spot battery life, in real life

Discussion in 'Mapping & Navigation' started by GR8ADV, Jun 18, 2010.

  1. GR8ADV

    GR8ADV Pow right in the kisser

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    Hi folks. I tried to find this on the 'great thread' but gave up. I never trust what the manual spews as me.

    For those who have used this for extended 'tracking' days. How many days of tracking did it last on a set of batteries .

    thanks all.
    #1
  2. bdearlove

    bdearlove Well Hung

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    I used mine for a 26 day trip and the battery is still going no problems. I had it on tracking each day for about 12hrs a day, using the old model.
    #2
  3. TEZZA

    TEZZA ADV B4 DEM/TED

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    I have had mine for 2 years and used it for 8 days straight and on and off for a total of 28 or more days and never changed the batterys . I use lithium batterys .Thay do say 2 weeks for battery life and i do carry a spare set of batteries .This is the old model.
    Tezza:D
    #3
  4. Ekke

    Ekke RTW Adventurer

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    I just picked up my SPOT 2 and was surprised to read that only Lithium batteries are to be used. Not rechargeables. For a really long trip (a year) I was planning to simply recharge every week or two but that doesn't seem to be an option. So it is good to hear of 26 days of tracking with the Lithiums.

    Anyone tried rechargeables?
    #4
  5. rattlesnakejake

    rattlesnakejake Been here awhile

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    [I don't work for Spot and I don't own a Spot. I work with lots of portable electronics that transmit and receive radio frequencies and require a wide array of battery sizes and types. Take this all with a grain of salt, I'm not an EE.]

    Rechargable NiMH AAA's run at 1.2v instead of the 1.5v of standard alkaline/lithium AAA's. Whether that's a problem for Spot 2's operation I don't know, some equipment needs the full 1.5v to operate as designed and some and can handle 1.2v. This is not an issue with Spot 1 and NiMH AA's which are rated to operate at 1.5v and only differ from alkaline batteries in mAh.

    If you're trying to save the waste of disposable batteries then you could try the Spot 2 out with 1.2v NiMH to see how it behaves. As a battery's energy is depleted its voltage drops. The industrial alkaline batteries that we use keep their voltage as high as possible as long as possible and then die quickly. NiMH batteries will drop their voltage quickly and then hold steady at a lower voltage for the rest of its operation. It's entirely possible that the Spot will work with rechargeable batteries but you should give all of this a dry run for a couple of weeks at home and around town.

    The lithium "requirement" lends itself towards allowing Spot to say "our gizmo lasts however many days" rather than the actual operation of the unit unless you're dealing with the cold, where lithium has an advantage over NiMH or alkaline.

    For a little light reading you can take a look at the diagrams here:

    http://www.professionalwireless.com/batterytest.aspx ...select a transmitter from the dropdown menu and it will give you an idea of what battery life looks like

    http://www.mahaenergy.com/store/Index.asp ...I highly recommend the PowerEx batteries and Maha chargers
    #5
  6. HogWild

    HogWild Scott Whitney

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    I am an EE, I work on small wireless battery powered transmitting devices in extreme conditions, I don't work for SPOT, and I do own a SPOT-1.

    I highly recommend sticking with Lithium as recommended by the manufacturer. Different batteries have different characteristics in hot and cold temperatures. And they have different characteristics in their ability to deliver current in pulse spikes as is required for a device like the SPOT. SPOT did a great deal of battery testing, as SpotMaker described in a post in the BIG thread long ago. They know what works best in their device, and it matches well with my independent knowledge.

    All kinds of batteries will work in the SPOT for some period of time under average conditions. But a seat of the pants test may not be a good test because you're probably not simulating the worst case conditions you may find youself in when you most need the device to work. Cold temperatures and/or high current spikes will render most batteries useless when a lithium will keep on on working.
    #6
  7. MichaelJ

    MichaelJ Long timer

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    From the LDRider list:

    "Just got off the phone with SPOT customer service. I was told by them that the NiMh rechargables could damage the SPOT because when they are fully charged, they have a higher voltage than the SPOT 2 is designed to handle. Whereas the Lithium one use batterires are designed to keep a more consistent and constant 1.5v throughout their life cycle. Using any batteries other than the Lithium AA's will also void the warranty."
    #7
  8. Ekke

    Ekke RTW Adventurer

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    Thanks for the great replies!

