Solar recharger and pre-charged NiMH batteries.

Items to keep you alive in the event you must evacuate: discussions of basic Survival Kits commonly called "Bug Out Bags" or "Go Bags"

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Solar recharger and pre-charged NiMH batteries.

Post by Woods Walker » Sat Jul 19, 2008 1:43 am

Solar recharger and pre-charged NiMH batteries.

LSD batteries

I have been using Energizer AA /AAA NiMH batteries to run my headlamps and flashlights. I recently acquired a foldable solar recharger and working on field testing. I do a lot of night hikes and camping. It was getting to the point that every week I was tossing at least 4 dead batteries into the trash. In the past I had bad experiences with rechargeables but figured it was time to try again. The NiMH batteries worked well this time around. Still there are some draw backs. They have a tendency to self discharge over time. Discovered this during a night hike when the backups recharged 6 months ago had lost much of their power. So just guessed that for BOB use the NIMH batteries would have to be secondary with the intent for a field recharge if for some reason I ran out.

During a trip to the local market I found some pre-charged batteries sold under the Duracell name. I purchased some and did a little research.

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The ones with the black tops are believed to be re-bagged Rayovac hybrids. The white tops are believed to be re-bagged Eneloops. The Eneloops are made in Japan and the prevailing wisdom seems to indicate these are the best overall batteries available. They can be recharged 1000 times and have no memory effects. Here is a link to Sanyo Eneloop pre-charged batteries.

http://www.eneloopusa.com/eneloop.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

You can order them online or just buy the white topped Duracell pre-charge batteries. Here are some advantages to the Eneloops that makes them more suitable for a BOB over the older NiMH batteries.

1.
Once the application has used all or some of the energy, eneloop can be charged like a conventional rechargeable battery, 1000 times, before it needs replacing.
This is much greater longevity than normal NiMH batteries rated for lower numbers of recharges.

2.
Once charged, eneloop retains its charged capacity even after 6 or 12 months of storage
(90% of Charged Capacity retained after 6 months, 85% Capacity after 12 months). eneloop is pre charged and is ready for immediate use after purchase, straight from the pack. Just like Primary Batteries. There is no need to charge-before-use.
The pre-charged status and very low self discharge makes the cells better for storage and ready to use right out of the package. A big plus for a BOB.

3.
Key advantages of Ni-MH batteries are still inherent in eneloop:g
for example, superior performance in digital cameras (four times more shots than with alkalines) and the excellent stability even at low temperatures, for example while skiing.
My newer Cree flashlights and APEX headlamp draws a great deal of power. In testing people have found that Eneloops work longer than alkaline cells. Stability in lower temperatures is key for me. True I also pack lithiums but nice to know the new batteries will hold up ok in the cold.

4. This is not from the web site but I have been told the eneloops will not leak. Leaking alkaline batteries is the reason why instructions warn people not to store batteries inside the device. I really like to keep my BOB electronics ready to go.

5.
Eneloop can be charged with virtually all modern chargers for Ni-MH batteries.
Ok this is good especially for field recharging.

6.
The eneloop battery does not experience the effects of "memory effect".
This is very important as I think memory effect is what gave me the bad experiences in the past with rechargeable batteries.

Silva Solar Recharger.

So now that I have decided on a rechargeable battery exactly how would I plain on field recharging? Normally I would not expect to find working outlets in most ER situations. Also these are a bit hard to find in the woods. :lol: Lucky for me during a trip to Dicks I found this solar recharger on sale. It was 66% off. For 20 bucks it was worth a try.

http://www.thesolarpowerstore.com/silvacharger2.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Fully charge 2 AA rechargeable batteries in 10 hours. Designed for rugged outdoor use, this charger is made from the same super durable yet flexible solar cells used on Eureka! US military tents! Also at only 2.8 ounces, it is one the lightest weight chargers on the market, it folds to a convenient 3 1/2in x 5 5/8in x 1 1/4in size for convenient carrying. The unfolded size is 18in x 5-5/8in.

