December 18, 2017

Preparedness and Batteries


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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