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Emergency self-powered radio and charger handy during Hurricane Sandy

- October 30th, 2012
Solarlink FR370 Front

ETON Red Cross Solarlink FR 370

 

We never know when the power is going to go out so it’s a good idea to make sure that when the time comes we are ready. Now not everyone has the ability to keep a generator around, but certainly a small gadget that’s self powered to help get the news, the weather and even charge other small gadgets would certainly be welcome.

Canadian Red Cross branded safety radios from the ETON Corporation would certainly fit the bill. So let’s have a quick look at 2 models.

Solarlink 170

ETON Red Cross Solarlink FR 170

The Solarlink FR 170 is a small pocket size radio, measuring 5.375″ x 2.5″ x 2.5″ and weighs a mere 8.6 oz. It has an AM/FM band as well as 7-channel NOAA weather bands to provide you with emergency weather information as well as other public alerts. It has a built-in flashlight featuring three integrated LEDs as well as a headphone jack for listening privately and it even has a USB port that you can use to charge up your cell phone and other low powered USB devices.

Solar and Dynamo Hand Crank Charging

The Solarlink FR170 has a built-in rechargeable nickel metal hydride battery that you can charge using traditional AC power or even USB power. But what’s unique about this particular radio it that it also has the ability to recharge using solar power. Now if there’s no sun around, which would be the case if being inside or of there is a heavy rainstorm or it’s night-time, you can alternately recharge the battery of this device with its built-in hand crank. Now while this might seem novel or archaic, depending on your point of view, given the lack of any other sources of power, this can certainly come in handy.

ETON 370 Crank

The Solarlink FR 370 emergency preparedness radio is like a big brother to the FR 170.  At 6.375″ x 6.375″ x 2.75″, it doesn’t quite fit in your pocket but it’s not designed to do so. In addition to the features on the FR170, it has a digital tuner rather than the analogue one, as well as an alarm clock. It also has the 7-channel NOAA Weather Band radio. However, in addition, it has a weather alert button that can be set to warn you when there’s an alert in your area. It also has a flashing beacon and can run off 3 x AAA batteries (not included).

 

Charging and Power

While results may vary, it’s expected that a fully charged battery will play your radio for 3-4 hours. In case of emergency, hand-cranking the dynamo for about 90 seconds will yield, at low volume, about 5-7 minutes of radio play and to fully recharge the battery using solar power should take about 10 hours.

Cellphones are animals all by themselves. According to the company’s specs, there are consideration from sides, the radio (see manual) and your cell with respect to charging and some cell phones may not accept a crank charge at all. They expect, that for compatible units, cranking the dynamo on the FR370 for 10 minutes at 130 RPM will give you about 5 minutes of talk time and 1 minute on the FR170 for 10-15 minutes of crank time.

Whether you are in the path of Hurricane Sandy or not, it’s probably not a bad idea to have one of these handy. In fact, the Red Cross recommends that all households have a portable, battery operated or hand crank radio as part of their complete disaster supplies kit.

The ETON Red Cross Solarlink FR 170 retails for $39.99; the ETON Red Cross Solarlink FR 370 retails for $69.99 and both are available at The Source. Furthermore, Etón Corporation will contribute a small portion of the sales price to support the Canadian Red Cross.

If you are interested, feel free to download Eton’s Preparedness Guide.

For our friends south of the border, the Eton has American Red Cross branded models, too.

 

Photos Courtesy:  Etón Corporation.

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Greg Gazin is the Real Canadian Gadget Guy.

Follow me on Twitter @gadgetgreg or Empire Avenue (e)GADGET1.

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3 comments

  1. Doug | October 31, 2012 at 9:04 am

    I have to disagree about the Eton Solarlink FR370.
    Eton used to make good radios but this one feels flimsy and has not been well thought out.
    The knobs are loose and despite the fact that is has a back-lit display, there is no way to turn it on for a “quick peek” in the dark.
    It also sucks power like crazy and due to the fact that it uses 3 AAA batteries, unlike their predecessor, the batteries only last a day or two with moderate use.
    It is also over-priced.
    A much better alternative is the Midland Radio ER-102. It is only available directly from the US manufacturer but is a far better unit.
    It feels robust and has all the features of the Eton and includes a charger for the internal rechargeable batteries (you have to pay extra for the Eton charger).
    There is a quick backlight display button on the top and it includes a temperature display (F or C) and a “freeze” warning as well.
    It uses 3 AA batteries and they last days and days with moderate use.
    The Eton is $69.99 at The Source and the Midland is $59.99 US.

  2. Greg Gazin | October 31, 2012 at 9:33 am

    Hi Doug. Thanks for your feedback. The 370 I have here seems to be ok. Although the construction is certainly not industrial grade, ie: for rugged everyday use, for emergency use it seems like it would do.

    Now as for batteries and battery life, I appreciate the feedback; I haven’t used it as much as I did the FR160, the predecessor to the FR170 which I use quite frequently and it’s been rock solid. The FR370 does allow the use of AAA batteries, but it does come with a Ni-MH battery as well which you initially have to connect manually. ( It comes that way from the factory)

    I haven’t had the opportunity to check out the Midland unit; Sounds interesting. How rugged is it? The quick peek feature and the temperature indicator are a nice touch.Thanks for the heads-up and taking the time to comment!

  3. darcy hubbert | November 7, 2012 at 9:06 pm

    This is truly remarkable! Gadgets like this one could really help a lot in terms of disasters. Thanks for posting!

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