Author Topic: Freeplay crank powered lights/Radios  (Read 4462 times)

Offline archer

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Freeplay crank powered lights/Radios
« on: October 16, 2008, 11:26:06 AM »
For Christmas last year my family gave me a Freeplay EyeMax (http://www.freeplayenergy.com/product/eyemax) and Indigo (http://www.freeplayenergy.com/product/indigo). I've not impressed with them and here are my comments:

EyeMax

 This is power by either solar, crank, or a included power supply. It holds power pretty good, but has some problems. The light in the front is not very well designed. After a few weeks of my son playing with it the light would not always turn off without pushing on it hard. Currently the light does not come on at all since he dropped it about 2'. The radio is OK, but I find that the station it is set to 'drifts' and you need to tweak it every 5-10 minutes.

Indigo

 Much better for light, I use this as my main light when I camp. But it has problems. It has 2 light modes, the first is a single LED for directional light (reading, etc) and the 2nd is a cluster of LEDs for lantern type illumination. I find that the cluster of LEDs shuts it self off after using only a little of the charge of the battery. After the cluster shuts off, the single LED will shine for at least 30 minutes more. I think the cluster wants full power to work properly. I've not tried testing this using the included adapter, I should try that and see if the cluster works better. To be fair, the web site has instructions to 're-condition' the battery, I'll need to try that.
 

Offline TimSuggs

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Re: Freeplay crank powered lights/Radios
« Reply #1 on: October 19, 2008, 07:54:58 PM »
Another Freeplay Hand Crank/Solar Radio and Flashlight Review:
I bought in on one of the first generation of the wind up's in the early 1990's, a rather large yellow flashlight (looks like a 4 pound Camel Cricket) and a AM/FM radio.  The first few uses were fine and just as advertised, BUT... about a year later when Winter Storm '93 hit the South and we were without power for 2+ weeks, I drug them out of their hidey holes and was quite disappointed.  In both items, the bearings/re-wind springs had rusted and had this terrible death squeal when they were "un-winding".  It was mostly just annoying (and definitely not stealthy), but it rendered the radio almost useless unless you used an earphone.  The storage capacity of the batteries was toast too.  I think I paid nearly $100.00 each for them, so I was more than a little peeved.  Below are pictures of the model of the Freeplay Radio, but after searching high and low (even eBay didn't have one offered) for a picture of the flashlight, I got nadda.  It was yellow (yeller if you are South of the Mason Dixon Line <grin>), and had a four position switch "Off-Charge-Low-High"  A/C adapter was included, but no solar, and it was huge as most flashlights go, regular old style flashlight bulb (Pre-LED)

Tim Suggs
Birmingham, AL. USA

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« Last Edit: October 19, 2008, 07:59:29 PM by timsuggs »

Offline archer

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Re: Freeplay crank powered lights/Radios
« Reply #2 on: October 19, 2008, 10:16:07 PM »
I am quite disappointed with the quality of the lights, especially since they cost a good bit

Offline DeltaEchoVictor

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Re: Freeplay crank powered lights/Radios
« Reply #3 on: October 19, 2008, 10:32:42 PM »
I had one of the freeplay wind up radios back in 2000 or 2001.  It didn't have the light but it did have a solar panel so you could use it without cranking it in the sun.  It was about the size of a small boom box & worked about 30 minutes or so if you gave it a full crank.  It didn't last very long however, I think it quit working within the first year.  Not sure why, I think the crank broke on it.  One day it just wouldn't wind up anymore.

Offline archer

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Re: Freeplay crank powered lights/Radios
« Reply #4 on: October 20, 2008, 11:30:48 AM »
Looks like my experiences are shared with others. Freeplays are crap.

Offline Dan

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Re: Freeplay crank powered lights/Radios
« Reply #5 on: October 21, 2008, 12:20:55 PM »
I purchased a Freeplay EyeMax Weather radio about a year ago and have been quite happy with it so far. This is the one I have http://www.ccrane.com/radios/wind-up-emergency-radios/freeplay-eyemax-weather-radio.aspx

The Weather version of the EyeMax has a yellow plastic case that has a almost rubbery feel to it. There is a button on the back that if pushed when the radio is on will switch from the regular radio to your local weather station. I like this feature in that it allows you to quickly switch from one to the other without having to search the dial. AM reception has been good I have been able to pull in stations with this radio that other radios I own have not been able to get with acceptable audio quality. FM reception appears to be typical but I haven’t yet tried to get receive stations from long distance. I use my Freeplay regularly and usually charge it using the AC adapter as the hand crank generator would take some doing to get a full charge from it. I have used the crank to make sure it worked and it does but it takes some effort so I wouldn’t use it unless It was necessary. I haven’t tried charging using the solar panel yet. Output from the built in LED flashlight is acceptable it’s not going to replace  anyone’s tactical flashlight but it’s a lot better than a candle for finding your way in the dark. No problems to report with the switch on mine.

