CHOICE membership

Rechargeable battery appliances

I have been a member of choice for some years and find a lot of useful information and campaigns I support. However I am coming to the conclusion that some of your poicies are not in my or our ‘war on waste’ ideas.
Heres my experinces :
On Choice advice I picked a portable bluetooth loudspeaker. This work well for a period, around 18 months. then the battery started failing and it needed constant charging. i found a replacement battery for $20 odd on the web and tried to replace it. It turned out to be a major task, I found instructions on the web and that the batteries were soldered in the centre of the speaker. I manage to get the thing apart and replace the batteries, however I think my hours of work doing this damaged the unit because now it does not work at all. So now I am adding it to electronic waste.
Choice reports do not give any information or rating regarding battery replaceability. This would have affected my choice and also saved more unnecessary waste.

The second example was an electric toothbrush, again a recommended product. Outside of warranty and the battery failed. This time I did not waste money on a battery but searched advice on the web about replacement and found again it was practically impossible. More landfill!

Surely if Choices reports included a rating on the replaceability of batteries this would encourage manufacturers not to sell such blatant built in obsolescence .

Question is Choices tests for battery appliances relevant today!

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Another consideration may be the battery technology included and features/quality of the charging circuit included.

Modern long life NiMH batteries (eg Eneloop) can last hundreds of cycles. They are an expensive option, as are lithium based rechargable cells.

Regardless of battery technology, unless they are charged properly and discharge limited and state of charge managed, all will fail early. They also need to be matched to the duty.

Perhaps we buy too many battery powered devices that are rechargable (built in or replaceable) thinking they offer green credentials, when in reality they are anything but.

I totally agree with your sentiment.
There is nothing preventing a green credential assessment being applied to battery powered devices. Is there any real benefit in a battery powered tooth brush, and are they ever going to rate as environmentally better than the traditional throw away?

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I think ‘we’ buy battery powered things for our convenience, not because of any environmental consideration, although we are all different from one another.

I do not use a drill often, but have been increasingly temped to replace my old electric model with a cordless to avoid having to run the extension cord.

My 4-stroke petrol powered blower is invaluable to clear my drive of leaves and blow them where they become useful mulch, but the annual oil change and keeping fresh enough petrol on hand is a bother. Battery blower anyone?

Speakers are a classic bugaboo where there were once wires everywhere, but no longer need to be anywhere let alone everywhere.

Need I go on? I think ‘battery powered’ is a decision rarely governed by environmental concerns.

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Unless you use it to drill and inject tree species that are declared weeds or foreign to your native vegetation regeneration project.

I find mine very environmentally friendly, and safe in the swamp. :wink:

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I accept the challenge, if you accept the work :laughing:

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My 18V AEG blower takes the same batteries as the drill, driver, impact, grinder and blows for a good 20-30 minutes … and I charge on a timer during the day when the power is ‘free’ … with three 6AH batteries on hand thats a lot of driveway. It does make somewhat of a whiney/turbine sound, but its way quieter than the old petrol device, and no cord like old style leccy ones.

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There’s 58V units now too that can allegedly tip small cars with the gust … I’m sure there are other brands, but ‘battery lock-in’ so this is the brand I have …

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Perhaps a “MythDefied” or “Is it True Challenge”? @BrendanMays

The following is my take on it:

Depends on your dexterity, how you actually do the brushing movements (up and down, side to side, circular). All these have impacts on how well your teeth and gums are treated while brushing. So yes they can be much better than manual brushing in the right circumstances.

https://www.aso.org.au/electric-or-manual-toothbrush

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This possibly also falls into the ‘right to repair’. If laws were introduced making manufacturers design products so that consumable components could be easily replaced/repaired, it would a good start in the right direction.

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Indeed! Why more aren’t made so that batteries can be replaced perplexes me. As the OP made mention the convolutions they had to go through to replace a simple battery is absurd unless you see the intent is that the manufacturer does so to ensure a continuing sale of the products they make.

You only have to look at the difficulty of replacement of many smartphone batteries these days and the same for tablets (and other similar tech). Placed in such ways that even to start the process requires nerves of steel, dexterity unsurpassed, and much prior study and possibly video commentary during the process.

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One reason is that the design life of the operating parts is theoretically matched to the best case battery life. I admit to having changed the batteries in an Oral-B in my time and it was not easy because of the parts density in the handle. Using that as example, the gear mechanisms usually last longer than the soldered-in batteries before they start getting sloppy from wear, but how much longer?

Another reason is driven by us who demand and prioritise various design criteria above utility. If a battery holder were fitted into a toothbrush, the toothbrush would be larger, a few grams heavier, and may perceived to be cumbersome to use, affecting sales. Same with notebooks and smartphones where batteries are not easily replaceable by design to make them as thin and light weight as possible. Of course if one knows how with a notebook or most tablets the biggest problem to replace one is obtaining a non-counterfeit battery, not the actual replacement, with smartphones add those nerves of steel, the manual dexterity of a 20-something with the eyesight of an eagle or at least watchmakers glasses.

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Perhaps my phrasing should have been more “why they can’t be replaced more easily”. I do replacements regularly for friends (spudgers on hand, light with magnifier, hair dryer, double sided tape, tweezers etc). It is still becoming a nightmare to do so and on some I just now refuse because the built in risk of breakage is just too great. Glass back and front give me the heebie jeebies the number of times they came close to cracking.

https://www.ifixit.com/smartphone-repairability

https://www.ifixit.com/tablet-repairability

https://www.ifixit.com/laptop-repairability

4 or below in the ratings are just scary to attempt. Real risk of damage. Macbooks & MS Surfaces are just horrendous.

My first port of call for guides:

https://www.ifixit.com/Guide

Why we should repair and be able to repair:

https://www.ifixit.com/Manifesto

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Thanks for the feedback @oldcyclist, I’ll be sure to pass on your comments to the product testing team. Our long-term testing as part of our ongoing reliability work should capture longevity of a device to some degree, but it’s not perfect in all cases. It’s great to hear that more consumers are focused on conscientious purchasing and reducing waste, any way that we can support this will surely be a positive thing.

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