Picture of 2 batteries in the shape of a Play button

Overview

The purpose of a battery is to store energy. Batteries provide a convenient means for powering devices, big and small. The amount of energy stored depends on the type and design of the battery. Batteries include metals and various chemical compositions and when used as designed – deliver their capacity. However, you need to understand battery safety. This article will briefly talk about Discharging, Charging, Storage, and Disposal of batteries.

It is not intended to be an all-inclusive post to answer all questions or provide safety procedures. Consult the manufacturer’s documentation for relevant precautions and handling procedures.

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Definitions

  • Primary Battery. These are the “single use” batteries. EX: Alkaline
  • Secondary Battery. These are rechargeable. Examples include nickel-cadmium (NiCd), lead acid, and lithium-ion, and many others.

There are many electrochemical cells. An example of of these can be found in List of Battery Types (Wikipedia)

Before Using

Before using a battery, inspect the battery for any unusual or odd characteristics. Here are some things to be on the lookout for:

  • Rusty or Damaged Terminals. Poor connections will not only work sub-optimally, but may also arc and cause fires or other damage. Identify and resolve the issue according to manufacturer specifications.
  • Leakage. Batteries don’t normally leak. If you see signs of leaking – be sure not to touch the materials. Carefully remove the batteries and dispose of them properly in accordance with local and federal regulations.
  • Misshapen or Odd. Signs of a battery issue may include extremely hot, melting, burns, bulging, If your battery shows signs or exhibits something odd – you may have a bad battery.

If you suspect a battery has any of these, or other problems, stop use. Consult battery manufacturer or Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) documentation for handling.

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Storage

The manner and environment in which you store your batteries is very important.

  • Non-Conductive Storage. Store batteries in non-conductive boxes.
  • Separation. Keep battery terminals or contacts separated from metal objects, otherwise you could inadvertently discharge, short, or otherwise damage the batteries.
  • High and Dry. Keep batteries out of wet or high-humidity environments.
  • Child Safety. Store batteries where children cannot access them.
  • Pet Safety. Same goes for pets and other animals.

These are just a few things to consider. Do your due diligence.

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Discharging

It is important to follow the manufacturer’s specification when using batteries. With the numerous chemical compositions and power capabilities – it is imperative you take the time to understand the parameters for using (“discharging”) your batteries. Some devices do not work with rechargeable batteries. Some devices require rechargeable batteries only. Know your device requirements.

Before using a battery, some considerations include, but are not limited to:

  • Operating Temperature. Using batteries outside of their intended design can reduce effectiveness, or even be outright dangerous. This can include operating your batteries in extremely low temperatures or very high temperatures. Consult the documentation and know the proper operating procedures.
  • Operating Voltages. You need to pay special attention to your battery voltages. Continual discharge below the recommended specifications can cause irreversible damage to your battery, or your device.
  • Single Use. Some batteries are designed for single-use only. Do not attempt to recharge and re-use Alkaline or Zinc Carbon batteries. Once they are empty dispose of them properly.
  • Rate of Discharge. Understand the manufacturer’s acceptable rate of discharge. Exceeding the battery specifications is a recipe for damage or fire.
  • Polarity. When installing or using batteries, pay special attention to the proper terminal connection and orientation of battery terminals.

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Charging

It is also very important to understand and use the right equipment when charging batteries designed for recharging. Not all battery chargers are created equal.

Many battery chargers are not compatible with charging Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4). Some battery chargers have “topping off” technology that “floats” a voltage to the battery – meant for lead-acid batteries, but this is bad for many LiFePO4 batteries.

Here are some ideas to consider when charging your batteries:

  • Be Present. Recharge your batteries when you are present.
  • Avoid Flammables. Charge your batteries away from combustible or flammable items. Clothing, carpet, drapes, blankets, paper and gasoline are just a few items you need to avoid.
  • Fire Extinguisher. Keep a fire extinguisher nearby and make sure compatible with the battery chemistry you are charging.
  • Don’t Mix. Don’t mix rechargeable and disposable or even different brands or models.
  • Smoke Alarm. Make sure your smoke alarm is working and nearby.
  • Proper Voltage. Make sure you are charging within the manufacturer’s minimum and maximum voltage.
  • Faster is not necessarily Better. Charging some batteries faster reduces their longevity, and may cause adverse reactions with the chemical makeup/composition.

Disposal

Understand how to properly dispose of used or non-functional batteries. Recycle at your nearest battery recycling facility. Many batteries are considered hazardous waste and most municipalities require separate and proper disposal.

Pro Tip: Call the facility to ensure they are accepting the battery type you need to dispose of.

Continuing Knowledge

Check out these sites to further your battery knowledge: