Battery Operated and 12 Volt Televisions

Battery Operated and 12 Volt Televisions

Update: I originally wrote this page before the final shutdown of analog televsion in the United States. At the time, there were few battery-operated televisions available. Fortunately, there are now more options. If you are looking for a portable television for emergency use, this page will give you somme ideas. If you are looking for information about emergency communications in general, please visit my Emergency Communications page. Many televisions are now available that will operate on batteries and/or 12 volts. However, most of these are not marketed as 12 volt televisions. But since they use a 12-volt "wall wart" AC adapter power supply which can be unplugged, it is a simple matter to run them using a car battery or automotive "jump start" battery with a cigarette lighter socket.

One of these is the Craig CLC501, which is a very lightweight 15 inch high definition TV. I purchased one on sale for about $100, and they are also available on Amazon:

You will also need a 12 volt cord, which is available from Radio Shack. When purchasing this cord, take the TV AC adapter with you to the store to make sure that you're getting a cord with the same polarity. If you wish to purchase online, this cord is readily available:

And in an emergency, you can of course simply cut the plug off the existing AC adapter and wire it directly to a 12 volt battery.

Undoubtedly, many other inexpensive TV's will work just fine on 12 volts. However, the voltage typically is not advertised. So when you're at the store, you need to look at the AC adpater for the TV. If it says that it provides 12 volts (or perhaps 13.7 volts), and you can unplug it from the TV, then the TV will work fine on 12 volts with a suitable cord.

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Prior to the conversion to digital television in the United States in 2009, there were a large number of very inexpensive battery-operated televisions for sale.  Many of these could be found on sale for less than $20.

One side effect of the switch to digital was that most of these TV's became useless.  This presented a big problem for those who want a battery-powered TV, because battery-powered digital sets did not become available immediately, and the ones that first came to the market were very expensive.

In an emergency, television is often one of the best sources of information.  And unfortunately, most of those same emergencies are ones where the normal electrical power can be interrupted. 

A power outage can happen anywhere.  But it is a special risk for those who live in areas that are subject to hurricanes and other severe weather, earthquakes, or any other kind of natural or man-made disaster.  It is prudent to have a television that you can watch when the power is out.  It is also very handy for camping, sporting events, or any other occasion when you might want to watch television away from an electrical outlet.

Fortunately, these sets are now starting to become more available, and at more reasonable prices.  Many of the available models are listed below, along with some of their important features.  As with most electronics, prices can change rapidly, and invariably at least a few models are on sale at any given time.  Therefore, in the list below, I have included a link to which is continually updated.  The prices shown below are the current prices, and most retailers will have similar prices.  Many (but not all) of the items below also have free shipping from Amazon, so take this into consideration if you do price comparisons locally.

Most of these sets now come with a rechargeable battery included.  This is certainly convenient.  However, in almost all of these sets, the rechargeable battery will only last for a couple of hours of viewing, and that assumes that you start with a full charge.

Therefore, a very important consideration is the ability to charge the batteries.  All of the sets with rechargeable batteries come with a charger to recharge using normal household electric current.  However, that charger will not do you much good if the power is out!  And since that's the most important reason to buy the TV in the first place, you do need to consider how to charge the battery.

Fortunately, many of these sets come with a car adapter, so that you can plug them in to the 12 volt cigarette lighter socket in your car.  For most of the others, an adapter is available, but not included.  (Keep in mind when comparing prices that the car adapter might cost as much as $10 or $20 extra.)  Having the car adapter is one of the most important features if you are buying a set for use in emergencies.

Being able to plug the TV into your car to watch and/or recharge the battery could be a lifesaver, but it's not particularly convenient.  Therefore, I would also recommend having a source of 12 volts that you can use in the house.  For that purpose, I would recommend an automotive jump-start battery, similar to this one:

This one is sometimes on sale at auto parts stores for even less than the price shown above.  It is designed for starting a car with a dead battery.  The battery inside this one is actually quite small, and it's often not big enough for its intended purpose.  However, it has plenty of juice for operating a TV for many hours.  And it can be used to charge cel phones and other electronic devices using their car adapters.  A power source such as this one is invaluable during an emergency.

Here is a comparison shopping buyer's guide to the models of battery powered TV's that are currently available.  Whether you buy one online or from a local retailer, it is a prudent investment. 

As shown below, some of these models will also receive analog channels.  In 2009, all of the major high power stations switched to digital broadcasting.  However, there are still some low power stations in many areas that still broadcast with the old analog signal.  In addition, most stations in Canada and Mexico are still broadcasting in analog.  This is probably not a major concern for emergency use, because most of the stations you will want to watch for emergency news will be the major stations, which are all digital.  But if you live near the border or have low power stations in your area, you might want to get one of the sets that can receive analog signals, in addition to digital.

You can find more information about each of these models by clicking on the picture link below.

  Brand Model Number Screen size Battery? Battery type Car adapter? AC adapter? Remote Control? Also receives analog channels?
Digital Prism 7" Digital lcd 7" Yes ? Yes Yes Yes Yes
Coby TFTV791 7" Yes, included Rechargeable Yes Yes Yes Yes
No longer available Viore PLC7V96 7" Yes, included Rechargeable No* Yes Yes Yes
Haier HLT71 7" Yes, included Rechargeable Yes Yes Yes Yes
No longer available Viore PLC7V95 7" Yes, included Rechargeable No* Yes Yes No?
Pegasus ST09 9" No   No* Yes Yes No?
Tivax MiniVu7 7" Yes, included Rechargeable Yes Yes Yes Yes?
Eviant T7 7" Yes, included Rechargeable No* Yes Yes Yes
SuperSonic SC-196D 7" Yes, included Rechargeable No* Yes Yes Yes
Curtis RT701a 7" Yes 2 x AAA No* No Yes ?
iView 780PTV 7" Yes, included Rechargeable ? Yes No Yes
Haier HLT71KIT 7" Yes, included Rechargeable Yes Yes Yes Yes
Capri Tl709 7" Yes ? ? ? No Yes
Tivax Scout35 3.5" Yes, included Rechargeable Yes Yes No No?
No longer available. Access HD PTV7000 7" Yes, included Rechargeable Yes Yes Yes Yes
Eviant T7-02 7" Yes, included Rechargeable No* Yes Yes Yes
Eviant T7-01 7" Yes, included Rechargeable No* Yes Yes Yes
iView 352PTV 3.5" Yes, included Rechargeable No* Yes No No
Sharper Image TSI-LCD7PTSD 7" Yes, included Rechargeable Yes Yes Yes Yes
No longer available. Pegasus ST09-W 9" Yes, included Rechargeable No* Yes Yes Yes
Axion AXN-8905 9" Yes, included Rechargeable No* Yes Yes Yes?
No longer available Digital Labs DT291SA 9" Yes, included Rechargeable Yes Yes Yes ?
Coby TF-TV790 7" Yes, included Rechargeable No* Yes Yes ?
Curtis STR902A 9" Yes, included Rechargeable Yes Yes Yes Yes
Tivax HiRez7 7" Yes, included Rechargeable, or alkaline AA with optional $26 docking station Yes Yes Yes ?
No longer available. Skyworth SLC1369A, with built-in DVD 13.3" No  n/a Yes Yes Yes Yes

* Can be operated from a car adapter, but adapter is not included.

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