Batteries are a convenient and useful way of powering your electrical devices. Just pop them into your gadget, and hopefully you’ll have many hours of fun ahead of you. But how can you make those batteries last a little longer? Studies have shown that batteries really only work efficiently for the first 20% of their lives. It’s a bit like trying to get toothpaste out of the tube by squeezing it at the top – all that stuff left at the bottom just isn’t going to come out without a fight. Your average AA battery is very limited with what it can do – 240 minutes of a TV remote control, 95 minutes of portable speakers, or a woefully short 38 minutes for powering a remote controlled car.
So what can we do to keep our portable power going for a little longer? Let’s look at some ways.
1. Buy rechargeable batteries
Yes, they’re more expensive, but there’s a reason for it. If you can, avoid alkaline rechargeables and get ones labelled NiMh, which allow you to charge them thousands of times before they need to be disposed of. Think of the savings you’ll make by not buying thousands of disposable batteries, not to mention your green credentials. You just need to remember to charge them up regularly, because they use their charge up a bit faster than their disposable counterparts. It costs hardly anything to recharge a rechargeable battery, so keep them charged and ready to go.
Don’t try to recharge disposable batteries. They’ll heat up in the charger so quickly that either your charger will melt, or it will catch fire.
2. Choose the right battery for your gadget
Certain pieces of tech require more power than others. For example, a digital camera will go through alkaline batteries like they’re going out of fashion. You can buy batteries which cater for high drain appliances, and it’s worth looking into those when you’re choosing your batteries.
3. If you’re not using them, remove them
You know all those funny little toys you put up to decorate your house at Christmas? The lighted Halloween pumpkin you put on your front doorstep to make the trick or treaters smile? They’re not going to be used for more than a few weeks of the year. When you take that device back in, take the batteries out. You can use them in something else, and put new batteries in when it's party time next year.
4. Keep them cool
NiMh batteries will keep 90% of their stored charge if kept in the fridge; somewhere warmer means that they’d lose that charge faster. Keeping them cool slows down the chemical reaction which produces the power – less reaction means less wasted power.
With alkaline batteries, it doesn’t seem to make as much of a difference. You might extend the stored charge for 5% extra, but it’s worth considering if you live somewhere warm.
In both cases, give the batteries time to get back to room temperature before you start using them. If you think you might need a battery quickly, or for an emergency, it might be an idea to keep a few out of the fridge.
Give these methods a try, and see if you can make your batteries work a little harder for you.