Power Up Your Profits: The Benefits Of Lithium Batteries In Your Beacons.

In the HDD business, time is money. Uptime is everything because productivity is the key to profitability. Some operators, however, are cutting into their uptime by trying to cut costs on the batteries in their beacons (also called sondes). It seems like such a small detail in the context of everything on an HDD jobsite, but the wrong batteries can grind bore progress to a halt, cutting into profits instead of trimming expenses.

Common, off-the-shelf loose C-cell batteries can be a popular choice for beacon operation. Not only are they cheap, they are readily available at drug stores, gas stations, and plenty of other retailers certain to be nearby your jobsite. In contrast, the lithium batteries recommended by beacon manufacturers such as Subsite® Electronics aren’t available on every corner, and they can feel expensive by comparison.

“But the real expense,” says Levi Valdois, Subsite’s Product Manager for HDD Guidance, “is the loss of productivity by having to stop your bore due to battery faults.”

According to Valdois, C-cell batteries and sticks are not designed for the rigors of horizontal directional drilling. They can lose connection during the extreme vibration downhole—common on almost every drill site regardless of drill size/type or ground condition—causing a loss of signal. Time is then wasted retrieving the beacon and readjusting or replacing the batteries. Lithium batteries provide a more consistent power supply without such worries.

Another common fault of C-cells is power regulation issues. Lithium batteries provide a more robust power supply which can help fight through interference more effectively than C-cells. Valdois notes a case where drilling was occurring in the vicinity of high-voltage power lines. The beacon, which was powered by C-cells, was not able to operate properly due to the strong interference. By simply switching to lithium batteries, the beacon was able to cut through the interference and send a strong signal to the tracker.

Lithium batteries are also designed to withstand to high temperatures downhole. C-cells are not rated to perform in these temperatures and can fail.

“There’s no question lithium batteries outperform C-cells on every level,” Valdois says, “so they are worth every penny. But what people may not know is that lithium batteries don’t have to be expensive. You can pay more and get up to 120 hours of battery life … but you can also get quality lithium batteries with closer to 70 hours of battery life for a fraction of the cost.”

The key, Valdois warns, is getting “high-quality” lithium batteries like the Electrochem Silver Supercell. Lower-quality lithium cells can show degraded performance much more quickly due to the harsh operating conditions of HDD boring. With quality lithium batteries, however, your beacon should deliver optimum performance, helping you maintain uptime in the field.



About Subsite® Electronics

Subsite® Electronics is committed to providing underground construction professionals the most comprehensive suite of electronic products in the industry, including utility locators, Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) guidance equipment, utility inspection systems, and equipment machine controls. By utilizing innovative technologies, extensive market feedback and outstanding customer support, Subsite has established itself as the premier source of electronic technology to support the installation, maintenance and inspection of underground pipe and cable. For more information, visit

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