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Friday, March 18, 2011

Off-Grid Charging System, AA,AAA,C,D,9v

Original Article

The ultimate insurance to keep your low voltage gadgets powered while keeping your communications systems ‘up’ and running in situations ranging from a power outage to being at a remote location, is a combination of the proper solar photovoltaic panel, smart battery charger, and the right batteries.
The following suggested combination of equipment will provide ample charging for all of the typical consumer battery sizes (AA, AAA, C, D, and 9volt).
Most every typical consumer communications device will be powered by one of these battery sizes, OR, will have its own charger ‘base’ which itself usually requires about 12 volts or less (usually provided by a wall-outlet plug-in ‘brick’, but could be provided by a proper solar panel).
Portable AM/FM shortwave radios, flashlights, and 2-way portable radios are probably the most common gadgets to be used during disaster. Keeping them running will be crucial to staying ahead of the pack. With the proper adapters and know-how, you may also be able to keep your cell phone and laptop running – although their use may be limited if cell towers are out, etc…

Rechargeable Batteries

The right kind of rechargeable battery makes a big difference. The overall best price versus performance is the NiMH type battery (Nickel Metal Hydride).
Each size (AA, AAA, etc…) is available in various capacities, that is, how much power the battery will produce before it needs recharging. The higher the rating, the longer they will last (typically rated in mAh (milliamp hours). Example, a 2000 mAh rating will last longer than a 1400 mAh rating, before it needs recharging.
Quality, latest technology, NiMH batteries
AA NiMH Pre-Charged Rechargeable Batteries
AAA NiMH Pre-Charged Rechargeable Batteries
C Size NiMH Rechargeable Batteries
D Size NiMH Rechargeable Batteries
9V NiMH Rechargeable Batteries

Battery Charger

It is very important to use a ‘smart’ charger. Not all battery chargers are in this class, but more and more are. To properly charge a NiMH battery requires a unique charging method and the proper sensing technology to know when to stop charging. Otherwise your batteries will not last long.
This ‘smart’ charger is unique in that in addition to plugging it in to a standard wall outlet, it can also run off of 12 volts DC and comes with a male lighter adapter for 12 volts DC.  This is the key feature that enables you to use a portable solar panel as the power source for the charger itself.
Smart Battery Charger for All Size NiMH/NiCd cells with AC/DC plugs

Solar Panel

Solar panels come in all sizes, shapes, and various electrical specifications. This particular solar panel is portable, folds up, and provides the correct output voltage x current requirements (watts) to power the charger listed above. It also comes with a female lighter adapter for 12 volts DC, and mates perfectly with the noted charger unit.
PowerFilm F15-600 10w Folding Solar Panel Charger

Putting it all together

With the three pieces of the puzzle listed here, the right batteries, the right smart charger, and the right solar panel, you will be assured of ‘free’ and unlimited charging of your battery needs for most or all of your consumer gadget devices, so long as the sun is shining…
It seems to me that this system would be great insurance for a disaster scenario where electrical power is lost for a time. Just a thought…

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  1. I am working on getting a solar battery charger at the moment. I think it is going to be the most reliable way of charging batteries if the power were to go out. great post.

  2. Here is a tip that can accomplish the same thing and save you some money. The solar garden lights recharge a AA battery. If you take a couple of these lights and remove the LED (the light) the batteries won't discharge themselves when the sun goes down. Then take the cover off and replace the fairly cheap AA with a decent rechargable. Now you have a charging station (or a couple of charging stations). With better quality rechargeable batteries it will take three days or so to fully charge one with a solar garden light. However you can put a couple of these out everyday to collect the sun's energy and always have a supply of AA batteries.
    Second tip is they sell a "D" sized battery shell that will accept an AA battery. It then looks like and functions like a normal "D" battery.
    For most purposes these batteries will function for weeks or months. For example two AA batteries in my little LED flashlight give me weeks of use when I use it for a few hours each night. My Radio Shack multi frequency radio uses 3 "D" cells and 4 "AA" cells and I get about two months of use when I use it a couple of hours a day.
    Two of these modified solar garden lights provides me with all the battery power I need. What is even better is Both of the solar garden lights were rescued after someone threw them away so they cost me nothing. But if you need to buy some Wlamart sells the cheap ones for $3 apiece.