Humans are not designed to live without light at night, we must have it to survive in today’s world of crime and violence. A Preppers best friend for lighting and communications in an extended grid-down situation are rechargeable batteries to keep these needed devices going.
Some of us have small generators to run lights and refrigeration, even heat for the home during a short term grid down. But long term, when your gas is gone and gas stations are closed, the only thing left is your own solar system. A 200 watt system can run small portable 12v refrigerators (Dometic), and recharge all your batteries for lighting and communications. This size of system is inexpensive and easily be made portable.
All my critical battery powered flashlights lights and radios are powered with “AA” rechargeable batteries. I only choose “AA” size because it makes battery stocking easy as this one size powers all my critical devices.
Like all prepping items, they need periodic review and maintenance (such as recharging) even if not used. NiMH (nickel–metal hydride) type batteries will self-discharge when not in use. The self-discharge amount varies with new technologies, from 10% to 50% with most only 20%. So once a year, and for me that is the beginning of hurricane season. I recharge (top-off) all my NiMH batteries so they are ready to do their job with full power.
When purchasing new NiMH, try to buy the same manufacturer brand and the ones with the largest mA (milliamp hours) or stored power (amps). Today that’s generally the 2300mA or 2500mA size.
What is ‘mA’ (milliamp hour)?
It’s a unit of electric current equal to one thousandth (1000) of an ampere. The SI base unit for electric current is the ampere. One ampere, is equal to 1000 milliamps, or 1 amps.
A 2500 mA battery equals 2.5 amps of stored power.
A 1500 mA battery equals 1.5 amps of stored power.
I use two types of chargers, a fast recharger and the other is a smart recharger.
The fast recharger;
is just that, fast. It can recharge for “AA” batteries in as little as 15 minutes!
The smart recharger;
has a ‘conditioning’ charge. After a number of battery uses, the NiMH can develop a ‘memory’ or it thinks it is fully recharged but it’s not. The battery will tell the charger it’s full and the charger then stops the recharge cycle. The smart charger has a special conditioning charge function, user selected, will automatically discharge the battery completely, then recharge the battery to 100% of its’ rated (milliamps) capacity. Note that this conditioning charge is far slower than the fast recharger.
Below are the two chargers I use and recommend.
Every NiMH battery will have its’ mA capacity printed on the side. DO NOT MIX mA capacities either in the charger or in the device they’re used in. Why? Because the batteries have a chip (computer) in each one. This chip talks to the charger and lets the charger know when it is full and doesn’t need any more recharging. The typical charger has a four bay or battery capacity. If you put into the charger three, 2500 mA and one 1500 mA battery, the lower mA battery will be recharged first but, what happens is when the 1500 mA talks to the charger and says it’s full the charger will shut-off the cycle. What happens to the three 2500 mA batteries? They will only be charged to 1500 mA. Only charge the same mA batteries at the same time be it 1, 2, 3 or 4 of the same mA batteries.
Quick NiMH battery Facts:
Charge cycles: Up to 700 times
Charge retention: Lasts up to 12 months
The CCRANE Quick Charger (Smart Charger)
CCRANE showing charger compartment. Will charge one or up to four at a time of “AAA”, “AA”, “C” or “D” size batteries. Either NiMH or NiCad batteries.
Energizer Quick Charger (15 minute charge cycle)
Shown is a 2500 mA battery label. All rechargeable batteries will be labeled with their mA capacity. I also date each battery when purchased for overall age reference.
Both chargers, come with a 110v wall plug/cord and a 12v plug/cord for charging off your power port in your car or solar system if you have one. If 110v grid is down you can recharge your batteries from your car battery.