Grid Down Small Battery (aa/aaa) Recharging

Discussion in 'Creating and Using Electricity' started by GateCrasher, Nov 23, 2019.

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  1. GateCrasher

    GateCrasher Expert Member
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    One item on the 'honey-do' list today was fixing the little solar path lights that the wife likes sticking around the yard. She's got about 2 dozen, about a dozen of which work well, and another half dozen on my workbench that were DAM (Down Awaiting Maintenance). Long story, but had to pick up some new ones from the dollar store and decided to putz around with one. Some preparedness sites discuss using these as AA battery chargers if there's no better options, and I'll admit I had long thought that was a pretty good idea too. Poking around on the internet I read those little solar panels might put out anywhere from 35-70 milliamps which isn't too bad. Considering 4 full hours of sunlight a day (average), somewhere between 140 - 280 milliamp hours of charging per day. To charge a 1600 mA hour AA battery that was 75% drained, between 4 to 8 days to bring them back to full charge. For keeping just a couple small AA powered items running when the grid went down, a dozen solar lights or so left in a sunny window might work, I thought...

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    Yea, well they don't put out anywhere near 70 or even 30 mA, more like 17. Or, over 17 days to recharge a single 1600 mAh battery that was 75% drained. Granted maybe the ones I bought just suck so I might try a different type to see what I get, but thought this info might be helpful for anyone planning on using these. There's a better solution that doesn't cost a whole lot of money I'll probably post as a 'part 2' in the next few days, but what's your plans/what are you doing for keeping small batteries for flashlights, portable radios, perimeter alarms, etc charged?
     
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  2. GateCrasher

    GateCrasher Expert Member
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    Pic could have been better, black solar light, black tailgate, and shadows. Apologies, but trust me that it's showing 17.62 mA of current on a very sunny day.
     
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  3. Caribou

    Caribou Master Survivalist
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    A friend of mine had a number of his garden lights die due to old batteries. He soldered in new rechargeable batteries and wound up with lights that were better than new. I guess he used a better battery than the Chinese did.
     
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  4. lonewolf

    lonewolf Moderator Staff Member
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    if the grid is down there will be no recharging of any batteries.
     
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  5. GateCrasher

    GateCrasher Expert Member
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    OK, I'll bite. Why do you believe that?
     
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  6. lonewolf

    lonewolf Moderator Staff Member
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    " errr…"grid down" means no electricity!!!
     
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  7. GateCrasher

    GateCrasher Expert Member
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    It would mean there's no electricity from the commercial/public grid, but that doesn't mean you can't produce electricity for your own use and store the energy in batteries. That's what these little solar lights do, they're a grid of there own in the simplest terms - the solar panel is the power generation system, the wires are the power distribution network, the battery is the storage, and the little LED light is the consumer.
     
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  8. lonewolf

    lonewolf Moderator Staff Member
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    not everyone will have solar panels, many of the residential ones in the UK don't feed into batteries the electricity goes directly into the national grid.
    solar panels are not a permanent form of power generation, at some point given a long or permanent grid out situation they will fail, anything that requires spare parts is finite.
    the human race has lived for many thousands of years without electricity and will again.
    quite frankly I think the availability and reliance on electricity has turned into an obsession and anyone who cannot live in a post SHTF world without electricity-in whatever form- wont survive for long.
     
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  9. Brownbear

    Brownbear Expert Member
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    I agree. Once it's gone it's gone and it will be time to move on, back to rushlights or whatever. Solar panels have a lifespan and deteriorate as they get older. I believe we will need to look to older technologies for the longer term.
     
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  10. TexDanm

    TexDanm Shadow Dancer
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    You don’t have to have a solar panel to charge batteries. In fact, they are not much use unless you have a fairly large setup. There are all sorts of pedal-powered, wind-powered and hand crank generating systems that would work quite well for this sort of thing. I remember Mother Earth having a rig that you made with a bicycle and a generator motor that would generate enough power to let a kid charge a car battery while watching a TV. If they wanted to watch the box they had to pedal. LOL I thought it was a pretty great idea. I have also seen several wind-powered setups that can put power into a 12-volt battery. There is one out there that is water-powered you put it in a moving stream and it will spin and generate power.

