Being able to charge batteries is an important part of prepping. Batteries can mean the difference between comfort and convenience during a SHTF situation.
Here are a few reasons why you need to be thinking about your battery charging situation and some suggestions for creating a battery system that works for you.
Lights Make It Safer
During a survival situation or even a short term emergency, having light so you can see what is outside and what you are doing makes things safer. Security is one factor at play. Lights can frighten away intruders of both the two legged and four legged varieties.
You very likely might have to do things a bit differently or take part in activities and skills that are not familiar to you. Doing some things under low light can be downright dangerous.
Even just being able to see well enough to reduce the risks of falling down means a lot. Lights that depend on flames can lead to fires. Even if you are really careful the risk is not worth it.
Planning Out Your Devices
When it comes to what devices and lights are best for your situation, it is important to reduce the different types of batteries and charger types you need.
A small inverter plugged into a 12 volt battery system can charge a laptop’s lithium ion battery or charge multiple USB devices.
The Case For AA Batteries
AA batteries have a lot going for them. For starters it is so easy to find AA batteries and chargers. If you have devices that use D cells you can get converters that allows you to use a bank of AA batteries instead.
Since so many flashlights and other devices run on AA, it is easy to add things to your prepping stock pile without worrying about having to invest in a different charger set up.
One reason for AA batteries being so popular is that devices now days are not as power hungry as they once were. I remember it being a big deal back in the early 90s to get 8 D batteries and how little time I got out of them when put in a boom box.
Thank goodness for modern LEDs and other technology that has made batteries a lot easier and practical to use!
Choosing Your Battery
Just because two batteries say they are rechargable AA batteries does not mean they are the same.
All batteries have a maximum amount of power they can store. This means that the cheaper batteries you are looking at may not hold as much of a charge. Any battery will have a reduced charge capacity over time so it is a good idea to start out with a higher charge.
Not All Chargers Are Equal Either
Most of us have probably seem the standard small battery chargers that come with 4-8 batteries that are sold at grocery stores. These chargers have nothing wrong with them per say but my husband and I noticed that they would not charge our 3200 mAh batteries up to capacity.
The charger topped out at 2800 or so meaning the batteries were not near full. We switched to a heavier duty charger and the problem was solved. Just be aware that buying different batteries and using them with the same charger might not give you the same results.
Read Charger Instructions Carefully
Some chargers are only designed for specific types of batteries. Lithium ion batteries for example cannot be charged in some of the common AA battery chargers. Read the fine print before buying any different batteries to supplement.
The Risk Of Buying Strange Brands
Alas there are a lot of batteries to choose from out there. This means it might be hard to sort through brands that are good. Take it from someone that has made the mistake of buying off brands when it comes to electronics, it is not worth it when it comes to batteries. Go for a brand with a lot of reviews and that has been on the market for awhile.
Off brands may not hold a charge as long or have as long of a usable life. You get what you pay for when it comes to batteries. At the same time I have found the Amazon brand of rechargeable to be alright and they are less expensive than some and you can get bulk packs to you are well stocked.
I know that a good warranty doesn’t do much in a major situation but you can rest assured that Amazon will accept returns on batteries.
12 Volt System Or Solar Charging
There are ways to charge batteries off of a system that is not grid power based. You can use a solar battery charger for example.
I kind of like the idea of a charger that is able to take on more than a single type of battery. These are not as cheap as some chargers but I can see how it would be good to have one around.
How many batteries?
Knowing how many batteries is enough is a tough one. Just like food, batteries have an expiration date. You need to be rotating your batteries out.
It is worth considering approaching the question of how many batteries by adding up the devices you have and how many batteries are needed to provide a full set being in use and another set that can be exchanged while the others charge.
So if you have 10 devices that take 4 AA batteries each you would want 80 rechargeable. This may sound like a lot but batteries have become more affordable than they used to be. Which brings us to Solar Panels.
Solar Panel Use For Battery Charging
A lot of battery chargers come with their own built in small solar array, however if you have a regular solar system you may want to add a panel to make up for energy needed to charge batteries for your devices.
A 100 watt solar panel can be purchased for under $130 and doesn’t weigh very much either. Personally I am a bit suspicious of the cheaper small battery chargers with their own solar arrays.