To address some of the things Tim mentioned the new radios don’t use the clock spring system he refers to. The radio that Archer and I have contain a generator that charges the battery pack when you crank the handle. Also regarding the battery pack in Tim’s radio, if you leave NiCad batteries for long periods of time without cycling them they will lose capacity, they need to be used regularly to keep them from suffering a premature death. Again the new radios do not have NiCad battery packs they use NiMH batteries to help reduce the problem but it does still exist. Use your radios regularly and this shouldn’t be a problem.

Archer, I don’t know what to say about the light that sucks but have you tried contacting Freeplay to ask them about fixing or replacing it? About the drift you are experiencing is it only on AM or is it doing it on FM as well? The reason I ask is that AM will do this and with an analog tuner you may need to fiddle with it depending on the amount of drift. Forgive me if this sounds elementary to you but you would be surprised how many people don’t know this because they have only used digital tuners that compensate for drift automatically.

I’m not sure if I lucked out and got a better example of this radio or if the weather version is somehow different but I am usually pretty picky about this kind of equipment and I have been happy with my Freeplay.

Offline TimSuggs

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Re: Freeplay crank powered lights/Radios
« Reply #6 on: October 21, 2008, 10:04:53 PM »
I purchased a Freeplay EyeMax Weather radio about a year ago and have been quite happy with it so far. This is the one I have http://www.ccrane.com/radios/wind-up-emergency-radios/freeplay-eyemax-weather-radio.aspx

To address some of the things Tim mentioned the new radios don’t use the clock spring system he refers to. The radio that Archer and I have contain a generator that charges the battery pack when you crank the handle. Also regarding the battery pack in Tim’s radio, if you leave NiCad batteries for long periods of time without cycling them they will lose capacity, they need to be used regularly to keep them from suffering a premature death. Again the new radios do not have NiCad battery packs they use NiMH batteries to help reduce the problem but it does still exist. Use your radios regularly and this shouldn’t be a problem.

I’m not sure if I lucked out and got a better example of this radio or if the weather version is somehow different but I am usually pretty picky about this kind of equipment and I have been happy with my Freeplay.

Yes Dan, both of mine had the ratchet wind up spring, about a 5 minute cranking experience.  Everything worked fine in the first few uses, but man-o-man, after either the spring, or the bearings rusted (which I feel they shouldn't have since it wasn't exposed to any more than normal humidity) it would squeal like a banshee as it unwound.  Now, I did state these were first generation, and I expect a manufacturer to upgrade, improve or change as new technology arrives (LED's), but Gen One of the FreePlay's were junk, plain and simple, especially if you consider how they were advertised as emergency "stow-a-way" gear. 

Now, I agree with you 100% on the battery issues.  I've been the "route" with NiCads, NiMH and the Lithium Ion's, and I'm a big time battery user.  All of my DeWalt 18v stuff is battery powered and I have close to 100 of the batteries.  Sometimes I feel my part-time job is loading batteries into chargers.  I'm a "Special Events" contractor in the summer months here and build things like Birmingham's City Stages Music Festival   http://www.citystages.org/ and Sloss Fright Furnace http://www.frightfurnace.com/main.asp and most of my work is without power so I gotta have my batteries.

Tim Suggs
Birmingham, AL. USA!

Offline Nate

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Re: Freeplay crank powered lights/Radios
« Reply #7 on: October 26, 2008, 07:49:02 AM »
I have a Freeplay Ranger radio.  It has the hand crank, solar panel and AC adapter.  I have had it now for about 4 years and it has performed flawlessly.  I use it regularly in my bathroom to listen to the radio during my morning routine.  Occasionally I charge it from the wall.  I have taken it on countless canoe trips and camping trips.  It was even used as the only radio in the short bus I drive every summer for the wilderness trip program I work for. 

I did have the large one everyone has talked about.  That one broke on me too.  I think freeplay has improved since then with the Ranger model.  So far, so good!

Offline DeltaEchoVictor

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Re: Freeplay crank powered lights/Radios
« Reply #8 on: October 27, 2008, 11:11:34 PM »
To be fair, it's been several years since I had mine.

 I like the concept & the idea of having a "forever" radio, that is, one that doesn't rely on conventional means to operate.  I plan on giving these a try again, I just haven't gotten around to it thus far.  I may do a little investigating to see what's available now & pick one up in the near future.