Green Power Options by Steve Casper
Hello all, welcome to another installment of my articles to help promote the greening of the guitar world. In today’s article, I’m going to talk about some of the power options you have as either a practicing musician or a professional. Most of us have several devices we use regularly that require some low voltage power. Either a small fuzz pedal, a small chromatic tuner, even the small penlight flashlight you use to look around behind the backline. All of these use some form of battery. But alkaline batteries are considered hazardous waste and should be disposed of properly in order to not possibly contaminate our water supplies.
There are lots of places that will take your expired or used batteries. Most Electronics stores have a recycling system to take your old batteries and are either recycled or destroyed and disposed of in an environmentally safe manner. Most often there is no charge for this service and you can just drop off 5 or 6 whenever you go to pick up that new HOT CD or your new MP3 Player. You will need to check out your local stores to find one that provides some sort of recycling service. If all else fails, there are lots of services on the internet that will ship you an ecoSafe package to accumulate your batteries in and ship them when you fill it up. Most local Waste services will also provide you with a container for collection so you may provide the service to your customers or neighborhood. If there is no electronics recycling service in your area, this may just be a service you could provide.
Another option is to use rechargeable batteries in your portable devices and stomp boxes. I have used rechargeable batteries in my emergency flashlight that I keep in my shop for years and years. I have only had to purchase new batteries twice in more than 10 years for that flashlight. That is a pretty good record due to the fact that we have frequent power outages here in South Florida during our Hurricane Season. The 9-Volt varies have improved substantially over the past 5 years or so due to the improved materials and purity of the components used in the manufacturing process. The charging stations have improved in their theory and operation over the past 5 years or so also. The charger designs have improved right along with the battery technology. This may not be an option for the professional musician that is playing for 6 to 10 house every day. But it is certainly an option for the practicing musician that plays for a few hours daily or the beginner. There is a small investment into the charger and the batteries. But if you take into account for the next 10 years of use, how many Alkaline Batteries will you use up.
The next option is external power supplies or “Wall Warts”. First, let’s briefly discuss the single unit power supply then we will go into the multi power units.
The single power supply units are good if you have only a single unit you wish to power. You eliminate the need for a battery and will always have the correct voltage to power your device to operate optimally 100% of the time. Batteries slowly discharge their potential voltage causing a voltage drop over a short period of time. Most devices have an expected voltage that they require to function the way and in the manner they were designed. When the voltage drops below the minimum, the device will begin to respond by slowing down, clipping sooner or later, saturating quicker or intermittently failing or ceasing to function all together.
The board power supplies are a great option if you are running many effects that require external power or are battery operated. Most professional musicians have their boards powered either by a commercially available unit purchased from one of the many effects or effect management system manufacturers or by their equipment technicians. Depending on your specific situation the best option is up to you. But the commercial units have generally been tested and approved by the national safety services and should have enough protection built in to prevent either damage to you or your equipment. Most of these systems are built into a small molded board or box that is used to mount your effects on creating your “pedal board”. Once again, the flavor is entirely up to you here. There are many varieties, voltages, currents and connector type for flexibility. Do your research, check out the reviews and make an educated decision on a unit that best suits your needs.
Want to go completely off grid – Solar Charging systems are beginning to be more and more available for consumer devices. There are several manufacturers that are marketing complete charging systems for flashlights, cell phones, mp3 players, laptop computers etc. Once again, just do some research and select a device that suits your power recharging or source power needs. For more information on this subject, just do an internet search (your choice of search engine) for 9-Volt Solar Chargers. We are just now realizing the potential for harnessing the power of the sun and developing the power storage systems that will allow us to run more and more of our personal or home devices as time goes on.
If you have a power supply that you feel is the best thing since sliced bread, let me know. Or if you have come up with a system that works well for you, share it. The solutions and options I’ve given here are really only a guideline to get you started to think about your options. I believe there are 100’s of ways to power your effects and other devices around your home, studio, shop or stage. Remember, I value the feedback I get from you so please, chime in!