Unitasker Wednesday: Battery eater

Of all the unitaskers that I’ve written thus far, this may be the most confusing. The Battery Eater is a battery powered gadget that drains the remaining charge of your nearly dead AA batteries. While the monster face sucks out the remaing charge its eyes blink providing entertainment for the whole family.

From a description I found :

Battery eater can help you recycle your old AA batteries. Feed them to it and watch the eyes blink. When they stop blinking throw the batteries away.

That just doesn’t sound very green to me. Are the makers of this thing sure about what “recycle” means? Draining the battery of its last charge may provide some blinks of the monster eyes, but isn’t the battery used to power this thing being drained as well? What good does a fully drained battery achieve before you chuck it into the garbage? I’m at a loss. Can someone figure this out for me? For us?

(Thanks to reader Jack for sending this gem our way.)

**Each week, the Unitasker Wednesday column humorously pokes fun at the unnecessary, single-use items that manage to find their way into our homes.

27 Comments for “Unitasker Wednesday: Battery eater”

  1. posted by Pete Larson on

    I’m sure that there isn’t a battery powering this device separately. I imagine it will run on the battery you put in there–After all, “dead” AA batteries usually are just putting out about 1.1 volts, instead of 1.5. I bet this just runs on .5 volts or so, thus using up some of the remaining juice.
    Not that it justifies the existence of this device, which I deem pathetic.

  2. posted by Pete on

    This one isn’t so much a Unitasker as an Untasker.

  3. posted by Emma on

    The only use I can think is maybe it’s better to charge reusable batteries from completely flat? But the description makes no sense at all…

  4. posted by Johnny on

    The device is overall pretty pointless. You can usually drain batteries by just popping them in a flashlight or radio. Actually, you can use any other battery powered device that will continue drawing current even though the battery voltage isn’t high enough to operate the device normally.

    Draining batteries does occasionally have a purpose though. For people who toss batteries into a large collection bin (for later recycling), there’s a small chance of several batteries contacting in such a way to form a circuit and pass enough current through one of the “dead” batteries to overheat it. It’s a pretty rarely occurring fire hazard that’s usually more likely with lithium batteries rather than regular alkaline, but it can happen. Draining the batteries as completely as possible minimizes the fire hazard risk.

  5. posted by Jeff on

    Pretty sure this is just a “novelty” item, not something that’s actually supposed to be useful. Kind of like how a pet rock isn’t really that great of a pet…

  6. posted by Molly on

    Wow, it gives you an extra step in recycling. Impressive.

  7. posted by Bex! on

    How utterly bizarre! The description offered really misses the point of battery recycling. The idea is to get the heavy metals properly disposed of and ‘completely draining’ the battery doens’t make those heavy metals disappear.

  8. posted by Erin @ Unclutterer on

    The comments today are cracking me up!! Brilliant!

    @Johnny — Your explanation actually makes more sense than ANYTHING on the websites about this gadget. I wonder if that’s what they mean?? Crazy!

  9. posted by Robyn on

    The Amazon site says that it’s for people who can’t throw away batteries without draining absolutely all the juice. Um, if a battery doesn’t have enough juice to power anything you use, why not just throw it out or recycle it? Who worries about making SURE their dead batteries are completely drained?

    Apparently it’s a magnet too, so the battery eater can blink at you from the fridge. Hmm, maybe I’ll get a bunch and put them on the side of my desk at work.

  10. posted by Brian J. Geiger on

    This is a commercial version of what’s called a Joule Thief. A Joule Thief is a hobbyist project that allows you to do something with the bit of charge left over in a battery that wouldn’t be used by, say, a flashlight.

    If you’re doing it as a hobbyist, you’re doing some learning, and you get the laudable goal of being able to create something that uses energy that would otherwise have been wasted. If you’re buying the thing, it’s pretty silly, unless you really like the visual effect that the device made. Unfortunately, that’s not a particularly good looking device.

  11. posted by infmom on

    Well, gee, for once my husband’s ahead of the game! He obsessively collects AA batteries that are too dead to power other devices and saves them to use in his pager. Nothing like having a pager whose batteries are guaranteed to die in a couple of days or less, hmm? Maybe he should paint the pager to look like a space alien. :)

  12. posted by Sarah on

    I think it’s hypnotizing me.

  13. posted by Andy on

    You can’t ever drain *all* the charge from a battery, so why not stop when it no longer powers your devices?

  14. posted by Margaret on

    lol i actually have this. It amused me so much in the store… the hardest part was explaining it to the Security Guards at the air port!

  15. posted by Katrina on

    If its also a magnet technically its a dualtasker right?! But if a devise does two tasks inadequately does that mean its adds up to a unitasker, or a terrible dualtasker?!

  16. posted by Adam on

    As an aside, does anyone know where you can recycle non-rechargeable batteries? I used to save them to recycle but it became a mess as they began to corrode.

  17. posted by Marianne on

    Re: Adam

    Ikea recycles non-rechargeable batteries in a bin in the lobby near the furniture pick-up area. If you don’t have an Ikea near you, call your streets department to see if they do a pickup. Usually they’ll do a pick up/drop off at least twice a year.

  18. posted by Daniel on

    Back in the days of nickel cadmium rechargeable batteries, they used to develop a memory if you didn’t regularly discharge them fully. In that case, this device is very useful, and doubled the life expectancy of those batteries.
    It’s not a relevant issue for today’s NiMH batteries.

  19. posted by Zoya on

    Could be used as a night light in a toilet/kid’s bedroom as an alternative to plug-in light. Poor kids would be terrified :-).

  20. posted by Lynoure Braakman on

    http://www.instructables.com/i.....oule-Thief has instructions for making your own, and it’s much cuter and cuddlier. I think this has a task of working as a night light for a kid, or helping a person find their way through a dark room without waking up their spouse. Plus it is a doll. :)

  21. posted by michi on

    Well, despite the description, I would find this pretty useful. I have a few batteries floating about in some drawers in my desk and I can’t remember which are fresh and which are dead.

    I think I’m still in shock from the horrible look of the thing.

    This delightfully unattractive device would let me know which batteries still had juice, without me trying out every possible combo of four and using some painful logic.

  22. posted by pmaage on

    @michi: No, it will not let you know which batteries you can use, since it will run on batteries that only have 0.5 Volts left. Most “useful” devices will quit when the voltage drops below 1.2 Volts. (+/- 0.1)
    So your fresh batteries will power this thing and your dead batteries very probably will too.

  23. posted by Pete Larson on

    @michi: If you really want to know which batteries to use, get yourself a multimeter, read the instructions, and you’ll be wanting to test every battery in the house for the fun of it. Good batteries will read >= 1.2 volts, like pmaage said.

  24. posted by John of Indiana on

    Looks a little bit like some kind of electric Domo-Kun…
    If you want something that really “eats batteries” and gives you fun at the same time, get one of those Air Hogs mini-helicopters…

  25. posted by Rae on

    @ Johnny – Your comment was fantastic. Thanks!

  26. posted by Jack on

    OK, I figured it out, the problem isn’t so much with the device which was designed by David Dear (see http://www.kikkerland.com/designers/dear.html). Most of what he designs is kind of kooky and whimsical. I think I will get his “Will Be Back” clock. The problem comes in marketers trying to come up with a purpose for the thing when the original idea was probably just to design something fun. So basically it’s a whimsical magnet that only uses leftover power from a ‘dead’ battery. Still, it’s a unitasker that I don’t need.

  27. posted by Madison on

    you can also recycle batteries at any Whole Foods Market!!! Go green and recycle! <3 mother nature

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