Rechargeable Battery Charger and Portable Solar Panel Options For Preppers

Samantha Biggers Samantha Biggers  |  February 23, 2020
Rechargeable Battery Charger and Portable Solar Panel Options For Preppers

The ability to recharge batteries is important. Not all battery chargers are the same. In this post, we are going to talk about different chargers and how to plan out your battery needs so that you have what you need during a short or long emergency.

This article does not cover battery chargers for keeping your car or other vehicle’s battery maintained.

What type of batteries do you use the most?

Most people use AA or AAA batteries for devices but there is an increasing number of larger lithium battery devices. If you are just starting out with battery chargers, you are probably going to want a small AA and AAA charger.

Chargers for other sizes such as C and D do exist but they are less common thus they are usually ordered online. Make sure to read any battery charger descriptions carefully to verify what sizes they will charge. Alternatively, you can get adaptors that allow you to combine AA batteries to use in D cell devices but you will find that you have to change them out a lot more often since even when combined, they do not offer the same amount of stored power as a D cell can.

Have a lot more batteries than you think you need.

We are all guilty of forgetting to charge batteries. Also, it doesn’t matter how high the quality of your battery, it will eventually stop holding a charge as well and you will need to charge them more often and make the decision to dispose of them when it gets to be cumbersome to use them. How you take care of them and how you charge them matters, which brings us to the next topic.

Fast Charging vs. Slow Charging

Some battery chargers make claims that they charge AA in less than an hour. That sounds pretty great but there is a downside to that. Fast charging creates more heat and it leads to shorter overall lifespan of your batteries. There is a trade-off. For long term use, you are better off having more batteries on hand than what you need and charging batteries slower. That is not to say that you should never fast charge your batteries. Personally I think it might be a good idea to have regular chargers but have a fast charger for when you can’t wait around. Once in awhile is far different than always being in the habit of charging things fast.

EBL Quick & Convenient Smart Battery Charger

EBL Quick & Convenient Smart Battery Charger for AA AAA Rechargeable Batteries - USB Input Design for Travel

We like the EBL chargers we have in the Biggers’ household. So far the batteries and the chargers have performed very well over the years. This basic charger works via USB so it is compatible with any of the solar panels I list at the end of this article.

BONAI LCD Universal Battery Charger

BONAI LCD Universal Battery Charger for AA, AAA, C, D, 9V Ni-MH Ni-CD Rechargeable Batteries with Discharge Function

This charger is a compact option that offers the ability to charge AA, AAA, C, D, and 9V batteries via a standard 110V outlet. You can charge 4 AA, AAA, C, or D batteries at once or 2 9V batteries. For the options you get, this charger is a good deal for someone that wants a simple small charger that does it all.

EBL 8-Bay Battery Charger for AA AAA NIMH NICD Rechargeable Batteries

EBL 8-Bay Battery Charger for AA AAA NIMH NICD Rechargeable Batteries

This charger is for plugging into a standard 110V outlet in your house or on a power center. 8 bays allow for charging AA or AAA batteries. This is a pretty basic charger for someone that wants to keep a few batteries topped off and doesn’t want any fancy features.

EBL Smart Battery Charger for C D AA AAA 9V Ni-MH Ni-CD Rechargeable Batteries

EBL Smart Battery Charger for C D AA AAA 9V Ni-MH Ni-CD Rechargeable Batteries with Discharge Function & LCD Display

This EBL charger is an affordable option for those that want the ability to charge many different types of batteries. It is great that there are some major brands that are starting to make these. Although there are not that many devices that take odder sizes, there are times when being able to charge up 9V batteries for your smoke detector might be a nice thing to be able to do.

I have never bought 9V rechargeables but I might do just that because we have not had a good experience using even the really expensive ones that are supposed to last 10 years in a smoke detector. They may last for a year but at $9 or more each, they are not worth it. Rechargeable seems like the way to go with 9V at this point, especially when it is the battery size that I am least likely to keep a lot of around because they don’t have to be changed that often.

