By Grainger Editorial Staff 9/29/22
When it comes to power tools, how you use and store your batteries can significantly affect their lifespan. Whether you use your power tools daily on various jobsites or only occasionally, knowing how to properly store and maintain the battery is key to helping them last a long time. Follow these five tips to help improve the longevity of your batteries.
Choosing a low-power battery, like a 2.0 Ah or 4.0 Ah, for a high-powered tool often requires frequent recharging and can decrease the battery’s life span. Pick a charger or charging mode suitable to the application and run time needs.
According to Power Tool Institute, original manufacturer batteries contain innovative technology to monitor battery health, cell balance, temperature and other critical functions designed to help maintain longer-lasting tools. Only tools, batteries and chargers from the same manufacturer are designed to work together. Since each manufacturer has unique circuity designs, aftermarket or counterfeit batteries may not include all the safety design features or undergo the same testing and quality controls as manufacturer batteries. This could lead to damage, fire or injury. Further, note that it can be challenging to visually determine aftermarket and counterfeit batteries.
When using or storing lithium-ion batteries, try to avoid high and low temperatures. Temperatures over 175 F can cause permanent damage to the battery. While that temperature may seem high, factors such as being in direct sunlight or inside a hot trunk can quickly cross that temperature threshold. According to University of Michigan researchers, “elevated temperatures can accelerate the degradation of almost every battery component and lead to significant safety risks, including fire or explosion.” Experts recommend storing batteries in air-conditioned spaces whenever possible since the optimal temperature is around 59 F, with most battery chemistries having an extreme temperature threshold ranging from minus-40 F to 122 F.
Storing power tools in a moist climate can cause corrosion or lead to problems with the electrical components. Tools should be stored inside a case or cabinet to help eliminate dust and other particles from entering the vents when not in use. Securing them in a toolbox with foam inserts or using a battery holder can also help protect your tools and prolong battery life. Always store your power tools in a cool, dry place since keeping batteries near the optimal temperature mentioned above can help extend run time and make the charging process more efficient.
Batteries have a life expectancy and deteriorate when not in use. When a battery isn’t used immediately after charging, it will slowly lose its charge. Some battery technologies have a faster self-discharge rate than others. For example, if NiCd batteries are stored outside the charger, they will naturally begin to discharge, losing the bulk of their capacity in the first three days. However, lithium-ion batteries have very minimal discharge rates when not in use. Once a battery is damaged, it often has to be recharged more frequently. Recharging battery packs creates more heat that can damage the battery further. Keeping a spare battery ensures you always have a charged battery ready.
Avoiding moisture may sound like a no-brainer, but jobsites are prone to all types of weather, so that’s not always possible. Some battery packs are designed to help direct water away from internal electronic components. It’s important to store your power tool batteries where they won’t be exposed to water, liquids or make contact with metal objects such as keys, coins, screws or nails, which can present safety hazards.
Q: What is memory effect and how does it impact how my battery charges?
A: Older power tools containing nickel-cadmium (NiCad) and nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries can develop memory effect. Memory effect occurs when a battery remembers how much charge was drained before being charged, so it changes its capacity to a lesser charge. This happens when a battery is constantly partly drained and charged without fully discharging first. For this reason, you want to allow NiCad and NiMH batteries to dissipate fully before recharging them to avoid developing a battery memory. Lithium-ion batteries do not have a battery memory, so recharging is recommended after each use to ensure your batteries are fully charged when you need them.
Q: Can I leave my battery on the charger?
A: In most instances, the answer is no. Keeping your battery on the charger makes it challenging to ensure battery safety and can cause the self-discharge rate to get worse. However, it ultimately depends on the tool and the type of battery you have. Many newer chargers allow you to safely leave the batteries on chargers. If the manufacturer doesn’t recommend keeping the battery connected, it is best to disconnect and store it according to manufacturer guidelines.
Q: Can you recondition an old or dead battery in a cordless drill?
A: While most modern power tools now contain lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries due to greater run-time, you may still find older tools containing AA, AAA, 9-volt, NiCad or NiMH batteries. NiCad and NiMH batteries can die out for two reasons: memory effect and crystal formation. Making a battery go through a reconditioning charge cycle can help remove a memory effect from an old power tool.
Follow these steps to recondition old NiCad or NiMh batteries:
Only perform the steps described above when you are trying to recondition a battery that doesn’t work properly. Consult your user manual for specific battery maintenance requirements. If there is no difference in run time, your battery may be permanently damaged and should be replaced.
Reviving Li-ion batteries can be more challenging but is possible in some cases. Battery University recommends connecting only matching cells and adding a temperature sensor, among other steps. Professional battery repair and replacement services can also help service a variety of power tool battery types.
Q: How long can a lithium-ion battery last before it needs to be replaced?
A: Li-ion cordless tool batteries typically feature a 300-500 cycle life, which is around 2-3 years. Cycle life indicates how often a battery can be charged before losing its ability to retain a charge. Therefore, you can generally charge a Li-Ion battery at least 300 times before it needs to be replaced. However, the amount of charging cycles you can get from a battery depends on several factors, including battery configuration, capacity and storage conditions.
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The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.