Forget AA Batteries: Six Tips on Alternate Energy Sources to Use During a Blackout

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My Twitter stream has been very verbal about Hurricane #Sandy – as it should be.  I wouldn’t expect anything les from the Internet’s top news source.




That last tweet has me concerned…  as someone who cannot live without my Samsung Galaxy III smartphone glued to my hand, even while I “sleep”, the idea of spending over a week without electricity is something of a horror story for me.

Just this past weekend, the hubs can attest that I was a bit of a grouch, simply because our neighbourhood internet network was on the fritz.  I think I got about a good half hour between Saturday and Sunday of constant connection, otherwise it was slow and essentially useless (we wound up watching a ton of DVDs instead of our traditional weekend Netflix hunt due to lack of service), but I digress.

Have you been watching the show Revolution?  It’s based on the premise that the entire world was suddenly without electricity, and has sketched out what our world would be like 15 years after such a disaster.  Spoiler warning for those who haven’t seen it yet:  [I thought they were going to blame the sudden loss of electricity on a massive solar flare, but that wouldn’t explain their recent plot twist.]

So yeah, everyone is stocking up on batteries for what, their radios?  Or maybe you have one of those Duracell USB chargers with two AA battery packs.  It can’t be for the TV remote, I’m guessing.  There are numerous alternate energy sources available to keep us moderately happy while we wait out a perfect storm, but I have to wonder how many people are aware of them.

I really thought that we were moving away from the common AA battery, but according to at least one website, North America alone purchases over 4 billion batteries in one year (though I’m thinking this count includes the rechargeable batteries found in our cell phones and cars as well.)

I’d love to see a stat on how many batteries were purchased within the Hurricane Sandy affected cities in the past 48 hours.  The shelves are empty in a lot of cases.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they were all bought at more than the suggested retail price too.

What’s sad is that we’ve got to a point where technology does not actually need AAA, AA, Cs or D batteries to keep us safe and connected with the outside world when any disaster strikes.

It might be a little too late for those of us that have to batten down the hatches for Hurricane Sandy, but once this disaster clears, here’s a list of items that you should definitely keep handy when Mother Nature wants to remind you again of exactly who’s Boss.

Top Six Alternate Energy Sources to Keep You and Your Family Safe and Entertained Without Need of the Common Battery

  • Crank Radios – these are battery-less radios that have been around for quite a while.  The hubs and I purchased one even before we were married.  Not that electricity was affected at the time, but my most memorable moment of use for it was on the morning of 9/11.  My hubs (then boyfriend) was using it to listen to the news/music channels while traveling his morning 45 minute commute in a city bus to meet me at our college (and you know, attend classes n’ such.)  He found it very surreal that he heard about the attacks, and knew there was a very big problem just south of us across the border, while everyone else on that bus was oblivious to everything except what they could see and hear in that vehicle.  I just happened to be in front of the college campus big screen TV when the horror unfolded, and he ran into the college and sat down beside me without a word.  We spent all day in the communications rooms, not attending any classes (I don’t believe any were active that day,) and just sat by the radio to hear what was happening to our corner of the world.  That radio (which works just as well today, over a decade later) was also very handy when all of Ontario went dark for a few days back in 2003.  Despite the unexpected blackout, we were connected to all broadcasts throughout the entire ordeal, without worry of needing batteries.
  • Shaker Flashlights – there are hundreds of models out there (Google is your friend to source one out) – and you definitely need to read the specs.  Some have a five minute charge, while others have only 3 or 4 minutes, which yeah, it doesn’t sound like a lot of time, but if you’re in a pickle with no light source, five minutes is better than no minutes.

Ambient Weather Crank Flash Light All-In-One

  • Crank Flashlights – these can last as long as for several minutes to several hours depending on the model you choose.  And there are “five-in-one” models out there that can turn your battery-less flashlight into a USB charger, digital weather band, AM/FM radio, and even AC/DC support.  If you have a family of five, you could make a game out of keeping all your emergency necessities charged almost effortlessly.  Also keep an eye out for the ones that include a solar charger, so that you can limit the amount of times you’ll need to crank.  You can get personal/portable ones from the American Red Cross for only $14.99, which in my opinion is a fabulous stock stuffer for every member of your family.
  • Duracell Rechargeable Instant USB ChargerUSB Chargers – always keep these charged and ready for when you need them the most.  Duracell power reserves have numerous models to choose from and will range anywhere from $20 to $60.  I get a little giddy when I see a friend carrying one of these chargers in their purse (I really should talk to Duracell about a commission! ;))  These chargers will give you peace of mind for everyday usage, but are also great when you need to access your tablet or smartphone when you have no alternatives for electricity (in theory they can double the lifespan of your smartphone/tablet battery).  And if your kids need their MP3 player charged, well, get them to crank juice into the battery charge (if depleted already) using your Crank Flashlight All-In-One (see above), and then they can use that charger to power up their player instantly (these chargers can be connected and charging while your tech is turned on for instant use.)  I totally recommend that you have at least three on hand for emergency usage in your household.  Or at least have your children carry one their backpacks/hand-bags if they carry a phone around for emergency.
  • Solar Lighting – bring those little solar paneled lights that light up your walkway indoors. Or go to your local have-everything-under-one-roof stores, and pick up some solar paneled lanterns.
  • Backup Generator – there are a lot of great reasons to install a backup generator for your home; just don’t buy one when an oncoming threat is the major discussion for your news feeds if you can help it.  It’s hard to prove, but stores are known for ensuring they get the highest prices possible when the demand is high.  So just add it to your list of upgrades needed for your home/property if  you don’t own one already, and keep in mind to pick one up when the “coast is clear”.  On top of price-gouging, it’s also best to take time in researching what model would be best for your home.  There are variations to choose from, such as a standby model vs. a portable generator and one will be much better than the other depending on your preferences.  Here’s a buying guide from Home Depot on Generators to get you started on the right path.