    With the advent of LED and low powered motors there is a lot that you can do now with very little in the way of power requirements. I have several old 12-volt motors and an old-time generator that I could turn into generating stations in several ways. People were going off-grid a long time before there were solar panels.
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  11. lonewolf

    lonewolf Moderator Staff Member
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    all that sort of thing is very time consuming and probably only possible with a large group where they can afford to have one or several people doing the battery charging bicycle or hand crank or whatever, in smaller groups we just wont have the manpower to be able to lose one persons labour from the food production.
    and why would someone really need all this electrical power? to power a few lights or drill a hole and screw in a couple of screws? i'm sorry, my labour will be needed for more important things like growing plants and rearing meat for the table.
    it is possible to live a non electrical life, I have done it for many years and so has my wife, its a matter of adapting to the new lifestyle not trying to hang on to the old one, many people will fail because they cannot let go of the modern world.
     
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  12. TexDanm

    TexDanm Shadow Dancer
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    Lonewolf, have you ever sat in a pitch dark room for 16 or 18 hours. You have long dark winters and without any light, you will find that those hours are endless. Using fire for light is tough to pull off when there are no stores where you can buy candles or fuel. The amount of effort to power LED lighting is minimal and on those forever long winter days and nights you won't mind a little exercise if it will allow you to have light. People now days don't realize how fast the available wood supplies are going to dwindle in areas where there are a lot of people. When you have to go several miles to drag back a tree or a load of wood that then needs to be cut and split you won't be wanting to waste it on big fires for light.

    for a few days sitting around the fireplace is going to seem nice but there isn't enough light to read or do much. I imagine a lot of people are going to go crazy that first winter. People don't do well in the dark. Throw in the fact that people will have to crowd together because a fireplace isn't going to heat a house. If it will keep one room warm you will be doing good. Putting several people in a dark room for hours and hours day after day is a recipe for disaster.

    Eventually people will adapt but at first, you will NEED some sort of lighting.

    PS: Just curious, what sort of food production are you going to be doing at night in the dark in the winter?
     
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  13. GateCrasher

    GateCrasher Expert Member
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    Part 2. There are many variations of how you might do this, this is just one example.

    Wall wart for our AA/AAA/C/D/9v Energizer battery charger that we normally use in the house. Note the output, 12 V DC @ 1 Amp, and the little diagram showing the center conductor is positive (+) and the outside conductor is negative (-). I won't be using this below, but just showing it as it provides a lot of info about the device it's used with. If/when shopping for any electronic item that uses a wall wart for power might be worth checking what the output of the wall wart is, as it might affect whether you could power it when the grid is down.

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    A selectable voltage adapter that I leave in the vehicle, multiple tips for different sized sockets, selectable voltage, and a switch for changing whether the inside conductor is - or +.

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    Off the grid battery charging. Solar panel charging the 'big' battery and the power adapter to make the 12.7 (or so) DC volts off the battery into 12.0 volts to power the AA battery charger.

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    I used a standard Group 27 lead-acid small engine battery, but the vehicle battery itself would work too of course. The solar panel is just visible on the top of the battery, it's a small 10 watt model, a more powerful one is recommended but would then require a charge controller to not damage the battery. This little 10 watt one doesn't put out enough amperage (about 750 mA) to harm this battery, but is still a huge step up from the 17 mA the little solar path light panel produces. 750mA for 4 hours of full sun a day is 3 amp-hours @ 12 volts, more than enough for charging two 1.6 amp-hour (1600 mAh) AA batteries @ 1.5 volts each day.

    Another note is this is more efficient than using a DC to AC inverter, and plugging in the wall wart for the AA charger into that. The efficiency of inverters is about 90%, so about 10% of the power is lost in the conversion. You'd then incur an additional loss when the wall wart converts the AC back to DC to power the Energizer battery charger.

    And a key point for non-deep cycle batteries would be not to drain the battery below about 12.3 to 12.4 Volts too often, or risk damaging the battery.

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    Now if you add up the cost of these items it may not seem so inexpensive, but I've found a good way to save money prepping is to not have one set of gear for grid up use and another complete set of different devices for grid down use. Some NiMh batteries and a battery charger can save a lot of money over disposable alkaline batteries for use in your devices today, and the 10 watt solar panel makes a nice trickle charger on your dashboard for keeping your car battery topped off (which can add to it's life). The selectable voltage adapter is a nice backup to replace just about any 12 vdc cigarette lighter adapter for powering devices from your vehicle (including USB with this model), and you already have at least one larger battery if you own a car.

