Electrical energy (and the storage of this energy with batteries) has fundamentally changed our society.
The electrical grid is one of modern societies most valuable (and vulnerable) resources.
So it’s no wonder why we so heavily rely on it. We use it for everything in modern life from warmth during cold months to cool during hot months. From entertainment when we’re bored to increase food preservation using refrigeration.
It even takes electrical power to operate fuel pumps. Fuel pumps that support our mass market food chain. The very supply chain that fills your local grocery store – daily.
So without grid power, you’re local grocer would quickly become bare.
In such an event (even for a few weeks) life would become a much more challenging endeavor. Millions of people would suffer and societies norms would crumble without the grid.
And that’s in just the first few weeks of widespread grid power loss. A longer disaster without power, the more widespread the suffering and death becomes.
Can You Imagine Modern Life Without The Grid?
And when it happens, people are going to start hoarding and using batteries like they’re going out of style. All available batteries will vanish from store shelves before you can say “turmoil.”
Because having a battery is like carrying around a little pocket generator. And as we’re all aware, power generation is useful (no matter what form it comes in).
Unfortunately, traditional AA or AAA batteries won’t last long in a serious emergency.
They’ll also become one of the first resources looted from stores. But even if your lucky and snag a few hundred AA before a disaster, they’re consumable – they won’t last forever, right?
Maybe not...later in this article I'll show you resource that helps you recondition any of your batteries to resurrect them from the trash heap.
Sure, high-quality batteries tend to have a longer life than cheap ones, but we’re talking a few days or weeks longer – max. Not enough to make a significant difference in a prolonged disaster.
However, just because something is no longer on a shelf, doesn’t mean it’s not available. The electrical grid might not be working – but electricity can still be generated.
Commercial batteries may be long gone – but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a homemade battery!
That’s precisely the purpose of this article. To discuss homemade batteries and how to ‘home-make’ them. It won’t be easy, and they won’t generate power like a DIY generator. But a homemade battery can store the energy generated from a homemade generator.
So it’s a survival skill worth learning!
Before I show you how to make a homemade battery from scratch, I wanted to make sure you saw the latest and greatest new gear in the “rechargeable battery” space.
It’s a USB rechargeable battery.
It might just be the world’s best survival battery. The EasyPower USB Battery uses a simple USB connection to recharge.
Meaning, it works just as well in the office as it does in the wilderness…And that my friend, makes it the best AA battery for any situation on the planet!
How Batteries Work
Before building your own batteries, it’s imperative to understand the basic concepts first. And in this case, all batteries follow the same general idea:
Mix the right chemical solutions, and connect them to ‘flow’ in one direction – from negative (-) to positive (+).
There are three parts to every battery: the anode (-), the cathode (+), and the electrolyte.
The anode and the cathode (which are the negative (-) and the positive (+) ends of a battery) connect to the electrolyte.
Chemical reactions within the battery then start generating energy. The energy that flows from negative (-) to positive (+) around the circuit you’ve created.
The simplest battery I know of is made with a lemon, a copper piece of wire, and a sliver of aluminum:
Stick the two metallic pieces into the lemon’s skin and connect them with a wire and you have got a battery.
Granted, it won’t generate much voltage (you can’t run your car on lemons), but there is some energy.
This concept is the same for larger, more powerful batteries; only the chemicals are a lot more potent…
How To Make A Homemade Battery
Let’s start small, and build our way up. But before we jump into making the batteries, let’s clarify one crucial point.
The batteries we’ll be building today produce only DC (Direct Current) electricity. As opposed to the more efficient, but more complicated AC (Alternating Current) power.
DC batteries (like the ones you’ll be making) are crude vs. batteries used in engines. They’re great for the basics like lighting, small amounts of heat, and powering small pocket radios (like the Kaito KA-208) but it won’t replace your car battery.
Building A 1.5 Volt Battery
Supplies: aluminum can, copper wire/cord, water, bleach, cup.
Cut the can along its side and flatten it out, roll up the edge of the can into a small aluminum bar.
Fill the cup about halfway with water, add a teaspoon of bleach and mix with a spoon.
Place the copper cord and the aluminum bar into the cup. Make sure they’re not touching each other at the bottom. Then connect the two with a wire.
The chemical reaction within the cup generates roughly 1.5 volts of electricity. It will flow from the aluminum cathode (-) to the copper anode (+).
Building On That Battery
In a sense, these little cup batteries act like legos. Because you can connect one aluminum cathode (-) to the next copper anode (+). You can stack eight or nine cups to make a ~12 Volt DC battery.
Make four or five of those, and you can generate 60 Volts of DC electricity – not bad at all.
The Ice Tray Battery
Supplies: 1 ice tray, copper wire, aluminum bolts/screws, vinegar, lime juice, water
The next step up in homemade battery technology is the more compact, more portable Ice Tray 9 volt.
Using the same concept as above, you can pour a solution of vinegar, water, bleach and lime juice into each ‘cube.’
Using the copper wire, make a hanging loop. Now drape the copper wire loop and aluminum screw over the edge between each ‘cube’ on the ice tray.
Make sure that both the ends of the screw and the copper wire are submerged in the battery solution.
The electric flow moves from the aluminum screw cathode (-) into the electrolyte in the ‘cubes’ and into the copper wire anode (+). Which, receives it and passes it along to the next aluminum cathode. Do not break this circuit!
Alternate cathode to the anode to the electrolyte, to cathode. In the same way in a counterclockwise direction around the ice tray.
Once you have an entire circuit to carry your electricity, use two pieces of wire to connect the 9-volt battery.
