June 28, 2017

Preparedness and Batteries

battery

Have you ever considered how many things you come into contact with every day that use a battery?  How about the items that are in your various preparedness kits?

I remember reading a few news stories that spoke about cities providing generators so people could recharge their cell phones.  Because we have become so dependent on technology and the items that use batteries, both in normal times and when “it’s hitting the fan”, not having the ability to use an item can make a bad situation worse.  Whether it’s a remote control, weather radio, cell phone or flashlight, these devices only work if they have a charged battery.  Below are some things I have discovered over the years.  If you have something to add, please do so in the comments.

 

Disposable Batteries (Alkaline)

We try to keep a good supply of the various sizes of batteries.  Over the years, I have heard various prepping tips about batteries and have looked into them.  Unfortunately in my experience most have turned out to be false.

For example, have you heard that storing your batteries in the fridge or freezer can prolong their life?  According to Energizer, this isn’t the case!  In this FAQ on Non-Rechargeable Batteries:

“No, storage in a refrigerator or freezer is not required or recommended for batteries produced today. Cold temperature storage can in fact harm batteries if condensation results in corroded contacts or label or seal damage due to extreme temperature storage. To maximize performance and shelf life, store batteries at normal room temperatures (68°F to 78°F or 20°C to 25°C) with moderated humidity levels (35 to 65% RH).”

I also read on a Prepper site that someone said they had compared the life of name brand batteries against the cheaper batteries found at dollar stores.  They said the life of the batteries was relatively the same.  I mentioned this to Trudee, who then purchased some batteries from the dollar store.  It was our experience that they only lasted from ½ to 2/3 as long as the better known, name brand, batteries.

How often have you reached for the remote or another electronic only to discover the batteries were dead?  Something you might not be aware of is that batteries don’t necessarily lose their charge at the same rate.  There could be one battery that is dead and another with ½ a charge left.  To remedy this there are several inexpensive battery testers on the market that will show you how much life is left on a battery.  I haven’t purchased on yet, so I won’t make any recommendations, but make sure that the one you buy will test a variety of battery sizes.

 

Rechargeable Batteries

The technology and terminology can quickly get over my head, so here is a novices explanation: There are six types of rechargeable batteries.  Only the following three; Nickel Cadmium, Nickel metal hydride, and reusable alkaline are found as replacements for AAA, AA, C, D, and 9 volt batteries.  Since these are the most commonly stocked battery types, I will give some pluses and minuses of using them.

 

Reusable Alkaline

Reusable Alkaline batteries hold their charge longer than any other type.  However, they have the lowest amount of charge/discharge cycles of any other reusable battery.  (A charge/discharge cycle is one complete depletion and recharge of the battery.)

 

Nickel Cadmium (NiCd)

This is the oldest type of rechargeable battery.  The technology has been improved over the years.  A nickel cadmium battery has a long shelf life and can be stored in a discharged state for long periods of time.  When it is needed, it is recharged quickly.  It also has a high number of charge/discharge cycles, numbering over 1,000.

Nickel Cadmium batteries have a high rate of discharge.  Just while sitting on the shelf, they lose 1% of their charge per day.  Due to this, batteries would need to be recharged after storage.  Nickel Cadmium is also subject to memory effect.  According to Wikipedia, memory effect is an effect observed in nickel cadmium and nickel–metal hydride batteries that causes them to hold less charge. It describes one very specific situation in which certain batteries gradually lose their maximum energy capacity if they are repeatedly recharged after being only partially discharged. The battery appears to “remember” the smaller capacity.  This has been corrected with newer technology.

 

Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH)

This is probably the most available and lowest-cost option of the three.  They have 30-40% higher capacity than a NiCd battery and are less prone to memory effect than NiCd batteries.

NiMH batteries have a high rate of discharge losing up to 4% a day, more in warmer climates.  It also has a limited service life, probably around the 500 charge/discharge cycle range.

