AA & AAA Battery Chargers

note: I started working on this article back in 2017 but due to the “crash” it got put on hold. I finished this article over the last couple of weeks.

What I was looking for in a AA & AAA battery charger was two-fold, ability to charge AA & AAA batteries; 1) using 110vAC power when it is available, 2) using 12vDC power for emergencies or field use. Of course, using the same actual charger, just changing the charger’s power supply. And the 12vDC option could come from a power box, solar charger, battery, vehicle accessory port, etc.

You may be asking why both voltages…legitimate question. I want the capability to charge my batteries under normal conditions and as quickly as possible…hence, 110vAC power capability. But, if the regular utility power goes out I want multiple ways to be able to charge my batteries; 1) using my portable Honda generator (110vAC), 2) 12vDC power available through car batteries, 3) my various portable power box, 4) solar panels.

“Redundancy” being a priority to me. The old “Two is one, one is none, three is a good start” mentality.

Mission Statement –

“Ability to charge standardized field operation batteries via 110vAC or 12vDC power.”

Requirements & Restrictions –
  1. Must be able to operate on 110vAC power for extended periods of time without damage to the unit or the batteries.
  2. Must have the capability to operate on 12vDC without modification to the unit.
  3. Must be able to charge AA and AAA rechargeable Ni-MH and Ni-CD batteries.
  4. Must have sufficient safety features to prevent damage to the batteries, the unit, or the area around the unit.
Test Units –
  • FrePow 8-slot
  • Tenergy TN160
  • Foxnovo F08
  • AccuPower IQ-338
  • BlueTech AV-1000
  • MaximalPower FC1000
  • Ansmann PL8
  • SunLabz SL00056

Each unit was tested against the Mission Statement, Requirements & Restrictions, and comparing features; price was not so much of an issue. Units were tested recharging batteries via 110vAC and 12vDC. The 12vDC test was done via a 110vAC -> 12vDC power supply to ensure no variation in power such as solar power fluctuations or 12vDC battery charge level or condition. The purpose of the testing was to test the charger unit itself not a solar panel / charger combination. I did test with a 12vDC solar panel test just to ensure compatibility and that it would in-fact work. These test units all ranged from being able to charge 4 batteries – 16 batteries.

FlePow –

No longer available – Testing results not included.

Tenergy TN160 –

Compact, sleek, and good looking unit. Nothing fancy about this unit and no frills or thrills. Both size batteries (AA &  AAA) were easy to insert and were held steady in the charger tray. Each charging station assessed the batteries individually and began charging within 5 – 6 seconds. The LCD screen was easy to read and made sense without any directions or instructions needed.

From the manufacturer:

  • 12 channels PWM switching fast charger with MUC control; accurate voltage detection ensures no over-charging and under-charging
  • 12 independent charging channels for individual charging and detection: AA & AAA, NIMH/ NICD can be mixed when charging. AA & AAA, NIMH/ NICD can be mixed when charging.
  • 8 hours safety timer ensures extra safety.
  • Over-heat, over-current, short-circuit, & reverse polarity protection, (mechanically) ensures that charger and batteries will not be damaged when users insert batteries with reversed polarity.
  • Large LCDs indicate charging status.
  • Charger comes with refresh function
  • Input: 100-240v AC (Works Everywhere in the World).
  • Suitable only for 1.2v AA/AAA NIMH/NICD batteries.

I really like the automatic protection built into this unit, especially the safety timer that shuts down the unit after 8-hours of operation. During testing the batteries never got hot and that is a really good thing. Heat is what damages batteries more than just about anything (operating environment) else. The unit won’t recognize damaged or fully discharged batteries which isn’t particularly good.

Foxnovo F08 –

This thing is a hunk of plastic and electronics, there is nothing sleek or compact to it. There is no fancy LCD screen to look at, simply a series of flashing status lights. When I was inserting the batteries (AA & AAA) it wasn’t the easiest thing to do. First off you have to move the spring-loaded negative contact manually to get each battery to seat in the charging cradle. And here is the stupid part…the positive contact is this little “nub” piece of metal. If you look at the positive contact on a battery it too is a little “nub” of metal. Try putting two little “nubs” together and see how that works for you! It was fairly easy to bump one battery while inserting another. Bumping a battery more than just a minimal amount and the positive “nub” contacts decontacted. Yes, decontacted is a word I made up. Once the batteries were all in-place they were fine.

From the manufacture:

  • Capable of charging 8 batteries of different sizes, types and capacities at the same time; Each of the eight battery slots charges independently
  • LCD indicators lights shows the charging process of every batteries
  • Automatically identifies Li-ion, Ni-MH and Ni-CD rechargeable batteries.
  • Automatically detects battery status and selects the appropriate voltage and charge mode. Automatically stops charging when complete
  • Come with a US-plug adapter for indoor use.
  • Adopts negative voltage control technology to improve charge efficiency.
  • Excellent features of heat dispersion and reverse polarity protection. Protect opposite connection and short circuit, 0 voltage alarms
  • Compatible with batteries: Li-ion 26650, 22650, 18650, 18500, 18490, 17670, 17650, 17500, 16340, 14500, 10440, Ni-MH and Ni-CD A, AA, AAA, C, SubC

Here’s where this unit is way cool…charging time. And no, there wasn’t any noticeable battery heat indicating that the higher charging rate was damaging the batteries.

And then there are additional cool features to this charger; 1) charges a long list of Li-ion batteries, 2) charges C, SubC, & D size batteries. That makes this unit considerably more versatile than the other units tested. If you are wondering about the Li-ion feature I can tell you that is will recharge the rechargeable version of the CR123A (RCR123A). The CR123A is a popular battery for flashlights and weapons’ optics.

The testing showed that the unit charged all the batteries of different brands and sizes in record time. It only took the unit a matter of 2 – 3 seconds to analyze the batteries current charge and begin the charging process. There is no fancy LED screen to indicate much of anything. There is a series of four lights that shows current charge. They flash to indicate that charging is taking place at a specific level (25%, 50%, 75%, & 100%). When the battery is fully charged all four yellow lights glow steady.

