“Wyrd biõ ful ãræd.”

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


For want of a nail the shoe was lost. For want of a shoe the horse was lost. For want of a horse the rider was lost. For want of a rider the message was lost. For want of a message the battle was lost. For want of a battle the kingdom was lost. And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

It's usually not the big things that ruin carefully laid plans.  More often than not, it's some small oversight that causes everything to come apart.  Batteries can fit in that category.  Everybody has them at home, if only for flashlights. Other than the once a year smoke detector battery swap out though, they just aren't an item that stays way up on your list of priorities.
There used to be a saying in the military, and for all I know it's still bandied about to this effect.

"You don't often need automatic weapons fire, but when you do, you really need it."

I would class dry cell batteries in the same way.   Every single radio I have, be it an expensive shortwave receiver or a ten dollar hand held am/fm receiver, has to have a power source.  Usually I operate them on AC adapters using grid power.  If I lost the grid power, I'd use generator power.  If that goes, the batteries are my final source.  In the event of an emergency, one of the most pressing needs people have is for information. Even if what you are listening to is a government broadcast of doubtful veracity, you need that sense of connection.  Working in an information void preys on a person's psychological well being.

There's also the very practical aspect of needing to know what's going on so you can make your decisions based on current facts.  Did you ever watch the series "Jericho" on television?   If so you will recall the herculean efforts they made to find out what was going on.  The only shortwave set in the town belonged to an eccentric who let people use it for cash "I've got to have my fifty cents!"  Radios won't work without batteries if you have no power.
When I was in the service we stored batteries in refrigerators. The theory was that the colder temperatures slowed down the inevitable degradation of the battery as it sat in storage. I have since read on the internet that you shouldn't do that.  On the one hand, everything the Marine Corps does is based on decades (if not centuries) of experience. On the other, it's possible that batteries and battery technology have changed so much that's no longer done.  I don't know the answer to that issue.  I don't store my batteries in a refrigerator anymore. Instead, I keep them in a cabinet in the main storeroom of my house. It's cool, dimly lit, and dry.

I have a spreadsheet that shows every device in my house which requires batteries, and how many of that type of battery I have in storage at any given moment.  The truth is I have a spreadsheet on almost everything, perhaps to excess, but at least I know what I've got. I keep them up to speed without fail. This lets me renew my minimum storage level on everything from batteries to aspirin.  What your minimum level is depends on your own thoughts concerning how long you might be on your own.

Duracell and Energizer both say their batteries will retain their usefulness after ten years of storage. I use batteries a good bit and usually rotate through my supply long before that, so I don't know how valid that claim is.

I don't have any "rechargeable" batteries because I tried going that route with a little roll out solar panel that was supposed to recharge them. It didn't work.  If anyone has successfully implemented that I'd appreciate hearing about it so I could buy myself the same rig they used. That would be a nice addition to my power source capabilities.

I suppose the most important thing you can do with batteries is replace them as you use them.  If you don't, the time will certainly come when you need them, there are none to be had at the store (they are like milk and bread in an emergency), and you'll be SOL. (Surely out of luck.)


  1. I have a 37 amp hour 12V sealed, absorptive glass mat (AGN) battery. I've had it about 8 years now. I keep it float charged with a 15W solar panel (with a regulator that shuts off when the battery is at full charge voltage). Once or twice a year I discharge it using Computerized Battery Monitor (West Mountain Radio) and measure it's capacity. It's right around 32 AH now. (The battery sits in a "cool dry place" in the basement.) It's my backup power for my amateur radio station. One of these days I will get a new battery, but I would call it a success.

    1. You are light years ahead of me in your understanding of these things that recharge batteries using solar cells. What I need is a way to recharge AAA, C and D cells using a solar device I could roll up or fold up and put away. So I would need the solar device, a cable to plug it into a battery charger, and the batteries. The battery charger and the batteries I could get at Walmart. But can you recommend a brand name and model that would do this? The 15 Watt solar panel with regulator you have would accomplish this, wouldn't it?

  2. As you remember I built my little solar panel system a couple years ago. Originally using the four 20 watt panels to charge up two deep cell marine batteries. I ahve since added more marine batteries and picked up backup converters and charge controllers etc. I also added several rechargeable small batteries to the mix.

