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May 29, 2009

Maha MH-C9000 Results

I got the charger yesterday and started putting it through its paces right away. My oldest batteries are 1500 mah. My newest came with a cheap charger that was free with my flashlight. I picked two from each of those sets. Time to put the testing regimen into action.

I have worked on 4 old generic green 1500 mah cells that came with my Archos and therefore are 7 years old. I got capacities from 571 to 1220, so all over the place. I may throw away the weaker of those. I have 4 more, so we'll see how it goes. It would be nice to have a set of 4 strong ones. Doing a Refresh/Analyze cycle actually seemed to hurt a couple of them.

I was hoping the machine could really bring around some off-brand 2900 mah cells that were included in a bonus charger I got when I bought my flashlight on eBay. But these 4 batteries came in with an initial capacity of 827 and 795 mah (less than 30% of nominal capacity!). A R/A cycle brought two them up 5 and 15 mah. Two charge and discharge cycles actually brought them down 21 and 4. I ran the other two in that set and got initial discharges of 759 and 740 before giving them a break-in cycle all weekend (assigning a nominal capacity of 2200) and they came up 52 and 50 mah. Now I am putting them through another break-in. What a waste. I will keep trying to break them in, but it doesn't look good. Update: I ran all 4 of these through 5 charge/discharge cycles since I would be out of town for a few days. Didn't make much difference. I contacted the eBay seller and will return them, but it seems like they will just send me some more bad batteries.

Some Sanyo 2700 mah batteries I have had for about a year and have been using in my camera came in very strong. 2410 and 2347 mah on their first discharge and up 178 and 182 mah after their first R/A. That gets them within 200 mah of nominal capacity and maybe another R/A would get them there. These are the best batteries I own and they've never been fried in a cheap charger. Plus these are made in Japan by Sanyo. Got similar results with the other two in the set. Good batteries!

I had four beat up 2200 mah batteries with a brand name Digital on them. They actually did pretty well, coming in at 1577, 1601, 1671, and 1791 after a RA cycle. Probably worth keeping.

Also had some 2000 mah batteries by Digipower. These were in really bad shape. One came in with a reading of HIGH and I couldn't discharge or charge it. Another missed its charging cutoff (the Maha can do that if it isn't charging at more than 500 ma and I was using 400 ma). Another one came in at 1080 after a RA cycle.

I had some Kodak batteries that had to be almost 10 years old with a capacity of 1450 mah. I got capacities of 1174, 1223, and 1225. Those were probably really good batteries in their day. I use them in a portable CD player.

Some Sanyo Eneloop 2000 mah batteries I bought last year demonstrated their remarkable consistency by measuring 2008, 2047, 1998, and 2008 mah. It is no wonder that so many people at Candlepower who use this charger also swear by Eneloops. These are good to keep in the Archos.

I had some really old AAA energizers that came in fairly well. AAA's have a lot less capacity than AA batteries. These had a nominal capacity of 650 mah and they came in at 521, 539, 555, and 592.

The biggest thing is it takes a really long time for all of this. The break-in cycle is nearly 2 days long. The R/A cycle can run 24 hours (charge, discharge, charge).

May 27, 2009

Battery Rehab

I wrote all of this up based on reading up on the Maha C9000 charger, but before I got it. Once I start getting some results, I will post that later. I have a collection of 40 NiMH batteries ranging in age from 9 years to just a couple of weeks. They all take a charge on my old charger, but some are pretty weak. A couple of sets that Susan used in a quick charger are pretty damaged and don't hold a charge for very long at all. I was interested to see what kind of results I could get in reviving them with my new charger, the Maha MH-C9000.

If a battery hasn't been used for 3 months or has just been purchased, Maha recommends starting out with break-in cycle. This cycle is based on some international standard used to measure the capacity of batteries.

