March 19, 2008
Every self-respecting geek loves gadgets. I'm no exception. And so many of my favorite gadgets have a voracious appetite for batteries. I don't know why all the other battery types fell so far out of favor, but between AA and AAA, I could probably power 95% of my household gadget needs.
I've been a rechargeable battery user for years. It seems the frugal thing to do in the long run, and it's also healthier for the planet when we aren't discarding mountains of single-use batteries into landfills. I remember switching over to the then-new NiMH battery type based on a late 90's John Dvorak column touting their availability and power. Miraculously, that very article is still available on the internet:
The calculation of cost for nickel hydride batteries in the table is for 100 recharges. Hawk says the industry knows that nickel hydride batteries can easily last through 500 recharges. I've seen data indicating that 1,000 charges are possible. This drops the cost per 10,000 pictures to 70 cents! I'm convinced that the industry doesn't want people to know about these batteries. I seriously doubt you'll be seeing them on a rack in the grocery store anytime soon. Do the math: It's like buying 1,000 alkaline batteries for less than 10 bucks. Imagine what this does to the lucrative disposable-battery business.
So now I wonder where the D, C, and AAA nickel hydride batteries are? Mostly in Japan. As far back as January 1996, Toshiba rolled out the first complete line of standard cells and other Japanese battery makers have followed. This event was essentially hushed up in the U.S. market. The big-name American battery companies have avoided this market-killing technology for obvious reasons.
I immediately rushed out bought a bunch of the batteries and the charger from the importer that Mr. Dvorak recommended. In fact I still have some of those original models. Let's compare these ten year old 1998 NiMH batteries to their 2008 cousins:
The picture can be a little hard to read, so I've reprinted the technical details from each AA battery below:
||NiMH GP Rechargeable
||1.2v, 1300 mAh
||NiMH Energizer Rechargeable
||1.2v, 2500 mAh
Is it really true that AA battery capacity has almost doubled in the last ten years? That's pretty amazing. But as I found out, it's not the entire story.
For one thing, there's the issue of discharge rate. It turns out that massive 2500mAh capacity of the Energizer rechargeable battery doesn't mean much when the battery drains itself within a month. Take it from Mr. Lee:
All rechargeable battery manufacturers love to boast about their product's current capacity (mAh). But there is a dirty little secret that they don't want you to hear: self-discharge rate. Simply put: a fully charged NiCd of NiMH cell will gradually lose its stored energy over time. Technical papers I have researched typically put the self-discharge rate at 10-20% per month for NiCd cells, and 20-30% per month for NiMH cells. This kind of self-discharge rate is usually acceptable in applications such as digital cameras.
I bought 8 of those Energizer 2500mAh rechargeable NiMH batteries over one year ago. At first, I was very happy about the large current capacity offered by those batteries. But within a few months, I started to notice that they die very quickly in my digital camera. In fact, a set of Sony 2000mAh NiMH batteries I bought one year earlier seems to last much longer when used in the same camera.
So putting a larger number on the box is ultimately a method of fooling consumers with marketing. Where have we seen that before? Oh right, everywhere. Caveat emptor. Mr. Lee recommends the following model batteries, which exhibit much saner self-discharge rates; I've since bought a few batches of both the Eneloop and the Hybrid cells:
In general you want the "hybrid" or "pre-charged" varieties, and should ignore ridiculous claims about capacity.
The other pitfall of rechargeable batteries lies in the recharging process itself. Even if you buy the very best rechargeable batteries, if you charge them improperly, you'll get poor results.
Charging NiMH batteries is the result of a compromise. A low current is gentle on the battery and maximizes its lifespan, but a full charge takes hours. A high current will recharge the battery much faster, but put more strain on it, causing it to wear out prematurely. It also requires careful monitoring of the battery's electrical characteristics to prevent damage.
Most of the chargers on the market today use one or the other of these methods. The fast chargers, especially the cheap ones, excel at one thing: destroying perfectly good batteries, because they lack the monitoring circuitry to control the charge current and detect when the battery is full. The slow chargers are usually better, mainly because it's harder to design a really bad slow charger. Unfortunately... they're slow.
Most bundled battery chargers are junk. Given the inherent compromises of charging, you need something smart. That's why I ended up tossing my generic "rapid" chargers in favor of the majestic, glorious, and surprisingly inexpensive La Crosse Technology BC-900 AlphaPower battery charger.
