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Money Leaks: Batteries

Despite all the advances in technology in the last fifty years (your phone has more technology than the first computers that filled entire rooms), one area that we haven’t had quantum leaps in is battery technology [3]. While it’s less of a torrential leak as it is a slow drip drip, we spend a lot of money on these little things.

So, this week, the target of our Money Leaks spotlight will fall squarely on batteries.

This is the latest edition of our new series called Money Leaks. [4]

Disposable vs. Rechargeable

One of the common ways to try to trim the cost of batteries is by going rechargeable. The problem with rechargeable batteries is that they’re expensive. Instead of buying a million for $10, you can usually get four. We use rechargeable batteries because it’s a lot less waste. While I’m skeptical of Eneloop’s claims of 1500 charges, I really only need it to charge about ten times for me not to feel wasteful and a hundred times for it to be economical. The real risk isn’t that the battery loses charge, it’s that I lose the battery!

If you do go the route of rechargeable, and I recommend it, be sure to look for chargers that will disengage (stop charging) once it detects the battery is fully juiced. And please recycle your batteries.

Storing Batteries

You should keep them in a cool dark place and, to prevent moisture from condensing on the batteries, in a sealed plastic bag and, preferably, separately. Do not freeze them! I’ve heard of some people storing them in the fridge but that’s probably a little overkill unless you have plenty of space, just make sure to but them in a container separate from your food.

Also, when you’re not using the appliance, take the batteries out. Phantom electricity isn’t just for plugged in appliances.

Buy a Tester

One protip first mentioned by my friend Dave – buy a battery tester. I picked up a no-name battery tester made in China off one of those clearance sites (like a Woot.com or something) for $4-5. First, it can find the charge of a battery when you don’t know what it may be. The real value came over this past weekend when we found a cache of D batteries in the closet. Normally, without the tester, we’d have probably stuck them in something that took D batteries (my lovely wife’s old stereo) as a test. Some of them were good (as fully charged as you can be sitting in a closet for several years) and some were bad (we had a few from IKEA that were goners). Without the tester, it’s possible that we would’ve recycled the lot of them if we were unlucky in which ones we tested. 🙂

Second, sometimes appliances will draw down batteries at different rates. If something uses four AA batteries in a long strip, it might draw down the outside two batteries faster than the inside two. With a tester, you can find out if there are any gems left in the batch.

Second Life

Finally, as we run down our supply of disposable batteries, after you use them in something that’s fickle about power (ie. there’s still a smidge of charge left), be sure to try them out in remotes. Remotes just need a little juice to operate so “dead” batteries can find a few more months of life left as a remote battery.

What are you best tips for making batteries last?

(Photo: jamiemc [5])