We’re in love with portable devices and this is a digital world. Digital cameras (SLR and point & shoot) use 4 AA batteries. Digital voice and music recorders use them. Wireless headphones use them. Guitars, keyboards, effect pedals, clock radios… the list is obscenely long, and that’s not even counting all of the battery-operated toys the kids just got for over the holidays and for their birthdays.
Most of us would be broke if we bought high-quality one-use Alkaline batteries for these devices, so we’ve moved to Rechargeable batteries. Ah, nirvana! (No, not the band.) We’re in heaven! For the first few weeks, it’s magic. Just stick ‘em back in the handy-dandy recharger, and you’re set… if you’re one of the lucky ones. Sometimes, they never even take a charge the first time. Returning them to the store may gain you more hassles as they examine everything suspiciously, making sure you’re not pulling a fast one. Eventually you return with a new pack of batteries, ready to be elated again, only to find that these are duds too! What gives?
What gives, mostly, is the science in the batteries you’ve bought. Lithium Ion batteries are used in laptops, but you won’t find AA and AAA LiIon batteries. They’re still a bit too dangerous to let the consumer play with them. So mostly what we can buy are Nickel-Cadmium (NiCad) rechargeables. These store power in crystals. As the crystals are depleted, they become smaller. But if you don’t discharge them all the way, they regrow over the old stones while being recharged. This is why they sometimes don’t last as long as they used to. There are other things that can happen to them, (including overheating on cheap chargers) but we’re trying to keep it simple here.
Discharging them completely (sometimes called cycling or re-cycling) is one way to try to regain the other hundreds of charges the manufacture has promised. Few chargers will give you that option (and none of the cheap “plug it in the wall” types. The Fujifilm S5600 camera has that utility, but you’ll have to hunt for it… or explore a bit via Google and find out how to put a resistor to them, if you’re handy that way. Once discharged, so long as there’s SOME trace of current potential left, they should be given a full charge and be right as rain, or nearly so.
Sometimes they need a kick in the crystals to get their lungs started. That’s most often performed by allowing a paperclip to join the two positive terminals together (though we cannot recommend or endorse any such method, of course.) The lawyers make us say that, but really, if you manipulate the batteries, you do so at your own risk. Once again, having cleared the battery, it should be up for some more charges.
The problem is two-fold. First there’s the batteries themselves, which are often an exercise in marketing misinformation. Yes, perhaps they spec at twice the milliamps that they used to, but that doesn’t mean they MAINTAIN that charge for very long at all. Some only go days or hours. And part of that MIGHT be attributed to the second aspect, which is the charger. As a general rule, poor chargers do a poor job. You’ll often find them bundled with batteries at the checkout area for $10-20. Fair warning: It’s in their best interest that the charger NOT safeguard your batteries. Once invested, you’re more likely to buy their brand again, putting more batteries into the same irreverent unit. Not all manufacturers are that unscrupulous, but if you get a short lifespan or hot batteries, or both, it would be unwise to put more NiCad cells in that charger.
NiCads are best charged slowly. Charging them rapidly can be done, but burns away a lot of the battery’s life expectancy — and not consistently either. Then you’re left trying to figure out which of the four cells is bad. Unless you’re truly in urgent need, you’re far better off to buy an extra set of batteries and keep them at ready, always doing a slow overnight charge instead. See the next paragraph for a solutions to all these problems.
There may not be any such thing as a free lunch, but there are some reliable, quality chargers. One such option is the La Crosse Technology BC-900 AlphaPower Battery Charger. It can take over on automatic, or you can monitor the batteries’ status on various factors via the LED displays — one for each cell. This unit features 4 modes (charge, discharge, recharge and test) Four AA nad four AAA batteries and a carrying case are also included, so at about $40, you’re getting a nifty gadget, eight more batteries and adding hundreds of charges to your existing batteries!
There is another model for a few dollars less, but it doesn’t include the batteries or case: La Crosse Technology BC700 Alpha Power Battery Charger. Like the BC-900, this model also performs in 4 modes (charge, discharge, recharge and test) but we recommend taking advantage of the package deal.
Another important factor is the quality of the batteries themselves. Of course, we always prefer Green companies, and so here we can recommend Green Batteries.
We’d also take this opportunity to remind you of the solar-powered battery chargers which we’ve written up before and highly recommend.
Summing up, while rechargeable batteries are a great innovation and good news for the planet, slow-charging will let your batteries last a lot longer. Fully discharging them is important, and investing in a quality charger can save a bundle! Thanks for doing your part in Going Green!