Periodically a blue light will flash in the upper right-hand corner on the face of the unit. I have absolutely no idea what that means. So you wonder why I didn’t refer to the instructions. Ah, there aren’t any. Yup, no instruction guide of any kind with the unit. I searched all over the Internet looking for a user guide and nothing. But, fortunately the unit is pretty simple to use…so instructions aren’t really needed.

AccuPower IQ-338 –

This unit is sleek, compact, and way more intelligent than me. Yeah, surprising…right? Seriously, this unit has a ton of options for you and your batteries. The batteries fit in this charger like a glove, very nice engineering. The LCD screen is easy to read and back-lit as well.

From the manufacturer:

  • Fast Charge Li-ion or NiMH/NiCad Rechargeable batteries including most common 18650 size.
  • Test Li-Ion & NiMH/NiCad cells for actual capacity.
  • Automatic selection of NiMH/NiCad or Li-ion chemistry cells.
  • For use with the following: NiMH/NiCad: A, AA, AAA, sub-C, C-baby size
  • Li-ion: 26650, 22650, 19650 (protected 18650) 18650, 17670, 18490, 17500, 17355, 16340 (RCR123A), 14500, 10440
  • With the new AccuPower IQ338 charge or test most round cell batteries. Automatic selection of NiMH/NiCad or Li-ion chemistry cells. Includes the most common 18650 cells, can accept cells up to 70mm in length. Easy to use, easy to program, informative display.
  • Four independent channels programmed individually.
  • Easy to read large Backlit LCD display.
  • Digitally displays battery information.
  • Adjustable charging rate from 300 to 1000 mA.
  • Three modes of operation:
    • Charge
    • Fast Test
    • Nor Test (Normal Test)
  • Delta Peak full charge detection for NiMH/NiCad cells.
  • 4.2V full charge for Li-ion cells. CC/CV charge profile.
  • 12V input powered and can be powered by an optional car adapter.
  • Worldwide voltage switching power supply.
  • Automatic detection of different battery type. NiMH/NiCad Vs Li-ion.
  • Thermal sensors to protect against overheat and overcharge.
  • USB charging socket. Supplies 5V 1000 mA.

So I figured out that this unit is actually a computer that also charges batteries. OK, on a more serious note, this is a great charger. However, it only has four slots for batteries. I wanted the ability to charge more batteries at one time than just four so I took some time and looked online to see if it has a bigger brother. It does, but the bigger brother is not the IC-338 with more slots, it appears to be a carbon copy of the Tenergy unit.

And unlike the Foxnovo unit, the AccuPower unit does come with instructions…very, very good instructions. It explains how to take advantage of each unit feature.

I like this unit, just wish it handled more batteries at one time. But…I really like this unit.

The latest version of this charger is the AccuPower IQ-338XL. The “XL” evidently added more battery size capability and higher charge rate which lowers the charge time.

BlueTech AV-1000 & MaximalPower FC1000 –

You might be wondering why I am grouping these two chargers together for review purposes…GREAT QUESTION!

Simple answer…they are the same unit other than a different name on them. Although there are two units being tested, I will refer to them as “unit” for the purposes of this article. I will only refer to the MaximalPower FC1000 unit since it is the only one of the two that is still readily available.

The unit solidly built, sleek, and compact. Good feel to it. The LCD was clear and easy to read.

From the manufacturer:

  • FC1000 Intelligent AA/AAA Charger and Capacity Tester with USB charging port
  • Battery charger for NiCd and NiMH AA and AAA rechargeable batteries
  • Features 4 function modes: charge, discharge, refresh, and test
  • Overheat-detection to prevent over-charging
  • 4 separate LCD displays for simultaneous readouts

The unit worked as stated in the description. I liked the fact that is displayed the individual “mAH” of each battery in the LCD display. It was also nice to have a USB charger as well, especially a 1A USB charger. Only being able to charge 4 batteries at one time was a drawback. Unfortunately I couldn’t get real excited about this charger.

Ansmann PL8 –

Nice basic “brick” recharger unit. Has overcharge protection but I didn’t see any smart overheat protection, but it does have a built-in time shutoff to help prevent overheating. The 500mA charging current helps charge your batteries quickly, but it completes the charging cycle in a “trickle” mode to help ease the potential heat buildup problem.

From the manufacturer:

  • For 1-8 AA/AAA (NiMH/NiCd) cells
  • Discharging of the batteries before charging is possible, Multi-coloured LED indicators show the battery status for each charging slot
  • Individual supervision of each cell, Multiple over-charging protection per cell and Automatic cut-off (-dV) & Trickle charging
  • Faulty cell detection / accidental alkaline insertion detection
  • Reverse polarity protection

Single use battery detection (i.e. alkaline batteries) prevents any chance you might accidentally try to charge the wrong types of batteries. There is a “discharge” capability to reset the battery’s memory to a fresh state. I like units with the more informative LCD displays, but this unit’s flashing light display of this charger unit gives you all the information you actually need. The USB charging port is a nice little extra.

Going back to the “trickle” charge feature. One of the nice things regarding this feature…self-discharge offset. You can leave the batteries in this charger and the trickle charge feature will keep them fully charged but not overcharge them. That will offset any self-discharge of your rechargeable batteries. And I really like that each charging port is individually monitored and each battery “smart charged” individually to its own capacity.

I would love this charger if it had 12vDC power capability but it only runs off 110vAC. And that gives it a “fail” compared to my mission statement. But, if you are looking for a 110vAC only unit…this is a great option.

SunLabz SL00056 (MOSL00056) –

This unit suspiciously looks a whole lot like the Tenergy TN160…with 4 additional battery bays.

