I got the charger yesterday and started putting it through its paces right away. My oldest batteries are 1500 mah. My newest came with a cheap charger that was free with my flashlight. I picked two from each of those sets. Time to put the testing regimen into action.
I have worked on 4 old generic green 1500 mah cells that came with my Archos and therefore are 7 years old. I got capacities from 571 to 1220, so all over the place. I may throw away the weaker of those. I have 4 more, so we’ll see how it goes. It would be nice to have a set of 4 strong ones. Doing a Refresh/Analyze cycle actually seemed to hurt a couple of them.
I wrote all of this up based on reading up on the Maha C9000 charger, but before I got it. Once I start getting some results, I will post that later. I have a collection of 40 NiMH batteries ranging in age from 9 years to just a couple of weeks. They all take a charge on my old charger, but some are pretty weak. A couple of sets that Susan used in a quick charger are pretty damaged and don’t hold a charge for very long at all. I was interested to see what kind of results I could get in reviving them with my new charger, the Maha MH-C9000.
If a battery hasn’t been used for 3 months or has just been purchased, Maha recommends starting out with break-in cycle. This cycle is based on some international standard used to measure the capacity of batteries.
In 2005 Sanyo introduced Eneloop NiMH rechargeable batteries. Part of their marketing was that they are already charged when you get them and you can use them right away. The reason for this is they charge them at the factory and that the batteries have “low self discharge” (LSD), in other words it takes them much longer to lose a charge sitting on a shelf than other NiMH batteries. Sanyo claimed that Eneloops will retain 85% of their charge after a year. I bought some last year and have no reason to doubt the claim. I have two HP calculators that eat through AAA batteries so I wanted something rechargeable but also something with a fairly long shelf life. I thought it would be good to have a set for my Archos Jukebox too since I have been charging its batteries separately instead of by using the AC adapter it came with (gets very hot and can’t be good for the batteries).
In 2002 I researched and bought a good battery charger called the Maha C-204F. It only does AAA and AA batteries, but it charges them fairly slowly which means they are charged more fully and with less heat (damaging) than the fast chargers that you get at regular stores. I had to order the Maha (billed as “the mother of all chargers”) from Thomas Distributing because they aren’t easy to find. It worked great for a couple of years before one side of it went bad and I could only charge two batteries at a time instead of four. Eventually I bought another one just like it from Thomas in 2006. I burned out its AC adapter in Ireland when I plugged it in to a 220 socket, but I had the old adapter, so no problem.
After my dealings with flashlights lately, I also learned some about batteries and particularly NiMH rechargeable batteries. I have been using them for a long time and even got some Sanyo Eneloops in 2008 to use in my calculator because they hold 85% of their charge after year whereas regular NiMH batteries can easily lose 10% per month. After three months of no use you really need to recharge regular NiMH batteries because if they get too low it can damage them. I got some pretty high capacity NiMH batteries to go with Susan’s camera a few years ago and they were toast after maybe a year. They just never held a charge very well. Part of that may have been not adequately breaking them in by charging them and then using them (not all the way down) a few times.
After upgrading my three mini Maglites and my Snakelight, I realized that what I really needed was a flashlight that could be really bright, but that you could also make not as bright if that was what was needed or if you just wanted the battery to last longer. Maglite actually has a multi-mode LED mini that you can find and which I wrote about more in my Maglite post.
After doing research on flashlights, I thought it would be neat to get a solar battery charger. Then you could run the flashlights for free! I have links to some solar products on my iPod battery web page. I found a couple of posts on Candlepower Forums about solar chargers and the experts there seemed to wonder what the point is. A decent solar charger will cost nearly $100 which will buy a lot of batteries. If you are camping then you would have to carry the solar charger with you and then leave it in the sun while it charged batteries. Why not carry some extra batteries? Even the better ones will take all day to fully charge 4 AA batteries and that would require full sun and probably moving the solar panel to get the best exposure throughout the day. Will you have time for that?
It is still intriguing. Some of the solar chargers have an internal battery that the panel charges and then you plug your device (iPod, Palm, phone, or battery charger) into a USB jack on the charger (at night I guess) and get juice from the internal battery. That’s good because you don’t want to leave your batteries or your iPod in the sun all day.
One of the better ones may be a folding one made by Powerfilm. The key is to get plenty of area and this one folds out to get extra coverage, but can be folded up to about the size of a wallet. The advantage and problem is that it uses thin film solar cells which won’t crack like the glass ones, but are not as efficient either (so it needs more area). I couldn’t find a whole lot on user experience for these things. Most of the other ones I’ve seen have much less area but are using more efficient solar cells. Some of them are clearly junk and might require several days of sun just to charge a few AA batteries.
The only other use would be for a prolonged power outage, but even then I have a battery charger that can run off of the car lighter and I could probably charge batteries at work and bring them home. Now if the power grid fails for some reason, then it might be nice to have a solar charger, but if that is the case then I might have bigger worries than if my iPod or flashlight will work.
After writing my last entry where I upgraded my Snakelight with a LED bulb that isn’t brighter but stands to last much longer on a charge, I did some more research (mostly at Candlepower Forums. It is crazy how much information is out there on flashlights. And it’s hard not to get caught up as people talk about new technology and fantastically bright flashlights. Also, you have to sort through a lot of posts some of which have outdated information and of course aren’t going to tell you about what the current state of the art is (until you figure out what to look for).
