Why Rechargeable Batteries Go Bad Prematurely

Published: 26th September 2011
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For as long as I've been using and suggesting the usage of rechargeable batteries, I've also strongly purported the use of an intelligent charger having a refresh or reconditioning function.

So, why, when I place a rechargeable battery that's barely 6 months old on my Ansmann Energy 16 charger - essentially the most advance charger in the world - does my battery show as defective? This ever happen to you? If you've used rechargeables for any stretch of time, the response will certainly be a resounding yes. But you will find there's good chance there's nothing wrong with this battery - and it actually could be revived for many useful recycles. This is what has happened:

You put the battery in a rather unsophisticated device, similar to a child's toy and the batteries became overdischarged. Typically, you will not want to overdischarge cells below 1.0 volts and the majority of gadgets have an automatic "stop-working" voltage cutoff to counteract this. However, many toys and simple devices do not have this feature.

So, in this case, your rechargeable battery voltage has dropped below 1.0 volts - say down to .8 volts. A smart charger will detect this for a bad cell and not start the charging or refresh cycle - as it appears the batteries are depleted. However, if you place this battery within a "dumb" charger for about 10 minutes, the voltage will rise sufficiently to have an intelligent charger to identify a viable cell and begin the restoration/charging process. By way of a dumb charger, we're referring to some of those units that basically cooks batteries. You can pick-up an inexpensive unit for less than $10 bucks. We make use of a simple plug-in overnight charger to achieve this - however it is only intended for AA's and triple A's. If you wish to revive C's, D's, or 9V's try Duracell or Energizer - they specialize in dumb chargers.

Does this mean it is best to give up on your intelligent charger? Definitely not. Chargers such as Ansmann Energy 8 plus or Energy 16 will still grant you the most recycles from your rechargeable batteries because of the refresh function. The refresh function in time breaks down the chemistry within the cell in an intelligent way - by introducing a proprietary algorithim of charge and discharge cycles at different voltage levels. This prevents the cell from developing crystalline formation within the chemistry which can shorten battery life and recycles, specifically in the latter stages of your cell's life.

Your best defense against erratic battery behavior is two-fold. First, don't let you batteries to completely drain. Despite having low self discharge batteries that have a shelf life of at least a year, it is still best to cycle these batteries every six months. And secondly, only use an intelligent battery charger to charge your batteries.


David Schliep is President of Horizon Battery and is dedicated to enlightening the world on the effective use of rechargeable batteries. He is an advocate green technology that also saves you green (dollars). Learn more how rechargeables can save you money and get David's popular free report at Horizon Battery.

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