Extend the Life of Your Li-ion BatteryMary O. Foley
You depend on your cell phone, laptop computer and other electronic equipment to work when you need them. And if one dies unexpectedly, the result can be inconvenient and expensive. Replacing some of the batteries for these devices can be a lot more complicated than popping two AA’s in the old flashlight.
Yet electronic batteries are one of the most often-replaced features of the gadgets we carry around every day. Knowing a little more about them and treating them with care will help to make your batteries -- and the gadgets they run -- last longer.
To get your batteries to run their best, it helps to know a little about how they work -- and when they won’t, experts say.
Rechargeable batteries are very different than the disposable alkaline batteries you buy at the drugstore in different sizes, such as AA, AAA, C and D. Most rechargeable batteries used in consumer electronic devices sold over the last decade are lithium-ion batteries, or Li-ion batteries. With good care, Li-ion batteries can last two to three years. Li-ion batteries have largely replaced nickel-metal-hydride (NiMH) batteries in electronics because:
- They weigh less than other rechargeable batteries with the same energy capacity.
- They don’t lose their ability to completely recharge over time (the so-called “memory effect”) like the NiMH batteries they’ve replaced.
- Once charged, they lose their charge more slowly than the NiMH type.
Here are some ways to keep your Li-ion batteries working their best:
Fully charge new lithium-ion batteries
for the first three cycles
New Li-ion batteries will work best if fully charged, and drained, for the first three charging cycles after purchase. So, after each charge, use the device until the battery completely runs out of juice, says Isidor Buchmann, author of Batteries in a Portable World (Cadex Electronics).
Remove a charged battery when a laptop
is plugged in
Once past the first three cycles, the rules change. Charge the battery periodically, for short periods. Don’t wait until it needs a full charge. And Buchmann recommends taking the battery out of a laptop during times when the AC power source is being used to run the computer. He also recommends ventilating the space where you use your laptop as best you can. For example, use a ruler to lift the laptop off the desk and provide better ventilation. “Laptops get awfully hot,” Buchmann says. “It’s a problem that is unique to laptops because they include processors. iPods and cell phones don’t run at such high temperatures.”
Avoid exposure to extreme temperatures
Hot car interiors and Li-ion batteries don’t mix. While a fire is unlikely, leaving electronics containing Li-ion batteries, such as your iPod or cell phone, in a hot car can result in an untimely death to your battery. “Leave your iPod in a hot car, and that will kill it. In places like Florida, it can get up to 130 degrees in a car,” Zarr says. “Extreme heat degrades Lithium-ion batteries.”
Extreme cold is also not good for Li-ion batteries. Don’t try to charge them in freezing temperatures, advises Buchmann, whose company produces battery chargers and battery analysis software. Trying to do so could cause permanent damage to the battery.
Treat your electronics gently
Shep Bostin, a managing “geek” with 1-800-905-GEEK, notes that electronics -- and the batteries in them -- work better when not subjected to rough use. Regarding iPods in particular, he says: “People run with them, travel with them and throw them around. If people are careful with them, they’ll last longer.” Buchmann adds that impact can damage the battery’s internal cell, so be gentle with your gadgets.
Use energy-saving settings on your
Develop good battery usage habits when using your electronics. Here are just a few: Lower the brightness display of laptops, cell phones and hand-held devices -- especially when not in use. Use “hibernate” or “sleep” mode on laptops in order to use less battery power.
Use the proper charger Use the charger that came with your electronic device or one designed expressly for it. Your device’s batteries might not sit right in a different charger, may not fully charge and could possibly damage the device, notes Bostin.
If you make just a few changes in your routine, your rechargeable batteries will get a new lease on life.
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