Iwill admit it—I am a bargain hunter. So, rather than paying the manufacturer $20 for an extra cable to recharge my cell phone and another $20 for a charg- ing cradle, I found a third-party source that charged about $12 for the two items. The new equipment worked fine at first, but after an operating system upgrade, much to my annoyance, the phone gave me a message that I was not using an
authorized product, and it refused to recharge. Strong language directed to the phone
through its virtual assistant did not resolve the issue.
I also saved about $50 on an extra battery for my laptop by avoiding the computer
manufacturer’s offering. I had to endure a scolding message on the screen at every
startup alerting me to the fact that I was not using the manufacturer’s “genuine” battery, but that went away in a minute or so. Sometime later, the computer started doing
odd things like putting itself into sleep mode as I was using it. I looked at a number of
Bargain hunting can be
disastrous By Bob Markle, President
When it comes time to replace batteries in an EPIRB, using anything other
than what the beacon manufacturer designed is a bad idea. Make sure to use
the proper hydrostatic release also.
possible causes, but the problem went away when I went back to my old “genuine” battery.
I was able to resolve both of these minor annoyances by purchasing the manufacturer’s accessory, and ultimately no damage was done, other than a few more dollars
expended. But, when it comes to Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRB),
the consequences of using an expedient could lead to disaster.
When the time comes to replace an EPIRB battery, you will find that the battery is
the most expensive component in the device. A new battery from the manufacturer
could cost 70-80% of the original price of the EPIRB. I completely understand the temptation to go bargain shopping. In recent years, several instances of unauthorized
replacement batteries have been found. In one case, a look-alike battery had been fabricated with new cells that were the same size as the cells in the original battery. The
fuses and wiring from the original battery had been reused as well as the manufacturer’s
original battery labels. Covered in shrink wrap like the original, it looked pretty good.
But there were some differences. The contacts were soldered rather than spot welded,
and even though the cells were apparently new, they were under voltage.
EPRIBs must be able to operate under severe conditions. Manufacturers design
sophisticated batteries for EPRIBs that enable them to retain their charge for five years
or more and still operate for 48 hours or more at - 20°C (- 4°F). They have to be able
to survive torture tests that include high-frequency vibration, temperature shock,
humidity, water immersion, and more. An EPIRB repaired with parts not of the original
standard runs the risk of not operating as it should, or even not operating at all.
And it’s not just the batteries that might be bogus. EPIRBs that are arranged to automatically float free of a sinking vessel often use hydrostatic releases that activate when
the device is submerged to a depth of 5–10 feet. In order to be approved to be used
with lifesaving equipment, hydrostatic releases also undergo environmental testing.
But, these devices need to be replaced periodically because the depth-sensing components can deteriorate as they age. These devices have to be carefully made, and they
can seem rather expensive for something that is light in weight and about the size of a
billiard ball. Similar devices are used on inflatable liferafts, so quite a few of them are
made and sold every year.
A few years ago, a counterfeit device that appeared to be almost identical to one of
the most popular legitimate hydrostatic releases turned up on the international market.
Several of the counterfeits were tested, and none of them operated. Anyone who tried
to save some money and installed one on their device, would not have merely degraded
its performance, but would have negated it entirely.
If you are a bargain hunter like me, stick to the supermarket or the flea market,
and use what you saved to buy legitimate repair parts for your lifesaving systems.
More details on these and other safety issues and recall notices can be found on the
Coast Guard’s webpage on Safety Alerts & Recall Notices: http://www.uscg.mil/