Wind-up radios…not such a wind-up after all

Wind-up radios may seem a little outdated, but in fact they’re enjoying a resurgence as a funky and cool way to save on energy, while getting access to your favorite music and talk shows. Clockwork or wind-up radios are obviously powered by human energy, rather than batteries or electricity. They work through an internal electrical generator run by a mainspring, which is wound by a hand crank on the case.

Turning the crank winds the spring, and a full winding charges enough for several hours of operation. In more modern versions of the radio, clockwork function has been replaced by batteries which care charged manually through the winding action.


Originally designed for use in emergency zones that were left without electricity, and then taken up by the camping community, the humble wind-up radio is now being applauded as a low-cost, high-efficiency way of saving electricity for green homes. They’re also handy in situations such as holiday homes, as traditional radios with batteries run the risk of degrading if they are not used for a while.

Trevor Baylis invented the wind-up radio in 1989, in response to the AIDS crisis in developing countries. He wanted it to be used by people with no access to batteries, and developed his product for this purpose. It was quickly adopted by military and emergency services. 1996 saw Trevor Baylis founded Freeplay Energy PLC, and began producing commercial models for general sale to public consumers.

What features do wind-up radios have?

Prices for wind-up radios start from as little as $14.00 for a basic model. However, if you want to get enhanced functionality and a smarter spec, it’s worth paying a little more. My personal favorite is the Eton FR360 solarlink, which has been designed for festival goers who want to access news and music when they’re camping out.

The Eton features four different power methods – batteries, solar power, wind-up power or an internal NiMh re-chargeable battery pack. It has a splash-proof case to prevent mishaps and protect against harsh weather conditions. It’s relatively lightweight, compact and looks pretty smart, giving you everything you need for accessing radio on the go.

The radio covers AM/FM and shortwave bands and comes with a built-in flashlight as well as USB mobile phone charging capabilities. This means that you have far more than just music when you invest in one, as you can get light and power simply from winding the crank.

Designs such as the Eton demonstrate that people’s opinions of the humble wind-up radio are changing, and eco manufacturers are working hard to increase functionality and accessories to accommodate this change. You can buy the Eton online, for around $100 from and other retailers.


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