Water Powered Clock

I’m looking through the “Gifts for Dads” section on ThinkGeek.com, and I’m quite disappointed.

Every product looks good when they talk about it in the description, but when I do some research on it, I find it’s not quite what they claim.

So buyer beware! Even (or ‘especially’) ThinkGeek.com uses marketing tricks to make things sound better than they are.

First, I looked at the Cold Heat Soldering Tool. It sounds great, but then you read the reviews on Amazon.com.

The way this thing works, from what I observed, is there is 2 parts to the tip. The 2 parts act like an anode and cathode, and the way the tool is “activated” is when you short the anode and cathode with a piece of conductive metal, which is supposed be your solder. When this happens the tool sends high current though the solder causing it to heat up and melt. It’s very similar to welding; you can even see a spark when you short the 2 parts of the tip out.

Problem is that the normal way of soldering circuitry to a board, where you put the tip to the parts you want joined and feed solder to them doesn’t work with this tool. And when you work it the way they want its shotty at best. It doesn’t live up to its name of COLD HEAT ether, the tip is a hot as a normal iron after a bit of soldering.

I guess this would come in useful if you are in a situation where you have no access to a wall outlet and/or can’t use a conventional soldering iron. But even then I would use a butane soldering iron. This thing is useless.

Indeed, every tip has two sides to it, two parts that need to come in contact with the solder.

To be fair, ThinkGeek.com does not lie. They do not present any false information.

But they do leave out details. Important, but negative details.

Next, I checked out the Water Powered Clock. Turns out that –

The water isn’t the source of the power. The electricity is being produced by the difference in electrode potentials of the anode and the cathode which are inserted into the water (or potato). It’s just a battery, it looks a little bit different, but the clock draws a very small amount of current anyway. So its powered by a dissolving hunk of zinc.

When the zinc is gone, the power is gone. But the clock draws so little power that it can run for years on that little bit of zinc. However, the water is not the source of the energy.

ThinkGeek claims: “The internal converter simply extracts electrons from water (or other liquid) molecules and provides a steady stream of electrical current acting as a fuel cell to generate power to the clock.”

I’m not sure if this is a definite and absolute lie. But it very well could be.

Now, the vast majority of people don’t do as much research as I do before every purchase. So it’s got to be interesting what you can get people to buy.

31 Responses to “Water Powered Clock”

  1. tommo says:

    Thanks for the heads up.. I almost bought one.

  2. andrew says:

    you have (unknowingly?) reviewed two very similar products here: the solder is to the two-tip iron as the water is to the clock. the water simply closes the circuit (as does the solder). it is not true that the clock extracts electrons from the water, but you decide if this diminishes its niftiness.

  3. Adam Monsen says:

    I fully agree, and I wish Thinkgeek would add this key fact in understanding how the clock /really/ works to the description.

  4. John Hopkins says:

    I agree fully to the things you said. The cold heat tool was looking very very suspicious to me from the beginning. A thing that creates heat by producing a shortcut in the materials to solder is so unreliable, you can hardly solder wires properly. The heat can’t be adjusted or kept at least constant so the flux will vaporize quickly leaving you with poor solder joints. The water powered clock is the same thing. Water is a molecule that is extremly stable because it produces a lot of energy when it is created (just remember the “Hindenburg”), so it will take energy to alter it back again. Where should the energy come from? If this was so easy people will just build everything to be powered by water. How stupid! “Extracts electrons” is so plain bullshit. It will only extract the electrons from the zink that is dissolving and put them back into the solution at the other electrode. If the water is really just a short circuit and not even the zink story is fact it’s just worse…


  5. rashea says:

    I bought a water clock in December. It ran perfectly until last month. I am quite disappointed that I only got a half year from it. Do you think that’s “normal”?

  6. Brandon Lu says:

    thank you very very much I was almost going to get it

  7. M0reteavicar says:

    I smelled a rat the moment I saw one of these water clocks (which would be half an hour ago)… I saw they use a “special” water battery, although I couldn’t find anywhere to allay my suspicions until I found this nice little blog – nice one.

