The ability to accommodate multiple power options is a great feature to have in any device, and a two way radio with this attribute is an especially versatile transceiver. In addition to a rechargeable battery pack, such radios can operate from other power sources as well, such as 12v DC vehicle power adapters and, of course, regular AA or AAA alkaline batteries. It is rather common for some models of handheld radios to allow the use of both rechargeable batteries or proprietary battery packs and AA or AAA disposable alkaline batteries, a very useful and highly desirable feature. However, for all of its obvious benefits, this versatility also brings a certain level of risk: the possibility, whether by ignorance or accident, of the potentially costly or even dangerous mistake of charging the wrong batteries in the radio.
Customers often ask us about battery compatibility with their radios, and most are the type of queries one would expect. Recently we received a question about the use of alkaline batteries in two way radios as a substitution for the supplied rechargeable cells that was a little different. While it is a very basic question, it's a very important one, with an answer everyone should know before they ever attempt to recharge their radio.
If my two way radio accepts AA or AAA batteries, can I charge them when I plug the radio in to the charger?
If they are alkaline or zinc-carbon batteries, the answer is no. These are disposable batteries and cannot be recharged. If they are rechargeable batteries, it depends. Some radios are designed specifically for AA or AAA rechargeable batteries and usually include a set of two, three, or four of these cells in the package with each radio. If so, only those rechargeable cells provided with the radio by the manufacturer are specifically intended to be charged while inside the radio itself. If the rechargeable batteries are not supplied by the radio manufacturer or are purchased separately from a third party battery manufacturer, they should only be charged outside the radio and only in a charger specifically made for those batteries.
One might think this is just common sense, but it can be an easy mistake to make, especially with radios that support multiple battery types and charging options. Let's say you have a set of Motorola Talkabout radios with a battery pack inside each one that is charged when the radios are inserted into a desktop drop-in charger or plugged into a USB charger adapter. The radios also accept AA or AAA disposable alkaline batteries. Suppose you take your radios on a camping trip for the weekend. The camp has no electricity to recharge the batteries, but fortunately you carry along some disposables as a backup. During the trip, one of the radios drains its battery pack, so you naturally swap it for the alkalines. After returning home, you set the radios aside for a couple of months until you need them again and it's time to charge them for your next excursion.
But, you forgot one of them has the alkalines, and which one? If you don't check first, you may get a nasty reminder after the fact, one that could pose a serious hazard to your radios, or, more importantly, to you.
Think it can't happen? It certainly can. It isn't always due to operator error, either. Even the manufacturers themselves can make a mistake. The most recent example of this was related to the Midland GXT2000 and GXT2050 radios. These radios, which were intended to operate on either Lithium Polymer (Li-Po) battery packs or disposable alkalines, had chronic power issues, prompting Midland to change the power options of the series.
Mistakes can happen, but they can usually be minimized or even prevented with a little care and common sense.
To minimize the chance of an error or accident, follow these best practices when using batteries and charging battery packs for your radios:
- Alkaline batteries are not rechargeable. NEVER attempt to charge alkalines either in or outside a radio.
- Although you can use rechargeable batteries manufactured by a third party instead of alkalines to power the radio, you should never attempt to recharge them in the radio. ONLY charge rechargeable batteries in the charger they came with.
- Never attempt to recharge one type of rechargeable battery in a charger intended for different type. For instance, do not charge Nickel Metal Hydride (NiCd) batteries in a Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion) battery charger or vice-versa.
- You should ONLY use the radio charger to charge the radio with the rechargeable batteries or battery pack that came with the radio or a replacement rechargeable battery pack specifically approved to replace the original battery pack for that make and model radio.
- Using the radio charger for any other type of radio, battery or battery pack than the one it is intended for can be very dangerous for you and/or your radio and is NOT recommended.
- Always check the type and condition of the batteries in your radios before you charge them, especially if they have not been used for extended periods.