*** BATTERIES NOT INCLUDED ***

Charging capacity is 100% when perpendicular to full sun, 70% when at a 45 degree angle to full sun, 60-90% in light overcast, and even 20-30% in heavy overcast.
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But like the Duracell batteries the Silva solar charger is also a re-bagged product sold under this company.

http://www.tech4o.com/c-5-solar.aspx" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

I think this is the company that makes them for everyone. But don't know for certain.

http://www.powerfilmsolar.com/products/ ... index.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

The main advantage to this system is I get a full recharge of the device. Most crank type chargers offer marginal recharges for only a few devices plus the solar recharger does not need bright sunlight to do its job. It would be working for me as I am doing other things, however any new gear item must be tested before I will pack it. Also I am not in the habit of suggesting gear on ZS that I don’t have total confidence in. I plain for testing this on the following BOB items.

1. AA and AAA radio.
2. GPS
3. PT Aurora and Apex headlamps.
4. Fenix L2D Q5 and E01 flashlights
5. Energizer cell phone recharger.

Field testing:

PT Aurora headlamp.

I have tested the recharger in a controlled setting for the PT Aurora headlamp. The results were good. Being a 3-AAA powered device I had to rundown two sets of batteries and recharge them 2 at a time. There is a 4 battery charger available but as this was an impulse sale purchase I have the lesser model. The headlamp appeared to have fully charged batteries after 10 hours of bright sun light. Still I feel the need to re due this test just to be 100% certain. I will update with photos of beam shots during after the re-test.

GPS.

I tested the panel in actual field conditions. It was attached to the back of a friend’s Osprey pack on a recent trip to the AT. It was a make shift attachment using some twine. I may use some of my little carabineers for faster removal and adjustment in the future. The panel has grommets so attachment to most packs is possible.

Image

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The solar panel worked well. It pushed the GPS from 2 bars back to 4 in the same numbers of hours. The panel was not in direct sunlight as it was being used in a woodland setting. The GPS retained the 4 bars during the last few hours of the hike and the hour long drive home. I am satisfied with the results. I still need to do field trials with the other devices. I am running down my flashlight and will do that next with accompanying beam shots. The Cree LED is so efficient that it seems to be taking forever to rundown those two AA cells. I am going to use the Energizer 2450 mAh standard NiMH batteries that were used in the GPS test for consistency. The follow up testing for the E01 and repeat of the PT headlamp test will use 900 mAh standard Energizer NiMH batteries for the same reason. I don’t expect any real difference in recharging LSD batteries but that will also have to be tested once the standard Energizer NiMH solar recharge testing is done.

I will update this tread with more information as it comes in.

Thread update:

More Field tests.

I tested out the solar charger in the following conditions. A mostly sunny day for 6-hours 12 pm to 6 pm to simulate a base camp situation. Then hiked with the panel though the woods using the above pack attachment method for an addition 4-hours during a partially sunny day with the conditions leaning to cloudy. 4-hours the next day with mostly cloudy conditions and intermittent rain. The panel is listed as splash proof but repacked it on and off based on precipitation. It is listed as recharging two AA batteries in 10 hours however being skeptical I bet the makers based this on ideal conditions and 2000 mAh cells. To maintain consistency I used Energizer 2450 mAh NiMH rechargeable that I know perform well. AA cells often have double the mAh of AAA so guessing it must be charging each cell at a rate of 200 mAh per hour. So the stated time of 2 AA or AAA in 10 hours should indicate that AAA batteries would be fully charged in 5 hours. This would have to be tested in the future. It seems high to me for solar recharger so small and light weight. Heck I have an older plug in charger that takes longer. But guessing the recharge rate in normal field conditions maybe around 150 mAh per battery but this is speculation beyond some earlier testing using my 3 AAA PT Aurora headlamp and 2 AA GPS.

To simulate field use I ran down the batteries in my L2D Q5. It took longer than expected. The light is very efficient. I ran it down until turbo mode would not function. Then until high dropped out of regulation. Lastly until medium also dropped out of regulation. Judging from the runtime charts on this website the cells were drained. In the field having a light drop out of regulation on medium is a good clue it is time to change cells.

http://www.light-reviews.com/fenix_l2d_ce_q5/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Here are the devices tested with the solar recharger. For this test used AA devices from my INCH bag and EDC.

