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Batteries Don’t Dischange Equally

My good friend Dave recently emailed me something fascinating about how he goes through batteries like crazy. He has a daughter and many of her toys are battery powered, not to mention remotes and a host of other battery powered devices and appliances. The other week he managed to mix up some “good” batteries with fully discharged ones and, rather than recycle the entire bunch, he opted to test them… and discovered something very surprising:

I was thinking of you recently when I discovered a super easy way to be frugal… I have discovered that batteries (AA, AAA, C, D) in devices don’t all discharge at the same rate – I bought a battery tester a couple of weeks ago because I had accidentally mixed a whole bunch of batteries that were both good and “bad”. I thought that I had about 10 bad batteries out of the 20 I tested (10 were completely unused) but in reality, of the 10 that were “bad”, only 2 were fully discharged. The other 8 were still between full and half charged and as long as I removed the “dead” batteries, I could still use all the other batteries I had that I had origially planned on recycling.

For most folks, it probably wouldn’t matter all that much (ever little bit helps though) – how often do you change the batteries in your remote controls, etc? However, as a parent of a 2 year old, I use batteries like they were going out of style – I’m pretty sure every toy she owns makes some sort of noise or lights up and I go through batteries by the truckload. As it turns out, I tested batteries from several of her toys and as a general rule, only one or two of the batteries had an charge lost and the rest were almost full.

To take it one step further, and to the point of probably being a cheapskate, I’ve started pulling batteries out of some of the battery “recycle” bins they have here at work and I’ve found the same thing – almost all of them are almost fully charged still and only a few have been completely dead. I get past the cheapskate part by thinking that I’m saving the environment one battery at a time (even though they are in theory going to be recycled).

I bought my charger at Radio Shack for like $8 and I’ve seem them online as cheap as $4-5, and so far it’s been a great investment…

While saving money is great, it’s even better than you are using batteries to their fullest extent. Batteries are notoriously caustic little buggers, so if you can use them up 100% (or as much as possible) before you recycle them, it’s much much better for us all. My wireless mouse’s batteries just went “dead” and when I checked the rechargeable batteries, only one was fully discharged (the other was near 100%!). I wouldn’t be surprised if there were more “pairs” of batteries being discharged one battery at a time.

(When it comes time to dispose of them, be sure to recycle them – Bestbuy takes batteries at a kiosk in their entryway)

(Photo: tomblois [3])