Our “homestead” runs on rechargeable batteries.
Besides our main battery bank, charged by wind and solar, we rely on battery powered items throughout our home. We use a wide variety of tools and appliances that run off electricity stored in their own battery packs: hand drills, cell phones, headsets, and the like.
The rest that require electricity get it from small batteries. Primarily, these include our headlamps, vital every day tools through most of our year (see Headlamps: Don’t Leave Home Without Them!), personal speakers, LED candles (so much safer than live flame, and featuring programmable timers, too!) smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, wall clocks, one of our strikers for lighting the stove (see Striker Force) and entertainment center remote controls. Secondarily, we use batteries to back up solar and crank generated radios.
If we bought alkaline batteries, we’d go through packs of them in very short order. Instead, we recharge our batteries. We do this not only because it’s cheaper in the long run, but because it’s better for the environment. And, as we’ve discovered, it’s far more convenient for every day use.
Rechargeable battery technology has been around a long time, but in our disposable society, they rarely get used, although current trends in power usage seem to be changing that. The next forturnes will likely be made by those who innovate and improve on rechargeable batteries, not just for small devices, but for the burgeoning alternative energy market and electric vehicles.
Spent alkaline batteries are essentially little packets of toxic waste. They should be disposed of properly, but this rarely happens. People throw them in the regular garbage, or, quite often, out on the street with the rest of their litter, where they quickly contaminate local aquifers, particularly when they get smashed open.
The science behind batteries, and the essential differences between alkaline batteries and rechargeables is too long and complicated for me to recite for you here. You can search for better, more complete information elsewhere. In upcoming posts on the subject, I’ll focus on how they affect our lives.