Part four of my “Selecting a hand-cranked emergency radio” article discusses battery options for your hand-cranked emergency radio.
Every radio needs some kind of battery power. Obviously you’ll want your radio to work when the power goes out. You also don’t want to have to constantly crank the dynamo to continually power your radio. An emergency radio needs some way to store energy for later use.
There are three basic options for battery power. The first is non-rechargeable, replaceable batteries. These are the alkaline and lithium batteries we are all familiar with. The advantages of these types of batteries are that they are cheaper to buy than rechargeable batteries and they hold a charge longer. If you’re going to store batteries for a long time, you’ll have to go with disposables because rechargables will be dead when you need them. The downside is that you’ll need a substantial number of batteries to get you through a long power outage. This can get quite expensive. Additionally, you’ll have to check your batteries regularly and rotate out ones that are starting to degrade. Finally, you’ll need to properly dispose of your batteries once they are drained. The best option is to collect dead batteries until you have a small boxful and then take them to a store that will recycle them. Honestly, I’d recommend going with one of the two options below instead of disposable batteries.
The second option is rechargeable, replaceable batteries. Nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries are your best option. They hold more energy, are more forgiving, and are less toxic than older nickel-cadmium (NiCd) batteries. While rechargeable batteries are more expensive to buy than disposable batteries, they can be recharged many times instead of being discarded after a single use. This makes rechargeable batteries more cost effective in the long run. Plus you’ll have far less of an environmental impact. Eventually though, rechargeable batteries will cease to hold a charge. Like disposable batteries, you’ll need to dispose of your worn out rechargeable batteries in a responsible manner. All you need to do is find a store that will take your batteries and recycle them. The question you’ll need to answer is if the dynamo will recharge your replaceable batteries or if it only charges the onboard rechargeable, non-replaceable battery pack. This is the best option because you can replace batteries as they wear out.
The third option is rechargeable, non-replaceable batteries. These batteries are built into the radio. Often you can’t even access them. These work fine until they reach the end of their lifespan. Then you have three options. First, you can buy another battery pack from the manufacturer (if the sell one) and replace the old battery (if you can access it). Second, you can crack open the radio, remove the old battery pack, and wire in a similar battery pack. I haven’t had to do this yet but I don’t think it would be too difficult. Third, you can buy a new radio.
On a final note, you’ll want to make sure that any batteries you use in your radio are the same types you have in the rest of your gear. Being able to swap batteries between equipment is a huge boost in safety, reliability, and flexibility. It also costs a lot less to stock up on a few types of batteries. I would stick with AA or AAA sizes, as these are very common.
Be sure to check out my profile for the other parts of this article.