Battery Charger and Getting Longer Life Out of Your Trail Game Scouting Camera, Game Pager™ and

Other Hunting and Outdoor Equipment Rechargeable Batteries

Several factors in addition to the battery charger enter the equation for longer battery life for your trail game scouting camera, Game Pager™ and other hunting and outdoor electronics

 Proper care of rechargeable batteries can extend their life and run time. Here are some tips.

  • Contrary to popular belief you should never run your batteries all the way down. As soon as they seem to be loosing power stop and put them in the battery charger. This might be hard to detect but you can use a voltmeter to check them and when you see a 50% drop in voltage, recharge.
  • Memory loss is attributed to not properly discharging batteries prior to recharge-this is not how memory develops. Memory develops in batteries with low constant drain like phones, clocks and etc. Your power tools are less likely to develop memory problems because their drain is intermittent and the electrical current varies with usage. For instance your drill – one time you may use it to drill a hole and the next, drive a screw. This keeps them from developing a memory, they just wear out.
  • If your battery seems to not hold a charge some of the reasons might be, a connection between an individual cell has broken or burned apart or your battery may have overheated from using the wrong type of charger. Or, it may have just reached the end of its useable life.
  • To improve the time between charges, use the battery in normal use until you notice a reduction in power or the volt meter reading reaches 50%. Let the battery equalize to room temperature before putting it in the charger, depending on the battery pack this could take as long as two hours. Charge for a minimum of eight hours to assure equal cell charge balance.
  • Many people forget and leave their batteries in the charger for long periods. This is ok if you have a quality battery charger with an equalization and maintenance mode (EM). The EM (trickle charge) mode allows you to leave them in the charger until all cells are fully balanced without experiencing any discharge. A battery on the shelf will start loosing charge at a rate of 15-20% in the first 24 hours and another 4-5% the next 24 hours unless kept in a charger which has the maintenance feature. A common battery killer is leaving batteries in a cheap rapid charger too long. Once fully charged, batteries will overheat if left too long in a cheap rapid only charger. Either leave the batteries in a maintenance charger or time your charge start time to the expected use time. If you’re single cell charger does not have a maintenance feature get a 24 hour timer that plugs into the outlet and set it for the correct charge time. This will maximize your battery life and up time in the field. If you don’t notice a difference in run time after doing this your battery may have reached its end of useful life and needs to be replaced.
    When To Charge Your Batteries

    For instance, you come in from a trail or scouting camera check and immediately recharge the batteries. After charging for the proper length of time you take them out of the charger and put them in a drawer or pack sack and forget about them. A couple of days later you pick them up and go to your game camera and swap batteries.  If you do not have a maintenance type trickle charger then let them sit on the shelf or in your battery powered device for several days before using them you could start out with a nearly discharged battery. Not good. Think ahead and time your battery charge to end just before you need to use them.

    If your batteries are too hot to hold when you take them out of the charger you are probably using the wrong charger voltage or over charging them. It is natural for them to heat up some but be aware excessive heat reduces battery life. Use the 24 hour outlet timer to stop overcharging.

    Do not use a different battery voltage than the one called for by your device manufacturer. Unless the specifications of the device tells the voltage range of battery powered equipment. If there is any question contact the manufacturer via their phone or e-mail.


    Battery Voltage

    Most electronics today will operate in voltage ranges of from 6 – 12 or 15 volts. If your device is rated at 6 volts with 4 - 1.2 volt cells you could most likely use a 9v battery. Your run time might be less as the volume of the material in battery is less. Likewise if the device is made for a 9 volt battery you could probably use a six volt battery. This stands to reason because it works until your battery needs charging. At this point the battery has lost about 30% of the charge. That means it is running on 6 volts sometimes anyway.

    If you have a 9 volt device and want to extend the run time over that of a single battery you could parallel another 9v battery. Chances are good that you could use a 6 volt lantern battery and get a large extended time between charges. You might need to change your connections and wiring slightly. This battery swap is explained in the Understanding Batteries and battery chargers. paper.