Seriously, just look at this thing. It's a geek's dream. Each battery can be controlled individually, with its own real-time LCD readout, in four modes:
- Charge at various rates, from 200/500/700/1000mA
- Discharge at 1/2 the charging rate
- Test to determine true battery capacity
- Refresh to "revitalize" older batteries
You can also switch between four different readouts after the mode is engaged: time elapsed, voltage, mAh charge/discharge rate, and current mAh capacity. That refresh mode is incredibly slow-- it's basically discharging and recharging over and over-- but it really works. It can take marginal batteries from the brink of death and give them new life.
But you don't have to care about any of that; if you just drop 4 AAs or AAA batteries in the device, it will charge them fine. I spent several hours after I got it plugging various batteries in it, trying different modes, and watching it work. I'm not sure what the exact definition of geek is, but I think "enjoys recharging batteries" has to be very high on that list.
I can't recommend the BC-900 highly enough. Did I mention it comes packaged with a starter set of 4 rechargeable AA and AAA batteries, D-cell adapter shells, and a nifty nylon carrying case, too? But don't take my word for it. Read the Amazon reviews; they're positively glowing.
The gadget world may run on AA and AAA cells, but armed with a basic knowledge of NiMH battery technology and a great recharger, you too can be more than prepared to meet that challenge.
Gentlemen, start your chargers.
Posted by Jeff Atwood
Nothing wents over my Li-Ione-Accuj powerer Canon Ixus, or other gadgets with this type of accu like nearly all handys or the ipod touch (ok, there the accu is hard to replace).
They live longer than 6 years, and up to now no malfunction, just a little bit less power over the time. NiMh is junk, go for Li-Io!
I just checked and my LaCrosse BC-900 has a firmware version of "33". It was purchased in December 2007.
In case you're curious, upon power up, there are three numbers on the display:
channel 1: temperature sensor #1
channel 2: temperature sensor #2
channel 4: firmware version number
I hadn't heard of any complaints about the BC-900 melting down until now; supposedly firmware 33 reduces the shutdown threshold temperature. It is true that the batteries are pretty close together on the BC-900 with little room for air circulation, so if there was a lot of excessive heat from rapid charging, and something went wrong.. I could see it.
I just picked up a Maha Wizard, and like it quite a bit. It also has a built in stand to lift it off the work surfce. Otherwise, it is quite similiar to the BC-900 (not quite as nice looking, I admit) :-)
@Andre - I had some of the original recharables from the 80ies, dynacell or some such. Every one in a while, one would go sour and short out. Not a comfortable experience if it happens in your pocket, but that is just the risk you take of rearranging all those electrons.
Even the NiMH batteries have pressure release holes in case they short out to keep them from just exploding.
Regardless of the technology, they are just fancy capacitors, and occasionally all the electrons run back to the otherside all at once, and without permission or regard for the consequences. More of a battery defect in most cases.
Also, small BC-900 charger protip (courtesy of the aforementioned and totally awesome Mr. Lee):
BC-900 will not charge a completely drained cell (display says 'null' after you insert the cell). Follow the instructions here to 'jump-start' the dead cell, so that its terminal voltage is restored to about 0.5-1 volt. Then the BC-900 will charge it:
1. UNPLUG the BC-900!
2. Place a good cell and a 'dead' cell next to each other
3. Short the (+) terminals of the two cells together with a paper clip for a few seconds
4. Remove short, plug in the BC-900
I had the same problem (inserted cell, no response) tried this trick and it totally worked!
It turns out that massive 2500mAh capacity of the Energizer rechargeable battery doesn't mean much when the battery drains itself within a month.
Too right! I have about 5 different brands of rechargeables of similar age and the Energizers (2500mAh) are the only ones almost guaranteed to have discharged when I want to use them.
I have the Maha C204W. It's small, works great, needs no external power brick and is happy with 100V or 240V.
Ooh, somebody's getting Amazon.com kickbacks!!
I kid! I kid!
Good info, Jeff! We've been a rechargables household for a few years now. About the only things we don't use 'em in is our fancy-shmancy Crest SpinBrush toothbrushes. (Given the wet environment, I didn't wanna risk my prized rechargable batteries in those.)
I would have loved the BC900 a few years ago when I had a whole bunch of devices that used AA/AAA/C/D etc batteries. Unfortunately now, apart from TV/DVD remotes (which will go for well over a year even on yum-cha $2 for 50 batteres from a crap shop) I don't think I have any appliances that use them anymore.
