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Deputydave
05-20-2012, 08:41
Looking into buying a small solar generator as part of the survival plan (and also just general family camping). This got me thinking about rechargeable batteries of the AAA, AA, C and D variety. So I started doing some research.

Harbor Freight has had good reviews on their NiMH batteries and I just got a 20% off coupon (actually several of them) so I might invest in some of them and perhaps a good charger.

I also saw somewhere (maybe youtube) someone suggest the solar powered lights you'd buy for the sidewalk/garden. The kind that comes with the spike to stick in the ground and already has a AA in it. The suggestion was that it would be a good single charger for the AA if the LED was removed to stop any draw on it. Has anyone tried this? How long do you think it would take and can any rechargeable AA by put into it to recharge? Good idea as a back up to a regular charger or a crap idea?

Thoughts welcome and thank you.

Bolster
05-20-2012, 09:26
Deppy Dave, we just GOT to wean you off of Harbor Freight. HarF is mostly pre-broken or soon to be post-broken, cheapest of the cheap Chinese stuff. (And then every once in awhile they'll surprise you with a quality product.) Mostly it's meant for buying but not for using.

If you buy HarF batteries, doublecheck they are LSD (Low Self Discharge). Dollars to donuts they are not. So they'll be dead when you need to use them, and that will put you into "I gotta think ahead and charge before I use" schedule.

This time around I don't have a super inexpensive option for ya, and I'll admit I can't compete with HarF on price. But reliability?

So, I am on the same project as you, and here's what I'm doing:

For the time being, using the GoalZero with the 7-watt panel for recharging LSD NiMH AA and AAA. Costco is running an online sale on the GoalZeros (or was, see the Hot Deals thread). Eneloops or Duraloops or any other LSD NiMH for the actual cells. Charging is around .5C, which is decent, but this is more of an emergency solution and not for planned charging.

For long term, angling to get a 200 watt panel for the roof. That will go into 6volt golf cart batteries wired in series to make an offgrid 12V system. That in turn will charge the Maha C-9000, which is the most popular charger at CPF, and can run off 12V.

Why a $50 "smart" charger rather than solar garden lights? Because good batteries can be easily killed with bad charging, especially overcharging or skip charging. The Maha has "refresh" and "breakin" routines that can condition and restore batteries, so you get maximum use out of them. Also the Maha can *safely* recharge AAs in 2-3 hours.

The "garden light LED" idea would be a backup to a backup solution, true McGyvering, but not your main solution as it would be the opposite of a smart charger, taking no care for your battery's health. It will not check the existing charge of your battery, it will not vary charge to match capacity, it will not terminate when the cell is full, and it will be exceedingly slow or nonexistent with a little cloud cover. My "garden LED lights" go on the fritz every couple of months and I have to buy new.

pipedreams
05-20-2012, 09:43
Eneloops or Duraloops or any other LSD NiMH for the actual cells. Charging is around .5C, which is OK, but this is more of an emergency solution and not for planned charging.

Why a $50 charger rather than solar garden lights? Because good batteries can be easily killed with bad charging, especially overcharging or skip charging. The Maha has "refresh" and "breakin" routines that can condition and restore batteries, so you get maximum use out of them. Also the Maha can *safely* recharge AAs in 2-3 hours.

Regular rechargeable batteries won't won't hold a charge long you need batteries and a charger as suggested above. For several years I had one of the Maha chargers and they are hard to beat. Not cheap but quality products.

http://www.mahaenergy.com/store/Index.asp

Deputydave
05-20-2012, 10:28
Deppy Dave, we just GOT to wean you off of Harbor Freight.

I appreciate the education. I only 'discovered' HF about a month ago (buddy took me). I understand what you're saying, but I was impressed on some things. For example, a magnesium bar was $7 a Wally World and only $3 at HF. Had great prices on tarps and such as well. But I appreciate the advice.

If you buy HarF batteries, doublecheck they are LSD (Low Self Discharge). Dollars to donuts they are not. So they'll be dead when you need to use them, and that will put you into "I gotta think ahead and charge before I use" schedule.


