The proliferation of technology has contributed to the number of wireless electronic devices being used at home, work, and play. As the number of devices grows, so do the number of rechargeable batteries in devices around you. Smartphones, power tools, laptops, cordless phones, children’s toys and small appliances such as hand-held vacuum cleaners all use rechargeable batteries.
Proper care and maintenance will prolong the life of any product, including your rechargeable batteries. With appropriate care and use, you should expect 2-7 years from most rechargeable batteries. Rechargeable cordless phone batteries can last 1-2 years with the right use and care.
To get the most life out of your rechargeable batteries, here are some of the simple rules you should take:
- Break In New Batteries: new batteries come in a discharged condition and must be fully charged before use. It is recommended that you fully charge and discharge the new battery two to four times to allow it to reach its maximum rated capacity. Both new batteries, and batteries which have not been used for a long period of time, should be conditioned 3-4 times before they can achieve maximum capacity.
- Don’t overdo it: One of the most important things you can do to extend battery life is to avoid overcharging. Disconnect chargers and devices with rechargeable batteries after the battery reaches full charge. Overcharging occurs when the device or battery is plugged into a charger after full charge has been reached and may reduce battery life. Battery University recommends that nickel- and lithium-based batteries be stored with a 40 percent state-of-charge. This level minimizes age-related capacity loss while keeping the battery in good operating condition and allowing self-discharge.
- Never overheat or incinerate your batteries. Batteries that are exposed to extreme heat or fire can explode. Locations that are too warm will reduce a battery’s life. Store all batteries in a cool, dry place. Many still store batteries in the refrigerator thinking that it extends the life; although the refrigerator is cool, it is not an optimum location due to moisture.
- Prevent the Memory Effect:
Keep the battery healthy by fully charging and then fully discharging it periodically. Exceptions to the rule are Li-Ion batteries, which do not suffer from the memory effect.
- Don’t short the connection. Keep batteries neatly organized, and do not let the ends touch. A short-circuit can cause severe damage to the battery, or even cause it to explode.
- Periodically check the voltage of your batteries: You can program your data logger to periodically measure, record, and transmit the battery voltage. Storing a daily minimum battery voltage is an excellent method of monitoring battery health. In fact, you can program your data logger to count the number of times the voltage drops below a certain value.
- Don’t try to charge alkaline batteries: When they are connected to the equipment in the correct manner, a blocking diode prevents user-supplied batteries from charging alkaline batteries. Consequently, alkaline batteries are NOT rechargeable, and the battery manufacturers do not recommend attempts at recharging them. If you need backup power, use a user-supplied sealed rechargeable battery instead.
- Size your battery correctly: Campbell Scientific has developed a tool to help you size your battery and solar panel properly for your installation site. With this tool, you can design your power supply with sufficient backup for a robust system with long battery life.
- If you rechargeable battery is not regaining capacity even after conditioning the same or when the battery has started to hold less than 75-80% of the rated capacity it’s time to retire the rechargeable battery.
- A rechargeable battery is only as good as its charger, avoid using rapid fast chargers like (15 – 20 min chargers) as they overheat the batteries a lot, which in turn drastically reduces their life, I have seen rapid chargers reduce life of quality NiMH batteries to just 40-50 cycles.
- Stay away from flammables: Be sure to place the device or battery charger on a non-flammable surface during charging. That includes pillows, blankets, sheets, paper, clothing and fabric, such as curtains. When there is good air circulation around the device and minimal exposure to direct sunlight, the device won’t overheat and cause smoke or fire.
And finally, be safe, next time you are tempted to take a shortcut when storing, charging or recycling your electronic device, think twice. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has a long list of reported battery-related incidents that occurred while an electronic device was in use, being stored and during battery charging. By taking just a few precautions and using some common sense, you can protect yourself from potential hazards and extend the battery life of your portable devices.