limited production :: hand crafted :: high performance :: rechargeable :: premium flashlights

This is my blog about creating a startup LED flashlight business. I'm a designer, fabricator, and strategist and I'm passionate about making ideas real. I believe that products are about people, that they should be built to last, deliver real value, and that we need to do a better job than we have in the recent past.

Most of my career has been contract or freelance work and I've crafted products and strategies for both big international companies and startups. I also used to work in the "industry" fabricating special effects for film and TV, along with the occasional hot rod. Bottom line, I love making things.

I'm starting this blog so you can follow along, from day one, and see what it's like to start a business, or fail in the process. Only time will tell, but I hope you find this interesting enough to stay tuned, comment, link, like, tweet, and (most importantly) participate in turning this idea into something tangible and valuable.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Economics of Purchasing

As consumers, we spend a lot of time looking at price tags but we don't spend very much time thinking about the cost of ownership. Perhaps because those costs lie in the future and we're not very good at visualizing something as abstract as five years from now. Perhaps it's because we just take the cost of ownership for granted. Do you think about how much gas you are going to buy over the life of the car? Do you think about how much your iPhone plan is going to cost you beyond the purchase of the phone? If you are like me...not really.

However, when you break it down, that doesn't make much sense. Just because you are paying less money "today" doesn't really make the price lower tomorrow. I've been thinking about this a lot. People often ask what makes a $200 light special? I think my new answer is going to be, "because it doesn't cost $1000." Let's take a look at the math.

pop quiz: 20 vs. 2,826...which one is smaller?
One lithium battery is good for about 300 charges. In the Alpha, that equates to about 471 hours of operation on the brightest setting. Think that $30 2D Maglite is a good deal? What if I told you it was going to cost you $283 in disposable batteries to get the same amount of use? Maybe you have an exotic light like the Surefire M3LT (400 lumens & $500.00) or the Fenix TK41 (630 lumens & $130.00). You better be willing to fork out over $2,500 over the life of the light (either one) to pay for the batteries you are going to use. $200 is starting to sound cheap isn't it?

another quiz: 1 vs. 1,884...which one is smaller?
If that doesn't make your skin crawl, let's think about the waste involved with disposable batteries. How do you feel about throwing 94 D cell batteries in the trash if you own a 2D Maglite? Okay, how about 1,884 AA batteries if you own the Fenix TK41? Please keep in mind that to get the same amount of use, the Alpha requires 1 (ONE) $20 battery (that is included with the light). Does the Surefire or Fenix come with a battery? Emmmmmm. You'll have to ask them.

last chance to get it right: $0.04 vs $6.00...which one is smaller? 
The final metric is the cost per hour of operation. That's how you cost out a private jet. Over the life of one rechargeable battery it will cost you $0.04 per hour to operate the Alpha. The Maglite is $0.60 per hour and the Fenix TK41 is a pocket melting $6.00 per hour. I think the question is rhetorical at this point but, tell me again, which one is the better deal?


  1. Excellent point. As a buyer of the Alpha (#15!) I love your light, but isn't the major point of this article that rechargeable > disposable? A TK41 w/ Eneloops will be more expensive initially (8xAA) but it's better than disposables.

    I'd love to see a comparison between the 8xAA Eneloops (TK41) and the 1x18650 (Alpha) as you did above. The Alpha would still come out on top, of course. It's freakin' awesome.

  2. Absolutely love having these visuals. I wish we could post them up at every battery rack across the country!