    Edit to add that this little solar panel will probably last 15 years conservatively. The NiMh batteries are good for about 250 recharges each, but last near indefinitely if left in storage unused. Some good deep cycle batteries can last 15 years or longer if taken care of by not discharging them too deeply.
     
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2019
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  14. GateCrasher

    GateCrasher Expert Member
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    "Staff members may not be ignored." A pity that.

    Lonewolf, why don't you start a thread on your own experience with growing food or raising livestock instead of interjecting why nothing anyone else is doing applies to you in nearly every thread? Some might appreciate have a CO or smoke detector, or night vision, perimeter alarms, 2-way radios, or other devices. If it's not for you, fine.
     
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    1. TMT Tactical
      Ah, you did hit on my weak spot. I will want to keep Night Vision scope and binoculars powered.
       
      TMT Tactical, Nov 24, 2019
  15. TexDanm

    TexDanm Shadow Dancer
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    Lonewolf has a somewhat different situation than a lot of us. He is already fairly isolated and is very much a loner. It will just be him and his wife. When you have such a small number your ability to do more than one thing at a time is severely curtailed. Even small tasks when you don't have any hlp may indeed take a lot of time. Due to experiences in his past, I get the impression that he isn't very fond of people. Survival is an art. Lonewolf's path is shaped by his needs and likes whereas mine are shaped by my needs and likes. He will be quite happy and at peace, if he never has to deal with people in mass after the fall. I am more of a social creature and after things settle I will be working to put together a small community. We each have something to offer each in our own way. I think that we each have a hard time sometimes understanding each others ways but I have learned a lot from him nonetheless.
     
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  16. CountryGuy

    CountryGuy Master Survivalist
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    Why does it seem some seem to not want to ackknowledge that energy/ power; be it be fossil fuel, steam, solar, wind, horse, etc is a work multiplier might it take some extra time to put together? Why the fascination with wanting to completely act like it never could exist without the grid or that it's a secret only owneed by magical wizards. I get the impression some think it a waste of time to pursue. be it a battery bank system, fuel storage, or rechargeable batteries. Rechargeables, like the good ones from Enloop can be recharged something like 15k to 20K times. I can't say I've yet bought 5,000 sets of AA or AAA in my life to date and I'm past the halfway point by now. As for recharging batteries, a lot can be done to get there from homemade generators to commercial built things like solar arrays. Batteries then allow that power to be stored and used and metered out as needed.

    So lets say some energy producing system can be used to power an electric dehydrator, food sealer, meat grinder or whatever food storage device. How much man power adder is it and how much time does it save and how much production does it increase? How much extra survival time does that all yield. Or batteries used for lighting, extending the day where tasks can be completed after dark, either inside or out. Or battery bank power uesd to power grow lights to help with plant starts or to grow microgreens for food.

    Will everyone have them? Nope. Just like most won't be preparred for an event is it my issue? Just cause they don't have should I not have? But if it's available and it makes life better and even if they slowly die after 5, 10, 20 years and we're weened off, why not use it while you can? I mean our BOL has natural gas and you best believe we plan on using the gas stove and CNG powered generators for as long as we can and is why we have spare parts and maintence items put up to last years. Why wouldn't I take advantage of having it? I mean it's a lifetime supply of energy and fuel to give us a leg up on survival.
     
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  17. TexDanm

    TexDanm Shadow Dancer
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    I will like having a very small amount of power for small lights but I have zero interest in a major power production system. I've been in a blacked-out area several times for up to a couple of weeks. It is amazing how quiet and dark it is when all the lights go out and everything grinds to a halt. A generator humming away can be heard for an amazingly long distance and even relatively small outdoor lights will shine on the underside of low clouds.

    None of this is a problem in the aftermath of a hurricane or ice storm but I wouldn't want to draw attention to my place after people start to realize that what has happened is NOT a temporary problem that will end in a few days or at least assistance will show up shortly. The longer it goes on the less I want to be noticed as being more prepared than others.

