From flashlights to radios, batteries are a storage must (Trust me you don’t want to be hand-cranking your radio or using your shake-powered flashlight for any power outages lasting longer than a few hours) The problem is that many of us aren’t chemists and therefore require a little educating in the realm of battery selection and storage. Allow me to be your guide. Also, I would like to note that any chemists in the reading audience are more than welcome to add their expertise in the subject to the comments section.
Primary vs Rechargeable Cells
Primary cell batteries are single use, disposables. The most common types of primary cell batteries are Heavy-Duty and Alkaline. Lithium primary cell batteries are also available but can’t always be used in devices that usually take Alkaline or Heavy-Duty. The difference between them is in the charge. Lithium primary cells put out 3 volts rather than the 1.5 volts produced by Heavy-Duty and Alkaline cells. If you choose to use Lithium primary cells, look for the new 1.5 volt versions to preserve your battery powered devices.
Rechargeable cells are just that rechargeable. The three versions of rechargeable cells include NiMH, NiCd and Lithium-ion. NiCd cells are the oldest of the three technologies; NiMH are the most common; and Lithium-ion is the newest.
|Cell Type||Shelf Life||Capacity||Sizes Available||Cycles||Cold Weather Performance|
|Heavy-Duty||8+ Years||Low||AAA AA C D 9V||1||Poor|
|Alkaline||8+ Years||Medium||AAA AA C D 9V||1||Poor|
|Lithium (Primary)||15+ Years||High||AAA AA C D||1||Excellent|
|NiCd||3 Months||Low||AAA AA C D 9V||1-2K||Good|
|NiMH||2 Months||Medium||AAA AA C D 9V||500-800||Poor|
|Lithium-ion||6 Months||High||R123A Other Related Sizes||300-500||Excellent|
Storing Your Batteries
The best environment to store your batteries in is sub-freezing temperatures (the freezer). This will extend the life of your batteries. If a freezer is not available, at very least make sure your batteries are also safe from water and extreme heat. Rechargeable batteries can be revived after it has exasperated its shelf life with a simple charge. Keep in mind that if you are planning on storing rechargeable batteries that you will need a generator to do the recharging. As you can see from the above table, many battery cells perform poorly when cold. Because of this, you will need to let them warm back up after pulling them out of the freezer before you’ll be able to use them to their best capacity.
These are the cheapest batteries on the market. Their performance is also reflected of their low cost. They are the poorest quality battery. Avoid them.
These single use batteries are a good value. They are cost effective and perform just fine. One word of caution however: when purchasing Alkaline batteries, stick to brand names such as Duracell and Energizer. Generic brands such as Western Family should be avoided as they are known to leak.
These are the most expensive form of single use batteries but well exceed the others in terms of performance and capacity.
These rechargeables are a die hard for good reason. They are the most durable form of rechargeable battery you can buy. They will last a good 5 years of consistent use if properly cared for. Proper care includes sucking them dry every month or so and storing them in a cool place. They are also very reasonably priced. Please be careful when disposing of these. You should never burn, brake open, or dispose with other garbage. Locate a NiCd recycling bin to dispose of your batteries.
Great value. Expect up to 3 years of effective use with solid power density.
Require special care and larger power source to charge off of like a car or off-grid electrical system. Great cold weather performance with top of the line power density. They do deteriorate quickly though. There will be a noticeable reduction in performance within a year of use.
Evaluate your battery needs. What devices will be using them. Will you need to use them in cold weather? Will you be able to recharge them? No matter what you’re preparing for, making a place in your storage for batteries will be space well spent.