Tenergy TN438 16 Bay Smart Charger with LCD and Built-in IC Protection

Tenergy TN438 16 Bay Smart Charger with LCD and Built-in IC Protection, AA/AAA NiMH/NiCd Rechargeable Batteries Charger with AC Wall Adapter and Car Adapter

The display on the Tenergy is a little fancier than what I am used to in a battery charger but the advantage is that they let you know a more detailed status of each battery that is being charged. Other than that this is just your basic single bar style battery charger. The digital display does put out a bit of light so if you are the type of person that cannot handle much glow at night when you are trying to sleep then you might want to keep this charger somewhere else. It kind of stands out in a room too.

Energizer Rechargeable AA and AAA Battery Charger

Energizer Rechargeable AA and AAA Battery Charger (Recharge Value) with 4 AA NiMH Rechargeable Batteries

This is a very affordable and compact basic charger that comes with 4 AA batteries. I have used plenty of Energizer products over the years and they have proven to be reliable. This is a real bargain for what you get and it doesn’t take up space on a countertop or table since it just plugs directly into any standard 110V wall outlet.

The top of the charger glows red while it is charging and turns green and glowing when batteries are fully charged. Energizer claims that it will charge batteries in 5-11 hours. This is a budget charger so you do have to charge batteries in pairs. This means charging 2 or 4 batteries at once. After charging is complete, the charger cuts off the circuit to save power. There is included overcharge protection as well.

BONAI 16 Bay Rechargeable Battery Charger

BONAI 16 Bay Rechargeable Battery Charger AA AAA Rechargeable Round Battery Charger for NiMH NiCD AA AAA Batteries with Smart LED Light and Plug High Speed Charging

This battery charger stands out because of the unique spoked wheel design. It holds 16 AA or AAA batteries. Bonai is not a brand I am familiar with, to be honest, but I think they are worth giving a chance. This smart charger seems to have considered just how much heat dissipation matters to battery life because each slot has three vent holes.

Tenergy T9688 LCD AA/AAA/C/D/9V NiMH/NiCd Battery Charger + Premium 26-Cell NiMH Rechargeable Batteries

Tenergy T9688 LCD AA/AAA/C/D/9V NiMH/NiCd Battery Charger + Premium 26-Cell NiMH Rechargeable Battery 8AA/8AAA/4C/4D/2 9V Batteries

Besides looking really sharp, this battery charger is capable of charging any of the standard sizes you are used to. The link above is to the package deal that they offer where you get a variety of rechargeable batteries and the charger in one package. If you follow the link you can click on the option to just buy the charger if desired.

For this article, I chose to include the package because I think this is a decent way for someone that has devices that take a variety of battery sizes to get started out. For one price you get the charger, 8 AA, 8 AAA, 4 C, 4 D, and 2 9V batteries.

There is also a USB out on this charger that allows you to charge a small USB device while charging batteries as well. Here is the link if you want to just buy the charger without any batteries.

Snado LCD Display Universal Smart Charger for Rechargeable Batteries Li-ion Batteries 

Intelligent Charger, Snado LCD Display Universal Smart Charger for Rechargeable Batteries Li-ion Batteries 18650 18490 18350 17670 17500 16340 14500, Ni-MH/Ni-Cd A AA AAA Batteries (2 Slots)

This is a small basic charger that allows you to charge a pair of AA or AAA batteries as well as some larger lithium batteries such as the popular 18650 size. A USB cable is included. Remember that with USB chargers you can always use a wall adaptor like that comes with cell phones to charge up batteries via a 110V outlet.

USB Smart Battery Charger 4-Bay 5V 2A for Rechargeable Batteries 3.7V Li-ion

USB Smart Battery Charger 4-Bay 5V 2A for Rechargeable Batteries 3.7V Li-ion TR IMR 1865O 2665O 145OO 16340(RCR123) Red/Green Display (Not Battery)

This charger allows for fast recharging of popular sizes of lithium batteries including 1865O, 2665O, 145OO, and 16340(RCR123) sizes. The charger accepts batteries of varying lengths according to the description. I personally only have experience with the standard 18650 sizes found in many of the Kaito radios or used for some riflescopes.

