Everything You Need to Know About Rechargeable Batteries

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Everything You Need to Know About Rechargeable Batteries

Using rechargeable batteries is an excellent way to save money and is, in some cases, an environmentally friendly alternative to disposable batteries. The first rechargeable battery was created at the end of the 1800s, and now many modern devices, such as cameras, MP3 players, and cordless power tools, can only work with rechargeable batteries. Rechargeable batteries, or secondary cells work in the same way as non-rechargeable batteries, or primary cells. Both produce current through an electrochemical process that involves an anode, cathode, and electrolyte, but the reaction is reversible in rechargeable batteries.

There are three main types of rechargeable batteries used in electronic devices: nickel-cadmium (NiCd), nickel-metal hydride (NiMH), and lithium-ion (Li-Ion). Rechargeable batteries do not always perform well in high drain devices, so you should understand the charging capacity and voltage produced by these batteries to find the right type for your needs. It is also helpful to understand how many times they can be recharged, the sizes available, and battery chargers. Rechargeable batteries are available from a variety of sources, including electronics shops and supermarkets, and online from sites like eBay..

How Many Times Can Rechargeable Batteries Be Charged?

Rechargeable batteries can be recharged hundreds of times before losing their ability to hold a charge. A number of factors affect the lifespan of rechargeable batteries, including what they are used for and whether they are allowed to discharge before being recharged on a regular basis, also known as cycling.

Can Non-Rechargeable Batteries Be Recharged?

Non-rechargeable batteries are just that: non-rechargeable. As tempting as it may be to pop a couple of standard batteries into the battery charger, doing this may lead to injury as this could cause a build-up of hydrogen gas in the battery, resulting in a ruptured, leaking, or exploding battery cell. Even if the battery does charge a little bit, this charge will be lost as soon as the battery is put to use.

Types of Rechargeable Batteries

There are a number of types of rechargeable battery. Three main types are used for electronic devices and cordless power tools.

Nickel-Cadmium Rechargeable Batteries

Nickel-cadmium (NiCd) rechargeable batteries were the first rechargeable batteries to become readily available. However, these batteries are known to suffer from the memory effect: if they are not fully charged every time they are used then they lose capacity. This can be overcome by allowing them to run flat before recharging them. Despite this problem, NiCd batteries have several distinct advantages over other secondary cells. They charge relatively quickly, perform well in cold conditions, and are less likely to corrode or suffer damage when stored. However, the inclusion of cadmium in their composition makes them a less environmentally friendly option as this heavy metal is poisonous to all life forms. NiCd batteries are no longer generally available in the European Union under the Batteries Directive and are available only for medical use, and in alarms systems, emergency lighting, and portable power tools.

Nickel-Metal Hydride Rechargeable Batteries

Nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) rechargeable batteries have largely replaced NiCd batteries in consumer devices. They are cheaper to produce and do not contain toxic heavy metals. NiMH batteries have a higher capacity and are not as heavily affected by the memory effect. Originally, NiMH batteries were unsuitable for use in devices that used little power over an extended period, such as television remote controls, as their self discharge rate was fairly high. This has been addressed with the creation of low self discharge (LSD) NiMH batteries. While they are not as durable as NiCd batteries and can be damaged if left uncharged, LSD batteries can be used in occasional use or low power devices.

Lithium-Ion Rechargeable Batteries

Lithium-ion (Li-ion) rechargeable batteries are usually found in consumer electronics and portable devices. These batteries are not readily available in equivalent standard battery sizes as they are more expensive to produce at more than 2 volts per cell. However, they come in a wide range of shapes and sizes to fit anything from mobile phones to digital cameras. These batteries are lighter than other types of secondary cells, do not suffer from the memory effect, and have a low self discharge rate. Li-ion batteries are the most environmentally friendly option as they have no components that can pollute the environment to the degree that the components of NiCd and NiMH batteries can. However, these batteries lose their charge as they age and high temperatures can hasten their charge loss.