    The kind of lighting that I'm interested in will be only slightly brighter than candles. There are small battery-powered Christmas lights that will run for a long long time on three AAA batteries. You replace the pretty colors with amber and red and the light is even less notable. A single LED run on a battery can go for days.

    It WOULD BE nice to have enough power for freezers and meat processing but any system whether it is a generator or a large solar panel array will only last for a year or so and during that time you will attract a lot of attention. It makes me think of the old saying that locks, in general, are only to keep honest people honest. I don't want to test any neighbors that might not be doing so well by looking too tempting.
     
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  18. TMT Tactical

    TMT Tactical The Great Lizard !
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    Power is good to have and I think all of us appreciate it being available, Some do worry that folks will depend on having it vs. being able to survive without it. I have not met any member (who is without power -- so safe statement) that has completely abandoned the use of electricity. I will use it as long as it is available but I also know that there can come a time where all the technology and mechanical equipment has been laid to rest. Then it is back to pre-industrial age. Will we de-evolve back to that point, I have no clue but I do plan to be able to survive if it does reach that point.
     
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  19. TexDanm

    TexDanm Shadow Dancer
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    I love my power. They have had to up the service to my places twice. We are running two houses and four shops off of one transformer. welding machines really suck the juice. My thoughts are strictly for when things are FUBAR and not going to recover. I will more easily than most be able to leave the power behind. We will live a sort of hand to mouth for about a year then start putting in a big garden. For that first year we will get by on stores and fishing, hunting small game and trapping. Food is everywhere if you know where to look and how to gather it.
     
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  20. varuna

    varuna Tree killer & a cat person
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    Because some people romanticized the idea
     
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  21. lonewolf

    lonewolf Moderator Staff Member
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    because I have lived off grid without power for many years before and will do so again post SHTF, not having power is not a biggie for me as my needs are simple, a basic lifestyle is all that I and mine will require, most of the day will be spent outdoors anyway.
    all power systems will fail at some point, they will need replacing or some spare part which will not be available with no manufacturing base anymore.
    starting off as I intend to go on will save me from the disappointment of a collapsing power supply later on.
    this is just a personal choice for me but I refuse to rely on something that will fail later.
    life post SHTF will be very different to the sort of life anyone had before and we will be doing different things to what we do now, being able to adapt to the new lifestyle will be key and learning to live without much of what we had before is part of this.
     
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  22. GateCrasher

    GateCrasher Expert Member
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    Your whole post was well stated, I think you hit on something with the magical wizardry point, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" after all. I'll say no more on that.

    I was thinking very small scale alternative power for this thread, with AA/AAA batteries being somewhat of a standard for powering small devices so I thought it a good starting point. Given the age of many of the members here I thought at least one might use hearing aids for example. But whether it's for medical devices, force multipliers, or measuring/monitoring equipment there's a lot of little devices that could save (or improve the quality of) your life.

    You and TexDanm both mentioned powering motors (refrigeration/food processing). In terms of accomplishing work, a AA battery doesn't store enough potential to accomplish much of any real work. Motors are also not very efficient in terms of power consumed to accomplish it either. But even so, 1 horsepower equals 745 watts for one minute. At 100% efficiency, then that little solar panel will produce 10 watts of power. Stored in that group 27 battery, that's 10 watts times 4 hours of sun (average) is 10 watt-hours, or 600 watt-minutes, or 3/4 of a HP each day. Even after losses from friction, heat, etc in a motor, that'd still be something close 1/2 HP (372.5 watts for one minute) each day you could store just with this tiny setup. It's not much, enough to pump a few dozen gallons of water, or move a boulder /pull a stump with a winch maybe - but it is essentially "free" work since you're not expending any calories to accomplish it.
     
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  23. lonewolf

    lonewolf Moderator Staff Member
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    I think that post should be under the "nothing lasts forever" heading!!;):rolleyes:
    seems some people still don't get it.
    like I said before, most -if not all- residential solar panels in the UK feed directly into the National Grid not into batteries, so once the grid goes down so does the lights and everything else.
    there seems to be one group of people that can survive quite well in a post SHTF world without electricity using hand tools and old farming methods and another group that cannot and will not-under any circumstances- live without some form of electricity.
     