    I'll be sure to stock on up on Lithium batteries before a really big trip then.
    #8
  9. cwc

    cwc Been here awhile

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    The Nimh batteries that I have measured are about 1.35 volts when they come off the charger, about 1.3 after sitting a while.

    The initial voltage of the Spot recommended Ultimate Lithium is 1.5 volts.

    Also, note that the Spot 2 uses AAA batteries and the original spot uses AA batteries and advertises much longer battery life.
    #9
  10. thewilds

    thewilds Adventurer

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    Locally, it's about $19.50 for 3 AAA Energizer lithium batteries which gets expensive. I'd like the option to use NiMH batteries. It would be useful to hear someone's experience with using NiHM in their Spot 2. Does it work properly and what kind of battery life relative to the stated battery life for Lithium.

    I'm not sure how a low voltage might damage the Spot 2, wouldn't that be a similar situation as nearly dead lithium batteries? Or is it a matter of the NiMH getting too hot trying to pass the voltage (essentially a short)? I' don't know, I'm not an electronics engineer.

    I'd use NiMH on outings where the Spot 2 is along as a toy. I'd load in lithium for trips where I'd need to depend on Spot if all other means of communications fail.
    #10
  11. Lucky_Devil

    Lucky_Devil Master Lurker

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    The SPOT 2 is different from the SPOT 1 in many ways including battery life. You need to clarify which unit is being referred to here... because if you're expecting to get 26 days of tracking out of a SPOT 2 unit, you'll be sorely disappointed (you need to think more like needing fresh batteries once a week).

    On a recent extended trip using my SPOT 1 unit, using the tracking function all day - every day, sending two OK messages every day (one in the morning, and one when I stopped riding at the end of the day), and then turning it off overnight, I needed new batteries every eight weeks.
    #11
  12. thewilds

    thewilds Adventurer

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    Here's a link to someone who did a test with NiMH batteries
    http://www.tomlauren.com/notes/published/Home/Hiking/GPS/Spot%20Satellite%20GPS%20Messenger.html

    ***See update below***

    [Original post]
    I took the Spot 2 unit on a week long backcountry trip powered by Eneloop NiMH batteries. I fired up the Spot 2 once a day, in the evening, to send an OK message to home. The location was in an open meadow but with surrounding high mountains. It seems the Spot has no trouble connecting to the GPS satellites to acquire the coordinates (green GPS light) but has more difficultly connecting to the Globalstar satellites to send the outgoing message. In that same meadow, on 3 successive evenings, 2 of the OK messages got sent. I left the Spot out win the meadow for about 30+ minutes each time so it could complete it's cycle.

    I get about 3 hours run time on NiMH before the power light begins to flash red. I'm running tests to see how long tracking will function on the NiMH batteries. So far 7 hours of tracking. There are gaps in the location data and I'm wondering if the Spot at times isn't seeing any of the Globalstar satellites at different times of the day to send the location info. The occasional gaps are about 30 minutes long. Also the Spot web page will go quite awhile with no updates then suddenly a bunch of location points will popup. I thought the batteries gave up, but it's something else such as Spot taking several tries to get the location info off to the Globalstar satellites.

    Will update again later.

    ***Update Aug 3, 2010***
    Have been running on the same set of Eneloop NiMH AAA batteries in the Spot 2 Thursday through Tuesday with tracking on. The tracking has not been continuous as it stops 24 hours after the last press of the Track button and I forget to re-activte the Tracking. I've downloaded the data and I have about 68 cumulative hours of tracking so far on one set of Eneloop NiMH batteries (that is over the past 120 hours of the Spot 2 being on, the unit has been tracking for 68 hours). The unit is still tracking now on the same set of batteries but I can report my results are consistent with Tom Lauren's (link at top of my message) and battery life with NiMH is more than sufficient for my needs where I'm going to be recharging my batteries each night anyways. If I miss charging one or two evenings, it looks like it's not going to affect my ability to track.

    The trick is the Spot 2 takes 3 AAA's and my charger charges in equal numbers (2 or 4). So I'll run down six batteries (2 sets of three) and charge as 4+2. I'll try to discharge all the batteries to the same level of discharge.

    While the red power light is blinking, the green Track and message-send lights are flashing green indicating those functions are working.

