Battery power Charging up your life

PV modules are ideal for charging batteries. The electronics are minimal, and the costs are low because of it.

Leaving dead car batteries behind

Got an old truck, car, or RV that sits around and doesn't get started very often? How about a boat? If they've been giving you problems starting, a solar charger may be a very cheap and effective solution. When a vehicle sits around without being started up for a while, its battery grows weak. If the battery is old, it's even worse.

For $40, you can get a solar battery charger. A PV module plugs in to the cigarette lighter jack, and you lay the module out on the dashboard in the sun. While you're gone, it trickle charges your battery. A solar charger won't overcharge your battery, so you don't have to worry about removing it, even when the vehicle is running. But it probably won't revive a dead battery, although it won't hurt anything to try.

Auto batteries cost around $80. With the $40 solar charger, you get more lifetime, up to 50 percent more, so there's a reasonable payback. But how much is it worth (in peace of mind, not to mention the costs of a tow-truck visit) not to get stranded when you can't get your car started?

Charging your electronics batteries with the sun

Standard, off-the-shelf batteries cost around $0.75 apiece. The cost for 100 throw-away alkaline batteries is $75, plus trips to the store to buy them. And batteries have nasty chemicals, such as lead and acids. You run across an environmental issue with 100 batteries.

Rechargeable batteries cost $4 apiece, and the good ones issue the same charge as a throw-away. A solar charger costs $40, but the charge cycles are free. You can charge a good rechargeable battery over 500 times. (Note that the number 500 applies to devices like remote controllers, which don't take much current; if you're drawing a lot of current and running the batteries down to their minimum, expect more on the order of 200 times.)

The cost for a rechargeable battery and 100 charges is $44, which is already a better deal than alkaline. But here's the best part: The cost to charge the next 100 times is zero. And the next, and the next. After 500 free charges, you may need a new battery, but that's only $4.

Alkalines cost about 20 times as much as quality rechargeables to operate. (Cheap rechargeables have much worse payback, so avoid them.) Spend some extra money on quality batteries, and it's a good investment.

The time to charge batteries (most devices charge four at a time) depends on how much direct sunlight you receive. Setting up near a window is often good enough if you don't need a lot of batteries. If you use a lot, you need direct sunlight. Kitchen bay windows are convenient candidates.

Keep a reserve of charged batteries. Buy twice as many as you need — it doesn't cost more because you go twice as long before you need to buy new batteries.

DIY Battery Repair

DIY Battery Repair

You can now recondition your old batteries at home and bring them back to 100 percent of their working condition. This guide will enable you to revive All NiCd batteries regardless of brand and battery volt. It will give you the required information on how to re-energize and revive your NiCd batteries through the RVD process, charging method and charging guidelines.

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