I don't remember seeing LSD, but I'll check.


For the time being, using the GoalZero with the 7-watt panel for recharging LSD NiMH AA and AAA. Costco is running an online sale on the GoalZeros (or was, see the Hot Deals thread). Eneloops or Duraloops or any other LSD NiMH for the actual cells. Charging is around .5C, which is decent, but this is more of an emergency solution and not for planned charging.

For long term, angling to get a 200 watt panel for the roof. That will go into 6volt golf cart batteries wired in series to make an offgrid 12V system. That in turn will charge the Maha C-9000, which is the most popular charger at CPF, and can run off 12V.


I'll be checking these out, thank you. :)

pipedreams
05-20-2012, 10:40
Harbor Freight is not that bad but you need to know what your buying. I need a air compressor to use a few times a year and I bought one from HF and completely satisfied.

Bolster
05-20-2012, 11:19
Harbor Freight is not that bad but you need to know what your buying. I need a air compressor to use a few times a year and I bought one from HF and completely satisfied.

At best, HarF is highly variable, more variable than any other brick and mortar source I'm aware of. Some items do well; some fail miserably. There are entire websites devoted to which HarF items are OK (some are even good) and which to avoid.

Like you, I have a few HarF tools that have served me well. And several that have failed inexcusably. Like you say, you have to know before you buy. It's the CAVEAT EMPTOR store like none other. Not the place to run in and grab something, expecting it'll be OK.

One thing that happens with alarming frequency at HarF, is that if a product is good, it'll soon be restocked with a different and cheaper item. For example, several years ago HarF sold a really good quality dial caliper. Once it was really popular, they downgraded it to a gritty, inaccurate one that looked almost like their previous one. They did the same with their UniBits; their originals were good. The replacements were made of cheese, I think, or perhaps drywall. So when HarF does sell something good, you need to buy that particular lot of it, before it's cheapened.

So yeah, if you do the research and know what's up, you can buy good stuff at HarF.

Now here come a hundred dissonance-reduction postings from people who like what they bought at HF...

Deputydave
05-20-2012, 15:25
Appreciate the insight on HF.

As a side question, looking around the net I saw some suggestions of using an AA to D converter box i.e. plastic casing the size of a D battery that you simply put an AA in for use in D cell items. Anyone do this? What are your thoughts? If it works well it seems to be a good idea so that you can simply stock up on AA size batteries (alkaline or rechargeable) instead of a bunch of different sizes.

lawman800
05-20-2012, 23:10
I used the 20% off coupons to buy a few of those cheapie rechargeable NiMH batteries and $20 charger. Blew out a fuse in my refridgerator when I plugged it in the kitchen... used another plug and now they are fine... total cost, $360 for a new motherboard in my fridge. At this rate, if I use the AA batteries over their useful life, I might recoup the cost of my fridge repair by 2037?

Bolster
05-21-2012, 08:25
As a side question, looking around the net I saw some suggestions of using an AA to D converter box i.e. plastic casing the size of a D battery that you simply put an AA in for use in D cell items. ...

An alkaline D cell give you what, 15-20,000 mAh? And an Eneloop AA gives you almost 2,000. Both are 1.5V, so the difference is just the amount of time the cell will give energy. The "jackets" for AAs work fine, but you'd need to change them out maybe 10x to match the energy in a D cell.

RWBlue
05-21-2012, 10:01
An alkaline D cell give you what, 15-20,000 mAh? And an Eneloop AA gives you almost 2,000. Both are 1.5V, so the difference is just the amount of time the cell will give energy. The "jackets" for AAs work fine, but you'd need to change them out maybe 10x to match the energy in a D cell.

There is also a slight difference in the connectivity service or length (depending on the sleeve). It works in most items, but not all items.


I went with Tenergy batteries. They are good for most things, but there are times when I want a second set of LSD batteries for SHTF.

Or to put it a different way. If you are getting rechargables to save money on battery eating items like kids toys, Tenergy works great. If you want your rechargables to be ready to go during a SHTF after sitting on the shelf for a year get LSD.