Below is a blog write up about battery life that needs some commentary at this point. Some people have been get getting more than one year out of their 6V carbon zinc battery in the ADOR1. Many have not. People do not so much complain about having to replace the battery more than once a year or even 3 times a year but they just want to know when it is time to replace the battery. There are several things I can say about batteries that I didn't think too much about at the beginning:
- The battery can show 6.4V with no load but drop considerably when loaded with the starting current for the ADOR1 motor. The battery may still have 4AH of energy but cannot deliver the 1.3A for a fraction of a second to get the motor turning. This could be a brand new battery that is perfectly fine for a lantern, but not good enough for a motorized product. The fault is in the "internal resistance" of the battery, and it is not specified by the manufacturer. A new battery could appear to be dead for purposes of driving the ADOR.
- Dry cell batteries do degrade very fast on the shelf. Faster than I thought. Alkalines are better, but they may still have the problems with internal resistance. In the application of the ADOR1, the current is so low that basically the shelf life is the limiting factor on the battery, in addition to the battery's ability to deliver more than 1 Amp for a fraction of a second to start the motor turning.
- With incandescent lamps becoming passe in favor of LED lamps, the industry trend is that demand for the low internal resistance and high energy capacity is tacitly becoming obsolete. There's no indication the batteries are becoming scarce or anything, it is just that for most applications the manufacturer is safe to diminish his quality standards for these batteries.
Conclusion: All in all, the ADOR is very low power and has indications to tell you that the battery needs to be replaced. Keep the sprocket and sprocket holes lubricated. Pay attention to the beeping codes and the LED flashing (on units since Dec 2013). The external alarm can also be employed to warn of low battery. If the door stops halfway, that also can be a visual indication that the battery needs to be replaced. But despite my previous talk about how you don't need rechargeable batteries (and you don't), it may be better than taking a gamble on quality of carbon zinc batteries. A 6V sealed lead acid battery at least can be proactively charged periodically or can be kept on a trickle charger or small solar panel. You only need to replace less than 4mAH per day. A solar panel delivering 15mA would more than replace the charge in only one hour of partial sunshine per day. We do not currently sell batteries or trickle chargers or solar chargers when you as a customer have choices to find a good price for these things at the feed store or on-line via eBay or Amazon.
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Lab tests show ADOR1 Automatic Chicken Door should function for greater than 3 years on a battery that costs $2.88!!! ...In cold weather or hot weather. Our calculations show also that the amount of energy used out of the battery per year is only about one amp-hour if the door cycles once per day.
Now after so many units in the field we have enough feedback to say that actual results has varied a lot. There apparently is not a good amount of quality control on the capacity in new 6V lantern batteries.
We have run extensive tests on 6V Lantern Battery life. We accelerated the tests to get the actual number of door cycles that can be performed before the ADOR1 will start warning of low battery capacity. The voltage can fall below 5.1V and the ADOR1 will still function. Results are showing that our previous calculations are correct that the battery will last at least three years under normal use. We got the equivalent of 5 years of use here in the shop. Yes, five years with a battery from Walmart priced at $2.88! That is such a long time that I've got to believe that "shelf life" deterioration needs to be considered, and we should not bet on getting 5 years of real-time use.
I've put 6V batteries in the freezer and soaked them at minus 20 deg C and they still delivered the amount of current needed to run the ADOR1. Perceptions about car batteries (Lead Acid) not starting your car in cold weather is all about having to deliver 200 Amps! The ADOR1 needs 1/1000th as much to power the motor. And 1/500,000th as much to keep the electronics going! The automotive battery experience is a different concern.
As we add accessory options to the ADOR1, there will be more energy demands by some, and would reduce battery life. Along with the accessory shall also be the charger options you can use to extend battery life with accessories.