How To Charge Almost Anything

In a disaster situation or just normal use, your portable devices need to be recharged almost daily. These are cellphones, radios, hand held transceivers, ipods, flashlights, GPS units, laptop computers.

Charging voltage comes from four main sources. AC house power, 12 volt auto cigarette lighter, gasoline generator, or solar/wind power.

Most portable devices operate or charge on 5 or 12 volts DC. House power is used to convert 117 volts AC to 5 or 12 volts DC. Some exceptions are laptops which usually charge and run on 19 volts DC.

Most all cellphones charge using 5 volt USB power sources. It could be from your laptop, computer, or wall adapter. Some flashlights and radios will charge on 5 volt USB power sources similar to cellphones.

So the best alternative way of meeting most charging needs other than normal, is a charging unit like the Portable Power Station similar to the one shown below.

They can be expensive starting from $100 and to over $400 depending on features and capacity, and are available on Amazon. Search "Portable Power Station".


If you are tech savvy, you can build your own for around $50 depending on features. This unit will recharge from a 12 volt wall adapter, auto cigarette lighter, or solar panels to charge the internal 12 volt battery and provides 5 volt at 2 amp USB sockets and 12 volt cigarette lighter receptacle. Depending on the capacity of the Power Station, you could also have a built in 117VAC inverter but that is not really required for most applications and will just drain the battery quicker.

A block diagram below is how you could build your power station. Fuses not shown. AC inverter optional.

The battery can be a Gel Cell, AGM, Lithium Ion or NiMh. You will have to select the charge controller for the type of battery you use. Lithium Ion or LiFePo batteries require special charging attention but provide excellent capacity but should never be allowed to completely discharge. They are also more expensive. Deep cycle AGM batteries are more forgiving and are most common. Gel Cells are cheaper and more common but only provide satisfactory performance and will only last for a few years of service.

The 5 volt "buck" converter regulates the 12 volts down to 5 volts for the USB power source. A metering switch will let you monitor the voltage coming in, the charge of the battery and the quality of the 5 volts.

I don't recommend installing an AC inverter which will drain the battery quicker. If you need short term AC power, use an external AC inverter that will plug into the 12 volt source. Available from Amazon for about $27.

5 volt buck converter is available from ebay for a few dollars.

USB connectors are also available from ebay.

Voltmeters are also available from ebay.

You could mount the module shown below on the outside of your power station that will provide the charge controller, voltmeter, USB power source, all for about $13 from ebay. This can only be used with Gel Cells or 12 volt AGM (absorbed glass mat) batteries.

 

 

Copyright 2021 by Rick C. Ver 0.14 Oct 24, 2021