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How to Store Disposable Batteries

10/12/2008 2:12 PM

Ever since I can remember, I've been storing disposable batteries in the freezer.

This method covers the gamut of sizes from the tiny ones used in measuring devices like micrometers through the AAA, AA, C, D, and thin ones common to computers for saving the BIOS settings.

The reason for doing so was logical enough. The old carbon-lead flashlight batteries, and those that followed, use chemical reaction to generate electricity. As temperatures drop chemical reactions slow down. Storage at low temps promised to extend the shelf life quite a bit and, as far as I can tell, it has.

I recently encountered an unexpected problem: surprisingly short life from some name brand AA lithium batteries in a solid state CCD camera.

During the course of my investigation I let it be known that I always store my batteries at or below freezing. I was told:

"You shouldn't do that! That shortens their life!"

Really?!

After almost 50 years of success keeping them cold, I'm a bit perplexed by this claim.

Can anyone shed some light (sic!) or heat, on this issue?

Thanks

L. J.

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#1

Re: How to store disposable batteries

10/12/2008 3:37 PM

I'm not savvy in chemistry, but I confirm, low level temperatures worsens performances of any kind of batteries. As resident of country with tough winters I can inform you that simplest way start a vehicle which looks absolutely dead(frozen) after several attempts to turn its on, just get battery in to home till it be warmed for room temperature and you have once more chance(s) to repeat.

As for AAA,AA,C,D batteries . When you have any gadget which refuses to work going out of charge(electric clock, photo camera, etc), just place it on warm place, wait awhile, then you have a chance its can be operable for a short time again.

Once a friend of mine took a chance reply on mobile call walking out in -40C. He lost both battery and new mobile.

Hope someone here will explain us a hiden mechanism of that phenomena.

regards, caramba

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#3
In reply to #1

Re: How to store disposable batteries

10/12/2008 10:06 PM

Caramba wrote:"I'm not savvy in chemistry, but I confirm, low level temperatures worsens performances of any kind of batteries"

You and I are speaking about two separate pheonemon Caramba. I am quite aware of the fact that batteries, especially car batteries loose much of their capacity at lower temps. I am not dealing with how they perform in low temps. I am dealing with disposable batteries and extending their shelf life by chilling them, and then bringing them up to ambient temperature before use.

When checking the manufacturer's suggested operating temps for lithium's, I found the lower range to be far below those in my freezer. So chilling them should not be the cause.

L. J.

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#7
In reply to #3

Re: How NOT to store batteries or battery cells.

10/13/2008 4:17 AM

When checking the manufacturer's suggested operating temps for lithium's, I found the lower range to be far below those in my freezer. So chilling them should not be the cause.

...operating temperature is not the same as non-operating temperature.

All name brand battery cell mfr's recommend storage at (cool dry) room temp, and discourage storage in fridge or freezer.

That said, Laughing Jaguar's original question is unfounded relative to his prematurely failed cells in that:

  1. He had no controls against which to associate the failures with cold storage.
    1. There would be no way to have such controls (other cells stored both in freezing and in room-temp conditions...because the sample would need to be very large...such that any failure in any control sample could be proven statistically to have been the result of OTHER THAN, say, manufacturing defect.
  2. He cannot know whether or not the failed cells would have failed anyway even if not cold stored.
    1. That is, that the cells did not fail due to mfg or pre-sale handling defect...other than cold storage induced defect.
  3. He did not state the process by which the cold stored cells were placed into service after removal from cold storage...the same which might have caused or hastened their failure:
    1. Were the cells (or was the battery placed in service cold or allowed to reach...camera temperature before being placed in service.
    2. Were the cells charged before being placed in service? Or not?
      1. If charged, were they allowed to "thaw" to charger temperature?
      2. Or not?
  4. He did not state whether or not the cells were fully charged (or determined to be fully charged), or not (or unknown), before placing in cold storage.
    1. If his bad cells were not, in fact, defective at purchase (something that now cannot be known), and given that the best guess answer to his question can at best only be a guess, then it is likely to be this aspect (state of charge when frozen) that offers the most plausible (but still not conclusive or compelling) guess; for example:
      1. That freezing could, over time, have caused alteration, say crystallization, of cell chemical constituents that (again over time...and just like with a normally stored cell) became irreversible.
      2. That freezing could have actually accelerated such alteration...in effect "locking" the cell into a chemical makeup in which less and less cell substrate was available for chemical/physical reaction/transport.
  5. Laughing also did not state the duration of storage; that is, how much Warranty time remained before the mfr-declared expiration date...that same date after which the same "cell-end-of-life" changes suggested above would have been likely to have occurred even under manufacturer-tested and recommended storage or operating conditions.
    1. Which introduces another...discouragement...as relates to Laughing's question, namely:
      1. That the manufacturer's warranty is the only thing that can be relied upon with confidence...because
        1. It is based on both testing done by mfr's, and
        2. It is the manufacturer who has knowledge of why a cell fails under any condition, and why is will not fail before a certain date, but
        3. Such information as the manufacturer has, it will not disclose to the public.

