Been buying batteries half your life? That doesn’t mean you know all there is to know about them. Your ignorance could be costing you money and wasting your time. It’s time to explore the battery myths!
This may have been a fact once upon a time, but whilst science has moved on, the battery manufacturers are not rushing to tell the consumer about it.
It clearly says on the sides of most alkaline batteries that they are not to be recharged; the warnings are fairly dire. “Batteries may explode” is what we’re told, but is it true? Emphatically not.
Testers willing to put their lives ‘at risk’ by going ahead and recharging, found they were not even risking their eyebrows in the manner of some cartoon scientist, let alone their life. Even when using brief bursts of charge from a high-voltage car battery!
What testers did find was that the batteries would get hot if Over-charged, but the worst eventuality was a battery that gradually – and undramatic-ally – split along one side, leaking a very small amount of acid. Not quite the firework display battery users have been warned of.
Whilst using a car battery for recharging alkaline batteries is not something any sensible person would recommend, there are alternatives. You definitely shouldn’t use your standard recharger – these are not able to let you know when an alkaline battery is recharged which could lead to the overheating problem mentioned above – but devices are available designed specifically for recharging alkaline batteries. Some of these devices will charge Ni-Mh and Ni-Cds as well.
In the strictest sense, what is happening to the alkaline batteries is a ‘recondition’ rather than a ‘recharge’, giving a potential 90% power top-up to batteries low on energy. However, there is the potential for getting 10 or more times as much out of the battery’s chemicals before it needs to be disposed of, it is both a money saver and more environmentally-friendly.
Care still needs to be taken: all batteries are capable of developing unseen faults which could see them split whilst charging, potentially damaging the charger or its surroundings. Some chargers will let you know if a battery is dead, but it is a good idea to purchase a separate battery tester to check the condition of all batteries you intend to recharge. This is important for alkaline batteries, as the battery will live longer the more frequently you recharge it. And wise for all other batteries, as even the best quality can develop faults.
If you have any doubts about the quality of the batteries you are using, it would be wisest to avoid placing reconditioned alkaline batteries in your most precious equipment.
The concept of battery memory is not wrong, but it doesn’t apply to all rechargeable, and it’s a problem that is slowly becoming something from the past.
But first, what is ‘battery memory’? Anyone with a rechargeable device may have noticed that the battery life seems to get shorter as the battery gets older. You may have had your own theory about why that is, but when it comes to Ni-Cd rechargeable, the short answer is ‘crystal formation’.
In Ni-Cd batteries, as the battery ages crystals form inside. As the crystals get bigger, it gets harder for the charge to move beyond them. Eventually, whole areas of the battery become unreachable for both use and recharge. Failure to completely discharge the battery before recharging has been highlighted as one major cause of the problem.
Thankfully the problem isn’t a killer: discharging the battery fully before starting a recharge usually sorts the problem. In fact, many recharging devices now do a full discharge. Manufacturers also continue to improve their batteries to get around the problem.
Li-Ion and Ni-HM rechargeable batteries – the preferred power choice for devices such as cameras and mobile phones – work differently. These battery types do not suffer this problem and therefore do not need to be discharged before recharging.
Li-ion batteries actually have a longer life when charged little and often. Letting them go dead before recharging can shorten their lifespan. When it comes to cameras, battery death mid-shot could result in lost work.
Don’t confuse Li-Ion batteries with the Lithium batteries available in household sizes. Li-Ion batteries are the square blocks that come with your mobile phone and some cameras, whereas Lithium batteries are those long-life – but non-rechargeable – batteries sold for high-drain devices, like cameras.
Manufacturers of known brand names would certainly like you to believe that their ‘quality’ batteries are far superior to the generic or ‘own brand’ batteries on the market. And there’s nothing to say that you don’t get what you pay for.
However, plenty of unbiased reviews can be found online to show that cheap batteries can give great service. 7dayshop’s own rechargeable Ni-MH batteries have consistently received great reviews and very favorable comparisons with the big known brands. The internet is your friend when it comes to shopping around for the truth about low-cost versus supposed high-quality batteries.
The biggest factor in getting the right choice for your device is knowing the differences between the various types and how they apply to your need. Lithium and Alkaline batteries both have good high voltage (1.5 and 1.75 respectively), whilst Ni-Cd and Ni-MH are lower (1.2), making them unsuitable for many devices that require four or more batteries.
However, unlike Ni-MH batteries, which maintain a fairly steady charge until their expiry, Alkaline batteries lose their voltage steadily as their energy drains. If your device has a power monitor, your choice could be important.
If you are after the greenest choice, you should be aware that Lithium batteries, whilst having an incredibly long life, cannot be recharged and are particularly toxic, as are the rechargeable Ni-Cds.
Using something like a camera, which is a heavy-draining item? Ni-Cds discharge swiftly, making them a problem for devices which use up lots of energy. In fact, both Ni-MH and Ni-Cd self-discharge over a matter of months: vital knowledge when fitting little-used devices.
There are many types of batteries, so before you pick up a generic pack from the supermarket, reassess your needs, your assumptions, and your lifestyle. You could save yourself both time and money.