First I have to cover a basic thing. The capacity of a fully charged battery is measured in milliamp-hours. This means it can produce some number of milliamps (electrical current) for some number of hours. If it can produce 800 milliamps for 2 hours, then it is 800x2=1600 milliamp-hours, or mah. This is the capacity or just C. This charger can apply a break-in cycle based on that capacity. A high-capacity battery gets a higher charge than a low-capacity battery. It can make a lot of difference since my batteries run from 1450 to 2900 mah (and the AAA batteries are even less: 650-800 mah). So you might apply a charge of 0.5C. For the 1600 mah battery, that would be 800 milliamps (the time part gets left off). Ideally a completely drained 1600 mah battery could be charged fully in 2 hours (2 hours at 800 milliamps = 1600 mah), but realistically it will take a little more than that. The discharge rate is usually done at half of the charging rate. So it might be 0.25C. This means you should be able to discharge the battery in 4 hours and charge it in a little over 2. However you don't drain it completely. NiMH batteries have a nominal voltage of 1.2 volts, though you can measure about 1.4 volts when they are freshly charged. The discharge cycle takes them down to 1.0 volt before stopping. If you go way down you can damage the battery. Also NiMH batteries hold their charge pretty well and by the time they get to 1.0 volt they are mostly done anyway. After that voltage would probably drop off pretty quickly.

So back to this break-in charge. It consists of applying a charge of 0.1C for 16 hours. This not only charges the battery, it actually overcharges it to the point that it changes some of the battery chemistry (hopefully for the better, but after you get the battery to its peak performance, further "forming charges" like this can damage it). Then it rests for 1 hour. After that it discharges the cell at 0.2C which should take 5 hours. It rests for another hour and then does another 16-hour charge at 0.1C. So it takes at least 39 hours to run a break-in cycle.

If the battery is performing poorly (like mine) the manual recommends doing a Refresh and Analyze cycle. This charges the battery to full, then discharges it to 1 volt, then charges it again. The default is 1000 ma charging and 500 ma discharging (though you can pick any rate you want). It should take 6 hours or so. Maha recommends doing this every 10 charges and doing it up to 3 times in a row for damaged batteries. For some batteries the charger just refuses to charge them at all.

So I want to see what kind of improvement my batteries can show. The charger can also run a straight discharge cycle to 1 volt and tell me the capacity at the end with the battery essentially dead. So I figure I want to do that first to see what I'm working with, but only after charging the battery in my old charger first. If the battery continues to behave poorly the manual recommends doing a break-in charge on it up to 3 times if it is showing improvement (39 hours times 3!). If not, it should be thrown out (recycled). One guy at Candlepower says he throws out batteries if they can't get to 80% of their original capacity (which might be only 90% of the capacity on the label, so figure 70-75%).

For my brand new 2900 mah batteries that were included as a bonus with my flashlight, I should have waited and done a break-in charge, but I didn't know I'd be getting this charger. So they have already been through a couple of cycles of charging and then putting them in the Archos until it cuts off (only a few hours, but the second time was definitely longer). I'm also ordering some brand new Eneloop batteries and because those come pre-charged, I don't think it is necessary to break them in. Some people do but it doesn't seem to bring the capacity up. I will probably do a Refresh/Analyze cycle on them and if the actual capacity comes up close to the nominal capacity, I'll be done.

One of the things I would like to test is whether the break-in charge really works, or if several discharge cycles will do just as much to bring a battery to its full capacity. The other charger I had considered (the Lacrosse BC-900) can't do a break-in. Since the break-in wasn't established for the purpose of breaking in batteries but as a standardized way to measure battery capacity, I'm not sure if it is really being used correctly. But I have no idea. Maybe the intentional slow overcharging really does improve the battery chemistry.

May 24, 2009

Eneloop Batteries

In 2005 Sanyo introduced Eneloop NiMH rechargeable batteries. Part of their marketing was that they are already charged when you get them and you can use them right away. The reason for this is they charge them at the factory and that the batteries have "low self discharge" (LSD), in other words it takes them much longer to lose a charge sitting on a shelf than other NiMH batteries. Sanyo claimed that Eneloops will retain 85% of their charge after a year. I bought some last year and have no reason to doubt the claim. I have two HP calculators that eat through AAA batteries so I wanted something rechargeable but also something with a fairly long shelf life. I thought it would be good to have a set for my Archos Jukebox too since I have been charging its batteries separately instead of by using the AC adapter it came with (gets very hot and can't be good for the batteries).