    Now everything on the property that uses batteries is charged off the solar panels. I store all the small rechargeable batteries in an ammo can and switch em out as needed. The wife loves it because I can pull any battery she needs out. I also do almost all of my repairs and bee hive construction etc. with battery operated hand tools charged exclusively with the solar panels. Same with weed eaters and even small chain saw work now.

    I am sure overall it still costs more money to charge all these batteries this way than with an electric wall plug but if the power goes out I can continue to live indefinitely with battery power on a small scale. No household stuff anyway.

    Now how long this system lasts before it degrades is the real question.

    1. How do you recharge the small rechargeable batteries off the solar panel? Particularly, how do you get the trickle charge from the panel to the battery charger that probably needs a regular ac plug, doesn't it?

      When I run my generator everything works just as normal. But I'm looking for something that would let me charge rechargeable batteries for my radios, LED lanterns, etc off a little solar panel. I bought one of those things some years back, and it would charge anything with a USB port but I need it to work with regular AC equipment. It seems like you would have to have some kind of battery to trickle charge from the panel, and then that battery would charge your AC adapter, converting DC to AC and having the right kind of plug.

      My head is starting to hurt. :-O

  3. We had a power outage about 6 weeks ago. It just went dark at about 8:30 on a weekend night. First thing I did was haul butt to my Glock 19/ TLR-1 as cutting power is often a precursor to a home invasion. After it became apparent nobody was booting the door I got a flashlight and looked around a bit. The whole neighborhood was dark. In fact it was dark as far as the eye could see.

    I busted out a radio to see whether it was a small power outage or a wider emergency. When I picked up a radio station 30 miles and they were not talking death, doom and destruction it was apparent this was a minor local event. So instead of spending the evening loading magazines and digging fighting positions in the front yard I sat in my chair, drank beer and listened to shortwave radio.

    We need to establish a real battery plan. Like figuring out what we want to power, how many reloads we want and tracking it all. Right now it's just a couple boxes of this and a few of that. Thankfully we only use D, AA, AAA and CR-123 so it is fairly easy. They last forever and are cheap enough that we just use energizer or duracell disposables.

    Rechargeable batteries have come a long way in recent years. We have some AA and AAA Eneloops and a couple charging options. One is a small folding Bruton that works for batteries and that's about it. The other is a larger panel (15W I think) with a battery pack/ power source from Goal O. I'll play with it some more then write about it.

    1. What's a Bruton? All I need is something to charge rechargeable batteries, preferably without spending every nickle I have. I wish you would do a post on it, indeed. I tried to solve this by looking up solar battery chargers on Amazon, but that was a wash. All they showed was solar panels with hydra headed cables for telephones. That's something else I need to deal with but right now just standard batteries constitutes my weak point.

    2. Harry, A post might take a bit but I'll send you an email tonight with the high points.


    3. That works for me. I'm just a bit frustrated. I should be able to figure this out, it seems straightforward enough. Mainly it's all the different cables and connectors that are screwing me up. That plus the fact that the rig I bought a year or so ago didn't work worth a Tinker's damn.

  4. I still have mine in the refrigerator, I better research that. I don't think I have paid enough attention to my battery situation, thanks!

    1. Batteries are a small thing until something happens, and it's easy to let it slide. I need to go over my battery requirements and update my spreadsheets. I've added gear but not added batteries.

  5. Sorry for the techno-greek above. I'm the guy with the AGM (not AGN - typo) battery. My 15 watt solar panel is from Northern Tool, as is the charge controller that keeps the battery from over charging.

    I can use my 12 volt battery to run a 12 volt powered battery charger like this: http://www.batteryjunction.com/8800.html?gclid=CI2olqPE67gCFTFgMgodBwwAJw which keeps my AA and AAA batteries charged. I can also power a 120 volt AC inverter to run other chargers.

    I can run my 20 watt ham radio for an hour or two a day, and also charge 4 AA batteries per day if I get a "typical" 6 hour of sun on the panel.

    As Ryan mentioned, you can get the AA battery charger and panel all in one from Brunton (not Bruton) but they charge premium prices. It will be cheaper (but requires more understanding) to piece it together yourself.

    1. Thanks for sending the link, I'll read it and see what I can pick up. I didn't recognize the Brunton name, now I can google it.

      I appreciate the help.