    I remember as a kid an old 1950’s kid’s physics book – at a time when they knew how to write physics texts for children without dumbing down to the level of a single-celled ameba, one of the first things it gives you as a task is to build your own battery out of coins – possibly with threepence and halfpennie coins in an alternating stack, and water – the importance being the former was zinc rich and the latter copper rich. Sadly I didn’t have old coins, and could never find out what coins had good ratios, since most modern coins have the copper content reduced. Anyway… the principle is as old as time, as you rightly say, water is only the conducting medium, and not the source of power…

    The method has been employed in self-galvonising steel-hulled ships practically since their begining, protecting by use of zinc blocks attached to the hull, which through the electrovaic potential set up in the sea water attracts anodic zinc to cathodic steel, and thus plates zinc over any exposed steel to inhibit corrosion.

  8. David says:

    Hey there, just wanted to say thanks for this entry. Knew the water powered clocks were fishy but can’t find much about them on google other than places selling them.

    Plain ol potential difference of two metals joined by a conducting fluid.

  9. James says:

    Argh, I knew the water clock was too good to be true. If it was, then we would be using it to power important things, like cars, lol.

  10. Steven says:

    Yes I agree its a little bit misleading. But however, on the other side its definitely more environmental friendly than the conventional batteries

  11. will says:

    “Definitely more environmental friendly than the conventional batteries”? That’s debatable too. Metals were mined from the earth to create the anode and cathode, just as the battery materials are derived. In the big scheme of things, these two ‘time’ technologies are probably about equal.

  12. Susanna Buff says:

    Thanks about that clock, I was going to use it as a part of this project I have to do about recycling but I guess not…….. soda bottle fish tank here i come!

  13. brenny says:

    thnx (water clock) i got one from giant tiger last night and wondered how it worked i am a little dissappointed but i only payed five bucks for it and nobody else in my family knows. (cool heat) i noticed this and was wondering why it took me a year and still haven’t learnt to use it

  14. francois says:

    thanks a lot,i was going to market it before i read your comment(water clocks)but it look like fishy to me so before to buy 1000 pieces,i have done little research.thanks again.

  15. Chub says:

    Thank you. So I’m not the only one who realizes that thinkgeek is not neccessarily a place of geeks but just another warehouse of salesmen and liespewers selling bogus crap. After reviewing most of their ‘amazing gadgets’ a majority of them are cheap, break after a short amount of time, or just completely fraudulent. These two items are just the tip of the iceburg.

  16. Teri says:

    I got my waterclock before I found this blog. I put the water in and–VOILA–__NOTHING! Nada…zip. How do I get the darn thing to work??

    • Kim says:

      If your water is too pure, it won’t work so well. Try adding something acidic to it – vinegar or lemon juice would be my first choices.

  17. jack zhang says:

    Dear sir,
    we are a factory in china ,the only company who have the patent in most of the country and our product with good quolity.Our company mainly for produce the clock and calculator in china( the water powered clock and calculator) with very low price..It,s not need the dry battery only add the tap water can produce the electricity and have not waster material for the environment.It can be used about 2 years ,in the 2 years not need any battery,so it not only environment ,but also cost saving.I think this maybe interesting ,so I contact you.
    We are Dongguan serene electronic co.,ltd established in 1995,belonged to Taiwan Serene Electronic Industrial Co.,ltd which have about 25 years history. It is a professional manufacturer and exporter mainly in the design, development research and produce of water powerd clock and calculator. The water power clock and calculator use the water power battery (it is produced by our own company and we have the patent in most of the developed country) to drive instead of the normal battery ,it is only add the tap water can be produce electricity to drive the clock and calculator, it is not produced the waste material ,good for the environment protection. We have the patent in most of the country .Based on the best quality and service we have established a global sales network ,such as the USA,France,spain,German and so on . All of our products using material have ROSH .CE certificate.
    We are locate in Chang,an town of Dongguan city ,Gungdong province, with convenient traffic. The factury have the area more than 3.500 square meters,with over 200 employees. And the annual turnover more than 1,500,000 USD.we have past the ISO 9001 and ISO 2000 in the year of 2003.we try the best to support the best service and good quality to all the customer.

