBs transmits a coded bust of carrier when self tested. This allows for built in self testing of the transmitted power level and the built in self testing of the SWR on the antenna. It also allows for the external monitoring of the signal and correct coding by an external test set.

The first pulse is inverted (1 to 0 or vice versa) and as such is recognized by the satellites as a test transmission is is not downloaded to the earth stations. At least I think the decoding is done upstairs but I might be wrong and it may be decoded as a test transmission on the ground. Either way, the RCC doesn't know the beacon has been tested.

The next bust of carrier (approximately 50 to 60 seconds later) has the first pulse "round the right way" and becomes the first active distress pulse.

FWIW, I totally agree with your points as posted.
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Old 05-03-2012, 09:59   #19
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Re: 1998 ACR EPIRB

Quote:
Originally Posted by hellosailor View Post
" One post indicated that an EPIRB older than 12 years can not be ACR refirbed and certified."
ACR does not want to work on old EPIRBs they'd rather sell you a new one. Now, what is in an EPIRB? Discrete electronic conmponents, which have a 100-year life expectancy, and possibly some ICs which have a thousand-year life expectancy. The weakest links are the battery (5 year shelf life, easily replaceable but hard to source) and any electrolytic capacitors, which sometimes fail at 20-25 years but can last the full hundred if they were bought from a prime supplier. The failure can usually be visually confirmed as "tar" leaking from their base. If there are any in your EPIRB.

So if you know how to use a screwdriver and take some care about the o-ring or other seal on the case, and you can figure out how to do a web search for the $150 battery...You can easily (and I suggest safely) replace the battery.

ACR also had some problems in the past, like the plastic cases cracking where they installed brass bushings to take the case sealing screws. A manufacturing or design or material defect certainly--but ACR prefers to dodge that responsibility and condemn the old EPIRBs instead of doing the right thing, which would be replacing the cases or the units during battery replacement.

That wasn't their only EPIRB problem, they had one model that passed the self-tests--but didn't transmit any signal. Ooopsie.

Many of the new EPIRBs will actually SEND a test message into the SAR system, so you can be sure the whole thing actually IS working, not just claiming to be working. That might be worth an upgrade all by itself.

But an old EPIRB? If the case looked good, there was no water or UV damage, everything inside and out looked old but solid? I'd spend the $150 for the new battery and AT LEAST keep it as a spare. EPIRBs have been known to get lost, stolen, dropped on the way out. $150 for a "no reason it shouldn't work" spare would seem to be a prudent investement to me.

"The principal differences are that EPIRB's are designed to self launch, self activate,"
Wiki needs some help. That's the Class-I/Class-2 difference, NOT ALL are designed to self-launch OR to self-activate.
Source of batteries with wire leads:

Saft LO 26 SX Lithium Battery | SEPBatteries.com

Three required for a total of $42.

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Old 05-03-2012, 10:48   #20
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Re: 1998 ACR EPIRB

SEP: "Solder tabs come standard" Great price, but watch out for cells with solder tabs as opposed to buying a completed battery pack. A bit too much heat on a solder tab can sometimes cause an internal failure, not something to gamble with in this application.

Wotname, to paraphrase Buba Clinton, I think it depends on how new new is. Last year I was reading a list of "new" EPIRBs versus the ones that could or couldn't participate in a test message. Either way I would guess the satellites are built to do the most cost-effective job (i.e. catch & pass, catch & pass, nothing more) and that would leave the filtering of messages as a really trivial job for the ground stations. Plus, give them the advantage of having some record that tests were actually made.

And of course the new new ones come in that pretty green chartreuse color sometimes, not just the old standard Red Cross Red.<G>
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Old 06-03-2012, 05:34   #21
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Re: 1998 ACR EPIRB

Quote:
Originally Posted by hellosailor View Post
SEP: "Solder tabs come standard" Great price, but watch out for cells with solder tabs as opposed to buying a completed battery pack. A bit too much heat on a solder tab can sometimes cause an internal failure, not something to gamble with in this application.

Wotname, to paraphrase Buba Clinton, I think it depends on how new new is. Last year I was reading a list of "new" EPIRBs versus the ones that could or couldn't participate in a test message. Either way I would guess the satellites are built to do the most cost-effective job (i.e. catch & pass, catch & pass, nothing more) and that would leave the filtering of messages as a really trivial job for the ground stations. Plus, give them the advantage of having some record that tests were actually made.

And of course the new new ones come in that pretty green chartreuse color sometimes, not just the old standard Red Cross Red.<G>
Ah yes, the pretty green chartreuse colour is good. I used to think the "see me see me" orange was cool; I wonder what the next must have colour will be?

As to satellite design.
First let me state I have no experience whatsoever in this field but that doesn't stop me from having an opinion.
What you say makes some sense but conversely they are usually designed to save power as well. The filter decoder would be just a tiny weeny part of the receiver (you can get a complete receiver and full decoder in usb thumb drive size these days). Now 99% of all transmissions received will be test transmissions (most of us will never ever make a real transmission) so with an onboard filter, the download transmitter can sit idle for 99% of the time.