Image

1. Energizer cell phone recharger.
2. L2D Q5 flashlight.
3. PT Apex headlamp.
4. Radio shack radio.


The rest of the stuff is my cell phone. The battery is totally drained and for the test. The Energizer USB Duo recharger. This was used for the break in charge. Some re bagged Duracell Eneloops for future testing however these work in any recharger. More Energizer 2450 mAh batteries for future Apex tests. A back view of the Silva recharger showing the AAA adaptors. They are the two blue things.

Fenix L2D Q5.

As stated it was run down to a non functional turbo mode. Then to 50% mode on high and finally 50% mode on medium. Here are factory stated runtimes for the L2D Q5.

* General Mode: 12 lumens (55hrs) -> 53 lumens (10.5hrs) -> 107 lumens (4hrs) -> SOS
* Turbo Mode: 180 lumens (2.4hrs) -> Strobe

Based on the charts in the review links and my experience with the light these non dimming regulated runtimes are accurate with NiMH batteries. I still can’t get over the performance of the emitter. Here is a beam shot of the light using the 2 AA solar recharged NiMH batteries on Turbo mode. Behold! 180 lumens of converted solar energy. Kind of puts a new spin on the marketing phrase “Sunshine in Your Pocket”.

Image

The light has been running on medium for about 4-hours now. This is my favorite setting for the pitch black woods. 50 lumens goes a long way in dark.

Energizer cell phone recharger.

Image

I was a bit worried about this test. The cell phone recharger came with Energizer Lithium AA cells and really seems to eat alkaline batteries. Comes to think of it the thing devours the lithiums too. If the batteries are low it will not function. So with fear in my heart I removed the lithiums and used the solar recharged NiMH batteries. It worked. Sorry for the bad photo as I couldn’t use the flash due to the low light of the LCD screen.

Image

The radio.

It worked but this was not real surprise.

That is it for this round of testing. Next will be the Apex when I recharge 4 more batteries. I will test my AAA devices from the 72-hour BOB with reduced charging time to see if my assumption about faster AAA charging is correct. Finally I will test the LSD batteries however I really don’t expect any difference. The thread will be updated with future results.
Last edited by Woods Walker on Wed Jul 23, 2008 11:08 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Solar recharger and pre-charged NiMH batteries.

Post by BigDanInTX » Sat Jul 19, 2008 2:22 am

I have seen panels like this and I was skeptical. Thanks for the review. I'll check that one out a bit more in the near future! I hadn't even considered rigging it to the top of the pack like that. Brilliant...
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Re: Solar recharger and pre-charged NiMH batteries.

Post by andygates » Sat Jul 19, 2008 2:24 am

I'm very interested in those stay-charged batteries. The main reason I quit using regchargeables was the charge-fade in storage. Cool find!
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Re: Solar recharger and pre-charged NiMH batteries.

Post by Biff » Sat Jul 19, 2008 2:36 am

...
Last edited by Biff on Tue Nov 10, 2009 8:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Solar recharger and pre-charged NiMH batteries.

Post by TC » Sat Jul 19, 2008 6:59 am

Not entirely related to charging batteries, but still solar.

Image
Freeloader Solar Charger

I bought this a few months back. It's got pretty much any cable you could want to charge things like mobile phones, iPods, Blackberries etc. I haven't used it a great deal, but it seems to work pretty well. You can also charge it up from your computer's USB slot and use it as a giant battery if there's no sun or if you want to quickly precharge it before you go on a trip or something. It takes about a day or so to fully charge, so it's not that fast, but it isn't exactly top spec or using big panels so that's hardly surprising.

It's a handy thing to have if, like me, you don't have a landline phone. If the power goes out I'll still be able to charge up my mobile. I think it's generally useful to be able to charge the batteries of items that don't take standard batteries, but rather have their own special ones, so this charger might be of interest to some, especially those who have a whole bunch of gadgets.
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Re: Solar recharger and pre-charged NiMH batteries.

