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A Reminder that Eneloops are a Good Buy

Recently I went through my Eneloop batteries, cycling those that I keep in devices. I decided to purchase another pack of AA and AAA batteries, not because I needed to replace any but because I have more devices to power. After ordering the new batch, I realized this was the first time I had purchased AA batteries in seven years. (I had purchased AAAs more recently – three years ago – again not to replace any, but because I needed more.) My seven year old batteries are still in service and hold on average 85% of their factory charge. I don’t intentionally cycle through the full set of batteries, so some sit in storage holding their charge for years.

It doesn’t get much better than that.

I started using Eneloop rechargeable batteries in 2011. The following year I purchased a programmable charger, allowing me to track the health of my batteries in git. When not in service I store the batteries in a Pelican 1060.

I store batteries in a Pelican 1060 case.

The Pelican 1060 plus pre-cut foam from eBay makes for compact and environmentally secure battery storage. The foam I bought has 10 holes for AAA batteries and 40 holes for CR123 and AA batteries. This holds the CR123 batteries I keep on hand to feed devices and all of my spare AA/AAA Eneloops.

Battery Storage

Impressions of the Preon P1

I use two Fenix LD20 lights mounted to my handlebars via Twofish Lockblocks as headlights. An old TAD-branded JETBeam Jet 1 MkII is mounted on my helmet. As a result, whenever I have my bike – which is the majority of the time – I have a light. When I’m not around my bike, I tend to be left in the dark. I do carry a Photon Freedom Micro on my keychain, which is a great little device, but no replacement for a hand-held torch. A more substantial light has not been part of my on-body EDC for a few years.

Last month I decided to change that. I wanted to find a small, unobtrusive LED light that I could carry in a pocket. My JETBeam helmet light is powered by a single AA battery. While the height on that light is about right, I felt the diameter was too large for what I had in mind. I decided to look for a light powered by a single AAA. Two options presented themselves: the Maratac AAA Rev 2 and the Foursevens Preon P1. They both have similar specifications and both seem to earn equally positive reviews. The Maratac light is less expensive and features a knurled body, as opposed to the Preon P1’s smooth body, which made me initially favor the Maratac. Unfortunately, both lights are twist-activated. One of my requirements for any light is that it can be activated with one hand. That necessitates a clicky tailcap.

A review of the Preon P1 on ITS presented a solution. The Preon P1 is compatible with pieces from the Preon P2, which is a double-AAA flashlight that does have a clicky tailcap. I could purchase a replacement Preon clicky tailcap and install that on a Preon P1 to get the light I wanted. The Preon P1 and the tailcap cost $45. That’s a lot for a small light, and quite a bit more than the $25 price of the Maratac light, but it would make for a system that fit my requirements. I chose to purchase the Preon.

Preon P1

I have been carrying the Preon P1 for a couple weeks now. At a height of about 3 inches and a diameter just over half an inch, I can clip it in my pocket and completely forget that it is there until I need it, which is exactly what I was looking for. All the various modes of the light can be cycled through by clicking the tailcap, although I don’t particularly care about them – I only use the light with its standard output setting.

The clicky tailcap could be improved. I’m accustomed to tailcaps being inset into the light slightly. The Preon tailcap juts out from the top of the body of the light, which I think increases the chances of it accidentally being clicked on and draining the battery. It also has an amount of free movement in it. The button can be depressed about halfway before it actually hits the clicky part of the mechanism, which makes the button feel a bit loose. I don’t know that this affects the functionality of the tailcap, but it does make it feel cheaper.

Preon P1 (AAA) vs JETBeam Jet1 MkII (AA)

Despite the less-than-perfect tailcap, I’m happy with the light. The runtime isn’t incredible, but that’s acceptable for my use. I intend to use the light only as a backup to those on my bike. When the battery does die, I just throw it in the charger and install another Eneloop. If you’re looking for a small EDC light, the Preon P1 is worth consideration.

I finally purchased a programmable battery charger.

I went with the Maha PowerEx MH-C9000 that I mentioned last year. Since purchasing the charger a couple weeks ago, I’ve been geeking out about batteries. I’ve labelled all of my Eneloops and started a database where I log the purchase date, capacity, and other information. I’ve put the database in git so that I can track the performance of an individual battery over time. The database is on GitHub.

Sanyo Eneloop Rechargeable Batteries

I go through batteries at a fairly high rate. Electronic devices for the wilderness, such as my headlamp and GPS, see regular use. At home, things like my wireless mouse need power. The biggest drain are my lights – particular in the winter, when they are used to light my regular commute.

This last spring I decided to invest in a set of rechargeable batteries. Although some of my devices run on CR123 batteries, most use AA or AAAs. To start with, I was concerned only with being able to recharge the AA and AAA batteries. Years ago I had a set of rechargeable batteries, but I think the technology was not very developed back then. They seemed to drain quickly and not hold many charges. Today, the market is different. Some brief research showed that there were many options out there, with positive reviews for most of them.

What most reviews seemed to suggest was that the majority of the offerings were all of equal quality, with most differences unlikely to be noticed outside of a laboratory. The most popular, though, seemed to be the Sanyo Eneloop and Maha Powerex batteries. I found some claims that, between the two, the Eneloops held a charge longer while on the shelf.

I decided to try the Eneloop batteries, and purchased a package that included a charger, 8 AAs and 4 AAAs. The charger can charge up to four batteries at once, either AAA or AA, but it must be done in pairs. It cannot charge one battery at a time, or three. This has turned out to be an occasional inconvenience. I have some devices that use three batteries, and some that need just one. To charge the batteries for those devices I always have to give the charger an extra battery.

Sanyo Eneloop Charger

The charger takes around five hours to bring a dead battery up to a full charge. I have read that the Maha Powerex MH-C9000 charger can charge the batteries in a shorter period of time. It also gives the user more control over the charge, which has the potential of increasing the life of the batteries.

The batteries themselves I have been very happy with. I don’t have the knowledge to provide any objective information on their chemistry or electronics. Suffice it to say that they work. They seem to last longer in the same devices than their non-rechargeable counterparts did. I have not noticed any degradation in those batteries that I have recharged. That is not surprising. Sanyo claims the Eneloop batteries can be recharged 1,500 times – a number I have not come anywhere near to approaching.

Electronics Powered by Eneloops

Since the initial purchase, I have bought two more packs of AA and AAA Eneloops. All of my electronics now run on rechargeable batteries, save for those few that require CR123 batteries. The batteries themselves are an expensive investment, but they have payed off. Now that I have a good number of both AA and AAA sizes, and am happy with the Eneloop brand, I would like to purchase a more specialized charger, such as the aforementioned C9000.

If you use any non-rechargeable AA or AAA batteries in your electronics, I recommend giving Eneloops a try. The financial savings alone is enough of a benefit to justify their use.