 

Low Self Discharge Nickel Metal Hydride (LSD NiMH)

This type of reusable battery loses significantly less charge than any other type, roughly only 15% a year.  They also have a high charge/discharge rate.  LSD NiMH batteries can be charged with a NiMH battery charger.

 

Battery Chargers

There are many different ways a battery can be recharged; trickle, simple, timer based, fast and pulse.  There are also battery chargers that are intelligent.  These should not be confused with “smart chargers”.  A Smart charger has a microchip, as does the battery, from its manufacturer and they are designed to work together.

A charger that is intelligent can monitor the temperature, voltage and other characteristics and stop charging when the battery is fully charged.

There are chargers on the market that accept not only the 110 volts from your home, but also 12 volts DC from your car lighter or from a solar charger.

 

Final Thoughts

In my opinion, I think a good set up for Prepper’s might be to keep some disposable alkaline batteries on hand, and a battery tester to go with them.  It’s also a good idea to have a supply of LSD NiMH batteries with an intelligent charger and a small solar panel to go with it.  There are also solar chargers that can charge your cell phone as well.

The power these batteries provide might not cover all of your needs in a blackout, but it could very well provide for a radio, flashlight, cell phone and other small electronics. This would be enough to keep you informed and your loved ones in another part of the country updated. If you store LSD NiMH batteries charged and top them off once a year, they’ll always be ready for use!

 

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Comments

  1. Chris,

    You forgot to mention “Lithium” batteries.

    This from Energizer’s website: For the countless electronic gadgets that you can’t live without, get the latest lithium battery technology that’s proven to be the world’s longest lasting AA and AAA batteries in high-tech devices.
    http://www.energizer.com/batteries/performance-lithium/ultimate-lithium/Pages/default.aspx

    Energizer claims their “Advance Lithium” batteries have a 10yr shelf life for moderate/high drain devices and their “Ultimate Lithium” has a 15yr shelf life for high drain devices. I have used AA and AAA Energizer “Ultimate Lithium batteries” exclusively since they came out and have found them to be far superior than anything I used before.

    • Chris Ray says:

      I didn’t overlook it, I decided not to add lithium as lithium batteries are generally used for laptops and other bigger electronics. I also saw in my research that most manufacturers choose not to use lithium for the smaller batteries as they are more prone to over heating and thermal runaway. If they can get them more stable, than I would think that is the way to go, but for now I’ll stick with Nickel based.

  2. Chris — Another excellect post. I appreciate the homework you did and the recommendations that you made. A tornado hit a community less than 20 miles from me last week. Many homes and businesses without power for four days. This is certainly good advice for situations like those. I’ll help spread the word.

  3. Jim Moore says:

    Good stuff! Important information!
    I have several ways to change batteries with solar power, which I believe is also important.

    • Chris Ray says:

      What solar charger do you use Jim?

      • Jim Moore says:

        Ah, testing my memory. Most of them are packed for after collapse. I have a variety; a Brunton 26W Folding Solar panel with Brunton controller, I’ve tested it with my Xantrex Powerpack 600; a Sunforce 7W trickle charger which I’ve also tested with the Xantrex, just takes longer; and a small generic I don’t recall right now. Plus I have an EEP (Energy Efficient Products – http://www.eepsales.com) 4 Light Solar system that has a DC plug that will fit a couple of the battery chargers I have. If needed I can connect directly to the solar panel of the EEP with a little engineering.

        • Chris Ray says:

          Good to know, thanks. A solar charger is on my want list, but I haven’t started researching brands yet.

          • Jim Moore says:

            The simplest for me is to use solar to charge my Xantrex then use a battery charger from there. The Xantrex is heavy, but great to have around. The basic idea is to charge a battery and use an inverter to run your favorite charger. Now just to keep the it all safe from EMP.

          • Jim Moore says:

            OK, I’ll name drop to start you off; Sunforce, XTG, Soladec, Opteka, Power Monkey, C.Crane, JOOS, Solar Bear, the S-Charger from Suntactics.