I find myself stuck in the annoying position where every device (PDA, Laptop, Camera, Phone, Video Camera, Remote Control Car, Electric Shaver etc) has its own different batter, which comes a long witha different pack/charger.
I yearn for the day when Induction (or whatever they're called) chargers (and batteries/devices with charging capability) are the norm and I can simply throw all the things listed above on a big pad on my bedside table to charge them all.
Unfortunately now, apart from TV/DVD remotes (which will go for well over a year even on yum-cha $2 for 50 batteres from a crap shop) I don't think I have any appliances that use them anymore.
And ironically those kind of TV/DVD remote use cases are exactly the sort of low-draw, long-run applications that NiMH cells are not very good at. Even if the self-discharge rate is very low, it's still high enough (compared to traditional alkaline batteries) to be a problem.
So they drain in about a month.
I guess I'll have to stop complaining to Mrs Engtech about replacing all of the charged batteries with discharged batteries.
Coding Horror saves relationships.
My first cellphone in 1996 had a NiHM battery. Any idea why these rechargable batteries still use NiMH while most gadgets have moved to lithium batteries?
Thank you for the informative article. It's nice to see some non-coding related articles once in a while, though that's not to say that I don't enjoy the coding related articles as well.
Keep up the good work!
I did some digging into that very question myself this year.
The answer is safety. Basically, lithium batteries are not fool-proof enough for consumers.
These are pretty geeky:
I ordered a box of 10 packs. We've got 6 pc's in the house, 2 of which are on all the time so lots of places we can plug these in when they need charging. AAA cells will be coming soon.
We have a couple of cells always charged ready to replace flat ones. The flat ones get charged and go back on the shelf :)
The answer to your question...
"Is it really true that AA battery capacity has more than doubled in the last ten years?"
...is quite simply "No", since 2500 is certainly not "more than double" 1300. ;)
I have to say that i really enjoyed this article and that i learned alot from it.
Good writing as always jeff.
Does anyone have any suggestions on where to get this charger, or a similar model in the UK? Amazon are listing it as unavailable. I also can't find the batteries recommended here either.
I've been using a set of NiMH AA's with a generic free charger for my Wiimotes and am discovering that the batteries are discharging faster and faster. I'm assuming it must be the cheap generic charger.
If this is the sort of full-time blog post we'll be getting, I wish you'd quit sooner. Thanks for some great info.
Probably the best article you've ever written :)
Excellent post! Pure Jeff. Bringing the wisdom and real products recommendations to the geek masses (Who don't have time or energy to research into this things). Thanks!
"If this is the sort of full-time blog post we'll be getting, I wish you'd quit sooner. Thanks for some great info. Tom Clancy"
+1 to that
Does anyone have experience with rechargeable "D" batteries. I have a Roomba and the virtual walls take "D" size and I need to those replace those alkaline batteries frequently.
The problem I see with the BC-900 is that the adapter takes a AA and puts in a C or D case. That's like putting moped motor in a pickup. How long will that last?
According to the picture of that battery, it's 130mA for 14 hours. That would give it a rating of 1820mAh, not 1300.
The Eneloop batteries are fantastic.
Also, if you want a really cool charger, consider Rezap. It even charges Alkalines:
Know what else is healthier for the planet? Fewer gadgets. :-P
I love Dvorak, but he's a bit of a crank. Apparently, he thinks electricity is free. How much energy does a recharger consume, and why isn't that part of the equation?
I'm not saying I think it won't be cheaper, but it should be included in the cost.
I used to use rechargeables, but got tired of the hassle. One more thing to plug in somewhere and find a home for.
Good information, but one thing sticks out at me.
You followed advice from John Dvorak? John C. Dvorak? Writer of tech tripe and misunderstander of everything? The guy who wrote this: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1759,1987181,00.asp
I never thought I'd see him quoted in anything other than mockery.
I would have thought the 'refresh' mode mentioned would just damage the battery more, with the memory effect and all. Or are NiMH batteries resistant to that?
I dont have ANY device using AA/AAA batteries. All devices I use have rechargeable batteries inside them.
I fear I am not a geek.
I've found it is also known as the Technoline iCharger in the UK. I believe Technoline are the German company who actually produce the charger, and it is sold rebranded by La Crosse.
