We've receive comments now and then enquiring about why we chose to use AA batteries instead of an integrated Lithium-ion or NiMH battery. I thought it would be worth writing a post about this to outline our thinking and where we see this heading.
Alkaline batteries and the environment
Firstly, we need to make it very clear that we don't want everyone using Alkaline batteries in your Loogun. Alkaline batteries are toxic to the environment and in terms of energy cost, they will cost you around 100 times more than using electricity in your home. Approximately 10 billion Alkaline batteries are sold around the world every year, and while being an environmental nightmare, the large battery companies aren't going to promote anything else as it would cannibalize their sales. If everyone switched to rechargeable batteries, global production could drop as low as 4.7 million. That's a staggering reduction and would have a dramatic effect on the environment.
Of course, I do realise that what I've just written is somewhat hypocritical given that we ship each Loogun with a set of alkaline batteries, but we were somewhat forced into this and I'll explain why.
The Loogun requires high-drain batteries and we found that too many people were just using any AA's they had lying around the house into the device, and being disappointed with the performance. This lead to a higher return rate which is obviously very concerning for us. We felt that by including the first set, you'd get to experience the correct level of performance before having to replace the batteries, and would therefore know how it should work.
Rechargeable NiMH batteries
What we are promoting is the use of rechargeable Nickel-metal Hybride (NiMH) batteries, which are non-toxic and can be recycled. They cost roughly twice as much as a standard Alkaline battery, but they can be recharged between 500 and 2000 times. We particularly recommend the Panasonic Eneloop batteries as they can be recharged 2000 times and have incredible power retention.
Also, with regards to rechargeable batteries in general, they have come a long way in the last few years. The current NiMH batteries can outperform Alkaline's on a single charge even in high drain devices. NiMH batteries have lower internal resistance, so where a high drain device can easily draw over 1,000 mA which would deplete an Alkaline battery very quickly, the NiMH cells will cope with the current requirement without the same capacity loss.
Main reasons for choosing AA batteries
Then, in terms of the reasons we chose AA's over an integrated battery was based on a number of factors. We had thoughts about this ourselves, and ran a survey across approximately 100 people within our key customer segment to find out what people thought. These are some of the reasons and findings we based our decision on:
- The battery life of 4 x AA's in the Loogun is very long. We have done extensive interval testing whereby the assembly was set up to pump continuously out of a reservoir and back into the same reservoir so that no refilling was required. Using fresh AA batteries, it was turned on for 15 minute intervals and the current and voltage recorded between each interval. After 9 intervals, dirt was still being removed but was the minimum acceptable before the batteries would need replacing. Estimating the maximum amount of time for each usage to be 30 seconds, this would indicate the total number of uses to be around 270. If used once a day on average, this would allow for 270 days (approximately 9 months) of usage. It is important to note that during these continuous tests, the batteries become very warm which affects the battery power considerably. In everyday use, less heat would be generated therefore the batteries would perform better than the above tests describe. Across the board, our user group thought the battery life was excellent and that replacing batteries once a year would be simpler and less hassle than having to plug in and charge a device every couple weeks, which would be similar to how you need to charge an electric toothbrush, electric shaver, or similar device.
- Bathrooms typically have no available power source beyond the shaver outlet. This means that charging the Loogun with a charging unit would require you to take it into your living room to charge. A lot of people didn't like this idea as even though the Loogun is hygienic, it still resides next to your toilet and people don't want to carry it around the house.
- Had we provided an integrated battery, we would've had to provide a charging unit and plug adaptor. This would mean you would have to store yet another charging cable which is a hassle. While not a big consideration, we balanced this against the long battery life we could get from AA batteries and the simplicity for the user.
- Finally, we did a lot of research around pricing, specifically about what price point we'd need to be able to achieve in order for as many people as possible to be able to afford a Loogun. After all, nobody deserves to have to use a toilet brush, so it's only fair we make it affordable. If you consider that Loogun's will mainly be sold via retailers, and everyone takes their slice of the pie, any cost we add to our manufacturing cost, results in a significant uplift in the retail price. With this in mind, adding an integrated battery and charging unit could've easily added another £10-£12 to our retail price, and based on our research, this made the purchase decision harder for a lot of potential buyers who were much happier at the £39.99 level.
Saying all of this, it is possible that in future we decide to integrate the battery, perhaps to include inductive charging through a base unit, so we definitely haven't written off integrated batteries, we just feel it's the right decision for the time being.
This has been a lengthy post, but I hope it explains our thinking on the current and future versions of the Loogun.