          • Chris Ray says:

            Nice, thanks Jim.

  4. Rev. Dr. Michael E Harris says:

    Here are two sites that may help:

    http://www.powerstream.com/Compare.htm

    http://www.iccnexergy.com/battery-chemistry-comparison-chart/

    When I was Product Director for the M145 Machine Gun Optic (MGO) in Crew-Served Weapons under the Soldier Weapons Program Office, I had to worry about the batteries that illuminated the reticle of the M145. Some of the Master Gunners with whom I consulted, mentioned that a squad of four might take 25 pounds of spare batteries on a patrol of three days. [As an aside, HossUSMC believes that having all your preps use the same size battery is a good thing.] I had [a search this morning turned up nothing] a chart that showed the various battery chemistries and their specifications. These included shelf life, useful life, temperature range, etc. There are so many considerations, that I would take HossUSMC’s advice.

    • Chris Ray says:

      Now that is a lot of batteries, you would think with all of the money spent on the military they could come up with something better that doesn’t chew through so many batteries.

      • Rev. Dr. Michael E Harris says:

        Chris,

        Battery chemistry research was and is a major effort by the military, especially the Army.

        Industry has not made any serious breakthroughs in a long time.

  5. Thanks for the information. I was just thinking about this very issue. Another issue I need to research is how to store ammo.

    • Chris Ray says:

      For storing ammo a dry place is the most important thing as moisture can corrode it. I store mine in ammo cans in closets.

  6. If you haven’t done so, head over to Steven Harris’s websites. You can find a free family preparedness class here: http://www.beforethestormhits.com/ His other stuff is here: http://www.solar1234.com/ This is the BEST preparedness stuff I have ever come across bar none. And its FREE. He addresses the battery issues here. He knows the science behind all of this. I bought the inverter he suggested and have the specific brand of rechargeable batteries he recommends. I can charge batteries off of my car in the event of a long-term outage.

    I still store other batteries as well and this post is a good reminder.

    Thanks for all the good stuff at this site. I you aren’t acquainted with Steven Harris’s stuff, get acquainted. It’s really good stuff.

    In fact, I completed a survey on his family preparedness show. In it he asked for other areas of interest. I listed a concern and he responded within minutes. You don’t get that very many places.

    • Chris Ray says:

      I have listened to some of the podcasts he did with the Survival Podcast, and you’re right, he has a lot of knowledge.

  7. Raymond Leo says:

    Changed everything we use to DD or AA Rechargeable – Got a solar charger from Amazon.Com for about $20.00 – Haven’t had a problem in years.

  8. Rev. Dr. Michael E Harris says:

    Jim Moore,

    I just saw Faraday cages on sale. They are about 2″ x 3″ and cost only $1,499–they are MIL-SPEC boxes. They also have bags for small items for up to about $40. I am drawing a blank on where I saw them. I tried a few searches, but came up empty on the boxes.

    You could turn your house into a Faraday cage. I have been in a few Faraday cages that were big–100″ x 300″ x 30″; they also had positive pressure to keep things clean.

    • Jim Moore says:

      Interesting! Thanks!
      I usually wrap things inside a anti-static bag and seal them in ammo cans. These are stored in a metal and grounded storage shed. Who knows if it will be safe. Guess I need an EMP gun to test it all. Ha Ha!

      Wow! Never been in one. Would love to have a big one and a giant Tesla coil to play with.

  9. Sockpuppet says:

    “C” & “D” battery adapters are available from Amazon and others. Just insert AA batteries to convert them. By using these adapters, you reduce your needs to “AA”, “AAA”, & 9V.

  10. Rev. Dr. Michael E Harris says:

    I was reading at reThink Survival and found an article on batteries. I clicked the link and here I am. It is nice to know that the people at ReThinkSurvival look for the best on the web.

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