I found an exhaustive review of Eneloop batteries at Candlepower Forums. Eneloops still seem to be the standard, but most other companies have them too: the Duracell Precharged, Rayovac Hybrid, Kodak Precharged, and Maha Imedion. Given that Sanyo, Kodak, and Duracell's batteries have similar performance, appearance, and are made in Japan, it is thought they are the same thing. All of the LSD batteries have lower capacities than other NiMH batteries (typically 2000-2200 vs. up to 2900 milliamp-hours (mah) for regular NiMH cells). The tests confirm that these things really work and many people at Candlepower swear by them. However if the cell isn't made in Japan, the results seem to go downhill. Made in China cells lose their charge faster, with Chinese Duracells having measurably worse performance than Japanese Duracells. The Maha Imedions (made in Taiwan) have a higher initial capacity but discharge a little faster than Japanese cells. Battery Junction has an in-house battery brand called Titanium. Their Titanium Enduro LSD's seem similar to Rayovacs, are made in China, but early ones started at about 50% capacity and after repeated break-ins would work their way up to 90%. They're cheap though: $6 for 4 (AA or AAA) with a free plastic case and a 5% discount ("cpf2006"), though shipping is high.

Therefore these batteries can be good for flashlights where you want power, but it might be a while. However the Eneloop batteries lose charge much faster when they are hot, so they are not a good option for a flashlight kept in a car. Imedion batteries are supposed to be better at dealing with the heat.

However, some people at Candlepower have pointed out that the Everex (same company as Maha) and Sanyo 2700 mah batteries seem to discharge pretty slowly too. Not as slowly as the LSD batteries, but because they are starting out with more oomph in the first place, they can afford to lose more. So after a year, they might lose a third of their charge, which will put them at 1800 mah, slightly more than 2000 mah Eneloops that will have only lost 15% to be at 1700 mah. So that kind of puts a different perspective on things. One guy did testing by running through 100 discharge cycles in a row on both Eneloops and Sanyo 2700's and noticed that Eneloops stay at roughly the same capacity while the conventional NiMH dropped off (still pretty slowly).While the 2700 started with 29% more capacity, after 397 cycles the Eneloop would (theoretically) have higher capacity. His sample size was only 1 Eneloop and 1 Sanyo 2700, so it's hard to say if those results would hold up. I'm just amazed he ran the test 100 times!

The other perspective is that 4 Eneloops cost about $11 and for the same price at Walmart you can get 30 Energizers. So for things like clocks, remotes, and indoor/outdoor thermometers that only need to be changed once a year or so, it is probably more economical to get alkalines (7 alkalines cost the same as 1 Eneloop, so you won't break even until you charge the Eneloops 7 times).

Powerex Maha MH-C9000 Charger

In 2002 I researched and bought a good battery charger called the Maha C-204F. It only does AAA and AA batteries, but it charges them fairly slowly which means they are charged more fully and with less heat (damaging) than the fast chargers that you get at regular stores. mh-c9000.jpg I had to order the Maha (billed as "the mother of all chargers") from Thomas Distributing because they aren't easy to find. It worked great for a couple of years before one side of it went bad and I could only charge two batteries at a time instead of four. Eventually I bought another one just like it from Thomas in 2006. I burned out its AC adapter in Ireland when I plugged it in to a 220 socket, but I had the old adapter, so no problem.

After my dealings with flashlights lately, I also learned some about batteries and particularly NiMH rechargeable batteries. I have been using them for a long time and even got some Sanyo Eneloops in 2008 to use in my calculator because they hold 85% of their charge after year whereas regular NiMH batteries can easily lose 10% per month. After three months of no use you really need to recharge regular NiMH batteries because if they get too low it can damage them. I got some pretty high capacity NiMH batteries to go with Susan's camera a few years ago and they were toast after maybe a year. They just never held a charge very well. Part of that may have been not adequately breaking them in by charging them and then using them (not all the way down) a few times.

So anyway, I have all these old marginal batteries including the 8 generic green batteries that came with my Archos. Those batteries still work, but they're not great. That's okay, really, because NiMH batteries aren't supposed to last forever. Some of the batteries I have, including the ones I took back from Susan, get very hot when they are charged or the charger has a hard time recognizing them. I threw away some Energizer NiMH's because the Maha just refused to deal with them.

One of the problems with the Maha is that it applies the same charging cycle to two batteries at the same time. If one of the batteries is bad, this can mess things up and you'd never really know what was going on. It is better to get a charger that charges each battery separately. However I don't have one of those.