    If you interesting in our product welcome to contact us and for any questions welcome to contact. Welcome visit our websit http://www.waterenergy.com.tw as your free time.
    Wish you have a good day!

    Jack zhang
    Dongguan serene electronic co.,ltd
    MSN: [email protected] Mobile:+86-13925782086
    Tel:+86-769-85421638 Fax:+86-769-85421619
    Email: [email protected] [email protected]
    Skype: jack-zhangq websit: http://www.waterenergy.com.tw

  18. Bob says:

    @jack zhang. I am so relieved to learn that the water clocks come from a big factory, and am impressed that the company has the patent on the electrolytic principle. And your English is an excellent match for your integrity Jack.

  19. jack zhang says:

    Thank you for leave me a comment.In fact we turely have the patent , if you visit our websit http://www.waterenergy.com.tw you can see it ,in the item o f patent.
    we have the patent in about 17 country.And our quality is good , the water clock and calculator can used more than 2 years. We give you the 1 year guarantee.
    Now have many company copy our product.
    If have any questions about the clock , i can help you.

  20. bluesway says:

    i made a vinegar powered clock :D runs for about 2 months but it stinks like hell

  21. jack zhang says:

    infact now many company of technology of water powered . we have the patent of the water powered product in many country. Now the copy make the water powered product quality not good. our product quolity is good and we give 1 year guatantee, in one year you can change

  22. Ruggero says:

    Today I’ve got a water clock as gift. I’m a physics, the first thing I thought was about a sort of dam effect between the two side, I look carefully, but I didn’t see any moving part. I thought about Seebeck effect even if it’s quite difficult because the difference in temperature are very small. Thank you for the explaination, I think it is almost a scam, you can’t talk about “water power” if the water is only an electrolitic medium.

  23. JosephBullet says:

    I think it is a fraud because the product is labeled as ECO FRIENDLY. How can it be eco friendly if:
    1. for the normal clock when it stops you just replace the battery. Here when the clock stops (after a year or two – depending on the quality of Chinese zinc) you have to replace the whole clock.
    2. if zinc is dissolved in water that can’t be ok for the water, right? So throwing that water into the toilet is identical to throwing batteries to the toilet.

    • Barbara Scheifele says:

      Yep, that’s what I did: the clock was out of sight a couple of weeks, today I found it, saw the display was off, but still water inside, so carried it to the sink and emptied it to rinse and put fresh water … I didn’t think about how the clock exactly worked up to now, until, suddendly I felt something burning on my skin! Looking closer, I saw that there was a white powder all around the outside (!) of the clock, on the glued rim! Hmm… after 15min it stops burning, but still, I think this probability should at least be mentioned on the instruction leaflet!! what if my toddlers had played with it (thinking it’s only water..)!! this company should be sued!

  24. Tony says:

    I found this blog post which does a pretty good job of explaining how the water powered clock works.

    • Barbara Scheifele says:

      Yes, it does, but it should also mention the dangers. What about the fact that at the sealing rim air can get in contact with that waste water inside and transports the chemicals to the outside of the clock!? To the outside of a clock that superficially claims to work with ‘water’ !!! (Of course, we know that batteries can corrode, but – since this thing is not sold as a ‘battery’!!) Normal batteries, we keep them far away from kids, esp. when we don’t know how old they are! That white powder on the out side of my clock could have gotten in the eyes of my toddlers instead of on my hand and arm..!!

  25. Ahman says:

    I’ve had one for 10 months and have refilled the water once when I spilled it over. Amazing regardless. I always have the time and haven’t had to replace any batteries.

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