Friday, April 22, 2011

9 volts

Dr. StrangeFuzz, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Ditch the Battery

So, it's Earth Day, and I've got an appropriately earthy topic to talk about.  I don't know that I've ever mentioned this in any earlier posts, but it's one of the major trends in pedals coming from small builders - the move away from 9v batteries.  

If you open up any of my pedals you won't find a battery snap. No, that's not a cost saving measure, it's an ideological choice.  Not only are batteries a perfect symbol of the disposable culture in which we're currently living they're a major environmental stress.

Dano over at has made the point about as succinctly as possible, and so rather than to restate his argument, I'm going to quote it here:

The Case for the Prosecution

There are environmental and practical issues to ponder...
  • Batteries burned in waste combustion facilities can release mercury or cadmium to the air and water, ultimately entering the food chain and posing health threats to people and the environment.
  • After 1994, manufacturers stopped adding mercury to alkaline batteries. But alkalines still contain potassium hydroxide, a corrosive agent.
  • The manufacture of batteries is an odious business and has a very negative effect on the environment.
  • 9 volt batteries wear out real quick. Which means if you use them, you are likely going to use a lot of them. Think about this: what it is the carbon footprint of making a 9 volt battery, and when it gets down to around 7 volts, it won't power most stompboxes. So you are throwing away something like 60% of the "product."
  • The standard battery-disconnect design for stompboxes (disconnect the input jack to disconnect the battery) is brain-dead. How many batteries have you burned through because you forgot to disconnect the input jack.
  • Batteries are crazy-expensive when compared to AC/DC adaptors. For the cost of two name brand alkaline batteries, you can buy a cheap 9 volt adaptor.
  • Have you ever forgot that old cheapy battery you left in a stompbox four years ago, only to re-open it later and find a bunch of acid sludge?
  • Battery snaps are usually the first thing to break on a pedal due to the mechanical stress on the wires and the battery clip itself. What a hassle.
So using batteries simply doesn’t make sense.

And so that's it.  You'll always be able to rock out any of my pedals nice and hard with standard 9v power adapters, but I implore you - do your grandchildren a favor, go easy on the earth and ditch the battery  :)

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