It is hard to tell if these smaller panels attached to devices are good enough to hold up to many years of steady use. Time will tell but in the meantime it is a good idea to have a variety of charging options.
This panel comes in at only 16.5 lbs so it is manageable. That is one thing to be said about 100 watt panels. They produce a lot of power but they are not so large and bulky that a single person cannot move them.
There are a lot of panels in this price range and wattage but I chose this one to show you because it gets very solid reviews and weighs a few pounds less than others I looked at. This is of course not that portable compared to fold up and roll out panels but for at your house or RV use, this panel will serve you well.
You can use this solar panel in conjunction with a solar generator such as those sold by Goal Zero. The Yeti 150 is shown below and can be found for under $200 with shipping. Goal Zero has larger options for those that have greater power needs. These generators are great because they are very easy to set up and you can keep them charged off regular power or solar.
You can use this generator to plug in battery chargers so you can keep a lot of devices going. This unit also has USB plug ins so you can take care of charging up tablets and cell phones.
Maintains 75% of capacity after 3 years of no usage. I like that these batteries come with a two storage boxes so you can keep batteries dry and out of contact with any metal with ease. You can buy additional packs of very high capacity batteries through Amazon.
EBL batteries can be recharged up to 1200 times. I like the 2800 mAh capacity batteries because they take up the same amount of space but have a lot higher power charge than the 2300. This charger will also charge AAA batteries if you have a few smaller devices that take them.
This is a very affordable way to get started recharging at $25 for 8 batteries and the charger.
4. USB Device All In One Charger
For those that just want something that folds up like a tablet and is very portable, there are lightweight solutions like that above that will charge up to two USB devices simply by laying in the sun and plugging in the device.
This is a neat solution for under $50 if you don’t have a lot of space and are just starting out. This could even be put in a bug out bag because it weigh next to nothing.
Batteries For Barter
Batteries could be an excellent barter item during any short or long term crisis or survival situation. I advise having some extra put back for just this purpose. We love our lighting and electronics so people would be pretty desperate for batteries in a crisis.
Batteries are so small you can put back a lot of them in a small space and add to your stockpile $10 at a time.
Xtech 4 AA Ultra High Capacity Rechargeable Batteries + 4 AAA Ultra High-Capacity Rechargeable Batteries with AC/DC Travel Turbo Quick Charger
This charger has a lot going for it because it comes with a car charger that makes it easy to use with a 12 volt system or charge off your car battery. The 3100 mAh capacity gives you a lot power. This also has an adapter for our prepper friends in Europe.
Suggested Accessories For An Emergency
I think it is worth while to mention some of the other items that are useful to have in conjunction with rechargeable batteries. LED lights are the way to go if you want to get the most out of your batteries and charging time.
These normally take about 3 batteries each and will provide 12 hours of light. There are a lot of choices out there in all price ranges.
It may be good to have few budget ones and then a few that are made to be more rugged and waterproof.
A lot of people probably still have a few of the old fashioned incadescent flashlights around. I know I have at least one old Mag Lite that I have been told I should throw away!
It is easy to hold on to what we have but the truth is that you are better off replacing old lights with new LED lights that run on smaller batteries. It might cost a little now but it is much better for your long term situation.
This is an old fashioned thing now days but having a radio can be helpful in a true emergency. My father used to listen to shortwave a lot before the advent of the internet in his world but he still keeps a shortwave radio.
Any radio is better than nothing but having one that is more capable is always better. They are more affordable than ever and plenty take AA batteries.
Choosing Your Set Up
This post was meant to get you thinking about the best battery set ups for your situation. There are a ton of different options out there that are dependent on your needs and of course how big of an investment you want to make.
The one thing to remember is that no matter your needs or budget, there are things you can do to be more battery and energy prepared. This list covered some options that can get you started that are in the $20-$30 range. You can get an 8 pk of rechargeable AA batteries for a mere $10.
About the Author: Samantha Biggers lives on the side of a mountain in North Carolina with her husband and pack of loyal hounds in a house her husband and she built themselves. When not writing she is working in their vineyard, raising Shetland sheep, or helping her husband with whatever the farm and vineyard can throw at them.
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