Unplugged power

Larry Mandella

Photo By Tom Angel

Larry Mandella, owner of Energy Masters, on The Esplanade in Chico, can find a battery for just about anything that needs one. Having spent three decades knee-deep in portable power, Mandella said he still gets a charge out of the business.

How long have you been in the battery business?

Oh, since ‘65. I’ve been here for over 11 years. I sell everything from [batteries for] a watch to a—what’s that thing where they yell “Clear!"?—a defibrillator.

Is there a bigger demand for batteries than there was five or 10 years ago?

Yeah, probably in the last 10 years. If you were talking [about] 20 years ago, it would be a big difference, but then there are so many changes, which increases your applications so much, it’s enough to drive you nuts. Like they make a camcorder—they don’t make one, two or three batteries for those camcorders, they make 20 or 30 of them.

What’s the best way to store batteries?

Cool dark place. Fridge doesn’t make no difference. The alkaline manufacturers did a study and found it didn’t make no difference whether you kept it in the fridge or in the cupboard.

What’s the most interesting thing you find about batteries?

Probably the size of a watch battery and how long that’ll run your watch. I have a watch at home that’s been running three years now. It just amazes me how small they are and how long they last.

Do you have batteries for solar-power applications too?

Yes. Personally, I have solar power in my back yard, and I have 4,800 watts, but I don’t have a battery bank. I just turn the meter backwards. As long as the sun is shining on those panels, I’m making electricity. Last month my electric bill was $5 or something.

Is there any danger dealing with batteries?

I’ve had four of them explode. Probably the closest [I came] to getting hurt was when I was charging some batteries in the back. I had a bad battery, and I was trying to figure out which one it was. The battery that was defective, the one I was right on… blew up right in my face. If I ever die I want it to be in an explosion. It’s quick. The thing blew up, and my eyes were filled with acid before I could close them—that’s how fast it was. I didn’t even [have time to] blink. The worst one that blew up went off right in my ear. I couldn’t hear for days. It was like a shotgun going off.

Do you ever feel like you’re energizing people’s lives?

No (laughs).