Post by PokerFace » Sat Jul 19, 2008 7:12 am

TC wrote:Not entirely related to charging batteries, but still solar.

Image
Freeloader Solar Charger

I bought this a few months back. It's got pretty much any cable you could want to charge things like mobile phones, iPods, Blackberries etc. I haven't used it a great deal, but it seems to work pretty well.
I looked into this very breifly, and it seems to get a lot of negative reviews.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/review/product/ ... ewpoints=1" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

:( I was getting excited, too.
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Re: Solar recharger and pre-charged NiMH batteries.

Post by TC » Sat Jul 19, 2008 8:40 am

PokerFace wrote: I looked into this very breifly, and it seems to get a lot of negative reviews.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/review/product/ ... ewpoints=1" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

:( I was getting excited, too.
I'm sorry to see that it got such bad reviews. I must admit that I bought mine in a real life shop, not online, so I didn't see any of these reviews.

Like I said, I haven't used it much, but I have never charged it from the USB on my computer, which is what those reviewers claim is the only way to get it to charge. I've only used the panels to charge it up, and when I did that it got a good charge and was able to recharge my iPod fully in the normal time it takes to charge from the mains electricity.

There is one thing. When you first open the panels, they are covered with a very thin and hard to see protective cover, like that you get on new watches and electronic devices with screens. This might not be immediately obvious to someone who hasn't read the instructions first. If you don't take this cover off, you can't charge the cells properly, so perhaps this is why some people couldn't get it to work properly.
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Re: Solar recharger and pre-charged NiMH batteries.

Post by amd2800barton » Sat Jul 19, 2008 8:55 pm

Keep in mind that if you're suffering a power outage, its very possible that having a charged phone will be useless. While your phone may be fully charged, the cellular communication networks may well be out of power too. So using your solar charger to power your phone might just provide you a very energy wasting bejeweled game/glorified clock. Probably better off charging off AA/AAA for your flashlight/GPS which may be slightly more useful in a BO scenario.
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Re: Solar recharger and pre-charged NiMH batteries.

Post by Woods Walker » Sat Jul 19, 2008 11:54 pm

Biff.

Nice charger. Where did you get it? I think the 4 battery solar charger has lights to indicate the level of charge but can’t say for certain as I have the 2 battery model. There is no indicator that tells me if the batteries are fully charged. But I am not certain that this matters. Sure would be nice to see if the batteries are fully charged but if not there isn’t anything that I could do about it anyways in the woods. Still I need to do more testing. This is my plug in charger.

http://www.energizer.com/usbcharger/lan ... nload.aspx" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

It has software that shows an ETA to full charge on my lap top. Has a little graphic of the charger and everything. The down side is the ETA tends to be off. Nothing great but can run off the USB port on my lap top. Maybe I will check out something better for home use.


Amd2800.

I can recharge my cell phone using two AA with the Energizer phone recharger. So in theory I would use the solar panel to recharge two LSD AAs then the phone charger to recharge my phone. But this is just theory as it has not been tested yet using this device. Overall electronic are low on my list of priorities far below things like water and protection from exposure risks. But I have those covered so spending some time working out the less important aspects of my BOB.
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Re: Solar recharger and pre-charged NiMH batteries.

Post by TC » Sun Jul 20, 2008 6:49 am

amd2800barton wrote:Keep in mind that if you're suffering a power outage, its very possible that having a charged phone will be useless. While your phone may be fully charged, the cellular communication networks may well be out of power too. So using your solar charger to power your phone might just provide you a very energy wasting bejeweled game/glorified clock. Probably better off charging off AA/AAA for your flashlight/GPS which may be slightly more useful in a BO scenario.
I had considered this, although I would imagine that most phone masts in major cities would have some limited generator capability. I might be wrong about that though, and I do not intend or expect to use my mobile phone as the best means of communication if TSHTF. In a normal blackout though, it might be useful to have the charger, since I've often found that phones run out of power when you need them the most (another reason why they are not very good for SHTF comms).

Also, it gives me a way to keep my iPod charged during a power cut, which if the situation is otherwise peaceful will give me something else to do until the power comes back on. You are also right about having the capability to charge batteries for my torch.
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Re: Solar recharger and pre-charged NiMH batteries.

