Batteries

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Extend battery life through proper care

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Extending the life of your batteries, whether they're rechargeable or not, requires proper handling and storage, and keeping your batteries working longer cuts down on the number of batteries you consume every year. Save money and keep toxins from the environment? A powerful idea!

How to handle and store your batteries

Proper maintenance of your batteries, whether they're alkalines, lithium ions, NiMHs, or Nicads, will go a long way toward allowing them to function to their full potential. Here are some do's and don’ts for prolonging batteries’ lives:

  • Keep 'em clean: Carefully rub battery contact surfaces with a clean pencil eraser or cloth to keep them clean.
  • Keep battery packs together: When batteries are used, remove all of them and replace with new batteries of the same type and brand. Don’t combine old and new batteries in portable devices as it decreases the power of the new battery and shortens its life.
  • Storage locations: Store batteries in a dry location at normal room temperature. Keeping batteries in hot temperatures speeds the self-discharge of the battery and shortens the cell life. And don’t mix old and new batteries or different types and brands as this may cause rupture or leakage. This is particularly true of button-type batteries.
  • Remove when not in use: Remove batteries from devices that aren’t going to be used for extended periods of time.
  • Avoid excess contact: Don’t carry loose batteries in a purse or pocket with coins, paper clips, keys or other metal objects. This may short-circuit the battery, generating heat or causing leakage.
  • Avoid explosions: Don’t recharge a non-rechargeable battery. If you do it may rupture or leak.
  • Warm-up time: Batteries can’t deliver full power when really cold. A flashlight left in a cold car in winter may shine weakly. Let the batteries warm up and try them again.

Special care tips for rechargeables

Rechargeables require a bit more care than conventional batteries, partly because they're around longer. Keeping them in tip top shape ensures you'll get as many cycles out of them as possible.

  • Testing, testing...: Rechargeable batteries lose a percentage of their charge every day they're not charged, though ultra low self-discharge batteries retain their charge for much longer, so recharge your batteries a few hours before you want to use them. A battery tester may be helpful to determine how much power your battery has left at any given time.
  • Avoid overcharging: Don’t overcharge batteries as that can shorten their life. Stick with the manufacturer’s directions for charge length, or buy a smart charger that'll monitor charging activity, making sure to shut itself off when charging is complete.
  • Don't let idle batteries lie: Don’t leave your rechargeables discharged or shelved for lengthy periods of time. Remove the battery from its device and store in a cool, dry place if it won’t be used for a month or longer. To keep them fresh, power them up at least every 6-9 months.
  • Li-ON considerations: When storing a lithium ion (Li-ON) battery, store it with a partial or full charge and use the battery every month or so.
  • NiMH considerations: To avoid the risk of permanent voltage depletion of your nickel metal hydride (NiMH) battery, run it through an occasional full drain and recharge cycle.

Extending the life of your batteries helps you go green because…

  • Longer-lasting batteries means fewer batteries used and discarded every year.

Batteries aren’t normally grouped in the same category with bread and milk but they are perishable products that start aging as soon as they are made. Following some simple guidelines to optimally use and maintain your batteries, especially rechargeable batteries which need more hands-on care, will maximize their longevity and performance. The longer your batteries work, the fewer you’ll have to buy and dispose of. That means less of the toxic heavy metals found in some batteries (mercury, cadmium, lead and nickel) will pollute the environment and cause a potential risk to human health if they are thrown away with ordinary household or workplace trash.

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