From the manufacturer:

  • 16 INDEPENDENT CHARGING SLOTS – Allows you to mix and charge AA / AAA / NiCD / NiMH 1.2v rechargeable batteries.
  • SMART AND SAFE – Accurate voltage detection ensures no over-charging and under-charging.
  • Reverse polarity protection and 8-hour shut-off timer ensures extra safety.
  • LIGHTED LCD DISPLAY – Intelligently shows the charging status of each rechargeable battery.
  • 1 YEAR WARRANTY
  • SAFETY WARNING: The charger should not be plugged into an outlet with batteries for extended periods of time to prevent damage. Remove the charger from the outlet once the batteries are charged and use the recommended charging times in the manual.

Each battery is charged individually based on its own state of charge. There is “discharge” capability to reset the battery’s memory to a fresh state. Nice to clear battery memory and revitalize batteries.

I don’t like that you can’t leave the charger plugged in with batteries in charger. So this tells me there is no overheat protection…and the potential for battery damage. I don’t like that this charger gets batteries fairly hot. As long as you monitor the charging process this is a decent no-frills charger. And it charges 16 batteries at once!

Comparison Chart –

Summary –

Let’s clear up one thing right off the bat…The FlePow and the Tenergy chargers are made by the same company in China, SunLabz.. SunLabz simply does what’s called “private label” manufacturing. In addition to SunLabz selling their own chargers they market them to other companies such as Tenergy who then sell them under their brand.

The ability to charge the other types and sizes of batteries could prove to be a real benefit in long-term emergencies and disasters. In terms of grid-down, the ability to recharge the rechargeable CR123a batteries (RCA123A) could prove really valuable. It should be noted that I am NOT a proponent of the CR123a batteries (rechargeable or standard), I only use and recommend AA & AAA batteries.

I can’t recommend the FlePow unit because it is no loner readily available.

I can’t recommend the Foxnovo unit, it simply cooks the batteries with too much heat and is no longer readily available.

I don’t recommend the Maximal unit because…well, I just couldn’t get excited about it…something just seemed off about it.

The only reason I don’t recommend the Ansmann unit is it doesn’t have a 12vDC power option. If I was only going to use AC power this would be my #1 choice.

I liked the Tenergy unit but it is a “private label” charger unit made by SunLabz. This is a unit I use and would buy again. And yes, I put the SunLabz unit in this same category. These are not high-end chargers…but solid and get the job done.

The hands-down winner is the AccuPower IQ-338 unit!! But, I would NOT buy it. I would buy the newer version AccuPower IQ-338XL to take advantage of more battery options, etc. The only drawback is the number of batteries it charges at one time…4. But this is simply the best charger…my “go to” charger.

However………….if I was only going to use AA & AAA and an occasional C battery…AND I needed to charge more than 4 batteries I would go with the AccuPower IQ-312. That bad boy can charge up to 12 batteries at one time. It is also 4.7 star rated on Amazon. If I wanted a 16 bay charger for AA & AAA batteries and an occasional 9v I wouldn’t hesitate to go with the AccuPower IQ216.

So I own and use the Tenergy charger, the AccuPower, and the HiTech IC1012. I didn’t test/include the HiTech IC1012 in this article because the technology is 7 years old and the unit is no longer available.

Are there other good units out there? Yup! Should you buy any of them? No idea! I can only tell you my experience and what I use…and I am happy with my choices…they are all still working and doing a good job.


If you are interested in buying any of the chargers I use I will provide the links to Amazon. If you click on the link I provide I might make 1% or 2% as a finder’s fee from Amazon. Hey, every little bit helps in this day and age. If you don’t use the link that’s no issue. I hope you find that battery charger that you need and that it serves you well.

AccuPower IQ-338 $47.24 <click here to buy on Amazon>

AccuPower IQ-338XL $53.45 <click here to buy on Amazon>

AccuPower IQ-312 $37.97 <click here to buy on Amazon>

AccuPower IQ216 $32.30 <click here to buy on Amazon>

Tenergy TN160 $47.99 <click here to buy on Amazon> (you also get 12 Premium Tenergy AA rechargeable batteries)

SunLabz SL00056 $44.99 <click here to buy on Amazon>

 

 

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Running a Baofeng UV-5RA Radio on AAA & AA Batteries

Batteries - Energizer Sucknote: article first appeared September 2015

I’ve never seen anything so conclusive in all my testing of gear. I mean it was crystal freaking clear what the outcome is. Here’s the short of it:

  • Don’t try to run your Baofeng UV-5R on AAA batteries. It just doesn’t work out well whether rechargeable batteries or high-quality alkaline batteries…it just doesn’t work. In three separate tests I never got more than 1.5 hours of radio run-time out of the Energizer 850mAh rechargeable nickle metal hydride batteries. And that meant no heavy transmission time.
  • Batteries - TenergyI got just under 3 hours of run time on Tenergy 1000mAh rechargeable nickle metal hydride batteries.
  • The AAA battery tray works just fine and fits well without any modifications.

So, the bottom line is…only use AAA batteries when you don’t have any other battery option available.

What my testing showed for AAA batteries:

  • AAA batteries just don’t have enough power to keep the radio running for very long. Even with the best of the AAA batteries, 3 – 5 hours of run-time is just not adequate. Well, unless there simply is nothing else available.
  • Rechargeable AAA batteries suck. Energizer AAA rechargeable batteries really, really, suck.
  • Alkaline batteries are marginally better. But only marginally better.

What my testing showed for AA batteries:

  • AA batteries (the big brother to AAA batteries), are exponentially better for radio operations. They lasted 5 – 8 times longer their smaller counterpart.
  • Rechargeable AA batteries are also acceptable for using in radios, but only quality Batteries - TenergyAABatteries - Duracelrechargeable batteries such as Tenergy or Duracell. Energizer rechargeable batteries are worthless.
  • Running my UV-5RA on Duracell alkaline batteries (5 to start with and a dummy battery to prevent over voltage) I was able to get 38 hours of operation. When the radio shut down I swapped the dummy battery for a brand new Duracell and got another 1.5 hours of radio operations out of it.