I have two mini Maglite flashlights that use 2 AA batteries (and a third that uses 2 AAA batteries). They are decent on new alkalines but pretty pathetic using rechargeable NiMH batteries which have more capacity but a lower voltage. They now have LED versions available for more more money ($19 at Amazon, $24 at Walmart). I thought about getting one of those but then passed. Also, in 2009 Maglite introduced brighter LED “multi-mode” flashlights that let you use different brightness levels, but these are not easy to find yet: my Home Depot has them (about $22), but not Target or Walmart. The multi-mode miniMag has two brightness levels (in addition to a flashing mode and an SOS mode) with the brighter mode being about 90 lumens.
The LED Mini Maglite is brighter than the old incandescent versions (which are less than $8), but there are upgrades that are even brighter. The Snakelight upgrade was made by Nite-ize and they make upgrades for Maglites too (as does Maglite). But that one gets poor marks too. Then there is a company called Terralux that makes upgrades. They are harder to find, but they have one version that is definitely brighter called a TLE-5 (using a Luxeon 3 LED) and another that is twice as bright as that called the TLE-5EX. The TLE-5 uses a Luxeon LED while the 5EX uses a Cree XR-E LED (though it has used Luxeon K2 and Seoul emitters in the past, so it’s hard to keep the information straight). They claim the 5EX is 140 lumens vs. maybe 10 for the incandescent bulbs.
Anyway, I got the upgrade in the mail today. It didn’t fit in my older Minimag (so old it says Brinkmann instead of Mini Maglite on it; later on I was able to sand down the edges exposing the aluminum base of the upgrade and I got it to fit), so that one will just have to go without an upgrade. But in my newer one, wow! It is really bright. You can’t look at it without probably damaging your eyes. It’s like a small spotlight. I’m very impressed. People say that because it gets very hot that it will dim some after a few minutes of use. Even on a fairly marginal rechargeable batteries it is just as bright. At 3 watts it would only last a couple of hours on a set of good batteries, but that is about the same as the original bulb which is much, much dimmer.
Here is a very informative review with tons of pictures of the TLE-5EX upgrade. They measure the light as being 16 times brighter than the original bulb.
A couple of weeks ago some bad storms blew through and my power was off for two nights. I had rechargeable batteries charged up, so I had two mini Maglites in candle mode (where you screw the lens part off) and also my Versapak Snakelight. The Snakelight is nice and bright (essentially it’s just a regular flashlight) but I thought it would be nice if they made a Snakelight with LED bulbs. Of course it would be nice if it was Versapak too, but they’re not making Versapak stuff anymore (not really true; I saw a Versapak screwdriver and batteries, including gold ones at Walmart later on). I looked and found nothing.
Tonight I was at Fry’s and saw some LED flashlights and I wondered if there would be a way to hack a Snakelight by taking a LED bulb and fitting it in to where the regular bulb goes. As I kept looking I found there were kits where you could upgrade a Maglite to LED. And then I found a generic LED upgrade that is just a bulb in the conventional flashlight bulb shape, but LED. It didn’t occur to me that it would be that simple (plus I’ve seen some Maglites with 3 LED’s which means the whole head is different). While the Maglite upgrades claimed to be brighter (and one added a strobe function), the generic upgrade only offered 5 times the battery life. Plus I don’t think LED’s ever burn out though I’ve had the Snakelight for 10 years and it hasn’t burned out yet. It was $8.99 but I wanted to try it anyway. A similar product is at Amazon for more money in a package that claims the light is brighter (it is a different bulb and really is brighter; see comment below). They also have the Maglite and other upgrades.
I brought it home, popped it in and turned on the switch. It is a much whiter (kind of blue) light, but I don’t think it is any brighter. I can’t say how much longer it stays bright on a charge, but if the old bulb would burn for two hours, this should burn for 10 which is pretty close to all night.
Tropicana is having a promotion lately where you can enter a code off of a carton of orange juice and save 100 square feet of rainforest. Publix had a good deal on orange juice plus there was a coupon for $1 off two half gallons, so I stocked up today (no Trop50 for me!). I entered my codes and am now up to 1300 square feet. The website has a page of Top Rescuers. Of course I’m nowhere close, but I was surprised to see that the top team is the US Air Force Academy cadets with 53,600 square feet (an acre is 43,560). Second has 50,800 and third is quite distant at 13,300. But even the cadets pale in comparison to Brendan of Franklin, Massachusetts who has saved 172,800 square feet. If the academy were an individual, they would come in 4th. The total saved so far is 35 million square feet.
Tropicana Top Rescuers
I was looking through Time magazine’s photo essay on Obama behind the scenes at the White House and saw this picture of the president with his aides.
He’s wearing the same socks as me! Several years ago I decided that instead of trying to match up socks, I would just buy a bunch of one kind of sock and that way I wouldn’t have to match them up or worry about losing one. So I have a whole drawer full of this kind of sock. You can’t tell it from the online picture, but from the picture in the magazine I was able to tell further that this is an earlier version of the sock that you can’t get anymore (so don’t bother trying, Jeb). I went to replenish my supply of socks recently and wound up with similar Nike footies, but they are not quite the same. Now I am back to two kinds of socks, but even so I only have to pull out three socks to ensure a match.
Also, I have to say that Obama made yet another great decision in picking this particular sock (though maybe Michelle picked them out; they’re not very expensive). Although Dad called any sock of that style “sissy socks,” they are comfortable and they have lasted a long time.