Monday, October 4, 2010

Bare Minimum: Batteries

     Ahhh batteries...  How can something so small and seemingly simple, be so complicated?  These days there are just so many choices; rechargeable, old school alkaline, lithium, etc.  What happen to the days of going to the store, buying some simple Duracell's and calling it a day?  Those days are gone.  It is not a bad thing though, as it's all in the name of progress.  Plus it's a good thing for us as survivalists!  I will attempt to make it simple for you in this 'Bare Minimum' post, explaining what kind of batteries, and how many you should keep in your apartment for short- and long-term use.

     In recent years we have seen a real big progression in battery technology, especially when it comes to rechargeable batteries.  Rechargeable, or NiMH, batteries make an excellent option for day to day use, and though they take more care and attention then some of the other types, they have many features that the modern survivalist can appreciate.  There are a few reasons why I suggest mainly using these batteries day to day, over the other types:
  • They can last for years, allowing you to recharge them upwards of 500+ times!
  • NiMH batteries do better in devices such as cameras because they discharge energy slower then alkaline batteries.  Alkaline (the most sold batteries by far, mainly because of their low price) batteries fade quick in high power devices.
  • Because alkaline batteries are one-time use, when they are dead, that's it.  They end up in landfills most of the time, polluting our groundwater.  NiMH last years longer if used properly.
  • Rechargeable batteries can be charged by sustainable power sources (i.e. solar charges.)
     Rechargeable batteries can last years after a disaster, if taken care of.  They must be charged every few months, due to the fact that they lose power slowly over time.  So when you need batteries, if you have not maintained them, you need to charge them before use.  Here is a sight that has portable solar chargers.  Solar chargers, and rechargeable batteries give you a great option for long term battery use in a disaster situation where we lose power for an extended period of time.  With NiMH's you are getting an excellent long-term rechargeable battery option, and helping the environment all in one fell swoop.

     As much as I love NiMH batteries, there are some reasons to look into having at least a few packages of the longer lasting, lighter, stronger lithium batteries.  First of all, lithium batteries last long periods of time.  If you are the type of prepper that wants to have a few packages of batteries put aside and forgotten for a few years, these are the batteries for you.  Lithium batteries can last upwards of 15 years without losing much of their charge if stored properly.  Second, lithium batteries perform much better in colder temperatures then all other types of batteries.  Now I'm not saying put them in your fridge, or freezer like we used to do back in the day, cause that has been proven to actually kill batteries.  I'm saying they are the best batteries to have on hand if you often deal with cold temperatures.  These batteries are best for people who want to have a few packages of AA, and AAA batteries stored for emergency use only in my opinion.

     My personal preference, and what I suggest for someone starting out in prepping (or someone who wants to know the bare minimum, hence the name of the post) for the amount of batteries to have on hand and stored, is the following:
  • I suggest using Rechargeable NiMH batteries for your daily use items like remote control, cameras, flashlights, and whatever else uses AA and AAA batteries around the house.  You should have a back-up of about four (or one package) of each AA and AAA batteries left somewhere cool and dry.  Leave them in the original package labeled with tape telling you the date you bought them.
  • Next you need a way of recharging them.  You should recharge the batteries that are package together, or used together with each other.  So if you have a package of four, recharge the batteries in that package all together.  Try not to recharge batteries of different brand names, levels, or types at the same time.
  • For lithium batteries it's the same deal; leave them in the package, and label with the date you bought them.  It's up to you how many packages you decide to buy.  I suggest one AA package and one AAA package (x4 batteries) to start with.

     Some things to remember when dealing with batteries is; 

     A. Don't store them in the fridge (I already mentioned this, but it's worth mentioning again.)  
     B. Keep them in the original package.  Loose batteries run the risk of shorting each other out if the come in contact with each other, or metal objects.  
     C.  Remove batteries from devises that you do not use often, as the batteries can be drained slowly by the device over time.

     While we are dealing with batteries, I want to briefly mention that you should check, and change the batteries on your smoke detector, and carbon monoxide detector monthly (or now, if you haven't in a while.)  What's the point of prepping for a disaster, if you and your family die due to something easily preventable.  You can replace them with the cheap alkaline if you want, though rechargeable batteries will force you to check and maintain your detectors more often.  Your choice.

     If I missed anything on this topic, or if you are curious to know more, here is a great article put out by REI.


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