So the only valid answer to your question is:

If the cell or cells are not yet expired, take them back for exchange. Battery sellers or manufacturers of name-brand cells will oblige such requests without hesitation because:

  1. Such exchanges or returns are more than "covered" by the high price markups on new battery cells.
  2. Mfrs and merchants have nothing to lose in honoring the warranty...even if if used or stored inproperly...but it's not wise to inform them of such misuse.

Thereafter, store and use batteries according to mfr recommendations (i.e., at room temperature, and out of equipment during long periods of non use)...so there will be no questions that cell failing before expiration did so because of "original manufacturing defect."

On the other hand, do store film camera film sealed in darkness the refrigerator.

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#26
In reply to #7

Re: How NOT to store batteries or battery cells.

10/13/2008 10:59 PM

is this supposed to be sarcastic?

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#2

Re: How to store disposable batteries

10/12/2008 5:43 PM

Here's some interesting data from some folks who NEED TO KNOW:

http://www.climber.org/gear/batteries.html

but the Manufacturers say:

Kodak says "refrigeration is not necessary, nor is it recommended" and "freezing is not recommended" for its alkaline batteries. Duracell advises: "Do not refrigerate Duracell batteries. This will not make them last longer."

If you didn't let the batteries warm up prior to use, that might explain your issue.

milo

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#4

Re: How to store disposable batteries

10/12/2008 11:34 PM
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#5
In reply to #4

Re: How to store disposable batteries

10/13/2008 1:22 AM

Thanks "Dad" for those fascinating links!

L. J.

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#6
In reply to #4

Re: How to store disposable batteries

10/13/2008 1:42 AM

I wonder how long the batteries lasted for after 'treatment' ? Also, they were tested immediately after heating. Too much electro-chemical stuff for my brain, but the links are interesting, I'll have to try it next time I encounter a flat battery.

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#8
In reply to #6

Re: How to store disposable batteries

10/13/2008 10:53 AM

You raise an interesting (in your tag line) point - just where IS your avatar, anyway? Off storing nuts for the winter?

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#14
In reply to #8

Re: How to store disposable batteries

10/13/2008 12:42 PM

CR4's dressing room is locked . This never happened to Mr Benn .

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#16
In reply to #14

Re: How to store disposable batteries

10/13/2008 12:56 PM

Sounds like a case for...Secret Squirrel!!! (however, all of a sudden, all of my image files are "bad" - has this anything to do with said dressing room door, one wonders?)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-S_F9U9gNEQ

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#17
In reply to #16

Re: How to store disposable batteries

10/13/2008 1:01 PM

I changed the names on my images I when saved them and they are bad. Others saved without changing name are good.

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#21
In reply to #17

Re: How to store disposable batteries

10/13/2008 1:24 PM

Hi dadw5boys,

Check out the link in my #20 below,

Kris

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#20
In reply to #16

Re: How to store disposable batteries

10/13/2008 1:11 PM

Secret Squirrel is indeed way coolor than most 'toons.

