In part one we discussed what radio to get. One of the many reasons we chose the uniden BC125AT is for the power options. If your going to keep your radio running you have to have power.
Before the current line of uniden scanner models, you were limited on how to power your handheld scanner.
- AA alkaline or rechargeable batteries (sometimes as many as 6!)
- AC wall wart
- 12 volt car adapter
Now, with the BC125AT you can expand your options! The BC125AT is powered externally by a “mini” 5 volt USB power socket (most Android phones use a micro USB). If you don’t have a mini USB no worries, the radio comes with one!
The list above still applies but with USB it opens us up to many power options!
AA batteries are the main way you will be powering your scanner. Alkaline AA are a great choice. They are available everywhere, inexpensive, easy to carry, the list goes on. The down side of alkaline batteries is they are disposable, they can leak and corrode your battery compartment etc. Enter rechargeable batteries. Now with rechargeable AA’s the story has changed. Before current technology, rechargeable batteries were not perfect. You would charge your batteries and soon after, they would start to self discharge. You could not count on them being charged when you went to use them. Now, if you buy the right batteries this is no longer a problem. Most new NiMH rechargeable batteries are “LSD” or “low self discharge ” also labeled “pre-charged”. This means when you charge them they will hold there power. Most NiMH LSD batteries will have 80% of there power after sitting in room temperature for one year! That makes these batteries very attractive….. On top of that, they are inexpensive, what’s not to like? Some good choices for AA rechargeable LSD batteries are:
- Eneloop (the benchmark for all AA rechargeables),
- Amazon basic’s AA’s
- EBL NiMH batteries (also available on Amazon)
There is alot of great Information out there about rechargeable batteries, do you research. A great way to keep your batteries organized is to use Storacell battery holders.
They come in all sizes and colors. The batteries snap in firmly and keep things were they belong. Another nice feature of these holders is the ability to quickly identify good batteries vs dead batteries. Just put the good ones In positive side up and when you put your dead rechargeables back in, put them positive down.
If you choose to use rechargeables, you will need a charger. The radio itself can recharge the batteries while they are in the radio if you choose. I don’t like charging the batteries in the radio, just a personal preference and it creates unwanted heat. Keeping with the USB power theme, EBL makes a great AA USB battery charger. This charger will plug into any USB power source that provides 2 amps (most modern Android cell phones use the same adapter). Also, since its USB you can plug this charger into your 12 volt car charger or any other cigarette lighter equipped battery.
This charger will charge 4 batteries quicker then the internal charger can charge 2 batteries. It’s small and can hide away in your kit with no problem. Also it won’t break the bank. At under $20 you can get 2 and charge 8 batteries at a time.
Another interesting USB backup charger is made by Olight. This Olight charger will only do one cell at a time but it is so small it won’t take up any room in your kit. Also its not very expensive. Put the magnetic ends on the battery, polarity does not matter, and your in business.
One more tool that will round out your rechargeable battery setup is the ZTS Pluse Load Battery Tester.
This is not a cheap “voltage only” $5 tester. This unit will run you around $45. That’s not cheap but this thing will really tell you the condition of your batteries. Don’t waste the $5 on the cheap one, they will only give you false readings.
Next we have USB power banks. These devices are are used to recharge your cell phone when your away from a power source. Maybe your on a camping trip or at a sporting event? These portable batteries will keep your mobile device charged. You simply charge the power bank from AC mains or from 12 volts DC (car charger). And now you can carry that energy around with you. These power banks come in all sizes to suit your needs. Maybe a small one to keep in your pocket or a large one for your backpack. You can even buy cheap ones while you stand in line at Walmart.
The power bank can do everything any other USB power source can do, just portable! Run your scanner, charge your batteries or charge your phone.
As you can see there’s more to powering your radio then just throwing in some junk drawer AA’s. Don’t be left with dead batteries in the field. If you have read this far, you have no excuse. These ideas are simple but often over looked. Stay tuned for part 3.