There are two good chargers out there that can analyze the actual capacity of a NiMH battery and can also recondition them. People on Amazon report bringing otherwise useless batteries back to nearly original condition. The two chargers are the La Crosse BC-900 and the Powerex Maha MH-C9000. The BC-900 is less expensive, smaller in size, and comes with 4 AA batteries and 4 AAA batteries (as well as plastic adapters that make AA batteries the size of a C or D battery so you can use AA's in the place of those bigger batteries). The MH-C9000 is at least twice as big, doesn't come with freebies, but gets better reviews at Candlepower Forums (from a surprising number of people who own both of the units). Both are harder to use than just dropping batteries in and waiting for the green light to come on. They have LCD displays telling you a battery's voltage, capacity, and time elapsed and can charge and discharge batteries at various rates to help recondition them. Both have very long conditioning cycles that can take 36 hours for a set of 4 batteries.

There is a detailed review at Amazon that favors the BC-900, but there is an even longer review at Candlepower that favors the MH-C9000. I debated whether I even needed one of these things. For the price of the cheaper $40 BC-900 I could buy all new batteries and throw away all of my misbehaving ones. I may have to do this anyway because both units can tell you that a battery is shot (and often do for older batteries) and at that point it should just be recycled.

But after a lot of internal debate, curiosity and the desire for an ever more powerful gadget convinced me to get the Maha charger. It should arrive by the end of the week. While the BC-900 was a better value, the free batteries it came with weren't of much value since I wanted Eneloops and already have a lot of conventional NiMHs.

Once I get a chance to try reconditioning some batteries I will let you know how it goes. Once I work my way through my whole collection, I will be happy to recondition batteries in the family. Although it is large, I could take it on vacation and let people use it down there. Once a battery is reconditioned I don't think there is any harm in continuing to use it in a regular charger.

Also I found what looks like a pretty good basic charger by Duracell that meets the minimum criteria of charging cells individually and being a smart charger that charges slower and cuts off based on when the battery is full rather than just after a certain amount of time. It is CEF23DX2 and has the kind of neat feature of having a USB power port that runs off of the charger's AC adapter, the car adapter (not included with this model which also includes 2 AA Duraloops), or by charged batteries sitting in the charger. The similar CEF23DX4N includes 2 AA, 2 AAA, and the car adapter. Be careful because Duracell also sells dumb chargers and 15-minute chargers that shouldn't be used.

Conclusion: After getting the charger and working with all of my batteries, here is my conclusion: This is a good charger. It does a couple of key things: 1. lets you discharge a battery to find out its actual capacity, and 2. lets you charge a battery at the appropriate rate for its capacity. The break-in cycle (which one reviewer said was worth the price all by itself) and applying multiple cycles to a battery don't seem to make much difference. Admittedly, the instructions only recommend the break-in cycle if you have a battery that has sat on the shelf for a while and self-discharged and I didn't have any of those. But I never realized any significant gains after using a break-in cycle that I wouldn't have gotten by just discharging and charging the cell. Therefore I don't see how this charger has any big advantage over the LaCrosse charger since that model does the same two primary things, costs less, and comes with 8 batteries. Negative reviews based on the complexity of the Maha's interface seem groundless: If you have fairly new batteries (that don't require charging currents less than the default) you can just insert them, walk away, and it will charge them. Doing more advanced stuff is easier than setting a digital alarm clock. It asks you for a value and you use the up and down arrows to get what you want and press Enter.

May 19, 2009

Fenix L2D Flashlight

After upgrading my three mini Maglites and my Snakelight, I realized that what I really needed was a flashlight that could be really bright, but that you could also make not as bright if that was what was needed or if you just wanted the battery to last longer. Maglite actually has a multi-mode LED mini that you can find and which I wrote about more in my Maglite post.


One thing about the LED lights is that they work at pretty much constant brightness until the battery dies. NiMH batteries die off pretty quickly so you go from having plenty of light to having no light with almost no warning. Some of the multimode lights though will sense when the battery is getting low and drop a level of brightness, giving you some notice. One thing to watch out for is that some lights create a low mode by flashing a bright light very quickly, something called pulse width modulation or PWM. If you move the light quickly you get a kind of strobe effect. It's better to have an actual lower light level.


On Candlepower Forums everybody has expensive flashlights. One expensive brand is called Surefire. But there is a more economical brand that produces well-made lights that are very efficient called Fenix. I would want something that uses regular batteries like AA's (C and D's being too heavy and AAA's not providing enough oomph for a bright light to last very long). Many of the high end lights use CR123A batteries like my old camera used (expensive, though you can find them online cheaper: $1.50 apiece) or 18650 cells which look like AA's but are actually Lithium Ion rechargeables that run at 3.6 volts (would need a new charger and CPF people are saying that rechargeable Li-Ion batteries can explode). 2 AA batteries seems like a good spot although those others are more compact.

