How to Replace Batteries in FLIR Thermal Imagers
Night vision and thermal devices need power to run. And some of the enhanced technologies can pull a lot of electricity from a set of batteries. If you’re familiar with HBO’s mini-series Generation Kill that follows the story reconnaissance marines during the invasion of Iraq, you’ll recall an ongoing issue for the marines is keeping their thermal optics up and running. There’s a fifteen second debate linked in this video below:
Fortunately for us civilians and law enforcement professionals running thermal units on home soil, acquiring batteries is much easier here than in Iraq. But what do you need? And how often do you need to stock up?
All the FLIR thermal units found on OptimumStores are one of three different chassis sizes, which determines their battery type.
The PS and LS sized units have an internal lithium battery that will keep them running on average for 5 hours. They have a serious advantage of being easily charged through a vehicle or laptop, but it does mean that you can’t swap them out yourself. The unit has to charge up again through plug in. And like all lithium batteries, someday it might lose its charge. FLIR has you covered though:
“The Battery is covered under the warranty. Should the battery need to be replaced it would need to come back to the factory. I am not aware of any issues with the PS battery, as it was chosen based on its durability.”
The other units, in the TS and BTS chassis run off of four AA batteries. FLIR installs high end NiCad AAs already that have the best possible battery life for these units. They can be easily recharged just like the PS units, and run for an average of 5 hours. But using a small Philips screwdriver you can also remove the back-plate and drop in new batteries if your unit is out in the field for extended periods of time.
These units can also be put into stand-by mode where they remain warmed up but inactive. A unit in this sort of hibernation mode can take as long as 120 hours to run down the battery.
From my personal experience, replacing the rechargeables with standard double AAs just about halved my run time down to 2.5 hours. I would recommend carrying a set of premium camera AAs to have as a backup set that would bring you closer to the 4-6 hour standard.
Some military thermal units use more advanced batteries like CR123s and CR2 lithium batteries, hence the supply issues seen in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Thermal vision has come a long way since then. While these may have a longer life, the batteries they use are not as easy to find as AAs and can be substantially more expensive.