Every fall, I take the deep-discharge marine battery out of the pop-up camper and put it safely in the basement for winter storage. I’ve never used it for ham radio purposes, mostly because I’ve never needed it and it’s tied up for most of the summer.
Recently we had a “long-ish” power outage (not uncommon during snowy, windy Maine winters). While we had plenty of heat from the fireplace, it didn’t take long for the batteries in our various phones and tablets to kick the bucket.
Luckily, Verizon’s data network is very robust and almost never goes down — even during extended power outages. Other than listening to the local ham radio repeaters and public safety scanner traffic, we rely on Internet access to check on power restoration and keep track of the weather.
I figured it was time to put that unused high-capacity battery to some good use in the off-season.
I decided to order a 12-volt plug socket with eyelet terminals. There were quite a few choices on Amazon but the reviews of the NOCO GC018 struck me as particularly good and I didn’t have to wait for it to arrive from China. The price was right at just under $7 shipped (with Prime) and 232 great reviews didn’t hurt, either.
I wasn’t familiar with the NOCO brand, but what immediately impressed me was how well made it was. It feels like it will last awhile and the connections are very solid. The 3/8″ eyelets aren’t flimsy and they’re low-set to minimize bending. Unlike other options, it has an in-line 15A blade-type automotive fuse which I usually keep on hand. The fuse is well-protected from moisture and the socket has a durable end cap.
I wouldn’t plug a 100w HF rig into the socket, but a 25w mobile radio should’t draw more than 10 amps. A small “pocket-sized” 175-watt inverter would work great with this setup.
To create my charging hub, I used a little Bestek splitter with two 12v sockets and two 5v USB outlets (one 1.0A, the other 2.1A). I would’t use it to power anything with a substantial current draw, but it works great for charging multiple low-power devices. While a 12-volt cigarette lighter socket isn’t the best connector around, it’s the defacto standard for 12-volt consumer devices. Just don’t charge the deep-discharge battery indoors!
My rough math says the battery should be good for well over 150 hours of continuous phone charging. That should last us for most any power-free scenario short of complete and utter societal breakdown — and if that’s the case, I probably won’t be needing my cell phone!
What does your household emergency power setup look like?