I get calls all the time from customers who need to get the battery in their EPIRB replaced. When they learn the price the general reaction is shock, how can a battery cost so much? Can’t I run down to the battery store and get the cells to make my own? Why can’t I replace my own? Here are the answers.
Why do they cost so much?
First you are not buying a single battery cell but a battery pack consisting of a number of cells. They are connected in a way to prevent short circuits and often the battery pack contains additional electronic components. Part of the EPIRB’s approval is the battery pack, a third party can not decide to produce a battery pack for a beacon without going through the approval process. Needless to say that is not practical so the only source of battery packs is directly from the original manufacturer. There is not a large market for replacement batteries so production runs are small so that the end user gets a fresh battery. Finally lithium cells are expensive to begin with and there are not many suppliers that the beacon manufacturers can choose from.
Can I make my own battery pack?
I guess so, but will it work?
Why can’t I replace my own?
It depends on the model beacon you own. Ocean Signal and some Kannad models have user replaceable batteries (SOLAS class vessels are required to have an approved facility replace batteries in any model) so if you own one of these you can buy the proper battery pack and do your own installation. What you don’t get is testing the unit for power output, signal and water-tightness. You would also be responsible for proper disposal of the old lithium battery, you can’t just throw it away since it is hazardous material. Disposal protocols vary from state to state and sometimes even within specific cities within a state.
Past president of the United States Marine Safety Association and retired sailor
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