For rechargeable AA & AAA batteries I like Tenergy batteries. Remember, there isn’t a good rechargeable AAA battery for radio operations.Batteries - Energizer SuckAA

I won’t ever depend on Energizer AAA or AA rechargeable batteries. Energizer batteries suck…period.

 

 

For alkaline batteries…Duracell. Period!

For alkaline batteries…Duracell. Period!

 

 

 

 

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Dummy Batteries to Reduce Voltage

Article first appeared August 2015

There are times, especially with electronics, that you want to use AA batteries but to do so would give you and pile of AA Batteries“over UltraCell2voltage” situation that would burnout those sensitive electronics. Well, there is a solution…dummy batteries.

Briefly, these are battery “look-a-likes” but are not actually batteries. They pass current through them but add no voltage themselves.

So the first picture below is that of a AA battery tray for a Baofeng UV-5RA radio. This battery tray is part of an aftermarket battery case that allows you to use AA batteries with the UV-5RA radio. < read more about the battery case here >Baofeng UV-5RA AA battery tray

So, this looks all fine and dandy and ready to use with the radio. However, you could burnout the radio using this battery case with these six 1.5 vDC batteries in the battery case.

Why?

The UV-5RA radio is designed to work on a maximum battery voltage of about 8.5 vDC. This battery configuration would give you about 9.1 or 9.2 vDC with brand new decent-quality AA batteries.

Can you say “sizzle!

So why was the case designed this way to begin with?

Baofeng UV-5R AA battery caseIf you swap out the  alkaline 1.5 vDC batteries with the standard 1.2 – 1.3 vDC rechargeable batteries then you get voltage measuring in at 7.2 – 7.9 vDC. And that is well within the operating voltage range of the radio.

But you have another option, an option that can be used with alkaline batteries pumping out 1.5 – 1.6 vDC per battery…dummy batteries that I mentioned earlier.

The dummy battery is simply a non-battery in a casing that looks like a battery.  The dummy battery allows current/voltage to flow through while taking up space in the UltraCell dummy battery with battery case battery case and not adding another 1.5 vDC to the current. So now you can put five alkaline batteries in the battery tray along with one dummy battery and have voltage that is within operational voltage range.

Note: Carry the sixth alkaline battery with you. When the electronic device shuts off due to low voltage, swap out the UltraCell dummy battery for the good alkaline battery that you’ve been carrying. You will get a little more life out of the electronic device. Maybe just enough to make a huge difference before the fresh battery is discharged.

 

 

 

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Baofeng UV-5RA : Hypario Battery Case for AA batteries

Article first appeared in June 2015

I am a huge Baofeng UV-5R handheld radio fan! Yes, it is a Ham Radio, but it is also much, much more and I love Baofeng UV-5r handheld radiothe little radio. It is a dynamo! The radio is a great size, packed full of features, reliable, and more than anything else EXTREMELY affordable. You can read more about my review of the Baofeng UV-5R radio here < UV-5RA review >. This post is dedicated to the Hypario AA battery tray for the Baofeng UV-5A radio.Baofeng UV-5RA AA battery case

The very first thing I noticed about the battery case was IT DOESN’T FIT !  Yup, the battery case didn’t fit the radio. And the improper fit prevented the battery case from “clicking” into place correctly on the radio. But I had read the reviews and dealt with other Baofeng radio after-market equipment before. I knew what to do.

I got out my diamond files and my pocket knife and proceeded to whittle down the offending plastic. It doesn’t take long to remove a sufficient amount of the plastic that is prevent the proper seating of the battery tray. I suggest you just work at it slowly, taking a little plastic at a time and testing for the “click” often.

Baofeng UV5RA AA battery trayIt took me about 5 minutes of whittling and I was good to go.

Next issue that I noticed was no seal around the two pieces of the battery tray itself. So this battery case is NOT waterproof. I would expect the tray to be moderately water (rain) resistant at best. And from what I can tell, there really isn’t a good way to improve its water resistance. Well, there might be one way…using silicone seal around the whole thing where the two pieces come together. But then the functionality of the unit would drop significantly when it came time to swap-out batteries.

The next step was to test the AA battery fit in the battery tray. I am a big believer in Duracell batteries and not that long ago I bought a bunch of Duracell Quantums that were on sale. So I fetched 6 and they went right in and fit snugly.

Baofeng UV-5RA AA battery trayThe picture of the battery tray with the batteries installed appears to the right. Do you notice anything wrong? Well, you might think the batteries are running the wrong way vs. facing the alternate opposite direction. But, that is not what I am referring to. Look again, and think “operational.” There are six Duracell Quantum AA 1.5vDC batteries in the battery tray to power the Baofeng UV-5RA radio. A radio that runs on 7.4vDC power. You there yet?

Six 1.5vDC batteries delivers 9volts of power. Yup! That is about 22% more voltage than the original Li-ion battery that comes with the radio. Fortunately, the radio didn’t start smoking when I turned it on. The radio’s battery charge indicator did show a full charge. Go figure!

Option 1

Option 1

So the problem is over-voltage to the radio which I confirmed with my multimeter. There are three primary options to overcome this problem. First option, if the grid is down, is to make a “fake” battery that simply passes the current through or around the battery to the other in-line battery without adding any additional voltage. For instance, a wooden or plastic dowel rod cut to size with a wire that makes contact with the battery tray on one end and the battery on the other end. That reduces the number of 1.5v batteries to five batteries providing 7.5 volts, which the UV-5R can run on just fine.

However, I think that option is a bit clunky and could pose other problems in the field but if the grid Baofeng UV-5R -AA battery case UltraCell AA Size Dummy Batteryis down you can make this option. Now, a more commercial option a “dummy battery” that you can buy. I like the UltraCell AA Size Dummy Battery. You just slip one of those into the battery tray in place of a regular alkaline AA battery and you now are only using 5 1.5 vDC AA batteries for 7.5 vDC. Your Baofeng UltraCell dummy battery with battery caseUV-5RA will operate for 3 -4 days of light use with good quality batteries, to 1 – 2 days with heavy use or poor quality batteries.

