Squeeze Every Ounce Of Power From Your Disposable Batteries

Sometimes it seems that today's electronic devices gobble up batteries faster than we can buy them. Learn how to get the most life out of your batteries by following the simple tips below.

Photo by Sam Catchesides.

The Hand-Me-Down Approach

Batteries that will no longer power a high-output device can be used in low-output devices. So those run-down batteries that you take out of your digital camera, for example, should have plenty of life left to power your TV remote for a while.

The Battery Swap

When the batteries in your electronic devices run down, try swapping their positions to squeeze every last drop of juice from them. For devices with two batteries, then, simply put battery A into battery B's place and vice versa. If the device has three or more batteries, shift them all one position. (It doesn't matter which direction, but shifting the same way each time ensures even rotation.)

The theory: One battery in the sequence will drain more quickly than the other(s) because the device pulls more from the battery in that position; switching them around puts the battery with more remaining power in the high-drain position. All of this is purely anecdotal, based on my personal experience (it's always breathed a little more life into my devices), that of another Lifehacker writer, and something I heard long ago, so your mileage may vary. (Incidentally, if anyone can drop a little science on this one way or the other, we'd appreciate it. The closest we were able to find to agreement was this web site.)

Your Clever Battery Tricks?

If you've used either of these methods to push your batteries to the limits, feel free to add more anecdotal evidence in the comments. Got some science to confirm or bust these battery myths? Put that in the comments too.


Comments

    Just buy good quality NiMH batteries and a good quality charger and you're sorted. And you're green.

    Win/win.

    There is no science behind the battery swap/rotation idea. Multiple batteries are almost always in series, so what current flows through one battery flows through every other. You might try as a test removing the batteries, then replacing them in the same order to see if there is any difference. But even if one battery is more drained than the other, swapping there order will not change the amount of voltage/power available in total.

    Some batteries are affected by temperature, so warming them up before using (when in cool conditions) may give you a bit more kick, particularly in high-drain situations.

    Also, alkaline batteries can be recharged, though not in a normal NiMH/NiCad charger - they need a special pulse charging system. GrandCell used to (still do?) make 'special' rechargable alkalines, of course more expensive than normal alkalines. I've used their charger on normal alkalines very effectively - better for low-drain devices for sure, and they don't have nearly the overall lifespan of NiMH/NiCads, and you can't discharge them too far for optimum recharging, but you can certainly get a good deal more than you'd expect.

    But more most purposes, I've just moved to NiMH cells.

    I swap my electric toothbrush battery (once the rpms are too slow) to my wireless headphones, then to the remotes. I heard that leaving batteries out in the sun for a while will squeeze a little more life out of them as well (never tried it).

    I've been waiting for this article - I've been wanting to discuss this for weeks :)

    I bought a 6 pack of very good quality batteries (top of the line Duracell) months ago, and have used them all up as per normal in my camera (which I use beside the computer to photograph items for selling on ebay). Well instead of throwing them away after use, I kept them, and have started rotating them randomly. Surprise surprise, I have now got an extra 6 weeks of intermittant use out of them, and they are still going! Each shot is simultaneously saving me money and making me money (on ebay) - try it! Keep your dead batteries (I suggest only really good quality disposables) and try them out again when you need a new set. Not something I'd suggest for going on holidays, but works great at home.

    The simplest solution is always the best - for devices that sit in the closet for long periods of time before use, remove the batteries and put them into a box for storage. While most of the time it might not make a difference as to the life of the battery, it does prevent battery leaks from stuffing up that camera/toy/remote of yours.

    When I was a child, I found using a hammer lightly on the "Head" (+) of an worn out battery (and sometimes sides) would give it a but more life.

    Now that I'm older and know the contruction of a battery, I can see how this could help as the chemical paste inside the tube moves after being hit, it has a change to move non depeleted chemicals into an active position.
    If I remember correctly, the head of the battery is connected to a graphite (or other material) ROD that runs through the middle of the battery, hence moving it further down the battery could give a little more life.

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