    CAUTION Most rechargeable batteries contain mercury, nickel and/or cadmium. These heavy metals can be very toxic. Cadmium is a known cancer causer. Mercury causes brain damage as does lead. Federal law passed in May 1966 as the ‘Mercury-Containing and Rechargeable Battery Management Act’ requires that they be recycled. You can recycle old batteries at any retailer that sells them. Over charging in a simple battery charger can even rupture these batteries. If this happens clean up any leaking liquid with soap and water being sure to wear gloves to avoid contact.

    Many electric devices have their batteries hard wired in. This is to encourage disposal of the device and repurchase of a new one. Just because a battery in an electric shaver, drill, telephone etc. refuses to be recharged does not mean the whole device needs to be thrown away. The batteries can still be replaced and the device will work as good as new.

     Sidebar More on Battery Memory

    The next time you experience the memory effect don’t let it go for a long time change the way you use the batteries. For instance put them in a flash light and let them discharge to about one volt per cell before putting in the battery charger and recharging fully. This may have to be done several times and will require diligent monitoring if the light has more than one cell. A three cell flashlight for instance should be opened and each cell voltage checked with a volt meter. If two of the three cells still remain above one volt when the other is indicating one volt, remove the one volt cell to the battery charger and put another weak battery back into the flash light with the other two. Keep monitoring but do not let a single cell drain to a point below one volt or permanent damage may result.

    Caution: Never short both poles of a battery with a wire jumper as you can over heat a wire, the battery or create a spark that can damage eyes.

    Expected Battery Life

    Remember a NiCad rechargeable battery is designed to be recharged by a battery charger about 1000 times. If your batteries are weak and have not been in the battery charger over 800 times you are either experiencing memory problems or you have a reverse charged cell in the group.

    A reverse charged cell happens when one cell in a pack of several cells drops its charge faster than the others in the pack and starts accepting charge in reverse from the other cells in the pack. When this happens the cell charge procedure has to be reversed  to the right direction intentionally. Otherwise it may never recharge in the battery charger.

    To reverse the reverse charge usually requires a spike in voltage and current. One method I have used is to change the single 1.2 - 1.5 volt cell by boosting it with leads from a 6v lantern battery. Do not let the battery overheat but juice it for say one minute then put it in its regular battery charger for 24 hours. If after the 24 hours is up the battery is still weak try boosting it with two seriesed  six volt batteries, i.e 11 -12 volts then back into the battery charger for another 24 hours. If this worked good, if not, you will probably never rejuvenate that battery.

    Special Game Camera Considerations

    Sealed 12v, lead acid batteries are available from All Electric at very reasonable rates to extend your field operation time. Sizes range from 2.3 amp-hours to 17 amp-hours ($12 -$35) Add a 12 volt Vellerman #SOL5N solar battery charger for $30.00 and keep TrailEyes out in the field indefinitely. The Solar charger comes with adapters which makes it convertible to an auto battery trickle charger.

    When thinking about battery field time of your camera the battery internal battery has to be considered as it not only provides power for taking the picture but it also powers the flash. Most camera batteries are 3 volt nominal. To keep from having to rig the camera for larger external batteries, a 2.6 volt solar garden light charger can be wired in parallel with the small batteries to keep them charged. All Electronics has them for $4.00 each (Cat. #SPL-07). The units come with LED lights which you will want to remove, otherwise they will use up the stored energy when they come on at sundown, just cut the wires and tape or silicone them up. To use the solar garden light battery charger cut a hole in a handy box and drop the electronics through the hole and seal the flat panel to the box with silicone.

    There are two ways of wiring the battery charger to your user; one is to put the rechargeable batteries in the holder provided with the charger and solder a pair of wires to the (+) & (-) battery case terminals on the other end to the camera or other device you can do the same; the other is put the rechargeable batteries in the camera. Solder the wires at the battery charger terminals then at the other end of the wires solder a small flat tab cut from brass shim stock. Slip these tabs between the batteries and case terminal taking care to keep the polarity right. You can make the pair of battery charging wires any length desired so that the Solar panel battery charger can be oriented to catch the sunlight. To make the whole rig easier to use put a 2 contact weather proof rubber trailer light connector in the line near the camera. This type of connector is self polarizing and having it will make its use convenient and if the camera is only going to be out overnight the battery charger can be left at home.