 

I think Option #3 is a very viable option and gives a depth of operational capability…use Baofeng UV-5R AA battery casestandard rechargeable AA batteries. Rechargeable batteries have a DC voltage rating of 1.2 – 1.31 vDC. So six of the rechargeable batteries in theory provides 7.2 – 7.86 vDC to your radio. And yes, you are losing approximately .2 – .3volts per battery but I don’t see it being an actual noticeable difference while in the field. But using rechargeable batteries vs. alkaline batteries can result in shorter use time. All things being equal, alkaline batteries will last longer.

I did test the charging cradle that came with the radio. It charges at 8.37 volts when hooked up to the 110vAC wall outlet. The charger cradle information states that its output is 8.4 volts. The .03 difference is absolutely nothing to worry about. The radio can be left on and used while in the cradle and charging. So I am making an educated guess that the upper end of the vDC range is about 8.4 – 8.5 vDC. But I can’t find any actual technical documentation on that.

But DO NOT USE the charging base with a cigarette car adapter powering the charging cradle. Well, you can if you know for a fact that the cigarette car adapter is only outputting 10 vDC maximum. The charging cradle will burnout and maybe burn up with the direct voltage from your vehicle which is 12 – 14 vDC. The vehicle voltage needs to be stepped down to 10 vDC before it goes into the charging cradle. I have ordered an adapter that should work, but I will test it and put a review up when it comes it.

I like, and primarily use, Duracell and Tenergy rechargeable batteries. Nickel–metal hydride rechargeable batteries are made specifically to work with electronic devices. AA batteries are rated in mAh (milli Amp hours), which is a rating of how long the battery will provide power at a certain draw/drain level. Don’t worry about the actual details of how long a UV-5RA radio will last between a 1500 mAh battery and a 2800 mAh battery. Just know that the 2800 mAh battery will last considerably longer. So the higher the mAh rating your rechargeable battery has the longer your radio will stay operating.

I would suggest a minimum rating of 1500 mAh on your rechargeable batteries. My AA Tenergy batteries carry a 2600 mAh rating and have a great price point.

Don’t forget “redundancy” when it comes to rechargeable batteries. “Two is one, one is none, three is a good start.” is a standard rule in my preparedness efforts. To keep my batteries charged I have:

  • Multiple AC wall charges with sensor and conditioner capabilities to prevent over-charging. I use these for normal daily non-grid-down operations.
  • I have two large-quantity AC chargers to “bulk” recharge a number of batteries at one time.
  • I have two SolarAid SolPad7 solar battery chargers.
  • I also have two GoalZero battery charger packs that can hook up to my GoalZero Boulder 30 solar panels.
  • And yes, I have the Honda EU2000i generator to run the AC chargers as well, if an when that might be needed.

Go ahead laugh…I know you want to. But I think that having rechargeable batteries without a way to recharge them is a little silly. And my OCD demands that I have multiple ways to power the chargers…as well as multiple different chargers. OK, so I am snickering a little bit too right about now. But if I am going to preach preparedness and share that information with you, then I better be practicing what I am preaching.

Warning3Now, there is also a warning with this battery tray…DON’T USE THE RADIO’s CHARGING CRADLE! The UV-5RA comes with a charging cradle. But that unit is to be used only with the battery that is supplied with the radio. That unit is not intended to be used to charge rechargeable batteries in a AA battery tray/case like the one in this review. You need to recharge the batteries with chargers that are specifically designed to charge NiMH rechargeable batteries.

Bottom line – Buy this product!

Just remember that you will have to whittle a little bit of plastic to make it fit correctly. But you will be very happy with the added capabilities to use different batteries in your radio. Batteries that can be recharged in a more standard way than the original BL-5 batteries that come with the radio. The BL-5 battery that comes with the radio is not a standard battery that would be easily recharged via solar. And in a situation where standard utility electric power may not be available, it is good to have solar options. Yes, “standard” options that match your other power requirements. Namely, AA and AAA batteries.

 

 

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AA Battery Evaluation : Eneloop vs. Tenergy

This article was first published in late 2017 and subsequently lost in the website crash. I was unable to retrieve it, I had to rebuild it from my notes and scattered bits and pieces. This article is the result.

Comparison/Evaluation of Rechargeable AA Batteries – Eneloop vs. Tenergy
Panasonic BK-3MCCA4BA Eneloop AA
  • Ni-MH (Nickel Metal Hydride)
  • 2000mAh
  • 2100 cycles
  • $2.46 (Amazon 4/3/20)
Tenergy Premium AA
  • Ni-MH (Nickel Metal Hydride)
  • 2500mAh
  • 1000 cycles
  • $1.25 (Amazon 4/3/20)
Basic Comparison from product specs and after opening the package:·
  • Eneloop claims more recharging cycles (2100 cycles vs. 1000 cycles)
  • Tenergy claims 25% more storage capacity (2500mAh vs. 2000mAh)
  • Enloop shows more out of the package charge (1.38v vs. 1.35v)
Charging:

I used the same smart charger for both brands. Same charging cycle at the same time. Alternated the batteries in the charger trays. Used “refresh” cycle to drain and charge the batteries equally. Allowed to sit 1-hour after charging cycle before testing:

  • Eneloop 1.38v
  • Tenergy 1.35v
Discharge:

I put them into brand new AA battery flashlights purchased at the same time, same brand & model. Turned em on and let them run. More than 48-hours later the results were startlingly significant.

    • The flashlight with the Eneloop batteries couldn’t keep the light on.
    • The flashlight with the Tenergy batteries was still very bright.

I was surprised to say the least…in practical testing the Tenergy blew away the Eneloop. But, I wanted to see how much more energy the Tenergy battery had left. I put the voltmeter to each battery:

    • The Tenergy batteries had 1.197v left (average).
    • The Eneloop batteries had .869v remaining (average).