Your succinct summary of NiMH cells hits the nail on the head. When I discovered the La Crosse BC-900 charger and Eneloop cells over a year ago, I was delighted that they solved the two main NiMH problems you mentioned. A battery engineer's dream, the BC-900 does every battery management task perfectly by the book. In August, 2006, I bought four Eneloop cells, which I use occasionally and never have recharged. They are still usable today. Sanyo (my favorite battery manufacturer) truly nailed the self-discharge problem and raised the bar with the Eneloop cell.
Just for the sake of nitpicking, I bought my first 2800 mAH AA cells about two years ago, and AFAIK they are quite common these days. 2500s are sooo yesterday ;-)
In my experience NiMHs are much better towards self-discharging (read: lesser self-discharge) than the old NiCds. I rely on them almost every day for bicycle lights and other things I use regularly (even if it's only once per month, just recharge time and again); if you've got a gadget you use very infrequently (e. g. emergency lights) I'd still recommend non-chargebles.
My favorite lie-with-numbers bit are the 36 packs of Mountain Dew which say, in bold letter, "36 Pack - 50% MORE" and then in small letters "than a 24-pack." (No, they don't cost the same as a 24 pack.) Thanks for doing the math for me, marketing dudes.
it is obvious that the people posting about not using batteries much any more don't have kids. if they did, they would have 8000 toys that run on batteries and have to include batteries as a category in their budget.
Where to use batteries... well I have a few consoles sitting next to my TV, they all have wireless controllers, and they all are using eneloop rechargable batteries. I think I have about 16 batteries in there along with the batteries for my wireless mouse and keyboard.
So there is still plenty of gadgets that use em. Of course I have to recharge them but its worth it, and most importantly I never need to go out to 7/11 in the middle of the night to buy new batteries.
Long live rechargable batteries!!!
Not only am I a geek, but I also have toddlers and a preschooler. We go through batteries. I haven't done any comparisons of battery brands or rated mAH, I generally buy whatever batteries are at the store I'm in when I realize "We just bought another toy that requires batteries". Plus I like to keep a reasonable amount of charged batteries ready to go for when I pull batteries out of something to charge them.
Because of the wide variety of form factors in kids toys I needed a charger that could charge C, D, and 9-volts as well. The only one at the time was a Radio Shack that was a fast charger (or claimed to be, it wasn't particularly fast in practice). I also bought Radio Shack batteries. I blame sleep deprivation. About a year ago it died and I found the Energizer Family charger which is a slow charger and has worked like a champ.
Does look cool. Anyone one a canadian source that doesn't cost more than double the US price?
Thank you! I have three (lost one) of the 2500mAh Energizer you show, and they've been getting weaker and weaker and I had no idea why. Now I know, and knowing is half the battle. I see a new battery charger, and maybe some Eneloops, in my future.
If anyone knows where can I buy it in Argentina, please let me know!
I couldn't find it anywhere...
Does anyone have any experience with using NiMHs in game console controllers (i.e. wireless GH3 guitar for the 360 or Wii remotes)? I've been using regular Energizer alkaline AAs in the wireless guitar controller but I'll go to use it after letting it sit around unused (for a few weeks or so) and the batteries always near death.
As to why we don't use Lithium Ion AA cells, it's because they're the wrong voltage. A lithium chemistry cell has a 3.7V nominal voltage. Nickel-based batteries are 1.2 - 1.25V, pretty close to the alkaline and zinc-carbon's nominal 1.5V. Make an AA cell with lithium chemistry and you have a recipe for disaster. Some devices that otherwise take two or three AAs have a lithium-based rechargeable pack, so the voltages are a lot closer.
There's a large amount of information about rechargeable batteries at http://www.batteryuniversity.com/
Man you're psychic. Just last night I had to change the batteries in my camera, and I lamented our drawer full of rechargable batteries that just don't seem to hold a charge anymore. I know the cheap Energizer charger we had was crap, and thought, "I should look in to getting a decent battery charger some time, might be able to save those batteries."
And today, here's the article. :) Ordered the charger, thanks for the great info!
@Jeff - I have the BC900. From memory, I don't think it has two mAh displays. I think there's one mA display, which is charge/discharge rate and one mAh display, which is the total energy that has been stored/discharged.
But anyway, I definitely agree that it's a great charger, and likewise that Eneloops rock.
@Craig - I routinely use NiMH batteries in my normal 360 controller with no problems. I don't have the guitar hero controller so I can't speak to it.