If it doesn’t work right away, double check your circuit is unbroken and flows in a single direction.
Here’s an excellent video giving an overview of how these small battery setups work.
And here’s another ice cube tray battery but using dirt to fill the cells “The DIY Earth Battery”:
Reconditioning Old Batteries
It may sound implausible. It may seem unsafe. It may even sound too good to be true.
But it is possible to recondition old batteries (car, AA, AAA, etc.).
Now, this is advantageous knowledge to learn. Why? Because homemade batteries aren’t revolutions in high electricity output.
That is to say; they’re crude and small. An ice cube tray batteries only work well for small tasks.
Bigger batteries (i.e. car batteries) offer more power and more survival applications.
Knowing how to recondition batteries serves a lot of practical survival purposes.
And reconditioning batteries is also an environmentally sustainable practice! Batteries are toxic and difficult to recycle. And in our throw away society, many of them wasted every day by people who don’t know how to recondition them.
Still Not Convinced?
Reconditioning old batteries can also be financially beneficial too.
Many people who learn how to recondition batteries, fix up old used ones and then resell them.
Sounds great right?! Well, good. Because I’m about to explain how to do it.
Be warned – reconditioning old batteries is more complicated than building the simple science class contraptions in the “Homemade Batteries” section of this article. It can also be dangerous.
Here’s One Simple Way To Recondition An Old Car Battery:
Remove the rubber tops that protect the caps. Then, remove the caps as well – depending on what kind of battery you’re working with, you may have to remove as many as seven caps. But be sure to remove all entirely!
Once the caps are out, fill the battery with new battery acid. You can easily buy battery acid online from reputable sources. Or, if you need to, you can mix your own:
- Boil a ½ gallon of distilled water
- Add a ½ lb of Epsom salt
- Stir until salt is completely dissolved
Make sure the lead plates inside each cell of the battery are completely covered before replacing the cells of the battery.
Rock the battery back and forth for 60 seconds. Rocking helps to ensure the mixture has coated all surfaces within both battery cells.
Plug the battery in to charge for the next 24 hours. Be sure to check that you’ve correctly connected the positive (+) and negative (-) ends in the right places!
This process often works but it’s more of a short term solution. This process won’t bring your battery back to life anywhere close to “like-new” or work for very long.
However, there are other more technical methods and processes that are more effective at restoring an old car battery. That’s why I highly recommend consulting a professional guide before trying this yourself.
It’s Worth Getting Detailed Guidance From The Pros
So here’s a worthwhile video from a professional battery reconditioning expert giving some advice on the best way to get started:
A few more notes on refurbishing batteries:
Be extremely cautious when working with reconditioned batteries. If done incorrectly a car battery can become a small bomb.
If tampered with or improperly your “reconditioned” battery might just go BOOM. Also, regularly operating vehicles on refurbished batteries can be hazardous to you and others. It all comes back to knowing what the heck you’re doing and you do this by investing in professional knowledge and advice.
Survival Applications For Homemade Batteries
How useful would it be to make a homemade battery or refurbish old batteries in a world without electricity? To be one of few who’s figured out the secret mysteries of battery making and refurbishment.
That’s the kind of power that pays off.
But it’s always good to visualize the benefits to that kind of technology. Because in our world of flashing lights, gadgets, and computers, it’s easy to take electricity for granted.
It’s everywhere today – without it, you wouldn’t be reading this article.
Now, smaller homemade batteries are best for simple basic needs such as lighting, heat, and communication.
With a small homemade battery, you don’t need a candle; you don’t have to rely on the grid or even commercial batteries. But you can still have consistent, flameless, odorless, chemical-free light. You just need a little battery.
Refurbished car batteries are great for a lot of things. You can charge small devices like phones, GPS, computers, flashlights, radios and other gadgets with them. Then just recharge the car battery itself with a small solar panel setup or any of these DIY generators setups.
Refurbished car batteries can power larger appliances. Small refrigerators, televisions, surveillance systems, and the like are all on the table. Albeit, for only a few hours, unless you daisy chain multiple batteries to create what’s called a battery bank.
With off-grid power generation and a large bank of car batteries, you can even get off the grid entirely. Knowing you don’t need the grid at all is a fundamental self-reliant achievement. It’s a lofty but worthwhile goal!
Everything Dies, Get Over It
The simple fact of the matter is this: Batteries don’t last forever.
Not the homemade ones, not the commercial ones, not the ones with the pink badass little bunny….
And even refurbished batteries can only be resurrected so many times. Batteries, like all things, eventually die. Don’t ever expect them to live forever.
That being said, it’s always best to stay prepared for when your batteries do in fact kick the bucket.
If you have lots of homemade batteries configured, make sure you’re staying stocked up replacement supplies.
You’ll have to replace pieces or entire cells throughout the life of the battery. That’s alright – it’s the small price you’ll pay for having electricity when no one else does.
And if you are reconditioning batteries; stay safe. Never forget you’re working with electrical boxes full of acid that can (and will) explode if you mess them up too bad.
Once again, this is the price of harnessing free home-generated electricity when others do not.
The Final Word
The first battery was made by Volta in 1800. And since then batteries have become an integral part of life in the modern world.
They’re in our cars and trucks, they’re in our phones and computers, and just about everywhere else you look.
And for a good reason. Portable stored electricity is one of the greatest and most versatile resources ever invented.
Knowing how to make and refurbish batteries are survival skills that aren’t very common. They’re techniques for survivors who want to set themselves ahead of the masses.
And storing the power of electricity is one hell of a leg up.