Post by amd2800barton » Sun Jul 20, 2008 7:10 am

TC wrote:I had considered this, although I would imagine that most phone masts in major cities would have some limited generator capability. I might be wrong about that though, and I do not intend or expect to use my mobile phone as the best means of communication if TSHTF. In a normal blackout though, it might be useful to have the charger, since I've often found that phones run out of power when you need them the most (another reason why they are not very good for SHTF comms).

Also, it gives me a way to keep my iPod charged during a power cut, which if the situation is otherwise peaceful will give me something else to do until the power comes back on. You are also right about having the capability to charge batteries for my torch.
Actually during the blackout in the northeast a few years back - most of the non-telephone-landline networks were almost entirely offline. The cell towers that were working experienced demand far beyond their design specifications, and calls couldn't get through. SMS messaging was more successful, but for the most part communications were severely limited.

I was just pointing out that its best not to rely on electronics if you can help it - since while your electronics will work fine (everyone here is prepared with extra batteries and dry bags), the rest of the world is not so prepared. So while your phone may work, if you're the only one with a working phone left - its not of much use.

All that said, I too keep a battery backup handy for my electronics. Just got a new (birthdays woo!) Li-polymer portable battery backup for small electronics from APC that I can charge any USB device off of.
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Re: Solar recharger and pre-charged NiMH batteries.

Post by Woods Walker » Wed Jul 23, 2008 10:46 pm

Thead updated with new field tests.
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Re: Solar recharger and pre-charged NiMH batteries.

Post by bigfoot » Thu Jul 24, 2008 12:28 am

Thanks for the detailed review! Interesting to see the rebadged Eneloops. I am liking this solar charger setup. :D

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Re: Solar recharger and pre-charged NiMH batteries.

Post by elricfate » Sun Aug 03, 2008 10:15 am

They wouldn't happen to still have those Silva chargers on sale at your Dick's, would they? Heh.

I'm trying to find one for myself, and the only ones I can find are $40+ ...
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Re: Solar recharger and pre-charged NiMH batteries.

Post by mk_ultra » Sun Aug 03, 2008 10:21 am

Very good post ,we have also been switching over to rechargeables and this is some really great info .

Thanks

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Re: Solar recharger and pre-charged NiMH batteries.

Post by Woods Walker » Sun Aug 03, 2008 8:32 pm

mk_ultra wrote:Very good post ,we have also been switching over to rechargeables and this is some really great info .

Thanks

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I think you will like the LSD batteries. True the mAh maybe be lower than standard rechargables however the higher AA (2500+ mAh) cells have rapid self discharge issues. The LSD batteries finally makes rechargables a real option for a BOB. I think all one needs to do is run the cells down once a year if not in use and recharge them.
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Re: Solar recharger and pre-charged NiMH batteries.

Post by eugene » Sun Aug 03, 2008 8:42 pm

I standardized on eneloops early in 2006, between those and decent chargers like the maha's I've been able to reliably switch back to re-chargeables. I had the problem of self discharge as well as well as reduced life due to lower end chargers charging too fast or not properly. I have a total of 64 eneloop batteries in all our gear now and they have passed any test i can throw at them. I've let a set sit for a year then plugged into a radio and they ran as long as a 2500mAh not low self discharge set straight off the charger so don't let the lower rating fool you.
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Re: Solar recharger and pre-charged NiMH batteries.

Post by Coldhaven » Thu Aug 07, 2008 9:21 pm

I recently bought a different kind of solar recharger. It is able to recharge AA, AAA, C, and D batteries. Also it has a wire connector which allows it to recharge other devices. It is smaller than a small tacklebox, light, and seems to be made of some real durable stuff. I've posted it about it on another thread somewhere.

I was sitting in the store, after my solar charger came in the mail, trying to figure which kind of battery I should get. I went for the cheaper Rayovac ones because I have never really had any problems out of their alkaline batteries, and I thought it would be the better buy. Now I am starting to wonder if I should have gotten the Duracell ones. I am planning on discharging them by using them in my next rotation of radio use. Once I have drained them (since they too came pre-powered, but only a little over half way) then I will be able to see how well this solar recharger works. It did well that morning to charge those batteries all the way up.