Lithium cells are no good for AA/AA use as the voltage of a cell (~3.6V) is far too high.
Also when looking a battery capacity self-discharge isn't necesserily the problem, it's the amount of current your drawing. Capacity vs. current draw isn't linear, and the amount of deviation from the linear relationship varies from battery to battery. Capacity thus isn't a terribly useful measure - a 2000mAh labelled battery might well perform better that a 2800mAh battery at high draws.
I got a BC-900 and some Eneloop AAs for Christmas, and they are indeed very good.
I've been using the Eneloops in a cordless mouse. That's a relatively low-drain device, which has traditionally been a weak spot for NiMH batteries. But the Eneloop cells seem to last at least as long as alkalines do.
It's a shame that just as we've finally figured out how to make really good standard-size rechargeable cells, so many gadgets are moving toward proprietary, expensive, hard-to-replace custom battery packs.
Speaking of energy, my oil heating bills are bankrupting me! I'd really appreciate a well-researched article on how to replace my heating system with solar energy. Just one of my oil bills could probably pay for some solar panels.
Hey Now Jeff,
AAA AA's huh, learned more than I ever could about them by reading this one.
Coding Horror Fan,
I used to be a rechargeable battery geek.
If you buy online, ordinary alkalines are a lot cheaper then they used to be. I just bought 200 AA alkalines for $30 from a seller on eBay. They work great in radios, cd mp3 players, kids toys, etc.
For the high drain items, get the single use Eveready AA lithiums. They are more expensive, but they last a long time. The only thing I use them for is the DSLR and flash. A set is good for 800-1000 captures. Not bad for $6.00 at Sam's Club. And the best thing: they weigh about half of a typical NiMH battery. Makes the camera noticeably lighter.
They are also good if your rechargeables die unexpectedly, since they are available everywhere.
No more AA/AAA battery and charger hassles for me.
I used rechargable batteries ever since I started to use a digital camera, which uses up batteries in two hours or so. Now I use rechargable batteries for nearly everything, and it's an excellent way to save money (and the planet). Believe it or not, in Argentina rechargable batteries weren't widely available until last year (that is, you couldn't get them at any supermarket). Now, every single supermarket has them, and now Sony recently launched rechargable batteries which have very low discharge them (according to them). Now, if I could get that awesome recharger...
The 'magic smoke' escaped from my 3 month old BC-900. I called LaCrosse and they offered to replace it no questions asked.
I'm curious if anyone else has experienced this issue?
I just bought a BC-900 from thomasdistributing.com about a month ago and I'm loving it.
If you're thinking about getting one, there are some precautions to be taken, though.
This charger uses a -dV primary charge termination algorithm, so it's highly, highly recommended that you don't charge at a rate below C/3. It's actually better if you charge anywhere between C/2 and 1C. That means for a 2000 mAh battery, your charging rate should be at least 1000mA (C/2) but not greater than 2000mAh (1C). If you don't do this, you run the risk of missing charge termination and damaging your batteries to the point that you'll get way fewer cycles out of them.
Also, the circuitry inside this charger is pretty inefficient, so quite a bit of heat is generated at higher charge rates. It's a good idea to prop the back of the charger up on something to increase air flow under it. Otherwise, you'll get your batteries so hot that the thermal cutoff point will be hit and charging will temporarily stop to let the cells cool.
And finally, there have been several reports of people with firmware v32 having melted batteries and charger because of the aforementioned thermal problems. Please make sure that you get this charger with v33 firmware. The thermal cutoff is lower and therefore safer on the newer version. I don't know about amazon, but thomasdistributing only keeps the latest firmware version in stock.
Anyway, it's just good to keep in mind that all rechargeables are *somewhat* dangerous, especially so when charging. NiMH are not nearly as dangerous as Lithium-based chemistries, but it's still a good idea to keep an eye on your batteries when they're recharging.
Great writeup, as always Jeff. I completely agree that Eneloops or any other hybrids with low self-discharge are the way to go.
besides remotes, I can't think of anywhere i use replaceable batteries.
So let me be a smartass for a moment. Did you also run out and post an article on the internet about how great the rechargeable batteries were in 1998, like you're doing now?
Aren't you unwillingly participating in the evil marketing? Caveat Venditor, Jeff, Caveat Venditor!
That's why I'm a geek lagard - I like the toys, but i want to see everybody else screw it up first. I'm a shrewd geek.
