Batteries are a lifeline, regardless if using them to navigate the dark, running a small fan to lower your body temperature, or listening to an important radio broadcast. The question should not be whether you can do without batteries; because that is unrealistic for most. Instead, closely evaluate your power requirements, find products that are tested and proven, and have a way to sustain the use of batteries during an extended power outage.
You have two schools of thought when selecting batteries for long term storage; purchasing single use (non-rechargeable) batteries or more costly rechargeable batteries. Acquiring a large supply of “reserve” batteries is expensive, and depending on your battery requirements, it can be extremely expensive. Some individuals will purchase both types of batteries, and set aside the non-rechargeable batteries for trade/barter, and keep the rechargeable batteries for personal use.
Single-Use (Non-Rechargeable) Batteries vs. Rechargeable Batteries
At first glance, non-rechargeable batteries seem the most logical purchase. When compared to rechargeable batteries, non-rechargeable batteries are cheaper, are more readily available, and some have a long shelf-life (7-10 years). However, they are single use; so once the power is depleted, they become hazardous waste.
For a pricing scenario, let’s say you purchase a 28 pack of Duracell AA non-rechargeable batteries for $20, or roughly .69 cents a battery. Or, you can use the same $20 to purchase a four pack of Sanyo Eneloop rechargeable batteries and a charger (an eight pack of batteries, without a charger, also costs $20). Would you rather have 28 single use batteries, or four rechargeable batteries and a way to charge them? The Sanyo Eneloop’s are rated for 1500 charges, so the $20 investment into four rechargeable batteries translates to the equivalent of 6000 AA batteries. To be fair, let’s also say the Eneloop rechargeable batteries only last for 100 charges, or the equivalent of 400 AA batteries. Using this logic, you would still save $256 dollars by purchasing the four rechargeable batteries over the single-use batteries.
The challenge that most individuals have when purchasing rechargeable batteries, is purchasing enough of them. This is where we are trapped into buying and using single-use batteries. If my survival and comfort electronics requires 20 AA batteries, the upfront cost of purchasing single-use batteries is less than $20, while rechargeable batteries would cost over $50. Additionally, if you need constant battery power, you will need to purchase double the amount of rechargeable batteries to ensure you have replacements available on the charger. So, the cost increases drastically.
The next consideration, and yet another challenge for switching to rechargeable batteries, is that we need more than the common AA and AAA batteries. C, D, and 9 Volts are even more costly, especially if we need a significant amount of them. Rechargeable C and D batteries can cost over $5 per battery, and 9 Volt rechargeable batteries usually cost more. However, to reduce battery cost, you can use battery adapters to convert AA and AAA batteries into C and D batteries.
Most AA, AAA, C, and D batteries are around the same voltage; between 1.1 to 1.25 volts. Since they are the same voltage, you can leverage the smaller batteries by using an adapter to adjust the size of the battery. Adapters can be purchased as a part of a kit, or individually for around $1-$2. For adapters you have two choices; a spacer or shell enclosure. Spacers come in C and D sizes and are generally used with AA batteries, so that you can convert a single AA battery to a C or D battery. To use, you simply slide the battery into the spacer.
For shells, you can convert AAA to AA, AA to C, AA to D, or 2 x AA to D (there are additional AAA converters available). So, should you choose a spacer or a shell? The choice is yours, but you should try both. Shells are usually less expensive, but may not be compatible with all of your electronics devices. Spacers generally have less fit issues, but are more expensive. Just ensure you have enough adapters for you needs.
The great thing about battery adapters is that they allow you to standardize your rechargeable battery inventory. Instead of purchasing the more expensive C and D batteries, you can purchase supplemental AA and AAA batteries at a lower cost. Additionally, AA and AAA batteries are more commonly used in small electronics devices, they have a shorter recharge period, and are more compatible with battery chargers. The downside to using adapters is that you lose reserve capacity, which is measured in Milli-Amp Hours (mAH), since AA and AAA consist of less mAH than the larger C or D batteries (example comparison: AAA – 800 mAH, AA – 2100 mAH, C – 4500 mAH, and D – 9500 mAH).
When purchasing rechargeable batteries, pay close attention to the rated charges and the reserve capacity. A Sanyo Eneloop AA is rated for 1500 charges and has a reserve capacity of 2000 mAH. In contrast, the Energizer AA is rated for 250 charges and has a reserve capacity of 2300 mAH. While the Energizer has more reserve capacity, it has a shorter lifetime. Budget AA rechargeable batteries can have 850 mAH and up to a one year warranty. The point here is balance the cost with reserve capacity and longevity. While the Sanyo Eneloop is usually higher priced, when all factors are considered it is one of the best rechargeable batteries you can buy.
When selecting a battery charger, ensure you consider charging your batteries during a power outage. You can purchase a cheap wall charger (AC power), but during a power outage you will need to have AC power to recharge your batteries. Therefore, it is recommended to purchase a charger that is AC and DC power compatible. I really like the Titanium Smart 16 Bay Charger. You can use the DC (12 volt) charger with any car battery, or with our $150 Small Solar Power Solution. This is where the adapters come into play. Instead of having a battery charger that can charge all battery sizes, you can use one that is designed to recharge AA and AAA batteries efficiently. Most multi-size battery chargers are not as durable as the AA and AAA battery chargers. But, having a way to recharge 9 volt batteries is a necessity if you require 9 volt batteries.
When purchasing new electronic devices, for prepping purposes, pay close attention to their battery requirements. Good examples are tactical flashlights and firearms optics. Some of these devices require specialty batteries, such as the 123A Lithium battery. So, you can find an alternate device that uses standard batteries, or purchase a specialty charger and rechargeable batteries. Tenergy makes a good 123A battery charger, and it is both AC and DC compatible. And, do not forget to purchase spare batteries.
When developing your battery preparations, you should first analyze the electronics devices that you currently have, and determine your power and battery size requirements. Next, determine the requirements of future electronics purchases. Once you have outlined these requirements, you can make a sound battery investment. Purchase quality batteries, as they will be the better investment in the long run. Make sure to leverage adapters to reduce battery costs. Lastly, ensure your charger is AC and DC power capable, and purchase specialty chargers if needed. Hopefully, this article provided a little insight into the battery dilemma. Please let us know if you have any questions or recommendations. Be Prepared. Get Connected.