View Full Version : Rechargeable 6V battery for emergency lighting
07-08-2009, 01:29 PM
I lose power for at least a few hours 1 to 4 times a year, with up to a year in between. Last week I lost power for 9 hours, which led me to want to upgrade from flashlights to something nicer. I ordered four of these table lamps (http://doitbest.com/Camping+lanterns+and+accessories-Garrity-model-R200GST04N-doitbest-sku-827959.dib). I don't care if they're bright enough to read or whatever; I just don't want to be in pitch black dark. The two basic choices for cheap battery powered table lamps are one 6v spring top battery or four D batteries. I went with 6v because I don't want to have to deal with reams of D batteries.
"Household" rechargeable batteries (AA, AAA, C, D) are really only useful for high activity purposes, based on what is explained here (http://www.greenbatteries.com/nibafa.html) and here (http://www.greenbatteries.com/aa-battery-faqs.html). Charging your batteries and then throwing them in a drawer for a year seems to be a futile enterprise.
As far as I can tell, rechargeable 6v batteries aren't NiMH or NiCAD or Lithium Ion, but SLA. This pdf (http://www.electusdistribution.com.au/images_uploaded/recharge.pdf) / html (http://220.127.116.11/search?q=cache:zgGgvHFYRQsJ:www.electusdistribution.com.au/images_uploaded/recharge.pdf+rechargeable+batteries+pdf+html+SLA&cd=7&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us) states the following: (bolding mine)SLA batteries
Sealed lead-acid batteries are a development of the familiar ‘flooded’ lead-acid battery used for many years in cars and trucks. This is the oldest type of secondary battery, developed nearly 150 years ago by French physician Gaston Planté. It has a positive electrode of lead oxide, a negative electrode of porous metallic lead and sulphuric acid as the electrolyte.
The SLA form uses a gel-type electrolyte rather than a liquid, and electrodes made from lead alloys designed so that during charging, it normally never reaches the stage where gas is generated. This allows it to be sealed (apart from a safety valve), and hence able to be used in almost any position. Since water is not lost the SLA also requires little maintenance, but on the other hand since it’s neverfully charged (in the theoretical sense) it tends to have a relatively poor energy density — the lowest for all of the sealed rechargeables. As SLAs are also the cheapest rechargeables, this means that they’re best suited for applications where low-cost power storage is the main consideration, and bulk/weight is not a problem.
SLAs have the lowest self-discharge rate of any of the rechargeables (about 5% per month). They do not suffer from the memory effect displayed by NiCads, and perform well with shallow cycling. In fact they tend to prefer it to deep cycling, although they perform quite well with intermittent heavy discharging. They can be ‘float’ charged for long periods without adverse effect, which makes them well suited for applications where power is only needed for brief periods, emergency situations etc. Examples are UPSs and emergency lighting systems.Though I don't understand most of that pdf file, the highlighted bits sound good to me.
What do they mean by a "float" charge? Does that mean I need to have the 6v batteries constantly recharging all year waiting for a power outage, or can I just take them out and recharge them every 6 months or so without having to drain them first?
Also, what the heck recharger would I need for this? I found this (http://www.zbattery.com/6V-1-3Amp-3-Stage-SLA-Charger) and this (http://www.batterymart.com/p-6v-500ma-sealed-lead-acid-battery-charger-2.html), but can't really tell if those are what I need. Also, why does the second one show an "Acid Neutralizing Mat" in the "Related Items" section? That's unnerving.
I don't understand any of this. Can someone cut through the confusion and give me some clear answers as to whether or not I should bother with rechargeable 6v batteries for my emergency lighting? If I did use rechargeable SLAs, how long can I leave them in a drawer before recharging them, and do I have to drain them first? And do I need an acid neutralization mat?!
Also, if you could recommend a recharger to use that'd be super. The two I linked are the right price: under $20. Will they work with any 6v spring top SLA rechargeable?
07-08-2009, 05:49 PM
Dude, it's a miniature car battery. It uses sulfuric acid, so a mat's not a bad idea; it can run down on storage, so float charging is a good idea -- a run-down lead-acid battery can be difficult to recharge.