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  24. GateCrasher

    GateCrasher Expert Member
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    Disconnect them from the national grid, charge the car batteries collected from yours and your neighbors vehicles. You're in your 70's right? Nothing lasts forever but a lot of things will outlast us.
     
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  25. lonewolf

    lonewolf Moderator Staff Member
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    i'm not sure if that is possible, in any case what happens when the battery chemicals no longer function? its not like we can go out and buy any battery acid and other batteries may be in the same condition.
    yes i'm 71 in years but not in attitude or actions!!:D:rolleyes: didn't you know "70 is the new 50"!!:)
     
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  26. GateCrasher

    GateCrasher Expert Member
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    Understand the magic and it's possible. My Rolls/Surrette batteries are still working after 13 years of off grid use, but I don't understand the fixation on something having to last forever to be of worth.
     
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  27. lonewolf

    lonewolf Moderator Staff Member
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    because at some point it will fail and those that have been relying on it (for survival)will fail with it.
     
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  28. GateCrasher

    GateCrasher Expert Member
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    That reasoning doesn't make much sense to me, if it might only save your life a few times, or for a finite number of years, then you survived longer than you would have - maybe to your natural lifespan. It also assumes every disaster will last for eternity (or the rest of your life I suppose) which is not a certainty. How close are you to Hinkley Point? If those reactors go China Syndrome because power is lost for the cooling pumps then knowing what the level of radiation in your area is might save your life.
     
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  29. lonewolf

    lonewolf Moderator Staff Member
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    Hinckley Point is a long way from my location, it would take a couple of hours to drive there, incidentally the planned building of Reactor C was why we left Somerset 10 years ago, the prevailing wind direction is away from my location towards Hinckley and we also have Exmoor a high level moorland in between us.
    I fail to understand how electricity is going to save my life.
     
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  30. GateCrasher

    GateCrasher Expert Member
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    Radiation from any source then. Even if not near a target, missiles can go off course. Fallout can travel for many miles and remain dangerous for weeks. I'm just using radiation as an example, it's undetectable without monitoring/measuring equipment and except for some personal dosimeters the equipment requires electricity. Carbon monoxide another example, people will be using alternate forms of heat so some lives might be saved by being able to detect when it reaches dangerous levels. Radio waves, some of those whizzing past you might be a group of looters on radios getting in position to assault your home. I expect you'll have some explanation why none of those will matter for you, but they may for some so can we discuss how to charge a battery even if its of no use to you personally?
     
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  31. lonewolf

    lonewolf Moderator Staff Member
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    I think we'll just have to agree to disagree .
    I suspect one's point of view depends on what and to what extent one is preparing for.
     
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  32. TMT Tactical

    TMT Tactical The Great Lizard !
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    To me, myself and I, being able to charge a few small batteries is worth while. -- Cost vs. return --- ROI. Did I mention I am cheap? If I was currently living in an isolate location, then a complete home power system would be wanted. If I lived in a location connected to the grid, then maybe a small generator to keep the refrigerator and freezer powered. Different circumstance dictate alternate approaches. When the grid goes down for the last time, I will switch to more basic living and heating methods. I will still have a few small solar panels to charge my small batteries (hearing aids and such - smart azz :p:D ) but I won't have a whole house systems. I live to close to other folks that would not have any power. Like the story of the guy barbecuing, while his neighbors were starving, not a good out come. There is no absolute right or wrong way to approach the pending darkness, we will each have to look at our particular circumstance and decide what will work best.
     
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  33. varuna

    varuna Tree killer & a cat person
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    Just curious, what electronics you got that still using AA or AAA cell? :confused: Personally my only electronic that still using AAA cell is my mouse and headlamp (Petzl Tactikka) but even in my headlamp the use of AAA cell is more of a redundancy feature for non-frequent use.
     
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  34. GateCrasher

    GateCrasher Expert Member
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    No offense meant on the hearing aids TMT :) , I could use a pair myself now and know my hearing is not likely to get better in the future. Maybe a worthwhile thread? I saw a TV ad recently for a big, clunky, cheap model that might be a good spare. Force multiplier possibilities when standing watch too. Agreed on (paraphrasing here) controlling our descent to a caveman lifestyle.
     