I looked up about battery memory, and it seems that you can avoid this issue with rechargeables by always draining them as much a possible before recharging them again. If this, in itself, is effective enough then why should I spend another 6 dollars for the same amount of batteries?

Too bad the other solar recharger was not as good. It seemed like a pretty good idea. Maybe it was that they were not peeling the plastic off of it. Try testing it and let us know! I would love to know if it works well. I might buy one to charge other things I have as well.
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Re: Solar recharger and pre-charged NiMH batteries.

Post by elricfate » Thu Aug 07, 2008 9:33 pm

Modern NiMH and Li-Ion batteries have no memory effect.
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Re: Solar recharger and pre-charged NiMH batteries.

Post by Murph » Fri Aug 08, 2008 11:03 am

elricfate wrote:Modern NiMH and Li-Ion batteries have no memory effect.
The above is true. It's the Ni-Cds still have memory effect these days.
Does your BOB at least have: water, basic tools, fire, food, first-aid kit, and shelter?
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Re: Solar recharger and pre-charged NiMH batteries.

Post by eugene » Fri Aug 08, 2008 2:09 pm

Even then the memory effect of nicads is greatly exaggerated, you really only see an issue with low end chargers. Even NiMH I still see some recommending a conditioning charge every 20 cycles or so. Use a good charger like a maha where you can condition, I'm running mine through a conditioning charge every couple years.
Be careful, most solar chargers are poor chargers as far as properly charging the battery.
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Re: Solar recharger and pre-charged NiMH batteries.

Post by eugene » Fri Aug 08, 2008 5:12 pm

Coldhaven wrote:
I was sitting in the store, after my solar charger came in the mail, trying to figure which kind of battery I should get. I went for the cheaper Rayovac ones because I have never really had any problems out of their alkaline batteries, and I thought it would be the better buy. Now I am starting to wonder if I should have gotten the Duracell ones. I am planning on discharging them by using them in my next rotation of radio use. Once I have drained them (since they too came pre-powered, but only a little over half way) then I will be able to see how well this solar recharger works. It did well that morning to charge those batteries all the way up.

Funny you mention rayovac, I just pulled another leaky one out of a kid toy today. I've had several of their alkaline as well as their renewal leak and not to mention their poor chargers were part of the reason i stopped using rechargeables for a couple years. I won't buy rayovac products anymore.
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Re: Solar recharger and pre-charged NiMH batteries.

Post by Coldhaven » Fri Aug 08, 2008 11:46 pm

eugene wrote:
Funny you mention rayovac, I just pulled another leaky one out of a kid toy today. I've had several of their alkaline as well as their renewal leak and not to mention their poor chargers were part of the reason i stopped using rechargeables for a couple years. I won't buy rayovac products anymore.
Don't know what else to say other than I have never had a problem out of them when I have used them. :)

What is a conditioning charge?

Solar may very well be a poor charger, but in the PAW or SHTF it is still better than nothing.
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Re: Solar recharger and pre-charged NiMH batteries.

Post by Woods Walker » Sat Aug 09, 2008 12:03 am

Coldhaven wrote:
eugene wrote:
Funny you mention rayovac, I just pulled another leaky one out of a kid toy today. I've had several of their alkaline as well as their renewal leak and not to mention their poor chargers were part of the reason i stopped using rechargeables for a couple years. I won't buy rayovac products anymore.
Don't know what else to say other than I have never had a problem out of them when I have used them. :)

What is a conditioning charge?

Solar may very well be a poor charger, but in the PAW or SHTF it is still better than nothing.
I have read some good things about the new Rayovac LSD batteries. Don't own any standard NiMH Rayovacs but couldn't see how they would leak. Just not the same as alkaline. My Solar charger seemed to do a good job. Not fast like the 2 hour Energizer charger but about the same as my very cheap older Energizer 11 hour charger. But there is the issue of rain etc. Nothing is perfect.
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