Mind you, this quick video is amazing on how to build your own crank generator to charge all those pesky AAA, AA, C and D batteries:


After watching that vid *cough* like eight times already *cough* (I’m in love), I might just be stocking up on batteries in the future, regardless of whether they’re labeled rechargeable or not now. 🙂

Other tips for staying safe while Mother Nature puts us in our place:

  • Advanced First-Aid kit: this should really go without saying to be honest.
  • Water can be a big issue.  Always have some on reserve if you know a disaster is heading your way.  Get large zip-locked freezer bags, fill them up with water, and then store these bags in your currently running freezer.  Once the power goes out, these bags will keep your frozen foods frozen for a little while longer, and when they melt, you’ll have a bag full of cool drinking water.
  • Candles can be useful, but also dangerous if not treated with respect.  So please be careful with your use.
  • Ensure you have a full tank of propane if you own a bar-b-que grill, as that will most likely become your stove while the electricity is out.  It may also be your only means of procuring hot water, if tap water is not available/unsafe or if you have an electric heater (and if you are boiling water, make sure the pot doesn’t have any plastic grips to it, like a stove pot may have.  An open fire will melt those handles clean off.  Your best bet would be to invest in cast-iron camping gear made to be handled over an open-pit fire.)
  • Get all of your blankets and extra pillows out of the linen closet if the days will be cold.  Have them easily accessible to keep your family warm.

Would love to hear your tips on keeping you and your family safe when the lights go out!


PS – I was asked to write this post by a client. All opinions are 100% my own though.

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Living in Superman’s Metropolis (aka Toronto, Canada), Aeryn Lynne found a way to entirely over-share everything she loves, and make a career out of it! Ultimately a geek, she waxes poetically over technology, squees over comic art, hunts down the nerdiest places to visit and literally sparkles, thanks to her makeup addiction.

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12 Comments on “Forget AA Batteries: Six Tips on Alternate Energy Sources to Use During a Blackout

October 29, 2012 at 4:50 pm

Great post! I can’t believe the photo with no batteries!!!!

Aeryn Lynne
October 29, 2012 at 5:10 pm

Seriously! And that pic only shows two side of that battery display wheel, lol.

October 29, 2012 at 5:45 pm

my parents used to have a crank flashlight/radio it didnt work that great so they gave it our boys to play with, but I had no clue that even existed until then!

Aeryn Lynne
October 29, 2012 at 5:53 pm

Out of four flashlights that we own, two of them are not really worth switching on, so yeah I can totally see a crank model not working well compared to others too. The one pictured above from Ambient Weather has a really great rating, and is next on my list of Amazon purchases, lol!

But yeah, for some reason a lot of this helpful tech isn’t marketed very well. We’ve had our crank radio for over ten years, and still have friends/family that didn’t know it existed unless we bring it out for camping trips or backyard get-togethers.

October 29, 2012 at 7:48 pm

thanks for the tips! I didn’t even think about non-battery ideas for flashlights etc

Aeryn Lynne
October 29, 2012 at 8:49 pm

No batteries for flashlights is the worst when the electricity is gone… at least imho, lol. So what better way to make sure there’s a flashlight handy at all times than with one that doesn’t need common batteries at all, heh. 😀

Nicole King
October 29, 2012 at 7:51 pm

Great tips!! It never even came to mind to think about non-battery alternatives.

Aeryn Lynne
October 29, 2012 at 8:47 pm

Yeah, I’ve been meaning to write a post about these alternatives for quite a while now, ’cause they don’t get much marketing time, lol. I guess Sandy gave me that extra push… no pun intended. 😉

Margarita Ibbott
October 29, 2012 at 9:07 pm

Thanks for the great tips. My husband just sent my son to find the crank flashlights. They also have radios on them… so a great 2-for-1…Thanks for a very informative post.

Yee Wittle Things
October 29, 2012 at 10:21 pm

Thank you for the great tips! I’ve always wanted a crank radio and crank flashlight…we unfortunately only have battery powered ones right now.

February 10, 2013 at 9:48 am

Thanks for the tips.

Carol Oddy
February 10, 2013 at 4:11 pm

Lots of good tips, crank radio with no batteries to but!


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