The portability of modern electronics and gadgets is one of the things that makes them so desirable. It’s not the devices themselves but the batteries, of course, that allow us to send a report to the boss from a tent, or call for a ride when our bike breaks down or prove you saw a man outfitted with only duct tape ride down main street on a unicycle (yes, I’ve seen it). Portable devices can give us control, make us feel safe and record life as it happens, until, or course, their power source fails. Then we are screwed…or at least inconvenienced. Depending too much on our portable devices to fool our boss into thinking we are in the office when we are not, or to act as our lifeline, or to substantiate our stories and memories of eye witness accounts, can have consequences ranging from embarrassing to serious when their batteries die.
Dead batteries at inconvenient times will always be a reality, but batteries will perform better and last longer if you treat them properly. Perhaps the most important piece of information that came with your beloved mobile device is the information on how to store and charge its battery to maximize its performance and lifecycle. Case in point: My husband and I bought rechargeable toothbrushes in 2010. His died completely about one year later. Mine just died this month, outlasting his by 18 months. One of us followed Sonicare’s instructions on battery maintenance. Guess who?
Disposal facilities have a hard enough time keeping up with the mountains of battery waste created each year without added volume from batteries whose lives were cut short through careless maintenance. Replacing expensive rechargeable batteries is no picnic for you either. So here is what I suggest: Find all your manuals for your rechargeable devices and read the section on battery life. If you’ve lost those manuals, find battery maintenance tips on the manufacturer’s website. Or, here is some general information on how to get the most out of common rechargeable batteries.
Lithium Ion batteries.
Discharging and Charging: These batteries should only fully discharge to 0% once every month or three months for “maintenance”. An optimal depth of discharge (DoD) for everyday use would be around 10%. When the battery gets close to a 10% DOD it’s time to recharge. And it’s best to keep an eye on the battery during its charge state. A full 100% charge is not ideal if you want to get the most charge cycles out of the battery. Charge it to only 80% instead.
Storage: Don’t store the battery in the computer at 100%. Outside the computer, store the battery somewhere between 40% and 60% in a cool place.
Disposal: These batteries are minimally toxic. Recycle or dispose of separately from household waste.
Nickel-metal-hydride (NiMH) batteries.
Discharging and Charging: NiMH batteries do not have to be completely discharged before charging; they can be recharged at any time. However, periodically you should “cycle” the battery (fully discharge and fully charge through a reconditioning battery charger) to extend its life.
Standard NiMHs perform best in devices that receive a lot of use since sitting in a drawer or an unused device is not good for them. If unused for 30 days, they will need to be recharged. Low self-discharge NiMHs loose their charge much slower.
Storage: NiMH batteries should always be stored in a charged state—off the charger. Leaving them in a charger could overcharge and damage them depending on the type of charger you are using. Don’t store batteries in a device that will not be used for several days.
Disposal: Considered semi-toxic. Recycle or dispose of separately from household waste.
Nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cd) batteries.
Discharging and Charging: Fully discharge before recharging occurs. Charging after it has only been partially discharged will cause it to develop a lower voltage and a lower capacity.
Storage: Store a Ni-Cd battery in its charger for no more than a few days. Don’t store batteries in a device that will not be used for several days.
Disposal: Highly toxic. They should be recycled not discarded.