Can you use the BC-900 as a poor mans VOM? IE can you put a alkaline battery in the BC-900 just to check the voltage level without charging it (or at least without harming it assuming you pull it out after seeing a reading)?
oh, and fwiw I remember reading that same dvorak article back in the day.
I slapped together a low-power pc, 10 recharchable batteries and a head-mounted display. Now I've got a "laptop" which runs on standard batteries for 6 hours.
The batteries I used are D-size cells with 7000 mAh, five euro each.
I use Lenmar's 8 minute charge batteries. They charge in 8 minutes and seem to hold their charge for a long time. They need Lenmar's 8 minute charger if you want to charge that fast.
For other batteries look for long memory batteries which means they hold their charge when not in use for a longer time.
If you really like charging batteries, you should get into electric aircraft - big monster batteries with high voltage and discharge rates, and they are not exactly safe :)
Anyway... I know a little bit about batteries and I'm not sure if this is what you're saying or not, but the capacity posted on the label is not 'misleading' if you understand what it really means. It has nothing to do with the self-discharge rate... it only means the battery can deliver that much power over the course of its discharge cycle... which it does. If you weren't there to use the power when it came out... that's your problem. NiCad and NiMH cells have fairly high self-discharge rates, so we tend to avoid them on model airplanes because you have to charge them right before you fly, and that is inconvenient, and they are heavier than Lithium-Polymer type batteries. They do have higher discharge rates though, so if someone needs 100 amps or something, they do use NiCad, NiMH or "A123" cells.
We generally use Lithium-Polymer batteries in aircraft, but they need to be handled with care as there is a risk of explosions and fires, so they are not viable as a supermarket-type consumer item. It would be nice if they could be made a little safer though, because they have very low self-discharge rates. I'll charge mine up and let them sit for months sometimes and they only lose maybe 2-5% of the charge, over the winter for example.
And they have very little memory effect! I really hope they get the safety issues of Lithium-based rechargeables worked out so we can see these become more consumer friendly. The LifePO4s look good except for their crappy capacities.
This thing must have quite a learning curve (or maybe it's just unsuitable for "slower" people). Lots of reports on the Amazon reviews of the thing melting, batteries melting, causing fires, etc. Also complaints of it not working as well as it should -- undercharging batteries, inaccurate displays.
I usually try to read the good and bad reviews about something, and every product seems to have *some* bad reviews., A lot of times it's trolling and people with defective products, and once in a while it's someone with a real complaint. But these seem legit enough to be worrisome. I understand the v32 and v33 firmware issue, although there doesn't seem to be any good way to ensure you actually get the 33.
I have this charger!!! I'm glad it's being reviewed so positively. I'm so glad I made the choice to buy this charger!
Read the Amazon reviews: the LaCrosse BC-900 charger has the potential to burn down your house. For this reason I did not buy it.
Do get the Maha chargers (thomasdistributing) which also charge controlled (measuring voltage and battery temperature) and are even cheaper than the BC-900 charger.
I must have thrown away like 6 good batteries in the last year cuz my BC-900 said null :-( ...awesome tip, no more null display for me...
Awesome article. Thanks for the info!
The BC-900 does have a bit of a learning curve. It's more than just a charger, though. It's an analyzer/conditioner as well, and as such is the least expensive charger I know of with those capabilities.
The Maha equivalent, the C9000, is highly regarded and slightly more featureful and safe. It's more expensive, though.
Maybe a better idea for those not wanting to mess with the complexity is Bart's suggestion of a Maha. I've heard the C204W and C401FS are great chargers, but don't have personal experience with them.
Regarding the BC-900, there is another workaround that I've been trying. Some people on CandlePowerForums suggested putting a small fan to blow on it while charging. This may not be practical for some, but it's working for me. I just got through running mine for 5 days straight with no problems this way. It keeps the charger and cells at a very cool temperature. The drawback is, it becomes even more important that you don't charge at a low rate. You need at least C/2 so you'll have a nice pronounced voltage drop when the battery reaches full charge. Otherwise, you'll miss termination and pump way too much into your batteries.
I've been using rechargables for years, starting with my old nomad mp3 player that used AAA's. The only problem I have with rechargables is their voltage of 1.2 versus the alkaline 1.5v.I have 3 mindstorms sets that need a combined 18 batteries but running them with rechargables makes the motors run slower.
