In today's mobile world, battery life is precious. If you don't believe me, go to an airport and watch the road warriors. It can get downright nasty when two spot the only available outlet at the same time.
It doesn't take long to learn what helps preserve the current charge on the battery. What's not well known is how to care for the battery itself. That's just as important. Doing so allows the battery to operate efficiently. Here are a few ways to keep your lithium-ion batteries healthy.
1: Keep your batteries at room temperature
That means between 20 and 25 degrees C. The worst thing that can happen to a lithium-ion battery is to have a full charge and be subjected to elevated temperatures. So don't leave or charge your mobile device's battery in your car if it's hot out. Heat is by far the largest factor when it comes to reducing lithium-ion battery life.
2: Think about getting a high-capacity lithium-ion battery, rather than carrying a spare
Batteries deteriorate over time, whether they're being used or not. So a spare battery won't last much longer than the one in use. It's important to remember the aging characteristic when purchasing batteries. Make sure to ask for ones with the most recent manufacturing date.
3: Allow partial discharges and avoid full ones (usually)
Unlike NiCad batteries, lithium-ion batteries do not have a charge memory. That means deep-discharge cycles are not required. In fact, it's better for the battery to use partial-discharge cycles.
There is one exception. Battery experts suggest that after 30 charges, you should allow lithium-ion batteries to almost completely discharge. Continuous partial discharges create a condition called digital memory, decreasing the accuracy of the device's power gauge. So let the battery discharge to the cut-off point and then recharge. The power gauge will be recalibrated.
4: Avoid completely discharging lithium-ion batteries
If a lithium-ion battery is discharged below 2.5 volts per cell, a safety circuit built into the battery opens and the battery appears to be dead. The original charger will be of no use. Only battery analyzers with the boost function have a chance of recharging the battery.
Also, for safety reasons, do not recharge deeply discharged lithium-ion batteries if they have been stored in that condition for several months.
5: For extended storage, discharge a lithium-ion battery to about 40 percent and store it in a cool place
I've always had an extra battery for my notebook, but it would never last as long as the original battery. I know now that it's because I was storing the battery fully charged. That means oxidation of lithium-ion is at its highest rate. Storing lithium-ion batteries at 40 percent discharge and in the refrigerator (not freezer) is recommended
Lithium-ion batteries are a huge improvement over previous types of batteries. Getting 500 charge/discharge cycles from a lithium-ion battery is not unheard of. Just follow the above guidelines.
Michael Kassner is currently a systems manager for an international company. Together with his son, he runs MKassner Net, a small IT publication consultancy.