Rechargeable Batteries - techniques for life extension
No matter what kind of rechargeable batteries you're using, please recognize that they have a limited life, but you can take action to extend that life.
When you extend the life of the batteries, you're saving money on replacement batteries. Often batteries cost half or more of what the item they're powering is worth, so extending their life is a meaningful money saver.
Here is an overview of battery types and what you can do to extend their life.
If you extend the life of your rechargeable batteries, then you're paying less and enjoying your rechargeable gadgets more. To illustrate how this works, I have an original Soni-Care toothbrush with rechargeable batteries. It's 9 years old and still working just fine because I follow the life extension techniques below for all of my rechargeables.
Ni Cads - the original rechargeable
Ni Cad is an abbreviation for nickel cadmium. These are the wonders of the rechargeable world, but they suffer from "memory," and this limits their useful life. "Memory" is the phenomenon that rechargeable batteries exhibit when they are charged up before they are fully discharged.
When you recharge a Ni Cad battery, it "thinks" that it's fully discharged, and so starts to remember the point at which it's recharged as the point at which it can no longer provide any power.
Think of it like a battery in training. By recharging it prematurely, you're training it to act like it's discharged whenever it reaches the level where you typically recharge it.
The solution is to run down the Ni Cads until they no longer perform the function that they were intended for, and then fully recharge them before using them again. Do this from the start, and the Ni Cad batteries will be trained to give you full service in between charges.
Li Ion - the "smart" battery
I don't need a "smart" battery so much as I need one that performs well. The Li Ion abbreviation stands for lithium ion, and their claims to fame are being "smart" and having no "memory."
The "smart" part comes in where they tell the device they're powering about the power remaining in them. I suppose that's a good feature - if it works. My experience is it's hit and miss, so don't count on the battery being an accurate gauge of how much power it has left.
The no "memory" claim is simply not true. Treat these batteries just like you would a Ni Cad. Let them become fully discharged before recharging them, and then don't take them off of the charger until they are fully charged.
Lead Gel Acid
Another of the rechargeable batteries is similar to a car battery, except instead of liquid acid, it's more like a gel. I have found these batteries to be acceptable for use in rechargeable devices because they perform well, and they don't have any "memory" problems.
Like a regular flooded cell lead acid battery, the lead gel acid batteries like to stay charged. This means that extending their life requires that you recharge them often. For example, if these type of batteries are in your portable phone, then you would be best advised to put the phone back on the charger after each call to "top off" the battery charge.
Leaving these types of rechargeable batteries in a low state of charge makes it harder to recharge them, and they lose capacity, so keep them charged when not in use and you'll prolong their useful life.
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