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  35. GateCrasher

    GateCrasher Expert Member
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    There's many items, I try to standardize as much as possible when it comes to power, fuel, ammo, etc. 1.2 to 1.5 volt (AA/AAA) batteries are a standard here, then 12v (automotive) power, then 24v (home solar bank power), then (worst case) 120 volts AC. I also standardized on floppy disk, then CD, then DVD, and now USB thumbdrives for media storage too, so I am often left chasing the latest 'standard'. Give me a few for a better response, offline life calling.
     
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  36. TMT Tactical

    TMT Tactical The Great Lizard !
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    GateCrasher, no offense was taken. I get harassed by family all the time about my not wearing the several pairs of hearing aids I own. Even the best of technology is not as good as the original we were born with. As for a force multiplier, the fact they all tend to amplify wind noise , really limits their value in that category. Sort of like listening to video where they don't mitigate the wind noise, it will drive you crazy.
     
  37. lonewolf

    lonewolf Moderator Staff Member
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    I find it quite amusing that some people equate not having electricity to some kind of descent back into a caveman existence.
    I don't know about America but in Britain electricity in houses is quite a recent development, not until just before WW2 did some houses have electricity, I can still remember the old gas lamps in my grand parents house, some more rural places didn't have electric until the 1960s, so its quite a modern thing not even 100 years have past, I suppose that is why most of the masses cannot live without it as they have known nothing else except light and power at the flick of a switch.
    without power, in the UK at least, we will revert to a pre industrial revolution type way of life, that didn't happen until the mid 18th century so that's the kind of time line we are looking at, I suppose as life went on some things would be dropped in favour of more life enhancing actions, lets say computer studies would be stopped in favour of learning blacksmithing something like that.
    of course none of my comments will make any sense to someone who is only preparing for short term or small scale events.
     
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  38. GateCrasher

    GateCrasher Expert Member
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    Duty called yesterday... Some AA/AAA battery powered items we have are radios (am/fm/sw), GMRS/FRS radios, motion detectors, NV scope, multimeters, scales, hearing/sound amplifier, and a few flashlights. And some items with different battery types with voltages in the 4.5 to 12v range, like smoke/CO detectors, weather radio, vhf/uhf 2-way radios, CB radios, and police scanner, that I can run off of AA batteries if needed using these

    cf55c5efca91f0c720eeaa257d8a72f8.jpeg

    by using different numbers of batteries and tapping off at different locations, any voltage from 1.5v to 18v is possible.
     
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  39. lonewolf

    lonewolf Moderator Staff Member
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    that's a long list of battery powered items. haven't got that much myself and most of my flashlights are wind up.
     
    TMT Tactical likes this.
  40. varuna

    varuna Tree killer & a cat person
      193/230

    Blog Posts:
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    Excellent call in maintaining commonality (standardization) there. I also attempt to doing similar thing for expedition setup fuel, albeit with no success (generator need gasoline, while cooking need either kerosene or butane)

    I highly recommended to ditch the floppy disk, CD, DVD, and solid state drive (USB thumbdrives). If you need archival data storage, only external hardrive and M-DISCDVD are reliable (and cheap) enough for such purpose. The primary purpose of any solid state drive is for shorter term storage or data transfer and NOT for archival.
     
    TMT Tactical and GateCrasher like this.
  41. GateCrasher

    GateCrasher Expert Member
      247/345

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    Gas lamps aren't as common as they were 40-50 years ago. Offgrid cottages used them a lot back then, but you don't see them as often anymore. We still use them in our guest house (and outhouse), run off an outside propane tank.
    a4273a35ceaea4909ae13e4cdea614eb.jpeg
    a4273a35ceaea4909ae13e4cdea614eb.jpeg

    They produce a lot of heat too, good for an outhouse in January, but not so much in the house in August.

    We used to use kero lamps too, but more fragile and not really kid friendly. Since we added solar, and with rechargable batteries, flashlights became the standard. Pulled out of storage for a pic, and the duel-fuel coleman lantern I'll sometimes use in the ice shanty.
    a4273a35ceaea4909ae13e4cdea614eb.jpeg

    Problem is all of these take fuel to produce light. Solar power with batteries does as well, but at least the fuel is forever and free.
     
    TMT Tactical likes this.
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