Monday, April 30, 2007

The 9-Volt Battery Conspiracy

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

is there a 9-volt conspiracy?

My day started off normally with a pretty innocuous question from a co-worker:

Why do smoke detectors run on 9-volt batteries? Why not AAs or AAAs?

Why indeed, especially given that so few devices other than smoke detectors use 9-volts? And 9-volts aren’t cheap either–the typical 9-volt battery costs at least twice as much as a AA or AAA battery.

Is this a sign of a conspiracy between the battery conglomerate and smoke detector manufacturers? Or is there some special reason why smoke detectors run on 9-volts instead of their cheaper, more common siblings like the AA or AAA battery?

I decided the best way to find out was to call the fine folks at the Energizer Customer Support Center in St. Louis, Missouri. Here’s how that call went:

Nick: I was wondering if you could answer a burning question of mine.
Customer Service Lady: Of course. Sure!
Nick: Do you know why all smoke detectors seem to run on 9-volt batteries instead of AA or AAA batteries?
Customer Service Lady: (Long pause. Then whispering in the background.) No.
Nick: No? No clue at all?
Customer Service Lady: (Longer pause. More whispering.) No. You could try calling a manufacturer of smoke detectors.
Nick: I’ll do that. Thanks!

Next I called up First Alert, makers of smoke detectors and other products designed to keep you from burning horribly in a fire. I opened my conversation with the same question. Here’s the response I got:

Friendly Guy at First Alert: Well, we actually do have a model of smoke alarm that runs on AA batteries. It’s our ONELINK model.
Nick: Isn’t that the model that the recording at the beginning of this phone call told me was being recalled?
Friendly Guy at First Alert: Ah, erm, yes, but…
Nick: Isn’t it true, Mr. First Alert, that your recall is just part of a giant conspiracy between yourselves and the battery conglomerate to help push expensive 9-volt battery sales? Come on, fess up and save your soul from eternal damnation!

But no repentance would come from Mr. First Alert.

My theory was further confirmed by a trip to a local battery store. I tried to purchase some rechargeable 9-volt batteries.

Battery Store Guy: Sorry, they don’t make ’em.
Nick: What? They don’t make rechargeable 9-volt batteries? But they have them for every other size and–
Battery Store Guy: (Cocking shotgun.) I said “they don’t make ’em.”

A quick peak on Radio Shack’s website indicates they do make 9-volt battery chargers:

9-volt battery recharger

But here’s what I saw when I searched their website for the batteries themselves:

rechargeable 9-volt batteries are SOLD OUT WTF???

I could pass off all of these as coincidences up to this point, but then I turned for guidance to the most trusted and accurate source of knowledge on the internet: But they didn’t have anything on 9-volt batteries, so I just went to Wikipedia… and found this:

wikipedia says rechargeable batteries should never be used in smoke detectors

There you have it. Smoke detectors can’t use rechargeable batteries… just super-expensive, single-use rectangular conspiracy batteries. And it used to be that you should replace your conspiracy batteries twice a year–whenever you change your clocks at the beginning and end of Daylight Saving Time. But now that Daylight Saving is eight months long, what are we supposed to do? Change them in November and then again in March? Change them every four months? Every day???

I don’t know about you, but I’m breaking out my tinfoil hat… solar-powered, of course.

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