I also wanted something as bright as possible with less bright modes available. A few years ago Fenix introduced a model called the L2D that met all of those requirements (they sold the same flashlight in a more compact form that uses one AA battery and isn't as bright called a L1D, see above; they also make a P2D that is just as bright as the L2D except it uses one CR123A battery so it is much shorter, see below). I could buy a P2D body (Lighthound has a big selection of parts so I did end up buying a P2D body and tail along with a L1D body; they included a free small keychain LED light that is brighter than my AAA Minimag TLE-20 upgrade for spending more than $20, plus shipping was only $3 so thumbs up for them) and attach it to my L2D head making for a much smaller light that would be easy to carry around in a pocket (this is why the Candlepower people like the CR123A-powered lights and they use them as their "everyday carry" or EDC light), however on turbo mode the CR123A burns up in 30 minutes vs. 90 minutes for 2 AA batteries. The L2D has a turbo mode of 180 lumens with other modes at 107, 55, and 12 lumens (Fenix tends to exaggerate their lumens compared with some others like Surefire; reviewers have said the $150 120-lumen Surefire E2DL is brighter than than the $50 180-lumen L2D). I like that range of light levels. Some others have only 2 levels which are both pretty bright (Eagletac P100A2 has 195 and 55 lumen brightnesses) or one bright and one that seems not bright enough. The turbo isn't a whole lot brighter than the second highest level, but it is noticeable: it's like turning the flashlight up to 11. The L2D also has a rapid flash mode on the brightest setting that they claim can disorient an attacker.

There were different LED's available in the L2D, so I had to make sure I was getting the Q5 version with a Cree XR-E LED. Others like the Luxeon Rebel or P4 weren't quite as bright, but the Cree is brighter with the same runtime.


So the L2D had good reviews, was bright, good quality, etc. It comes in two colors: black and olive. Black seems like the standard but someone at CPF pointed out that if you are looking for a flashlight, chances are it is dark so why would you want black? Most of the Candlepower people seem to go with olive, so that's what I picked. Then the next question was whether to get the L2D or the newer version of the same light called the LD20 (and LD10 and PD20). It seems like I read some reviews saying people didn't like the LD20 as much, but in retrospect I think I should have paid $3 more and gotten the LD20. Even though it is still an expensive light (about $50) I figured I would use some of the money from my iPod ads, so that it's not like I'm really paying for it. Otherwise I can't justify spending all the money on the flashlight and the Mag upgrades.


The last variable (I think) is the reflector that goes around the bulb. There is a smooth one and a textured one. The textured one just scatters the light a little more and sacrifices how far the beam will shine ("throw"). Mine came with a smooth reflector (the eBay ad didn't say which reflector it had). Some textured reflectors are in a pattern called "orange peel" while others just have a coating that diffuses light. Some people put Scotch tape over the lens to get a similar effect.

There is another variable, though not really, which has to do with the on/off switch (called a "clicky"). With Surefire and other brands you can halfway press the button (favorite location is on the tail end of the light) and it will light. If you fully press the button it will click and stay on. But Fenix has a "reverse clicky" which you can only click to On and then if you halfway press the button (really just touch it; it is very sensitive) it will turn off until you let go. So with Fenix it isn't an option, they are all reverse clicky. The L2D changes brightnesses by doing a quick half press once it is on. If you hold the half press the light stays off and when you let go it is on again in the same mode.


Anyway, I got the light today in the mail. It is smaller than I thought it would be but is basically the same size as a Mini Maglite. The smooth reflector still produces a good circle of light with a center that is significantly brighter than the brightest upgraded Maglite. Fenix says it is 180 lumens, which is probably a good number compared to the 140 lumens claimed by the Maglite upgrade. The light is whiter and whereas the Maglite has a defined center circle of light, this one is not. The quality seems good, similar to a Maglite with a metal body and screw-in head and tail with rubber o-rings to make it watertight (to IPX-8 which means 8 ft. of water for 30 minutes). But it has the better light, metal reflector instead of plastic, and glass lens instead of plastic. So it is definitely a big step up. The instructions and packaging were kind of lame and screamed Made in China.

