Personal strobes - new or old? - SailNet Community

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  #1  
Old 02-20-2013
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Personal strobes - new or old?

When I purchased my boat a couple of years ago, I found a pair of safety harnesses with strobes attached, specifically, ACR "Fireflys".

To my delight, they worked fine.

Upon examining the batteries, though, I find them with a "put in service" date of May, 1993 and a "replace" date of May, 1998!

These TWENTY year old batteries are still able to make a flash.

My question is, for how long? That is, if I end up in the water and flick the strobe on, will it flash for hours or for minutes?

This is clearly not something to be trifled with, so I thought to replace the batteries, only to discover that

1. they're discontinued, but still available, and
2. they sell for about $50.00 to $60.00, and I'll need two. Add in shipping and I'm at $125.00 plus.

Now, in the grand scheme of sailing costs, $125.00 is not exorbitant, but I am a 9 to 5 working guy that watches every penny.

So, back to the catalogs and I find that NEW ACR Fireflys WITH a battery sell for about $75.00 and a smaller obviously cheaper version (C Strobe) sells for $30.00.

The advantage of the cheaper version is that it takes conventional alkalines or conventional lithiums, easily added to my annual springtime maintenance.

So my dilemma; new batteries, new expensive Fireflys with 5 year batteries, new cheap strobes with yearly replacements?

Any opinions appreciated.

Alan
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Old 02-20-2013
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Re: Personal strobes - new or old?

First option: New, cheap strobes with Lithium batteries. Don't bother with alkaline batteries.

Second option: New fireflys.

Don't bother buying batteries for the old fireflys, they might arrive already out of date.
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Old 02-20-2013
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Re: Personal strobes - new or old?

you can get new lithium for the old firefly for $60 from Landfall .is the old one water activated the firefly 3 is and it is about $60 from Star marine, just need to add the AA lithiums
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Old 02-22-2013
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Re: Personal strobes - new or old?

Alan, Forespar used to make a strobe for about $25 that used one "C" cell. if the one you found is like that, they're quite durable and putting in a dollar battery every year is cheap enough.

The Firefly is no doubt stronger but perhaps needlessly so. And the battery costs, at least on the traditional ones, exhorbitant. I wouldn't ask how long a 20 year old battery can power the light because it is about 15 years overdue to becoming a leaky mess. Replace or toss.
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Old 03-04-2013
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Re: Personal strobes - new or old?

Thanks to all for the thoughts online and off!

After stewing for a bit, taking out the trusty voltmeter, staring HARD at the ACR battery and thinking about what COULD be inside, I decided to just cut one apart.

After all, while the battery still powered the flash, it WAS 15 years out of date. As frugal as I am (and I AM kinda the crown prince of cheap), I was not going to reuse it.

Upon cutting through the thick plastic shell, I came upon .. two perfectly ordinary Duracell Lithium batteries, available at any camera store for $5.00 a piece!

They were spot welded together and had a bit of silicon seal on either end, but bottom line, $10.00 worth of ordinary batteries and $65.00 to shrink wrap them!

Guess I'll be keeping these otherwise perfectly good strobes.

Thanks again.
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Old 03-04-2013
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Re: Personal strobes - new or old?

Not at all surprised. Even specialty battery packs for rechargeable devices are usually a set of standard cells that are wired and installed inside the OEM case. There are companies that will service them for a fraction of the cost of buying new. Voids warranties, of course.
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Old 03-04-2013
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Re: Personal strobes - new or old?

"and $65.00 to shrink wrap them!"
Ah, but it is MILSPEC shrink wrap, installed by a professionally certified installer. (G)

One thing I have found with batteries (alkaline, not lithium) in sealed dive lights, is that the batteries outgas as they age, and the gas causes a black non-conductive tarnish of some kind on brass, copper, and stainless parts. Rendering the light useless. While lithium cells shouldn't do that, I'd still apply silicon grease to all contacts, to ensure that simply can't happen.
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