The idea with a device like this, I think, is that you'll leave the batteries in place in the lamp, charging all the time, and when the power goes out, you can just turn on the lamp.
Me, I have oil lamps for power outage -- they're purty.
07-09-2009, 12:05 AM
Rechargeable "household" batteries are not a good idea. They loose their charge fairly quickly even when not used and don't have much use time.
The SLA battery is your best bet. As mentioned these are like miniature car batteries (think motorcycle battery) and will hold a charge for months.
The easiest option is get a UPS (interruptible power supply) from your local computer shop. A UPS is basically an emergency power supply keeping it plugged in all the time will keep the SLA battery charged up and it will switch to standby when there is a power cut.
UPS is mainly for computers, it will protect your computer by soothing spikes or drops in the power line and give you time to safely shut down the computer in the case of a power out. It can of course be used for standby lighting, just plug a normal light bulb in it. Doesn't work well with fluorescent lamps.
Another alternative is to get a (6V) car battery and charger that you can use with the 6v lamps you have bought. Put the battery in a plastic bowl, box or tray (nothing airtight) somewhere out of the way and charge it up every few months.
07-09-2009, 01:44 AM
I would use 12V LED lights and then get a small car battery so you can charge it off your car. It will keep you enlightend for days.
07-09-2009, 07:37 AM
In general, it's not a good idea to have emergency lighting that uses incandescent bulbs. LEDs are much more efficient. There are some exceptions, such as needing a flashlight with a good throw, but even that attribute is available, for a price at least.
I'd suggest visiting the Candle Power Forums (http://www.candlepowerforums.com/vb/) and looking around on that site. The folks there are for the most part about as knowledgeable about portable lighting as you're likely to find. At least for free. I don't recall if there's a sub forum devoted to emergency lighing.
I'll mention that many LED flashlight have adjustible output and will run for several nights on one or two AA cells. And of course lights that use the lithium CR123A cells have shelf life measured in years with little power loss. If it's really dark, it doesn't take more than 10 lumens or so to make it a lot nicer. And that's not really much light. An LED headlamp is handy for reading or even home repairs. I have one with adjustable output that works well.
07-09-2009, 08:44 AM
This is the type of battery your talking about:
I've got one in my house, as do many other people with alarm systems. Backup for when the power goes out. They do not like to be deep discharged for long periods, because they won't recharge back (just ask all the homeowners that had to buy a new one after hurricane Ike, including me). Mine is continuously charged when hooked up. Its sealed, and mine has never leaked, although it is stored upright (electrodes on top), and has never been laid on its side.
07-09-2009, 08:53 AM
I lose power for at least a few hours 1 to 4 times a year, with up to a year in between.
That used to happen to me when I was in L.A. The outages coincided with rain, so I assume people crashed into a transformer or that the transformer was faulty and susceptible to moisture. I bought a Coleman lantern so that I wouldn't be in the dark and I could read. Good insurance. Once I had the lantern, the power outages stopped happening.
07-09-2009, 10:36 AM
This is the type of battery your talking about:
No, those aren't spring tops. I'm asking about something like this:
07-09-2009, 10:57 AM
In general, it's not a good idea to have emergency lighting that uses incandescent bulbs. LEDs are much more efficient. There are some exceptions, such as needing a flashlight with a good throw, but even that attribute is available, for a price at least.During last week's blackout I had plenty of time to consider just how much I dislike the harsh glare of flashlights and the flourescent camping light I currently use. I decided that what I really want are battery powered soft-light table lamps, which is exactly what the $10 lamps linked in the OP appear to be.
I'd rather the whole enterprise stay under $100, meaning I have around $35 to play with after ordering four of those lamps. (Plus shipping and four extra replacement bulbs.)
With batteries, it's the shipping that kills you. I can find four non-rechargeable 6v batteries for around $17 including shipping, meaning I could get eight for $35 and call it day. How long would those 8 last me? I haven't a clue. Seems that the best price for rechargeable 6v is around $10 each, plus if those chargers I linked are actually viable, (nobody answered that part,) then around $20 for a charger.