Charging Capacity of Rechargeable Batteries

Rechargeable batteries are classified according to their charging capacity, which is measured in milliAmpere hours (mAh). The higher the number, the higher the battery’s capacity. This means that a 2700 mAh battery can power a device for ten times as long as a 270 mAh battery. It is important to bear in mind that devices that draw more current drain batteries faster than devices that need little power to work. Manufacturers usually include a discharge rate in battery capacity descriptions. High capacity batteries take longer to charge than low capacity batteries.

Voltage of Rechargeable Batteries

NiCd and NiMH produce a lower voltage than standard batteries: these rechargeable batteries are said to produce 1.2 volts compared to 1.5 volts in a primary cell. Check the instructions for any device before using rechargeable batteries as some may be damaged by low voltages. Li-ion rechargeable batteries have a higher voltage than standard cells and are not suitable for devices that use standard batteries.

Rechargeable Battery Sizes

NiCd and NiMH rechargeable batteries come in the same sizes as their standard counterparts. These range from AAA to D, and NiMH batteries are even used in hybrid cars. Larger NiMH batteries tend to be expensive and may not be available in low self discharge varieties. Li-ion batteries are usually not intended for use in 1.5 volt devices. However, they can be found in common sizes for use in devices like model aircraft, but are more expensive than other batteries. Always check the manufacturer’s instructions before using rechargeable batteries in devices.

Battery Chargers

As different battery types are based on different scientific principles, specific chargers should be used only for the type of battery that they are designed for. However, universal chargers can be used on all rechargeable batteries. Some chargers include a discharge cycle that can be used to condition batteries and extend their lifespan. As rechargeable batteries can be damaged by overcharging, it is best to look for a charger that switches off automatically or changes to trickle charge once the batteries are fully charged. Chargers that can charge a single cell at a time offer added convenience when charging batteries used in clocks or remote controls. It is important to allow batteries to cool before recharging them.

Safe Disposal of Rechargeable Batteries

When rechargeable batteries can no longer be charged, do not add them to household rubbish as they should not be incinerated or left in a landfill: the chemicals inside the batteries cause air, water, and soil pollution. Most department and electronics stores have battery bins, and are required to accept batteries for recycling if they sell more than one pack of four AA batteries per day or 32 kilograms of batteries per year. Look for designated bins or boxes in any shop that sells batteries or battery operated products to dispose of your used rechargeable batteries.

Finding Rechargeable Batteries on eBay

Once you know what you are looking for on eBay, finding the right rechargeable batteries is easy. Type a search phrase, such as "AA rechargeable Li-ion batteries&", into the search field, which is located conveniently on every page, to see the items available from eBay sellers. Rechargeable batteries are listed in more than one category, so choose the most appropriate one to refine your search. If you would like more control over your search results, use the advanced search feature.

Evaluate the Item and Seller

Before you buy on eBay, take some time to evaluate the item and the seller. Click on an individual listing for more information about the product, its condition, buying options, postage and packaging fees, payment options, and the seller ’ s feedback information.. Buyers leave feedback for sellers about their products and customer service. Detailed seller ratings provide more information about a seller’s communication, the reasonableness of the postage and packaging fees, the accuracy of the item description, and how long it took for the seller to post the item.


Three types of rechargeable batteries are commonly found. NiMH batteries are readily available in the UK for consumer use, whereas NiCd batteries contain cadmium, a toxic heavy metal. NiCd rechargeable batteries are still used in medical applications and for occasional use in low power devices such as emergency lights and fire alarms. Aside from the environmental impact of the components used in NiCd batteries, the memory effect is a major drawback of this type of battery as it loses the ability to hold charge over time. This effect is less pronounced in NiMH batteries and is not present in Li-ion batteries. Li-ion batteries have a voltage higher than those of NiMH and standard batteries, making them unsuitable for use in devices that take standard size batteries.

It is important to take the manufacturer’s listed discharge rate into account when checking the battery’s capacity. Rechargeable batteries are sensitive to overcharging and should not be left plugged into the charger for an extended time. An ideal charger switches off automatically when the battery is charged. Standard batteries are not suitable for recharging and may explode or start leaking if they are placed in a charger. Always dispose of batteries safely. Electronics shops and most shops that sell batteries should provide a means of safe disposal. A range of rechargeable batteries are available from eBay sellers.

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