Emergency Power for Radio Communications
When the power goes out, will you be able to continue using your ham radio?
If you have a small handheld radio like the Baofeng UV-5R or other small radio, it’s good to have a few spare batteries. If your power outage lasts more than a few hours or days, you’ll also want to have the ability to recharge your batteries. This works with the Baofeng radios; you’ll need to check the voltage requirement for other radios. This can also be really helpful if you find yourself in the field without access to AC power and need to recharge your portable radio.
My goto portable power source to recharge my radio when I don’t have access to AC power comes by using a small rechargeable Lithium Ion battery pack. I can plug my external battery into the Baofeng battery cradle using the BaoFeng USB Power USB Cable that ups the battery output voltage from 5V to 10V required on the battery charger.
The one I carry in my EVC Comms bag is the Blackweb BWA17WI028 Slim Portable Battery 6000mah. Sadly, this particular unit may no longer be available on Amazon but there are many good alternatives you can find. Apparently Blackweb is a Walmart brand and may be available in their stores. It has two USB ouput ports so I can charge my radio battery and cell phone at the same time. You’ll use the Micro-USB port to charge the battery from an AC source.
Another one I carry is the 30,000mAh, Dualpow Portable Dual USB Solar Battery Charger External Battery Pack. What I like about this unit is that I can also recharge it using the built in solar panel. It is slow to charge this way, but in a grid down scenario it gives me another option to power my devices.
Besides being able to recharge my handheld radio battery, these portable power banks can also be used to get power to my cell phone, iPad and tablet. It can also recharge batteries for a flashlight or other small device that uses rechargeable AA or AAA batteries. Simply connect a charging cable and device to the USB ports.
Another useful tool in by go bag or to throw into my cars glove box is an Anker 24W Dual USB cigarette lighter adapter. This gives me yet another option to tap into my cars battery to charge my devices. It has two USB ports and can charge up to 4.8 amps or 2.4 amps per port.
Speaking of rechargeable batteries, I’ve been very happy with the Panasonic BK-3MCCA eneloop AA 2100 Cycle Ni-MH Rechargeable Batteries that maintain up to 70% of their charge after 10 years (when not it use). It can certainly be frustrating to discover your rechargeable batteries are dead when you need them most. To keep my eneloop batteries charged, I use the Panasonic K-KJ17MCA Advanced Individual Cell Battery Charger Pack when I have access to 110V AC. This is a “smart” charger that allows me to recharge individual batteries if needed. Many chargers only work when loaded with two or four batteries.
To power your mobile 2 Meter radio, you’ll need a bit more power. I’ve been able to run my 2M radio for several hours off a 12 Volt/7.2 Amp Hour Sealed Lead Acid Battery. I’ve purchased multiples of this battery and built portable go kits for some of them to easily transport when I’m away from home. These batteries are found inside many of the popular Uninterruptible Power Supply units. To keep the battery topped off and always ready to use, I’ve been using a Battery Tender Junior to maintain my battery.
If the power is out for an extended period of time, I’ve used a briefcase sized Thunderbolt Magnum® Solar 13 Watt Briefcase Solar Charger that I picked up at Harbor Freight for less than $80. This lower wattage solar panel will take longer to recharge my battery and you may want to consider something bigger. A more portable unit I like is the Solar Panel, Anker 21W 2-Port USB Portable Solar Charger with Foldable Panel. This folds up nicely and fits inside my backpack.
For your HF radio, you’ll likely need more power. I have used the 12V 7.2 Amp Hour SLA battery to run my Icom 7300 HF rig for several hours. When used this way I keep my power settings at 30-50% and minimize the time transmitting.
All backup power options have limitations, so it’s best not to rely on just one. I have multiple battery and recharging options available so as one battery is extinguished I can swap out to another and recharge the old battery. When preparing for situations in which commercial power may be unavailable, using battery backup is a good start, but using it long term could get expensive. Batteries can be recharged by gas/diesel generators, solar power, wind powered turbines, or a combination of these.
I’ve learned tons about solar and battery power from Steve Harris on his website at: solar1234.com
Visit my Ham Radio web site to learn more about how I’m using Ham radio for emergency communications.
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