Follow this way to the grouchy graphics ; http://cr4.globalspec.com/thread/27921/Graphics-Problem-in-Posts-CR4-Problem

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#23
In reply to #20

Re: How to store disposable batteries

10/13/2008 1:38 PM

ty

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#9

Re: How to store disposable batteries

10/13/2008 11:51 AM

I'm going to take a guess or two here.

Most battery chemistry is aqueous, and a lot of it involves fairly bound water such as gels. If these are allowed to freeze, the water can separate out (cryoseparate out) into ice crystals and salts.

The ice crystals will expand during freezing, causing various battery components to be separated. The crystals will also puncture membranes and such. When the battery warms up, the voids created by the ice crystals are not necessarily filled. Also, the salts and such which were carefully mixed prior to manufacturing the battery may or may not go back into solution the same way. The damage to membranes and plates also doesn't repair itself. The voids may have caused areas to be compressed, which can lead to electolyte being squeezed out and easily depleted. The net is that there will be less volume and area available for any charge flux and that what is available will have departed significantly from the optimal composition.

Just think of freezing and thawing a banana a few times. It doesn't do so well. The process isn't always reversible.

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#10
In reply to #9

Re: How to store disposable batteries

10/13/2008 12:03 PM

Ice schrinks the longer it stays in a self defrosting fridge.

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#11
In reply to #10

Re: How to store disposable batteries

10/13/2008 12:19 PM

"Ice schrinks the longer it stays in a self defrosting fridge Drink."

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#12

Re: How to store disposable batteries

10/13/2008 12:27 PM

I've never actually heard of storing batteries in the freezer. I have seen them stored in the refrigerator though. They say to keep them in a cool, dry place.

Better yet, just buy them as you need them.

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#13
In reply to #12

Re: How to store disposable batteries

10/13/2008 12:30 PM

Some one had convinced my middle daughter that it was better to keep nail polish in the refrigerator. Just to break balls I would wet the bottle and stick it in the freezer. If it is good in the refrig, it should be better in the freezer, right?

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#15
In reply to #13

Re: How to store disposable batteries

10/13/2008 12:45 PM

That tip could cause chaos in Australia.

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#18
In reply to #12

Re: How to store disposable batteries

10/13/2008 1:03 PM

If people needed to replace batterys more often when they got dry and you made battries what would you suggest ?

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#19
In reply to #18

Re: How to store disposable batteries

10/13/2008 1:10 PM

Print on label:

For best results, store under ground in Gobi_Desert.

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#22
In reply to #19

Re: How to store disposable batteries

10/13/2008 1:37 PM

Yeah, that would sell more batteries, all right!

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#24

Re: How to Store Disposable Batteries

10/13/2008 10:51 PM

I would not recommend storing in freezer. Refrigerator should be fine and better option.

As you pointed out, the colder temperature would slow down the rate of reaction. So, when you use them directly from the fridge, the reaction happens at much slower rate and u loose the performance. Also, there would some precipitation happening from lowering the temperature and letting it chill (sic!) for so long without any movement.

I would suggest letting the batteries thaw before you use them. I don;t mean thawing till u feel the battery is at room temperature. Since the outer covering is metal, it would attain room temperature much quickly then the entire battery. So, let it thaw for a day or two. Then use it.

Also, shake well before each use (no pun intended, or may be it is) :)This would help the solution to be homogenous and have better performance. Ever tried shaking the flashlights when they get dim and all of sudden they would get bright for a sec or two? In that case, ur batteries are dying; but the shaking help mixing and ionization so keeps performance optimum.

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#25
In reply to #24

Re: How to Store Disposable Batteries

10/13/2008 10:55 PM

By the way, the extent of improvement in shell life (or not) would depend on the type of battery and, hence, the electrochemistry in the battery. So, results may vary :-)

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#27
In reply to #24

Re: How to Store Disposable Batteries

10/14/2008 9:26 PM

Bond, James Bond. I prefer my batteries shaken, not stirred.

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