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Battery Power
Q.
Rather than paying for show-floor electricity and the labor required to install it, many exhibitors are now using portable batteries to power everything from light fixtures to laptops. What do I need to know about battery power before I incorporate batteries into my exhibit-marketing program?

A.
Back in the day, the only thing a person needed to know about purchasing and using batteries was the cell size – e.g., AA, 9 Volt, C, or D – and how to match up the little plus and minus signs. Today, batteries are a little more complex. So if you're buying or considering the use of batteries in your booth, there are several things to keep in mind.
➤ Determine which devices each battery will power, and research all power-related requirements. You will need a clear understanding of the wattage draw, amperage, and length of desired operation to determine the type and size of battery needed. All of this information should be available on the product-specification sheet for each device you want powered or from the manufacturer of the product. With this information in hand, your vendor or battery supplier can then do some quick calculations and advise you on the type and size of battery required.
➤ Consider the benefits and drawbacks of disposable batteries versus rechargeables. Disposables will be cheaper than rechargeables, but they obviously have a much shorter lifespan. Plus, you'll need to recycle them after they've depleted their usefulness, as opposed to just tossing them in the trash can. On the other hand, rechargeables need time to charge. So consider how long each battery will hold a charge and if you'll have the time it will take to recharge it during or after show hours. You will then need to consider whether you must purchase battery duplicates to switch out during the show when one set loses power. Also know that rechargeable batteries cannot be recharged forever, as there's a limited number of anticipated "charges" or "cycles" for each one, and they usually only come with a 60- to 90-day warranty, which is the blink of an eye in trade show time.
➤ Research regulations regarding battery transport. In this era of rules and safety regulations, transportation carriers have strict stipulations about what can, and can't, be shipped via air, sea, and land. In particular, there are regulations on the transportation of lithium-ion batteries, and most such batteries that are large enough to power exhibit equipment are not allowed to be shipped via air due to their flammability risk. Bottom line, ensure that the type and size of batteries you're considering can be shipped using your usual transportation methods.
➤ Decide where you will make your purchase. You can certainly purchase batteries yourself as opposed to going through an industry supplier, but be sure to research all fire-marshal codes and to soak up the following information before you swipe your credit card. You could end up with the wrong size or type of battery for your needs, or one that doesn't meet industry regulations. Depending on the amount of time you have available and depth of research you want to do, you might consider purchasing your batteries through one of your vendors, such as a lighting-design team, audiovisual company, or exhibit house, all of which should have an expert-level of understanding (or at the very least a partner with that knowledge) regarding which batteries are right for your application.
➤ Take the proper safety precautions when using and recharging batteries. Once you've made a purchase, it's important to ensure that your batteries are operated and charged safely and effectively. So first, make sure that all areas where batteries are in operation are well ventilated, as airflow will help to cool batteries and prevent overheating and fire. Second, ensure that your batteries and/or recharging units have built-in heat-monitoring devices. With such a device, if a battery overheats while recharging, the unit will shut down to protect against igniting and starting a fire. Finally, follow manufacturer instructions when using batteries.

Surely, batteries aren't the right choice for every exhibit-marketing environment. And in fact, in some instances, electrical service and labor is actually much cheaper than buying batteries – particularly if you have to keep replacing the latter on a regular basis. But if you choose to cut the electrical cord, the aforementioned tips will help you find the right battery to suit your power needs.


— Rob Cohen, vice president of sales and product development, Display Supply & Lighting Inc., Itasca, IL
Help Wanted
Send your tough questions about exhibiting to Linda Armstrong, larmstrong@exhibitormagazine.com.

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