Here's an extensive review with pictures of the olive version like mine:


May 17, 2009

Solar Charger

After doing research on flashlights, I thought it would be neat to get a solar battery charger. Then you could run the flashlights for free! I have links to some solar products on my iPod battery web page. I found a couple of posts on Candlepower Forums about solar chargers and the experts there seemed to wonder what the point is. A decent solar charger will cost nearly $100 which will buy a lot of batteries. If you are camping then you would have to carry the solar charger with you and then leave it in the sun while it charged batteries. Why not carry some extra batteries? Even the better ones will take all day to fully charge 4 AA batteries and that would require full sun and probably moving the solar panel to get the best exposure throughout the day. Will you have time for that?

It is still intriguing. Some of the solar chargers have an internal battery that the panel charges and then you plug your device (iPod, Palm, phone, or battery charger) into a USB jack on the charger (at night I guess) and get juice from the internal battery. That's good because you don't want to leave your batteries or your iPod in the sun all day.

One of the better ones may be a folding one made by Powerfilm. The key is to get plenty of area and this one folds out to get extra coverage, but can be folded up to about the size of a wallet. The advantage and problem is that it uses thin film solar cells which won't crack like the glass ones, but are not as efficient either (so it needs more area). I couldn't find a whole lot on user experience for these things. Most of the other ones I've seen have much less area but are using more efficient solar cells. Some of them are clearly junk and might require several days of sun just to charge a few AA batteries.

The only other use would be for a prolonged power outage, but even then I have a battery charger that can run off of the car lighter and I could probably charge batteries at work and bring them home. Now if the power grid fails for some reason, then it might be nice to have a solar charger, but if that is the case then I might have bigger worries than if my iPod or flashlight will work.

The ultimate solution is to get a 50-watt or higher solar panel, some sort of voltage converter, and then use this to charge up a car battery. The car battery is good because you can apply a lot of charge or just a little whenever it is available and it will hold a lot of energy. Then you connect a car lighter socket to it and use accessories meant for charging things in the car: cell phone, iPod, and even one of my battery chargers has a car adapter. Of course this is about $250 for the solar panel and maybe $50 more for the car battery. So how many batteries will you need to charge to make up the $300 investment? At Georgia Power's residential rate of 12 cents per kilowatt-hour, I would need to use 2,500 kW-hrs. One 2000 mAh AA battery charged at 1.2 volts is 2500 mW-hr which is 2.5W-hrs or 0.0025 kW-hrs. So I'd have to charge 1 million batteries to break even. If the system were to last 20 years, that means I would need to be using the equivalent of 143 batteries per week. I might use 8 plus I probably charge my phone 3 times a week, so that's roughly another 6 batteries. Plus my Palm and iPod might be 6 more. So now I'm up to 20. Hmmm . . . I could power my laptop off of the system and that would get me to the equivalent of 60 batteries per week. I could convert a lot of the lighting in my house to flashlights, but I'd have to buy more flashlights.

May 11, 2009

Mini Maglite LED Upgrade

After writing my last entry where I upgraded my Snakelight with a LED bulb that isn't brighter but stands to last much longer on a charge, I did some more research (mostly at Candlepower Forums. It is crazy how much information is out there on flashlights. And it's hard not to get caught up as people talk about new technology and fantastically bright flashlights. Also, you have to sort through a lot of posts some of which have outdated information and of course aren't going to tell you about what the current state of the art is (until you figure out what to look for).

I have two mini Maglite flashlights that use 2 AA batteries (and a third that uses 2 AAA batteries). They are decent on new alkalines but pretty pathetic using rechargeable NiMH batteries which have more capacity but a lower voltage. They now have LED versions available for more more money ($19 at Amazon, $24 at Walmart). I thought about getting one of those but then passed. Also, in 2009 Maglite introduced brighter LED "multi-mode" flashlights that let you use different brightness levels, but these are not easy to find yet: my Home Depot has them (about $22), but not Target or Walmart. The multi-mode miniMag has two brightness levels (in addition to a flashing mode and an SOS mode) with the brighter mode being about 90 lumens.

The LED Mini Maglite is brighter than the old incandescent versions (which are less than $8), but there are upgrades that are even brighter. The Snakelight upgrade was made by Nite-ize and they make upgrades for Maglites too (as does Maglite). But that one gets poor marks too. Then there is a company called Terralux that makes upgrades. They are harder to find, but they have one version that is definitely brighter called a TLE-5 (using a Luxeon 3 LED) and another that is twice as bright as that called the TLE-5EX. The TLE-5 uses a Luxeon LED while the 5EX uses a Cree XR-E LED (though it has used Luxeon K2 and Seoul emitters in the past, so it's hard to keep the information straight). They claim the 5EX is 140 lumens vs. maybe 10 for the incandescent bulbs.

