Getting “Cranky” on the Homestead

By , July 25, 2010

In general, we’ve had more wind than we usually get in the summer, so power hasn’t been much of an issue lately. Often, especially in the summer months, we have long, cloudy calms. When that happens, we have to reduce our power consumption. It’s enough to make us . . . . well, cranky!

We really appreciate the increased availability of hand-cranked power sources for small electronics. On the homestead we regularly use crank flashlights, lanterns, and radios.

Kaito Voyager solar/crank radio

Our outhouse friend, the Kaito Voyager. We do not recommend the wind up Viatek lantern to the right. One broke just pulling it free from the packaging! (Photo: Mark Zeiger.)

Of these, the crank radios are the most useful. We own five of them.

Our oldest is a Grundig. This model came before Grunidg became Éton, known for their Red Cross crank radios. As so often happens, a formerly rugged, user-friendly piece of equipment has diminished under new ownership. We’ve had that old Grundig for a long time. We liked it enough to buy another when we needed a second radio. We got the new Éton Red Cross. It has more features than the old Grundig, adding weather radio bands to AM/FM/shortwave, and offering attachments for cell phone charging with the crank. Unfortunately, the crank mechanism doesn’t live up to the old standards. We bought the Éton three years ago, and have had to replace it twice because the crank gave out. To the company’s credit, they’ve replaced both at no charge, other than the cost of mailing in the broken unit.

We have two radios made by the Kaito Company, which supplies the military with portable radios powered by both crank and solar panel in the same unit. These offer weather bands and shortwave as well as AM/FM. Unlike many other radios, switching to weather goes right to the local channel you’ve dialed in. There’s no need to tune to the frequency once you’ve switched over. Because the weather is so important to us, we switch from the local FM station to weather and back many times each day. A radio that makes both stations immediately available when selected is very helpful. The Kaito Voyageris more rugged and offers improved features, including an adjustable solar panel, cell phone and USB chargers for our MP3 players. Additionally, the crank handle is longer on this unit than most models, allowing more power generation with fewer revolutions.

These may seem like nitpicking points, but when one relies on crank appliances as much as we do, one appreciates improved features.

A few crank-powered items we’ve heard about and are eager to try include crank-powered MP3 players, electric shavers, and headlamps.

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