This an extremely affordable charger. I am considering getting a couple myself and a few extra 18650 batteries for use in some of the Kaito radios we have. Since the Kaito has several charging options, I can use it to keep a single 18650 battery topped off as well.

Solar Battery Charging Options

There are several ways to approach using solar to charge batteries. Many people just get a charger that works off USB or that has a 12V car style plug in.

One of the advantages of USB charging is that you can just plug the cable into some portable solar panels such as those made by Jackery or Goal Zero. Set the panel in the sun with the charger plugged in and you have a sustainable way to charge batteries.

12V car style plugs can be used with portable power centers such as the Jackery 500 or Explorer 240 that I reviewed last year. The power centers can be charged off of a car’s 12V system, 110V plugin, or via a solar panel with the right cable. As you can see there are many ways to charge batteries. For example, if you wanted to just take a charged power center with you, then you could still plug in a standard battery charger and charger off of the power center.

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Even with no inputs, you could charge a lot of AA batteries off of a single full-power center. Just to be clear I always try to stress to people that if they can avoid running a power center down to less than 50%, they should because it can affect the overall life of the battery and power cells.

Portable Solar Panels

I will say right now that really portable large panels (100 watts and above) are not cheap. They are very handy but the price point for many can be a bit off-putting.

Generally speaking, you get more power for your money if you choose to use panels that are not made with portability in mind and as far as I know, traditional solar panels do not have USB inputs and outputs.

Many of the smaller portable panels for charging devices are rated to fairly low outputs so charging can be slower than some would like. The trade-off is that they are very affordable.

That being said I am going to list a few panels in the 21-50 watt range that are worth looking at because allow for direct USB charging. This means you can just use a USB cord to plug your USB battery charger directly into the panel with no other set up or cables required.

Ryno-Tuff Portable Solar Charger for Camping – 21W Foldable Solar Panel Charger

Ryno-Tuff Portable Solar Charger for Camping - 21W Foldable Solar Panel Charger 2 USB Ports - Waterproof & Durable, Compatible with iPhone, iPad, Galaxy, LG, Nexus, Battery Packs, All USB Devices

They Ryno-Tuff is an affordable and rugged lightweight battery charging solution. I can tell you right now that it appears to be made of materials commonly found on more expensive and larger panels like the $300 Jackery Solar Saga 100 panel that I reviewed not too long ago.

MOOLSUN Solar Charger 24W Portable Solar Panel Charger with 3 USB Output Ports

MOOLSUN Solar Charger 24W Portable Solar Panel Charger with 3 USB Output Ports ETFE Foldable Camping Travel Charger for Tablet Ipad iPhone and More

This small folding panel offers 3 USB charging ports so you can use it to keep small devices topped off and charge some batteries too.

ENKEEO 50W Solar Charger, Foldable Solar Panel

ENKEEO 50W Solar Charger, Foldable Solar Panel with MPPT Controller and TIR-C, DC, USB QC 3.0 and 2.0 Output Ports, Multiple Connection Cables for Smartphones, Laptops, Car Battery, Power Stations

This portable panel is a really amazing deal at the moment. You get more than double the power of many of the panels I have previously discussed and it appears that they offer some coupons on Amazon that offer additional savings at times.

It offers multiple USB hookups and is also compatible with power centers from Jackery, Goal Zero, and more. For those that want maximum versatility, this is a good choice for a budget-priced portable panel. It really is nice to have the option of hooking this panel into power centers, batteries, and more.

I am glad to see that the price on panels of this style and size has gone down some over the last year. While I love the Jackery portable panels we received for review, the average retail price is steep and well out of the range of many budget-minded preppers.

BigBlue 3 USB Ports 28W Solar Charger, 5V Foldable Waterproof Portable Solar Phone Charger

BigBlue 3 USB Ports 28W Solar Charger, 5V Foldable Waterproof Portable Solar Phone Charger for Outdoor Camping, With SunPower Solar Panel Compatible with iPhone X/8/7/6s, iPad, Samsung Galaxy LG etc.

This lightweight portable charger can even be worn on the outside of a backpack out on the trail. The folding function and convenient dimensions allow for it to fit into bags when not in use and not take up a ton of valuable space.

