Wednesday, August 01, 2007

My, What a Big Light You Have

I like to use Halcyon's Pro 14/18W light. Sometimes I get asked why I use such a big light canister when newer, lighter, smaller technology is available. The picture below shows the Helios 9 (left) and Pro 14 (right) canisters, both made by Halcyon. The lighthead is on an E/O cord so I can move it between the canisters. Yes, it is as heavy as it looks.

From my experience, old technology is sometimes better than new technology. The Pro 14 uses sealed lead acid (SLA) batteries while the Helios 9 uses nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries. There are lots of reasons to prefer SLAs:

1. Reliability. SLAs have been around forever. They are still used as car batteries. They charge simply and reliably so you know what kind of burntime you are going to get from your light. This is important for cave diving and other diving that is dark (deep, night, poor vis). I used to use my Helios 9 in caves but it kept going out at the worst possible time. It's a real hassle to call your dive short because your light died. The Helios 9 is notorious for being difficult to charge. When I try to charge mine, it tells me it is fully charged even though I know that can't possibly be the case. I have to disconnect and reconnect the charger for it to resume charging. I have to repeat this ad nauseum to get a good charge. In places like Mexico and the Philippines, the power supply is not even and NiMH batteries have difficulty getting charged fully. For this reason, Chris and Danny of DIR-Mexico use SLAs exclusively.

2. SLAs are easy to find and are cheap to replace. The Pro 14 battery costs substantially less than $100 and you can even make it yourself from two 7amp batteries. SLAs can tolerate abuse and if they get slightly wet, just dry them off. My Pro 14 battery is from 2001 and I still get more than 5 hours from each charge. NiMH are not cheap and are a pain to put together. Get them wet, and they get fried.

3. Sometimes it's nice to have a big and heavy canister. The long hose routes nicely under the Pro 14 canister. When diving dry, especially in aluminum tanks, the extra weight is appreciated.

Besides, carrying that monster of a canister makes me feel like a real man.

I take the Helios 9 with me when I am flying somewhere and I care about the baggage weight limit. Otherwise, I carry the Pro 14. Some places (like Tech Asia in Puerto Galera) have Pro 14 batteries handy so I leave my battery at home when I visit them. It's the best of both worlds.

So far, I have not had any issues with the E/O cords. Some people report them to be finicky.

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