Performance wise…the Tenergy batteries absolutely blew away the Eneloop batteries! It was even close! Not only did the Tenergy batteries have over 35% more energy left in them, the Eneloop couldn’t even keep the light on.

Overall conclusion…Tenergy is by far clearly the better priced battery and better performing battery.

 

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AAA Battery Evaluation : Eneloop vs. Tenergy

This article was first published in late 2017 and subsequently lost in the website crash. I was unable to retrieve it, I had to rebuild it from my notes and scattered bits and pieces. This article is the result.

Comparison/Evaluation of Rechargeable AAA Batteries – Eneloop vs. Tenergy
Panasonic BK-4MCCA4BA Eneloop AAA
Tenergy Premium AAA
Basic Comparison from product specs and after opening the package:· 
  • Eneloop claims more recharging cycles (2100 cycles vs. 1000 cycles)
  • Tenergy claims 25% more storage capacity (1000mAh vs. 800mAh)
  • Enloop shows more out of the package charge (1.306v vs. 1.260v)
Charging:
  • I used the same smart charger for both brands. Same charging cycle at the same time. Alternated the batteries in the charger trays. Used “refresh” cycle to drain and charge the batteries equally. Allowed to sit 1-hour after charging cycle:
  • Eneloop 1.4695v (average)
  • Tenergy 1.4195v (average)
Discharge:
  • I used a 3-battery tactical flashlight. Each flashlight is the same brand/model. Each flashlight was purchased at the same time. Test lasted 11 hours. Every 2 hours brightness was checked (subjective based on my visual assessment) and then the battery pack was switched to the other flashlight.
  • Remaining voltage –
    • Eneloop .924v (average)
    • Tenergy 1.027v (average)

Outcome Narrative:

Total cost of purchase:

Tenergy is the clear winner by a 85% – 245% margin in price alone.
Tenergy is the clear winner is cost per mAh rating, over 2 to 3 times more cost effective.
Conclusion: The Tenergy battery is significantly less expensive than Eneloop in every purchase aspect.

Total cost of usage:

Tenergy is 6% – 35% more cost effective is actual usage. (total cost of ownership)
Conclusion: The Tenergy battery is more cost effective.

Performance:

Tenergy is 38% more efficient in actual usage.
Tenergy provides 11% more residual voltage.
Conclusion: The Tenergy battery is a better performing battery despite it lower initial and post-charge rating.

Overall Conclusion:

Tenergy is the clear winner in the head-to-head AAA battery category.
The only category where Eneloop is the clear winner is the number of charge cycles.

Assuming that Enelopp’s claim of 2100 charge cycles is correct, but factoring in Tenergy’s 25% better charge capacity, you can buy 2 Tenergy batteries for 1 Eneloop. And you get 19% more charge cycles from the Tengery batteries overall, and you save 20%!

Tenergy is clearly the better buy and the better battery in actual usage tests.

Added Note:

  • Yes, the batteries tested were brand new, purchased at the same time off of Amazon.
  • I also went back and checked my 21 AAA Tenergy batteries that I’ve had stored over 4 years. Results:
    • All still tested out at over 1.23v. Loss of approximately .02v over 4 years.
    • Not a single battery had any sign of “weepage”, leakage, etc.

 

2009 - 2020 Copyright © AHTrimble.com ~ All rights reserved
No reproduction or other use of this content 
without expressed written permission from AHTrimble.com
See Content Use Policy for more information.

Searching for a New Generator

This article appeared a couple of years ago but was lost in the “crash”, I am rebuilding it from notes with some editing.

So I am looking for a higher capacity generator than my Honda U2000i.

Here are some things I am looking for:

  1. Affordable
  2. 4,000 – 5,000 running watts.
  3. Dual fuel (gasoline & propane).
  4. Electric start.
  5. 30a RV plug.
  6. 2 x 110 – 120v household outlet (15a or greater).

Here are some things that I would like:

  1. Quiet run technology.
  2. Inverter power

Here are some things that would be icing on the cake:

  1. 240v outlet
  2. Remote start.

After the house is done the unit will probably sit in a corner of the shop somewhere gathering dust and not used much. Maybe a back-up to my solar system. Or rather, a back-up to my back-up. My Honda will be my first back-up.

I did think about a “companion” to my Honda EU2000i, effectively doubling my power capability. But I decided against it due to other considerations.

I also wasn’t real worried about noise…I have my Honda EU2000i for “stealth” running but I also don’t want to be heard in the next county over…or maybe even at the next property over.

So after a lot of searching and comparing and reading reviews I went with the Champion Model #100302 4000-Watt Open Frame Inverter.

The good, bad, & ugly:

  1. Afford it at $565.
  2. 3500 running watts…500 – 1500 watts lower than I was looking for.
  3. Not factory ready for propane, but a conversion kit exists,
  4. Not electric start but all reviewers claim 1 – 2 easy pulls and it starts Evey time.
  5. 30a RV plug
  6. Two 15a 3-prong household style outlets
  7. Quiet run technology
  8. Inverter style
  9. No electric start
  10. No remote start

Here are the specs and info on the unit…

  • Advanced Open Frame Inverter Design – 50% quieter and 20% lighter than a traditional Champion 3500-watt generator, plus our Economy Mode feature saves fuel and extends engine life,
  • No GFCI Outlets
  • Quiet Technology and Extended Run Time – 64 dBA is great for RVs, tailgating, your next project or home backup, with 4000 starting watts and 3500 running watts for up to 17 hours run time on gasoline
    Clean electricity for sensitive electronics
  • RV Ready with a 120V 30A RV, plus two 120V 20A household outlets with clean power (less than 3% THD) and 12V DC outlet with dual USB adapter
  • Parallel Ready – Increase your power output by connecting up to two 2800-watt or higher inverter or digital hybrid with the optional Parallel Kit
  • Champion Support – Includes 3-year limited warranty with FREE lifetime technical support from dedicated experts.
  • No Voltmeter.
  • Voltage: 120V AC and 12V DC
  • Start Type: Manual
  • Engine: 224cc Champion OHV
  • Fuel: Gasoline
  • Quick Touch Panel – all controls on one panel
  • Economy Mode – save fuel, extend engine life

I followed the break-in procedure to the letter. I used a hair dryer for the “load”, using the various wattage settings on the hair dryer to successively increase the load on the generator for each break-in phase. I also changed to the high altitude carburetor jet. The customer service folks were very helpful getting that to me for free.