Where is Gord when you need him!!!!
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Old 06-03-2012, 05:55   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wotname
Ah yes, the pretty green chartreuse colour is good. I used to think the "see me see me" orange was cool; I wonder what the next must have colour will be?

As to satellite design.
First let me state I have no experience whatsoever in this field but that doesn't stop me from having an opinion.
What you say makes some sense but conversely they are usually designed to save power as well. The filter decoder would be just a tiny weeny part of the receiver (you can get a complete receiver and full decoder in usb thumb drive size these days). Now 99% of all transmissions received will be test transmissions (most of us will never ever make a real transmission) so with an onboard filter, the download transmitter can sit idle for 99% of the time.

Where is Gord when you need him!!!!
What's a " download transmitter" do you mean a receiver. Other then gpirbs there is no receiver in a standard Epirb.

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Old 06-03-2012, 06:29   #23
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Re: 1998 ACR EPIRB

... When operating a 406 MHz EPIRB self-test, the EPIRB is allowed to radiate a single burst which is specially coded so that it is ignored by the COSPAS-SARSAT system ...
http://www.sarsat.noaa.gov/EPIRB_inspecting.pdf
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Old 06-03-2012, 06:34   #24
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Re: 1998 ACR EPIRB

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Originally Posted by goboatingnow View Post
What's a " download transmitter" do you mean a receiver. Other then gpirbs there is no receiver in a standard Epirb.

Dave
Sorry Dave, I wasn't as clear as I could have been. I was referring to the transmitter contained in the satellite that repeats the beacon transmissions back to the earth stations.

This was part of a side discussion with Hellosailor as to whether the satellite repeats test transmissions along with active (real distress) transmissions. The RCC doesn't receive a test transmission so it is filtered out either on board the satellite or at the earth station. I am modestly surprised that anyone else is even reading this - it isn't very important to the cruising sailor!
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Old 06-03-2012, 06:53   #25
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Re: 1998 ACR EPIRB

On the subject of 406 EPIRB testing, this service provided by ACR may interest you:

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Old 06-03-2012, 07:07   #26
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Re: 1998 ACR EPIRB

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On the subject of 406 EPIRB testing, this service provided by ACR may interest you:

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Thanks Prof M, that answers my question. Looks like Hellosailor was correct with his "catch & pass" opinion and my uneducated opinion was wrong! Which is why I am not designing satellite systems I guess.
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Old 06-03-2012, 11:15   #27
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Re: 1998 ACR EPIRB

Wotname, you actually make a good point about conserving power. However--the SAR systems were designed and built "ages" ago. AFAIK the only criteria, at least the only unclassified public criteria, for those satellites was "store and forward", a very limited task. The best way for them to conserve power (and I think they are all solar powered, not nuclear) would have been to design the simplest, least-count, lightest weight (launch payload), circuits. So, no brains on board just "store and forward".

Now that someone revised the system...hell yes, you've got a good point, the test traffic could easily double? triple? tenfold? the message volume. But if there are no brains on board, no processor circuits, etc....Then the only question would be "if we allow for test messages, will that overpower the solar chargers for the batteries?"

Maybe the newer satellites will be addressing the issue by having more capabilities onboard, with an eye to future expansion. Or maybe they'll just privatize it all out to Iridium. <WEG>

ACR's system is the one I had in mind when I was referring to how new new is. IF you have a "new" EPIRB that supports the test messaging functions, it is actually passing traffic and generating a confirmation TO YOU, not just to the SAR stations. ALthough as I read that ACR page, it is only their new PLBs, not EPIRBs, that can do the self-tests.

And if part of that subscription fee is going back to the SAR system, that should help fund a more robust system, a win-win for everyone. I was concerned that it might be flooded by Twitter and junior high schoolgirls sending out five thousand texts every month but I see the PLB batteries are too small to allow that to happen. Good thing they can't be hooked up to bigger batteries, eh? Oh, wait....<G>...
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Old 06-03-2012, 15:22   #28
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Re: 1998 ACR EPIRB

Hellosailor you make some interesting points.

I wonder how the existing system is going to handle my new "modified" PLB with the embedded facebook app. It instantly updates your facebook page letting all your friends know that you are in deep dodo and how stupid you have been. The next gen unit will also post a pic of just how deep the dodo is along with your prerecorded final goodbyes.

In fact I can think of hundreds if not thousands of apps. if we can get a fully privatized system up and running!

The OP might want to consider holding off any new purchase for a couple of months until the new "choose your own colour 5G" models hit the streets.
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Old 27-03-2012, 09:55   #29
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Re: 1998 ACR EPIRB

ACR's company policy is not to change batteries in any of their EPIRB's that are over 12 years old. This is pretty much standard policy with the major manufacturers now. The price of EPIRB's has also come down to a point where after 12 years it is usually cheaper to purchase a new unit anyway.
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