Is a one-time $80 cost for four rechargeables going to save me money in the long run, or will it take the better part of a decade to break even? And will it also just cause more aggravation by having to keep charging them every few months while (apparently) worrying about acid leaks?
These are the questions I don't have any answers for.
07-09-2009, 11:15 AM
There are several lights on this page (http://www.energizer.com/products/flashlights/preparedness/Pages/emergency-lights.aspx) would appear to be just what you're looking for. The "Multi Function lantern" or the folding LED lantern would appear to be good choices. They use three, or four D Cells. If you use Lithium cells the shelf life would be at least a year or two.
The Sanyo Eneloop (http://www.eneloop.info/) batteries might be a good choice. They come pre charged when you buy them and have a very low self discharge rate. Note that they are AA or AAA sized. But I bought a kit at Costco that included four AA size and two AAA size. Also included sleeves to allow use in C sized and D sized equipment and a charger. But for emergency lighting I'd really consider Lithium or Alkiline primary cells rather than rechargeables.
07-09-2009, 11:59 AM
No, those aren't spring tops. I'm asking about something like this:
Same thing, just different terminals. 5000 maH = 5aH. The more the better. Just don't discharge the battery completely.
07-09-2009, 12:10 PM
There are several lights on this page (http://www.energizer.com/products/flashlights/preparedness/Pages/emergency-lights.aspx) would appear to be just what you're looking for. The "Multi Function lantern" or the folding LED lantern would appear to be good choices. They use three, or four D Cells. If you use Lithium cells the shelf life would be at least a year or two.Those are probably a better choice for a multiple-day blackouts like we in the northeast suffered a few years back. (From Detroit to Boston, IIRC.) The downsides are that I'd much prefer 6v to four D cell batteries both for cost and because dealing with a ton of D batteries is a pain in the butt.
I can't find prices anywhere on that site, but a cursory googling seems to put the price on those at $30 and up. I suppose if they light up an entire room by themselves the price is worth it, but I worry that the light itself will be harsh, plus the harsh shadows you get when there's only one light source in a room.
When the lamps from the OP arrive tomorrow I'll chack them out and see how much light they put out, then report back here whether I think they ended up being what I was looking for or not. They have a 30-day return policy, so if they're just too dim I'll send them back and look into LED lanterns like the ones you linked.But for emergency lighting I'd really consider Lithium or Alkiline primary cells rather than rechargeables.I came to the same conclusion. The last thing I want to do is have to remember to recharge my emergency lighting batteries a couple times a year. It's easy to forget, and then you're right back in the dark. Plus, with primary cells I don't have to worry about acid leaks while recharging, which is something I'd pay a few dollars to avoid. And I'm not convinced that the rechargeables will ever end up being cheaper, so adding both expense and maintenance requirements doesn't strike me as a good solution.
Having to find a permanent station for keeping a half dozen batteries always recharging would be a dealbreaker.
07-09-2009, 12:33 PM
In a commercial setting, rechargeable lights and batteries are more practical because you can have a maintenance schedule where someone is assigned to "change the batteries in the emergency lights and put the old ones on the charger on the 15th of each month". But that rarely happens in a home setting. At least not at my house! It's hard enough to keep toilet tissue in stock!
The light from the folding lantern I linked to is kind of nice because it's furnished by eight LEDS in two strips of four. Not a bad light at all. Some of my LED flashlights can have the reflector assembly removed and stood on their end like a candle. They are good for general lighting so you can find the bathroom and such.
The Target stores have carried that one in the past.
07-09-2009, 02:08 PM
I wanted something similar and here's what I did.
I got a computer UPS made by APC from Office Depot. It was about $40. Inside it has a 12V SLA battery that it uses. I wired a car cigarette lighter socket to the terminals of the battery. I use the box as a real UPS that my computer plugs into. When the power goes out, I can plug in a 12V flashlight. The only disadvantage is that if my computer is on when the power goes out, the UPS will get quickly drained.
07-11-2009, 12:21 AM
I wired...Way out of my league.