(after a quick google search): http://www.philohome.com/nxtmotor/nxtmotor.htm
I still use them on my xbox 360 wireless controller but I wonder if the rumble on them is less than they would be on alkalines. I know the rumble on a wired controller is much more pronounced compared to the wireless, yet to try 1.5v vs 1.2 v.
Perhaps I'll start recharging alkalines, unfortunately they don't last through many recharges.
Oh my god, Meyer is in da house, this interwebs is crazy stuff.
No, that is not a poor mans VOM. It requires a 9V battery. I have a VOM now that I use a couple of times a year but the 9V battery is always low. Pretty much the only reason I use it is to test AA and AAA batteries and pretty much the only reason I buy 9v batteries is to power the stupid VOM.
Does the phrase "theres a hole in the bucket dear Liza" mean anything to you?
I learned to loathe rechargable batteries after using a sony digital camera that used AAs. My theory was that if the batteries ran out I could always hit the store or anybody had AAs, right?
The problem was that the camera would drain a nice newly recharged battery in a few hours, so you just got used to carrying around a few extra AAs. I've since switched to a Canon with a much nicer rechargable LI battery, and I almost never have problems.
I think part of the problem might have been our crappy battery charger, and the geek in me is just drooling over that BC-900 so I just might give them another shot! :)
Ordered, enjoy your commission :P
I also ordered some choose your own adventure books for my son. Get out of my wallet!
haha, good point
You've got to be kidding me. These Amazon stores charge $6 shipping per item plus $.99 per order. I was going to order 3 sets of batteries until I found out that my shipping charges for that one order would be $19!
I like my solar battery chargers that I bought for about $15 each. They don't have the fun features of the touted charger, but they do charge slowly. Considering the source of energy is solar cells, slowness is to be expected. However I do notice that battery life is short, especially using them in my portable sound recording device and digital camera. This is probably because of the particular brands of batteries I've used more than anything, but maybe also because I'm impatient about taking them out to use. I also wish it would meter how much power is in the battery while charging. As is, the charger does meter the level of power it is drawing from the sun.
Here're my 2 cents:
Batteries: Sanyo Eneloop hands down - I use them for everything: wireless mice, xbox controllers, digital cameras, walkman, digital radio, LED flashlights, etc. They don#8217;t self-discharge significantly even after 1 year which automatically extends their lifespan considering that you don#8217;t have to charge them as often due to self-discharge. You can even use them for remotes. In BC, Canada, Costco has them.
Chargers: I used to use La Crosse, but currently using something much better:
Lightning Pack 4000N aka TurboCharger 4000 Smart Battery Charger and Conditioner:
Originally introduced by these guys (check the page for details and reviews):
I know it's hard to believe that something cheaper, simpler, and smaller performs better. Although I liked La Crosse displays and measurements, it'd would run batteries quite hot even with proper charge/discharge current settings. High temps can shorten their lifespan significantly. LP400N keeps them cool as microprocessor adjusts the current automatically based on temp sensors readings. Very simple to use. By the way, this charger automatically detects completely drained cells (mentioned in the first post) and fixes them for you.
Going slightly sideways so apologies up front.
Rip off Britain is alive well in 2008
La Crosse $39.99 in America.
La Crosse 39.99 in the UK
Current exchange rate 1=$2
Damn things are made in Germany our European Union "Partners" for crying our loud!
Photographers use tons of rechargeables. A 4 cell charger is worthless. Maha Energy makes smart chargers that can charge 8 at once.
Yes your problem was the crappy charger. I have three cameras now which run on AA's, an old HP c500, a nikon 5600 and canon S3 IS. Each can take 400-500 pictures from a set of Sanyo Eneloop AA's. I have learned to never buy any device which uses a Lithium Ion battery if there is an AA device available. Imagine how many cords/power supplies/chargers I would need for three cameras, gps, scanner, two way radio, etc, instead I have only two, one for the maha c9000 and one for the maha c401 and only one of those gets used at a time as the 401 is stored in my travel bag so by careful research into producuts and their power supplies I was able to eliminate a dozen different chargers, not to mention needing to replace those lithium Ion batery packs every couple years in a dozen different devices.
What I found was #1 self discharge was an issue so i was having to take batteries hot off the charger to get any decent run time from them and #2 some smart chargers are not all that smart and would terminate the charge early resulting in a not fully charged battery. Since i bought low self discharge batteries like Sanyo Eneloop that fixed #1 and the maha chargers fixed #1.