With the initial addition of the crankcase oil I added a tablespoon of Lucas Oil TB Zinc Plus. Most oil today has zinc processed out of it. But, zinc is a really good oil additive that helps lubricate an engine…especially helpful with small engines to extend their life.

After the initial break-in I used fully synthetic oil. I also use Lucas Oil TB Zinc Plus with every engine oil change.


Update #1 – About a month after the generator purchase…

I wavered on buying the wheel kit or not. I’ve never been a big fan of those cheap, mostly useless, wheels on things like generators, etc. They never seem to be right for what I want to do. But, I had to be able to move the generator around easily since I will be using it at my house-building job site and later when I need to roll it out as a back-up power supply. So I had to do something.

Then I remembered being at a nursery and using a cool cart to move my plants around. So i researched it out and found this…

It cost $127 but I felt it would be worth it. I was right. When I was done mounting the generator to the cart my rig looks like this…

For the first two weeks I used the generator at the job site. It powered everything from air compressors to AC units. I used it from 6 – 12 hours per day, every day.

Here are my findings:

  1. The generator was worth every penny!
  2. It never failed to start on the first pull.
  3. It ran everything I plugged into it.
  4. It is better on gas than I thought.
  5. I would mount the generator in the middle of the cart next time. It is off-balance mounted so far to the rear of the cart.

I am immensely pleased with the generator! I think it is a fantastic unit and will hold up just fine if I do my part to change oil, etc.

Just for the record…I always had been a Honda Guy. I felt nothing was better or could even compete with a Honda. I have to admit…I was wrong. Well, at least so far.

Honda doesn’t make a 4kw inverter generator so I can’t make a comparison. But, I can tell you this…Honda’s 3kw (25% less power) costs about $2300…yup, over 4 times more than my Champion. So I can’t complain. Yes, that means I can own 4 Champions, have more power, and have paid less than a single Honda.

And now here is what I am thinking…I am considering buying a second Champion unit. Champion makes a parallel kit to hook them up and effectively double the output to 8kw of power. Not only would I have massive power generating capability I would have a back-up for my essential needs.

And yes…That means I would have about $1200 or so invested in 7kw of power. And yes…If I went Honda that means I would have spent over $4000.

Final thought…I am pleased with my Champion generator! I think it was a very good investment. It does everything I want it to. I think it was money very well spent. And I would do it again. Actually, I am thinking I will.

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No reproduction or other use of this content 
without expressed written permission from AHTrimble.com
See Content Use Policy for more information.

TIP: Lucas Oil TB Zinc Plus for Small Engines

This “tip” came to me from a very experienced, completely competent, marvelous small engine mechanic.

Small engine application – 1 table spoon per engine oil change. Most oil today has zinc processed out of it. But, zinc is a really good oil additive that helps lubricate an engine…especially helpful with small engines to extend their life.

Vehicle application – Lucas Oil TB Zinc Plus is a zinc additive for engine oil. Its designed for engines with no catalytic converter in the exhaust. This product is also used as an engine “break-in” additive for newly built engines. For non-race, vehicle applications, one bottle will usually treat two oil changes. Some race-engine applications require the entire bottle. Classic cars (depending on oil capacity) require approximately 2,100 PPM (Parts Per Million) zinc in the oil.

Note #1: The is meant for 4 stroke crank cases. In a 2 stroke, you don’t want any non-combustibles in the mixture as it will gum up everything, and likely damage the motor.
Note #2: diesel oil should have the higher zinc content that is required, such as Shell Rotella 15w-40. You can still use this Lucas product, just don’t over do it on quantity.

Note #3: It does not thicken the oil.

 

 

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No reproduction or other use of this content 
without expressed written permission from AHTrimble.com
See Content Use Policy for more information.

MFJ-4416B Battery Booster

MFJ-4416B BATTERY VOLTAGE BOOSTERMFJ-4416B battery voltage boosterI really have mixed emotions and opinions on this piece of equipment. In one aspect this is a great piece of equipment that can play an important part of a prepper’s power equipment inventory. On the other hand, it can destroy perfectly good batteries that are expensive to replace. That left me in a tug-of-war on the overall recommendation on this piece of equipment. So I will leave my “buy or no-buy” recommendation till the very end of the article.

First let me describe what this this gem does. The whole concept of this “battery booster’ is to do just that…boost low battery voltage levels to more operational levels for your electronic needs. Specifically, your radio operational needs. Here are the specifics on how it does that.

Your radio has voltage needs for power. My Yeasu FT-8900R needs a little over 10 vDC to continue to operate. MFJ-4416B battery voltage boosterBelow that and it will automatically shut down. That can be a bad thing if you need to stay on the air. So the MFJ-4416B steps in to handle that situation.

The 4416B is designed to take DC voltage as low as 9 vDC and boost it to the level that is required by your equipment. So take the example of my Yaesu FT-8900R, it needs 10+ vDC but the battery is only putting out 9.2vDC. The MJF-4416B boosts that voltage up to a usable level, 11 or 12 vDC (user selectable).

The two most basic elements of this unit are; 1) available voltage going into the unit, and 2) the level of voltage the unit can output. The 4416B can accept voltages as low as 9vDC. It can also be set to output voltages between 11 and 13.8 vDC. If you set the output voltage at 12, any voltage greater than 12v will pass though vs. being stepped-down.