So the lamps arrived today. While it isn't exactly what I hoped for, I believe it's as good as the market offers for what I wanted.
Because I experience "frequent" short duration outages, 6v heavy duty batteries are an ideal power source. As opposed to alkaline, which are more expensive, or rechargeable, which are both more expensive and more of a hassle. Also because the power outages are usually only a few hours at most, I have the luxury of opting for the softer light of incandescent bulbs. If I were preparing for a multi-day outage, the harsh glare of LED would be the only viable solution.
As I said in the OP, I ordered four of these lamps (http://doitbest.com/Camping+lanterns+and+accessories-Garrity-model-R200GST04N-doitbest-sku-827959.dib) plus four replacement bulbs (http://doitbest.com/Flashlight+Bulbs-Garrity-model-B651GST12N-doitbest-sku-801680.dib), which arrived today. I also ordered ten 6v batteries from here (http://www.dorcydirect.com/p-136-41-0800-6-volt-spring-top-super-heavy-duty-battery.aspx). (I have a bunch of flashlights that use 6v batteries as well.) Including shipping, the lamps and bulbs cost $65 and the batteries cost $36, so all told I pretty much stayed within my $100 target.
I had fun trying them out once the sun went down. They put out between 2 and 3 times the light of my cigarette lighter, so my best guess is around 2.5 candle-power each. A goodly size room -- figure 20x12 -- needs 3 or 4 of these little guys. They're particularly well suited to leaving one in the bathroom or for using as a night light.
They're sturdy beyond belief; the tonka toys of the lantern world. It feels like you could toss one down a flight of concrete stairs into a pool of water and the lamp itself would be totally fine afterward. (Might need a new bulb, though.)
One of the original bulbs burned out within minutes, so if anyone goes this route, definitely get extras right from the start. The linked replacement bulbs are frosted, so their light is even softer though a bit dimmer.
Since my stated goal was to have soft light in lamp form for short durations multiple times a year, I'm calling this solution ideal. I may get another two lamps, though, since they aren't quite as bright as I'd like. They're basically just $15 candles (on steroids!) when you figure in the battery and extra bulb.
07-15-2009, 09:31 PM
While poking around on the Dorcy site -- the 6v battery link -- I found these (http://www.dorcydirect.com/p-278-41-1018-4aa-led-table-lamp.aspx) battery powered LED table lamps. I went ahead and ordered two because they're so darn cheap, figuring if they're better than the incandescents I can return those and go all LED.
The LED lamps are way cheaper to run. The bulbs last forever, and instead of one 6v battery (~$3.60) they only need four AA batteries. (~$2 if you get the 24 pack here (http://www.dorcydirect.com/p-131-41-1631-24-packed-tray-aa-mastercell-akaline-batteries.aspx).) Not only that, but the LED lamp lasts 70 hours on one set of batteries compared to 40 hours for the incandescent.
Don't make me turn in my man card, but damn if those little LED lamps aren't the cutest little lamps ever. They're tiny; the linked picture is almost actual size. The incandescents are enormous by comparison, though they definitely aren't large. (When you order the LED lamps they default to red, but I wrote in the comments that I'd prefer yellow and they sent me the yellow ones.)
The LED lamps not only last twice as long for half the price, but they're also significantly brighter. Maybe 2-3 times as bright.
BUT, and it's a big "but", the light quality is extremely harsh. If I had to sit in a room with only those LED lamps for hours on end I'd go crazy. The incandescent lamps are a million times nicer. It's basically the difference between the harsh glare of overhead flourescent lighting (the long tubes, not swirly compact bulbs) versus the soft glow of candles or a campfire.
In my opinion, that makes the incandescents still the clear winner. But since this is GQ, I wanted to be sure to link to the LED lamps in case anyone wanted them for their efficiency. I'm keeping the two I bought mainly because they're so cheap, but also because they're perfect for bathroom / night-light duty during a power outage. Their efficiency means I can leave them running in a room I'm not in or not awake for without the guilt of wasting 6v batteries or incandescent bulbs.
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