    An observation: Sometimes there are gaps in the tracking, most up to 30 minutes, some as long as 60 minutes, then after a few hours, it's back to 10 minute intervals. The Spot 2 hasn't moved from our window sill. My suspicion is that the gaps are dependent on views of the Globalstar satellites for the outgoing message. At times, there are no Globalstar satellites in view but after 30-60 minutes, they come into view again. The gaps are independent of length of time into the 120 hours of tracking time so doesn't seem to be related battery level.

    Caveat, use the Lithum batteries if you are depending on the Spot device for rescue. If you are just playing around and risks are low, it seems NiMH batteries are a cost effective and practical option for that pleasure ride or hike.

    My setup: Spot 2, Eneloop NiHM AAA, and Maha charger.

    [Added] Bought a Maha C9000 charger that can charge 1,2,3 or 4 cells at a time. Solves the charging batteries in pairs problem.
    #12
  13. GR8ADV

    GR8ADV Pow right in the kisser

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    My trip is done. I had to replace the factory set after roughly 10 days of use. 12 hours per day of tracking. The next 'new' set last about 2 weeks. I think. For those interested I would plan on 10-14 days of use per set. YMMV
    #13
  14. Emmbeedee

    Emmbeedee Procrastinators

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    This is what Spot says:

    Top SPOT Device SPOT Personal Tracker

    Which lithium batteries are required for the SPOT unit?

    Author:SPOT Marketing Team Article Reference #:AA-00107 Views:3117 Date Added:2009-05-11 12:00 AM Last Updated:2009-09-30 08:49 AM 3.5 Rating/ 5 Voters

    The SPOT device operates with Energizer 1.5V non-rechargeable size AA lithium batteries. Do not use rechargeable lithium batteries. They can be high voltage, which will damage the unit. Energizer 1.5V non-rechargeable size AA lithium batteries are required due to this technology's unique ability to maintain a high cell volt throughout the life of the battery. Additional benefits are a larger operating temperature range, up to 8 times longer life than alkaline, an outstanding 15-year shelf life and a 30% weight reduction.
    #14
  15. FINNDIAN

    FINNDIAN Mine goes to 11

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    didn't realize the big difference in battery life with the spot 2. Glad I have the 1. I change the batteries about once a year and use the tracking regularly. Spot is always turned on.
    #15
  16. GR8ADV

    GR8ADV Pow right in the kisser

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    That would surprise me too. I have the 10 minute tracking feature on all the time as well as the SPOT. I can see how this will take some juice to send out a signal every 10 minutes indicating location for tracking purposes. Are we talking the same thing?
    #16
  17. shoot870p

    shoot870p Adventurer

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    strange but we were on the Alaska trip for almost 4 weeks and the tracking was used daily. have not replaced the batteries yet but it not in use now either.
    #17
  18. Twohondas

    Twohondas Long timer

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    I got about 10 - 12 days on my Spot II with the LI batteries in Alaska. There are diff versions of the LI batteries as well so performance can vary. My use included 12 hours of tracking a day (fix every ten minutes) plus two OK messages at day. Temps ran in the 40-60 range most of my time in Alaska. Temp impacts battery performance as well.

    When the battery alert starts (flashing red off/on button) you have about 12 hours of tracking left. Best to change then in case you go into a ditch soon thereafter.
    #18
  19. James Adams

    James Adams ɹǝsn uʍop ǝpᴉsdn Administrator

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    Has anyone tried hard-wiring a SPOT (1 or 2) into the bike power? If you could keep the input voltage at a steady 3V (SPOT 2) then I imagine it would work.
    #19
  20. thewilds

    thewilds Adventurer

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    The rechargeable Eneloop rechargeable NiMH batteries have been working well for me. I've since bought a Maha C9000 NiMH charger that can independently charge any number of cells from one to four. So charging 3 batteries is no longer a problem. The other thing the charger does is it conditions new batteries through a charge, discharge, rest, recharge process over about 48 hours. This maximizes the mAh that the battery can store. On a recent road trip, I got over 6 hours operating the Spot 2 on the Eneloop AAA NiMH batteries with tracking on continuously. Somewhere between the stop at 6 hours and the next stop at 7.5 hours, the power indicator went to flashing red from flashing green. That was more than double the 3 hours to begin flashing red in my first test mentioned in an earlier post.

    Again, NiMH are a viable alternative to lithium, but where you might be depending on the Spot for rescue in a life or limb situation, use the recommended lithium batteries.
    #20