Just like any other type of battery, rechargeable batteries are designed to handle a certain amount of wear and tear. However, it’s actually possible to prolong the life of your rechargeable batteries with the tips below. By taking the right steps (and avoiding the wrong ones), you can enjoy the convenience and affordability of rechargeable batteries for even longer.
The Do’s of Rechargeable Batteries
Avoid High Temperatures
Heat can cause stress to rechargeable batteries, especially temperatures above 90 degrees. This is due to their internal chemistry, which doesn’t mix well with extreme heat. In many cases, the solution is simple: just make sure you don’t leave electronics in the car or in direct sunlight. Freezing temperatures can also interfere with battery function, mainly when they’re being recharged. That being said, heat is worse than cold when you’re talking about rechargeable batteries.
Keep the Terminals Clean
If you’ve been using your rechargeable batteries for a while, they may have become a bit dirty. Be sure to keep the terminals clean and dry.
Charge Batteries Shortly Before Using Them
Each day that a rechargeable battery spends without being used, a small portion of the charge will disappear. Even if you prudently charged them before putting them in a drawer a few months ago, those batteries will need a top-up if you want them charged to 100%. For best results, plug them in a few hours before you’ll need them.
Check the Packaging for Charging Instructions
Plugging in a battery to recharge isn’t that complicated, but there are still a few finer points to consider for each size of rechargeable battery. For example, the packaging should tell you how long the batteries take to reach full charge. Once the batteries reach their full charge, it’s important to pull them off the charger.
Charge Unused Batteries Every Few Months
As mentioned above, unused rechargeable batteries gradually lose their charge over time. If they’re stored away for more than six months without use, they’ll likely end up sitting at a lower voltage for a while. This shortens the life of the battery, and could result in an unpleasant surprise when you try to use them again. One option is to set a reminder to recharge them on your phone. Technically the best way to store li-ion batteries is to keep them floating around 50% charge. This is the healthiest internal voltage for the cell, and is what we ship our batteries at ~60% charge, which accounts for some extra time for self discharge during transit and pre-purchase time on shelf. Storing in SUPER low voltage is for sure not good, and while storing at 100% is not AS BAD as low voltage, it is still not ideal if we are trying to keep the cells as healthy as they can be long term.
Properly Recycle Dead Batteries
Many people opt for rechargeable batteries because they’re more eco-friendly than disposable ones. Unfortunately, this quality doesn’t apply if they end up in a landfill. Batteries of any kind can leach harmful chemicals into the soil, and some types of batteries are prone to catching on fire if they’re left to overheat in a dumpster. The good news is that there are several options for recycling batteries, even if your area doesn’t have a facility that recycles them. If you end up storing your dead batteries for a while before having them recycled, it’s recommended to place tape on each terminal. This prevents the terminals from touching, which can cause a short circuit between batteries.
The Don'ts of Rechargeable Batteries
Don’t Leave the Batteries to Charge Overnight
Most rechargeable batteries only take a few hours to reach full charge; if you leave them charging overnight, they’ll probably spend a few unnecessary hours being plugged in. It isn’t the end of the world if your rechargeable AA batteries don’t get unplugged the second they reach 100%, but it isn’t great for their longevity either. If this becomes a habit, the life of your rechargeable batteries will probably be shorter than it should have been.
Don’t Let Batteries Charge Unattended
There are a couple of reasons to avoid this. First, you’ll be able to see when the batteries have reached full charge, and unplug them immediately. Second, any rechargeable battery comes with a small overheating risk when plugged in. It’s the kind of risk that isn’t big enough to stress about, but is big enough to warrant certain precautions. One of the best precautions is to always charge your batteries where they’ll be visible. In the unlikely event that they start to overheat, you’ll be able to see what’s happening before any serious damage is done.
Don’t Charge Batteries on Flammable Surfaces
Along those same lines, don’t let charging batteries rest on flammable surfaces. These include anything from blankets and pillows, to a stack of mail on the counter. As an extra measure to combat overheating, make sure the batteries are charging away from sunlight, in an area with decent air circulation.
Don’t Charge Batteries at Freezing Temperatures
Although rechargeable batteries can keep working at temperatures that are slightly below freezing, charging them at these temperatures can actually damage their internal chemistry, resulting in a shorter lifespan. Plus, even at near-freezing temperatures, rechargeable batteries will take a lot longer to reach 100%.
Don’t Mix Brands or Styles of Batteries
Even though batteries may be the same size, they can function and behave completely differently when in use. To ensure proper function of a device, only utilize the same type and style of battery at one time. Do not mix single-use alkaline, rechargeable NiMh, or rechargeable Li-ion batteries at any time.
By following these practical tips, you can extend the life of your rechargeable batteries. There are many benefits to rechargeable batteries; they’re more convenient and sustainable than disposable batteries, and they typically pay for themselves after only a few uses compared to buying single use batteries. While they may need a little more maintenance compared to disposable batteries, the payoff is well worth the effort. Once you’ve gotten to know the dos and don’ts of rechargeable batteries, following them will feel like second nature.