But here is an interesting twist…there is an RF sensor built into the unit. Let me back-track for a minute. Your radio draws a fraction of the power when in receive mode vs. transmit mode. So you really don’t need to “boost” voltage/power when receiving. The RF sensor allows the unit’s regulator to be by-passed unless you are transmitting when the most voltage/power is needed the most. The RF sensor connection is nothing more than a “T” placed inline with your antenna coax and hooked to the 4416B.

There is also a built-in user adjustable feature of a LVD (low voltage disconnect). The LVD option can be set at 9, 10, or 11 volts. I like this added feature. A stand-alone LVD can easily run $50 – $90.

Here is the downside, if you run a SLA AGM battery down to even 11 volts you have damaged the battery and reduced the lifespan of that battery (reduced recharge cycles). If you run down a regular lead acid battery to 10 or 11 volts you are probably OK. You run them down to 9 volts and you’ve just shorted their life considerably.

Here is the upside, if you are running alkaline batteries the 9v input capability (LVD) just gained you a MFJ-4416B battery voltage boostersignificant additional amount of life out of your battery. Who cares how low you run an alkaline battery down to. The alkaline battery only has one life anyways, you might as well squeeze every last minute of operating time out it while you can.

And there is another upside as well, if you are really, really needing the operational time from your radio and you just have to keep it up and running, the booster will allow you to do that. So you will get additional operational time out of your batteries; albeit, you may destroy them in the process. But, it might be worth it.

While doing my research I did find some not-so-complimentary issues with “noise” going out, especially when using the RF sensor. However, those issues were all over 6 years old or more. And from what I can tell it was all with the original version of the 4416 not the 4416B version which is what I tested. I did a quick search and couldn’t find any vendor still selling the original version. Although you might see one come up on eBay, I doubt anything other than the “B” version is being sold.

An interesting side-benefit to using this booster is kind of interesting. Radios generate heat based on incoming voltage among other things. If a radio can operate on 12v it will generally run cooler at 12v vs. 13.8v. With the 4416B you can use your batteries at 12v, the 4416 booster set at 13.8v in conjunction with the RF sensor. So anything 12v or over passes through while in non-transmitting mode. But at 12v your radio is in receive mode at 12v, it is not being automatically being boosted to 13.8v. Well, not being boosted to 13.8v until you hit the PTT key. While transmitting the 4416 will boost to 13.8v to give you maximum output wattage and then return to whatever your battery is putting out (12v or greater). Nice way to keep your radio a bit cooler.

MFJ-4416B-remoteThere is a remote control option available for this battery booster. Sweet little set-up for convenience sake should you choose to go with this battery booster. MFJ-4416BRC gives you full remote control of your MFJ-4416B Super Battery Booster plus it allows you to monitor battery voltage and battery booster output voltage.

You can place the battery booster near your battery or other convenient location close to your radio. The MFJ-4416BRC lets you turn booster and low battery alert on and off. It has boosting and low battery LEDs to let you know what is going on with the booster.

It requires a Cat-5 cable to connect the remote to the battery booster. It measures a compact 5″w x 2″d x 3″h and mounts with 4 screws. I think this is an absolute “must-have” if you are using the booster for your primary rig. Just makes sense to monitor what is going on with your power. If you are using the 4416B to begin with, you obviously have a serious need. Why not be able to monitor exactly what is going on with your batteries and your booster; performance monitoring.

So here is where I would use the MFJ-4416B battery booster:

  1. When my rechargeable batteries wouldn’t be harmed running down to 9, 10 or 11 volts (user selectable).
  2. When I was boosting alkaline batteries and they were throw-a-ways once I was done with them.
  3. If I had to keep my radio up and running, even when battery voltage was running low. This would be an emergency operations type of situation.
  4. I was in procession of a decent supply of 12v rechargeable batteries, car batteries or similar.

Here is where I would not use the MFJ-4416B battery booster:

  1. I was running AGM, SLA batteries that would be harmed by over-discharging them.
  2. I would not use this booster in any other situation or application other than to keep a radio up and running. I can’t think of any other piece of electronic gear that would be worth potentially destroying 12v rechargeable batteries.

I like the product and own it. Obviously, or I wouldn’t be able to do a review on it. But, the usage of a battery booster is limited in scope and focus. Using it in the wrong application can cause you to spend a whole lot of money replacing your AGM, SLA batteries. And in disaster, emergencies and during “grid-down” batteries might be a bit hard to come by.

Technical Information –
  • Battery Booster Width: 7.750 in.
  • Battery Booster Height: 4.000 in.
  • Battery Booster Depth: 2.125 in.
  • Battery Booster Weight: 1.30 lbs.
Sales Pitch (straight from the website) –

Keeps your transceiver operating at full efficiency and performance by eliminating low or marginal voltages in the mobile environment.  MFJ 4416B super battery boosters keep your transceiver operating at full efficiency and performance by eliminating low or marginal voltages in the mobile environment. They accomplish this by boosting input voltages as low as 9 V up to the desired 13.8 V at 25 amps peak with a typical efficiency of close to 90 percent. Even at their compact, lightweight 1.3 lbs., they are designed to be rugged, reliable, and easy to use. The MFJ 4416B super battery boosters include Anderson PowerPole connectors and high-current, 5-way binding posts for both the DC input and regulated output. An internal 30 amp input fuse protects them from excess output current demands. There are also selectable limits on the minimum voltage that can be accepted, protecting you from over-discharging a battery and possibly damaging it. They also include output over-voltage crowbar protection, should regulation be lost. An RF sampling port can be connected to your transceiver’s transmission line with a UHF-T connector, which is sold separately. An additional efficiency enhancement feature is a user-adjustable output voltage control, which lets you set the output voltage anywhere between 12 and 13.8 V. When setting the output at 12 V, input voltages greater than 12 V will pass through, but the efficiency of the regulator is higher, and lower input voltage means that your transceiver will run cooler. They typically save over 30 watts in heat dissipation during transmit, and even 3-4 watts during receive.

 

 

 

 

 

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