Anyway, I got the upgrade in the mail today. It didn't fit in my older Minimag (so old it says Brinkmann instead of Mini Maglite on it; later on I was able to sand down the edges exposing the aluminum base of the upgrade and I got it to fit), so that one will just have to go without an upgrade. But in my newer one, wow! It is really bright. You can't look at it without probably damaging your eyes. It's like a small spotlight. I'm very impressed. People say that because it gets very hot that it will dim some after a few minutes of use. Even on a fairly marginal rechargeable batteries it is just as bright. At 3 watts it would only last a couple of hours on a set of good batteries, but that is about the same as the original bulb which is much, much dimmer.

Here is a very informative review with tons of pictures of the TLE-5EX upgrade. They measure the light as being 16 times brighter than the original bulb.

May 6, 2009

Snakelight LED Upgrade

A couple of weeks ago some bad storms blew through and my power was off for two nights. I had rechargeable batteries charged up, so I had two mini Maglites in candle mode (where you screw the lens part off) and also my Versapak Snakelight. The Snakelight is nice and bright (essentially it's just a regular flashlight) but I thought it would be nice if they made a Snakelight with LED bulbs. Of course it would be nice if it was Versapak too, but they're not making Versapak stuff anymore (not really true; I saw a Versapak screwdriver and batteries, including gold ones at Walmart later on). I looked and found nothing.

Tonight I was at Fry's and saw some LED flashlights and I wondered if there would be a way to hack a Snakelight by taking a LED bulb and fitting it in to where the regular bulb goes. As I kept looking I found there were kits where you could upgrade a Maglite to LED. And then I found a generic LED upgrade that is just a bulb in the conventional flashlight bulb shape, but LED. It didn't occur to me that it would be that simple (plus I've seen some Maglites with 3 LED's which means the whole head is different). While the Maglite upgrades claimed to be brighter (and one added a strobe function), the generic upgrade only offered 5 times the battery life. Plus I don't think LED's ever burn out though I've had the Snakelight for 10 years and it hasn't burned out yet. It was $8.99 but I wanted to try it anyway. A similar product is at Amazon for more money in a package that claims the light is brighter (it is a different bulb and really is brighter; see comment below). They also have the Maglite and other upgrades.

I brought it home, popped it in and turned on the switch. It is a much whiter (kind of blue) light, but I don't think it is any brighter. I can't say how much longer it stays bright on a charge, but if the old bulb would burn for two hours, this should burn for 10 which is pretty close to all night.

May 3, 2009

Tropicana Rainforest

Tropicana is having a promotion lately where you can enter a code off of a carton of orange juice and save 100 square feet of rainforest. Publix had a good deal on orange juice plus there was a coupon for $1 off two half gallons, so I stocked up today (no Trop50 for me!). I entered my codes and am now up to 1300 square feet. The website has a page of Top Rescuers. Of course I'm nowhere close, but I was surprised to see that the top team is the US Air Force Academy cadets with 53,600 square feet (an acre is 43,560). Second has 50,800 and third is quite distant at 13,300. But even the cadets pale in comparison to Brendan of Franklin, Massachusetts who has saved 172,800 square feet. If the academy were an individual, they would come in 4th. The total saved so far is 35 million square feet.

Tropicana Top Rescuers

Presidential Socks

I was looking through Time magazine's photo essay on Obama behind the scenes at the White House and saw this picture of the president with his aides.


He's wearing the same socks as me! Several years ago I decided that instead of trying to match up socks, I would just buy a bunch of one kind of sock and that way I wouldn't have to match them up or worry about losing one. So I have a whole drawer full of this kind of sock. You can't tell it from the online picture, but from the picture in the magazine I was able to tell further that this is an earlier version of the sock that you can't get anymore (so don't bother trying, Jeb). I went to replenish my supply of socks recently and wound up with similar Nike footies, but they are not quite the same. Now I am back to two kinds of socks, but even so I only have to pull out three socks to ensure a match.

Also, I have to say that Obama made yet another great decision in picking this particular sock (though maybe Michelle picked them out; they're not very expensive). Although Dad called any sock of that style "sissy socks," they are comfortable and they have lasted a long time.