Conclusion:

Rechargeable batteries and chargers are more affordable than ever and make a lot more sense than just using the old fashioned throwaway variety. Disposing of batteries responsibly involves a little bit of footwork too. Not all areas offer a really convenient way of disposing of or recycling old batteries so having rechargeables can help reduce the number of batteries that people just throw into the regular trash out of frustration.

For those just starting out in the world of rechargeables, I recommend getting a few small chargers that accommodate the battery needs of your household. For many people, just a charger that will allow for charging of AA or AAA is perfectly fine.

I am not one to trust just a single charger in the long run. By all means, get a single charger to start out with but get a second one when you can afford it just in case the other one stops working or you find that you need to charge a lot of batteries at once.

Tally up your battery needs.

When it comes to deciding how many rechargeables to have on hand, you may want to start out just adding up how many batteries of each type you need to have all your devices ready to use. In our house, AA batteries are the most common size and they are used mostly in flashlights and my ancient word processors.

AAA batteries come in second and are used in some wireless electronics like a computer mouse or keyboard. Once you get a tally, times that number by 1.5. That allows for some devices that don’t get used as often but gives you a cushion so you don’t find that you have no freshly charged batteries to pop in.

Good battery habits take time to get used to.

Try to get in the habit of putting batteries on to charge the minute you take them out of a device or set up a system where you charge batteries once a week or something. It really depends on just how much battery power you use on average.

Teach capable kids and teens to deal with their battery needs.

If you have kids and teens that have a lot of devices that take batteries, get them their own charger and batteries and encourage them to get in good charging habits. If they realize that they are responsible for making sure they have batteries, it is one less thing for you to have to worry about as a parent.

In case of a power outage or long emergency, a solar panel combined with a battery charger capable of USB charging is a good investment.

Most of us take for granted our access to cheap and easy to get power. $50 spent on a portable panel can make a huge difference during grid-down situations. Since most cell phones charge off USB, the portable panels featured in this article can be used to keep your phone going as well.

What battery chargers do you use? Have you had a good or bad experience with any of the products featured in this article? Did we miss a good charger that you would like to recommend?

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4 Responses to “Rechargeable Battery Charger and Portable Solar Panel Options For Preppers”

  1. I have a 12v LED lighting system in my shed, which is continuously charged with a cheap 1W “car battery tender” solar panel. Home Depot sells three versions under $20. The battery is a 12V sealed lead-acid (SLA) cell designed for emergency lighting, backup-power for a fiber-optic phone line, etc. The lights were from IKEA.
    I also have a half-dozen solar sidewalk light spikes. If you get the kind that takes replaceable AA batteries (not all do), you can pull the batteries to power a radio or flashlight. You can also bring the spike indoors for emergency lighting.
    The CountyComm GP-5/SSB portable AM/FM/SW radio includes a battery charging circuit, so I can use the USB output from my portable solar panel (GoalZero Nomad7) to charge batteries in the radio, whether I want to use them in the radio or in a flashlight.
    If the sun’s shining, it’s shining on the whole yard, so I can put lots of inexpensive devices out to charge, rather than rely on one or two.

  2. Do you have information about recharging 18-20 volt battery packs that power DeWalt etc power tools? (drills, saws, sawsalls etc). I am looking for a solar set up that will allow me to use these tools where there is no grid power to recharge them. Thanks

    • This might seem crazy, but I think your best bet is to get a solar-panel, 12V charge controller, 12V lead-acid battery, and a 12V-to-115VAC inverter. Then you can charge your power tool batteries from 115VAC with the manufacturer’s standard charger. The beauty of the scheme is that it’s all off-the-shelf components, rather than some special direct PV to power tool DC/DC converter. When the sun doesn’t shine, you can supply the inverter from your vehicle’s alternator (as long as you have fuel). You can replace any failed element with another off-the-shelf product, instead of getting stuck trying to repair a custom solution.

  3. I WAS UST GOING TO EMAIL YOU ABOUT THE BATTERY CHARGER ARTICLE YOU SHARED YEARS AGO… VIOLA!!!! YOU’RE AN EMPATHIC SURVIVALIST!!!! AWESOME!

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