My maha chargers have paid for themselves already by me not having to replace several older NiMH that I now use in my sons toys where he runs them down faster than they self discharge anyway.
looks cool, thanks
an Amazon referral link? Are you fucking serious? disgusting...
I'm also a self-confessed geek with a bevy of gadgets of my own and two small children, who have really increased the battery demand in my household. I'm also a fan of the LaCrosse charger and Eneloop batteries, but needed a solution for the C/D-cell eating devices that my kids have. I was unwilling to pay $75+ for a decent C/D cell charger and $7-13 per battery for a NiMH C/D cell solution.
I found a decent compromise for D-cells to pass along. If you look hard around the web, you can find AA-D cell adapters that take two AA cells, so you'll get roughly 5000mAh which is much closer to an alkaline cell than using an D adapter that only takes one AA cell. One source of these adapters in here: http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.3228. I'm not affiliated with this company.
@feast So he's got an Amazon link. So what? It doesn't cost you any more and he gets a bit of a reward for passing on good info and some support for the site. Big deal.
Well, Jeff, I guess you've really made it now.
I define "success" by causing the price on Amazon to go up by $5 after mentioning a product in your blog. The charger you pimped is now on back order there and at least $5 more than it was when you first posted. Thomas Distributing still has it for the older price though.
"A 4 cell charger is worthless"
I have this cool technology in my house called a power strip. It allows me to install multiple battery chargers in parallel, effectively allowing me to charge 4, 8, 12, or even 1,247 batteries at a time, all based on how many separate chargers I buy!
Think of it like a rack mount server with truly efficient multi-processor scaling.
FWIW, my family and I use a lot of (standard size) batteries, and have a total of two 4-cell chargers supporting us. Between low-self-discharge batteries (eneloops rule), reasonable organization (if 12 batteries need to be charged, 4 sit next to the charger and the chargee checks back to swap their set in the next day), and healthy supply of extra batteries (aforementioned chargee generally just grabs another set of batteries from the bin), it all just seems to work.
BTW, anyone looking for eneloop batteries, the best place I've found for them is Costco (and I just checked today to make sure they are still selling them). They sell a large pack of them, including a throw-away charger and more useful carrying case, for $26. That's $10 less than Amazon charges for the identical set, and you pay for the gas to/from Costco instead of shipping. For crying out loud: don't buy the $60 set of 8 batteries which Amazon seems to be hawking (alongside 4 batteries for $14 ...)!
"I'm not sure what the exact definition of geek is, but I think "enjoys recharging batteries" has to be very high on that list."
lol, literally :)))
Fantastic! I got so frustrated with my rechargeables that I went back to the environmental nightmare kind. Thanks for the tips! I'll pick up some better batteries and that lovely charger and try again.
This is such a good tip that I passed it along to Clark Howard (clarkhoward.com). You never know, you might end up on radio!
Your blog was timed perfectly. I was just looking at getting into rechargable batteries having spent my entire life disposing single use batteries. Thanks for your help!
The only thing I have that needs batteries are the controllers for my Wii. Still, even though it'll take a couple years for me to break even on the cost it was good enough for me because now I won't have to worry about always having a decent supply of AA batteries.
I didn't realize the slow chargers are better for battery life than fast ones. Now I'm glad I skimped out on paying an extra ten bucks for the 30 min charger vs. the 2 hour one I got.
I really wish I'd read this a couple years ago, before I started using my "fast charger" and wondering why I was wearing out rechargable batteries so fast.
However, nowadays, despite a plethora of gadgets, I'm a little low on things that take AA or AAA batteries (with the exception of the tv remotes which, as have been pointed out, are long-use, low-draw, and need to be changed about once every couple years).
Currently, as far as juiced devices, I have 2 remotes, 3 Wii-Motes, a cellphone, a DS, and a couple digital cameras, both of which take proprietary (and therefor awkardly shaped and necessitating specialized recharging stations) lithium batteries. The Wii-Motes traditionally take AA, but I bought the recharger packs for them (not AA batteries- actual packs, so you "dock" the wii-mote to charge it).
However, should I ever have need of AA batteries again- I'm definitely getting that charger. Thanks for the excellent heads-up:)
if your looking for the item in europe, check conrad website of your contry ( if there is one ) and seartch for product: 512304-TH (thats the one without extra bataries, just the charger, cheepest option if you have bateries allready)
found mine on conrad.nl (number via conrad.de) for 34.95 euro, 41.90 including shipping.