Modern life is jam-packed with two things: cables and batteries. So many things must be plugged in or charged up regularly that it’s hard to keep up. Rechargeable batteries are especially burdensome because you’ve got to keep track of which are charged, which aren’t, where the charger is, and so on. Isn’t technology supposed to make life easier?
Last year I wrote about organizing, storing and buying cables wisely, and today I’m going to look at batteries. Let’s begin by looking at the different types and the best use for each, as outlined by Michael Bluejay.
Battery types and their best uses
Two are two main categories of household batteries: rechargeable and disposable. Each category has four main types. Let’s begin with rechargeable batteries, as they’re becoming more prevalent, both as a source of power and clutter.
- Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH). These are good for most applications, but don’t have the longest shelf life.
- LSD (low self discharge) NiMH. Again, good for general use, with the added benefit of longer shelf life than non-LSD NiMH. Meaning that, once out of the charger and sitting on a shelf, they hold their charge longer.
- Nickel-Zinc (NiZn). Use these with devices that will benefit from extra voltage like a digital camera. Note that with devices that don’t need the extra juice (say a Bluetooth computer mouse or keyboard), you should stay away from NiZn. Also, this group of batteries has a short shelf life.
- Rechargeable Alkaline. Now we’re talking about the longest shelf life of any rechargeable battery, including LSD NiMH. Use with devices whose batteries aren’t replaced often, like radios or clocks.
If rechargeables aren’t your thing, good old disposables are still around.
- Alkaline. These are the inexpensive batteries that you see everywhere. Reserve for low-drain devices like remote controls.
- High-Drain Alkaline. These are disposables meant for high-drain devices like a digital camera. Seriously though, it’s much more economical to use a rechargeable battery in this situation.
- Lithium. These are powerful little batteries but, of course, you can’t recharge them. However, they are good for smoke detectors as the small amount of drain the detectors put on them means they’ll last a long time (but change your smoke detectors batteries twice a year, okay?).
- Carbon Zinc, Zinc Chloride. Often the least expensive, these are good for low-drain devices. That tiny night light in Jr.’s bedroom? Here you go.
At this point, you’ve identified the type(s) of battery you need and now it’s time to store them. Perhaps you know how much fun it is to go on a hunting expedition for a working battery, or take batteries out of one device just so you can add them to another. My personal favorite is picking up a rechargeable and thinking, “Hm, is this charged? I don’t know.” Let’s eliminate all of that nonsense.
Super battery storage solutions
The Range Kleen organizer is pretty nice. I like this because it accommodates all sizes of household batteries and presents them so you can see instantly what is available. It also comes with a built-in tester, so you can know how “good” a battery is before installing it. It’s a little big, which is its only real downside.
Arts and crafts bins also work well and often have the benefit of a lid, are semi-opaque, and stackable. A few minutes with your label maker helps a lot, too.
If you’d rather save a few bucks and go DIY, consider those disposable deli containers. They don’t hold as many batteries as the larger cases, but cost a lot less. You can even get crafty and use vintage coin purses and labels, if you’d prefer not to see a big, ugly plastic bin of batteries. Chunky diner mugs work well, too.
Ninja level battery management
When you’re ready for world-class battery organization, read insights from Quentin Stafford-Fraser. Quentin recommends you do five things:
- Spend some money on an initial cache of batteries. You’ll eliminate that last-second hunt that keeps everybody waiting.
- Dedicate space for battery storage. Quentin uses a series of hardware bins with labels like “AAA Flat” and “AAA Charged” for easy reference. When the “flat” bins get full, he begins recharging.
- Invest in good batteries. Quentin recommends the Sanyo Eneloop. Incidentally, that’s the same brand of battery that Apple ships with its own charger. I can attest to the fact that they last a long time. Erin uses the Amazon Basics rechargeables, which many users believe to be rebranded second-generation Eneloops.
- Buy a decent charger. I’ve fiddled with chargers from brands you’d recognize that failed to perform to my expectations. Get yourself a good one. Again, Erin has a personal recommendation here, and suggests the La Crosse Technology recharger for AAs and AAAs.
- Get a good tester. The Range Kleen I mentioned above ships with a tester. A stand-alone model like the ZTS MBT–1 Pulse Load Multi Battery Tester will set you back a few bucks but last a good, long time.
Disposing of old batteries properly
Even the best batteries will eventually give up the ghost. Unfortunately, there’s no single solution for getting rid of them. The process depends on the type.
According to Duracell, common alkaline batteries can be tossed into your household trash. The company notes that it hasn’t used mercury in its batteries since 1993, which is a good thing. Check with your preferred manufacturer to see how the’ve addressed concerns over their products’ chemistry.
Rechargeable, lithium, and zinc batteries should be recycled. You can find a compatible recycling center in your area via the Battery Recycling Corporation’s Call2Recycle program. You can also check the website for your local county and/or municipality’s hazardous waste program. These governmental jurisdictions almost always have a program just for battery collection.
With some planning, proper storage, and knowledge of what you need, you can eliminate a lot of battery hassles and reduce the clutter they produce at the same time.