Batteries, Radio-Related

The Battery Dilemma

10/29/2015

So many things run on batteries these days one could almost set aside a room in the house just for chargers and spare battery packs. I am exaggerating of course–a walk-in closet would do nicely. Most HTs run on Ni-Cad or NiMH  batteries, while smaller devices often run on Li-Ion batteries. I hate them all.

I hate wall-warts, I hate keeping track of the various chemical compositions of batteries to make sure I do not put them into the wrong charger, and I hate that we have sacrificed power for size. Remember the good old days when a radio could run on 4 C- or D-sized cells for months and months? Now everything runs on AA or (worse) AAA batteries, and we either have to keep a stack of alkaline batteries on hand, or we have to keep spares of our rechargeables ready to go.

I have run the gamut of emotions when it comes to batteries, no doubt fueled a bit by my experiences with cordless power tools. I have the same love-hate relationship with them as I do radio/electronics batteries. They are either discharged when you go to use them, or they cease to hold a charge from disuse. Both are equally aggravating. I have almost sworn off rechargeable power tools, with the exception of a couple of cordless screwdrivers which hold their charge for years, literally. Why can’t other things do this as well? For most tools I think I will return back to ye olde corded tools and extension cords. They always work, and once the extension cord is in place I just have to switch power cords. Not nearly as aggravating as having to switch out one dead battery pack for a weak, ready-to-die secondary battery pack.

Back to radios and electronics. For a while I gave up on rechargeable batteries for anything I could substitute alkaline for, and just kept a massive store of batteries on hand. I like the security of knowing if the power goes out the AA batteries will work. Unfortunately, I have had several cases where even though batteries were not that old, they leaked in the radio or electronics device. Frankly, this just should not happen in this day and time, period. I have not had that problem for years until just the last year or two, so I suspect there is a cheapening of the product going on to save costs. But it has happened enough I have made the move back to rechargeables.

eneloopI now use Eneloop batteries exclusively (where possible) because they hold a charge for years when something only gets moderate use. I am not out in the field every day using my HTs, and even if I were, I have too many of them to use them all regularly. The Eneloop batteries are rated to hold 70% or more of their power for years, and 70% is likely to get me through my immediate need. (I have found Amazon.com usually has the best prices on them.)

One major downside to modern devices which rely on batteries is that some of them have features which are never fully turned off. Thus a device which keeps track of the time and date, for example, may run the batteries down if there is not a separate battery just for that on the circuit board. Of course those can be a pain to change, so there’s a pro and a con wrapped up in one. I recently dug out my digital recorder to capture audio from the ISS, only to find the batteries dead because of a slow drain. I had not used the unit in a while, so no big deal – I popped in a fresh set of rechargeables and off we went. It wasn’t until I went to find the recording that I remembered that the date and time had to be reset manually if the batteries died. Not the end of the world, but did throw me at first as the recording was not showing up through the normal most-recent-to-last listing of files.

I hate rechargeables, but I hate leaking alkaline batteries even more. So it is back to the rechargeables, and gratitude for Eneloop batteries for holding a decent charge where possible. I may only use my penlight flashlight here and there, but when I need it, I need it; I do not need a battery search at that moment–I am in the dark!

Just my own personal battery-rant; I will save the battery charger rant for another day! 73, Robert

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