If you’ve got a cell phone, for example, chances are pretty good that you’ve been on the phone during a busy day and gotten that pestering BEEP! which informs you that you’re almost out of battery power. You try to talk faster, try to get a word in edgewise, to warn the caller, but before you can finish the call — nothing. Dead. Gone. Run to the charger in the car? Run to the charger in the house? And if you’re out camping, or don’t care to be attached to the car battery? Leaving the car running to recharge your phone just isn’t always possible, even if it wasn’t expensive and wasteful and polluting.
Brunton has your solution. Small solar chargers, designed to be flexible and portable, can recharge your phone, your MP3 player, your iPod, your digital camera, portable GPS, camcorder… When you think of all the gadgets and devices we have these days, it’s pretty crazy to NOT have a solar powered charger along. Even if the sky is overcast, these Brunton chargers will still be able to charge your devices back up.
There are several models. Some can even be linked together to make a more powerful array and recharge your toys and tools faster. One of them is specifically designed to keep your iPod powered up all vacation long! Go over to ChangeForGreen.com and check out the solar chargers. Make your energy solutions Green!
Video: Macworld portable solar laptop chargers
In a market that’s becoming increasingly Green, and a world that’s quickly realizing they’ll need to keep up the good work to stay on top, Solio’s innovative designs continue to capture the leading edge of their market. For the price of a OEM laptop charger, you can get one of Solio’s USB-based hybrid chargers that will capture electricity form the sun’s rays, or from a wall outlet, and keep it for you in a battery that lasts up to a full year! Some of these clever compact designs have fold-away solar panels, making a small football when they’re stored away. Solio even offers color options — how cool is that?!
You do have other choices besides their Classic solar battery charger. The H1000 is fitted into a neat concise case that’s just under 2″ wide by 8″ long, and integrated into into a caribiner and cable assembly that can be recharged with the sun or a USB port attached to your computer. Every Solio hybrid charger comes with a variety of interchangeable tips and interfaces, with other optional connectors as well, making them some of the top rated portable solar laptop chargers.
Clever as that is, innovative though it may be, that doesn’t give you the term “leading edge” in our book. But their new Magnesium Edition offers increased power, more efficient solar cells, and packs it all into a magnesium case that’s a mere 1.5″ wide by 4″ long! Traditional wall-mount battery chargers are at LEAST that big!
With these compact solar choices available to you, there’s no need to worry about bringing extra batteries, running the car and an inverter, or any of the other ecologically compromised second choices. Solio solar battery chargers continues to be on the leading edge of the Going Green revolution! Read more
That’s what my grandpa used to say. Grandpa was a pretty smart guy, too. Didn’t much matter what it was, he’d take it apart, find the problem, and fix it. A lot of the time, it didn’t even need a new part. It just needed a bit of maintenance, some attention, to be working right again.
What does this have to do with Going Green? When we talk about home consumption, there are a lot of things that waste energy, sucking up electricity needlessly. But which ones, and how much? Unless you want t go turning everything off, unplugging it all all of the time, you’re going to have to figure out where the leaks are. That’s where Power Monitors come in.
We took a look at some of the monitors available from ChangeForGreen.com. It is really amazing how much information these things can gather! Hook up the monitor to any 3-prong outlet, plug your appliance to it, and you’ll quickly know exactly how much that device is costing you — both in watts and dollars. When you identify an item that uses a lot of phantom power, you can decide if it’s worth it to you to unplug it and reset the clock, or just leave it plugged in all the time. You can also find out just how much those new florescent bulbs are actually saving you’re getting from them, and how much you really do love having them around!
They’ve got one model which monitors your entire household’s consumption. This one features a nifty backlit blue screen, and works on a remote, so you can be sitting in the living room and tell what your usage is costing you! They’re all designed so that they don’t interfere with the signal, and are accurate to about 5%.
Check out these power monitors from ChangeForGreen.com. After all, you can’t fix your house’s energy consumption if you don’t know what’s broken!
Our country is essentially quite obsessed with a whole host of different topics ranging from art and science to history and freedom. But the one thing that it appears us Americans love more than anything else is gadgets. Sure, we may also be quite addicted to oil, but our biggest weakness over all as a nation is gadgets. Every time some new, interesting and overpriced gadget comes out on the market, if we can think of a single helpful use for it, we absolutely must have it. If it peels an onion, slices a tomato, cores an apple, plays a tone, solves a problem or looks shiny and exciting, you probably have brought one home in the past. In fact, it may be gadgets that is making solar power such a hot topic as of late. Why? Because solar energy is becoming a real alternative as a source of energy for our favorite past time: Gadgets. Read more