The proliferation of technology has contributed to the number of wireless electronic devices being used at home, work, and play. As the number of devices grows, so do the number of rechargeable batteries in devices around you. Smartphones, power tools, laptops, cordless phones, children’s toys and small appliances such as hand-held vacuum cleaners all use rechargeable batteries.
The electronics revolution isn’t stopping any time soon. Devices will continue to add features while they shrink in size. Driving that revolution are new battery technologies that pack better performance into smaller, lighter packages and extend operating times.
New battery technologies also mean greater care should be taken to extend the life of the battery and minimize potential hazards. Below we offer a few reminders to help you properly charge and store your rechargeable batteries.
Don’t overdo it.
One of the most important things you can do to extend battery life is to avoid overcharging. Disconnect chargers and devices with rechargeable batteries after the battery reaches full charge. Overcharging occurs when the device or battery is plugged into a charger after full charge has been reached and may reduce battery life. Battery University recommends that nickel- and lithium-based batteries be stored with a 40 percent state-of-charge. This level minimizes age-related capacity loss while keeping the battery in good operating condition and allowing self-discharge.
Whenever possible, recharge your batteries while you are nearby. A battery fire could happen if a device with a defective battery is left unattended and it overheats. A working smoke detector and a fire extinguisher provide extra insurance if something happens.
Stay away from flammables.
Be sure to place the device or battery charger on a non-flammable surface during charging. That includes pillows, blankets, sheets, paper, clothing and fabric, such as curtains. When there is good air circulation around the device and minimal exposure to direct sunlight, the device won’t overheat and cause smoke or fire.
Don’t be extreme.
Rechargeable batteries are often exposed to unfavorable temperatures. Just think about when you’ve left your phone in your car on a really hot or cold day. Extreme temperatures can shorten expected battery life, so store your batteries and devices in a cool place whenever possible. The recommended storage temperature for most batteries is 15°C (59°F) according to Battery University. This temperature minimizes capacity loss while keeping the battery in operating condition and allowing self-discharge.
Pick the right method.
You should always charge rechargeable batteries in the device it’s used in, the charger it came with or a charger recommended by the manufacturer. Chargers are designed for specific battery types; mixing chargers and batteries could result in unexpected problems. Check the manufacturer’s web site for instructions if you plan to charge your device or batteries using a new method.
When recharging batteries in a charger, don’t mix rechargeable and disposable batteries. Disposal (alkaline) batteries are not rechargeable and should never be placed in a charger. Manufacturers also warn against mixing brands of rechargeable batteries in a charger. Each brand should be charged separately to avoid any hazards.
Be kind to the dead.
What do you do with your used or dead batteries? Store them in a non-metal container in a cool dry place until you can properly dispose of them. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends taping the terminals of used batteries with electrical tape or by placing each battery in separate plastic bags. Terminals that rub against each other could cause a spark. Never put loose batteries in a drawer or area where they may come into contact with metal items such paper clips or steel wool.
Recycle! Recycle! Recycle!
Don’t throw your used rechargeable batteries in the trash. They will go straight to the landfill. We recommend that you remove the rechargeable batteries before disposing of an electronic device; most electronics recyclers do not recycle batteries separately. To make sure they are recycled properly, make sure they are going to a battery recycler for processing.
Call2Recycle makes rechargeable battery recycling easy. Just visit our web site locator; enter your zip code to see the closest recycling locations from our list of public recycling locations. Many municipalities also offer battery recycling programs, either curbside or through their hazardous waste/recycling facilities. By recycling your batteries through Call2Recycle, you can be assured that the byproducts will be used to create new products such as new batteries, steel alloys and cement additives, and nothing will be disposed of in a landfill.
Next time you are tempted to take a shortcut when storing, charging or recycling your electronic device, think twice. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has a long list of reported battery-related incidents that occurred while an electronic device was in use, being stored and during battery charging. By taking just a few precautions and using some common sense, you can protect yourself from potential hazards and extend the battery life of your portable devices.