The Do's and Don'ts of Buying a Battery Charger

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The Do's and Don'ts of Buying a Battery Charger

Currently, many gadgets and electrical equipment rely on a rechargeable battery to keep them running smoothly. To enable successful recharging to take place, a suitable battery charger must be used. A battery charger transmits electrical current from its source (often the mains supply, although electricity from a car battery or solar generated power can also be utilised) to the battery in a safe and compatible manner. To meet the diverse demand which exists for battery chargers, there is a large variety on the market. Factors such as cost, size, versatility, and condition can all play a part in the decision regarding which charger to purchase. The following information summarises the important features to consider when selecting the right battery charger.

Five Important Do's When Purchasing a Battery Charger

Regardless of the brand of battery charger which is chosen, there are a number of essential requirements which any charger needs to have in order to perform to an acceptable standard. The table given below indicates the key characteristics which an appropriate battery charger must demonstrate.

Do make sure that the battery charger selected is compatible with the chemical composition of the battery which requires charging.

The most common materials which determine battery chemistry are lead, nickel, and lithium. The oldest style of battery relies on lead, with nickel and, more recently, lithium now utilised. Nickel based batteries may be either Nickel-Cadmium (NiCD) types or nickel-metal-hydride (NiMH). Batteries using lithium can be subdivided into lithium ion ( Li-ion) and lithium polymer varieties (li-poly). Although it is not essential to understand battery chemistry in order to purchase a charger, it is vital to know what type of battery requires charging, as not all chargers can accommodate a range of chemical compositions. Most batteries have their composition written on them, as well as their voltage; for example, 2.3V li-ion. Ensure that the charger information stipulates that it will effectively charge the relevant type. Different chemical structures require specific methods of charging. Using the wrong type of charger can not only fail to enable adequate recharging, it can cause some batteries to overheat, with dangerous consequences.

Do check that the charger has an attachment that will fit the battery for which it is intended.

Some pieces of electrical equipment, for example a mobile phone, are usually sold with a compatible charger as part of the package. Frequently these chargers will only work with phones from that manufacturer and may even be incompatible with other models within the brand. These types of charger are usually inexpensive, as they have only limited application. Other battery chargers are sold with a range of connectors, significantly increasing their versatility for charging different electrical appliances. Multiuse chargers can be useful where weight or size restrictions are an issue; for example, when flying. If a multiuse charger is selected, it should be remembered that not all chargers can accommodate more than one battery. This can cause significant delays if several devices require charging simultaneously, as only one can be charged at a time. If this is likely to be an issue, either select multiple chargers or opt for a charger which can charge more than one battery at the same time.

Do ensure that the voltage of the battery which needs charging falls within the battery charger's range.

All battery chargers have a specific range of voltage output. The voltage range will be given in the item's technical specification information. As indicated earlier, the voltage of the battery is usually printed on it or will be shown in the accompanying project literature. The voltage of the battery to be charged must fall within the charger's voltage parameters.

Do select a charger which is suitable for the chosen power source.

Although the majority of chargers are adapted to utilise mains electricity, models are also available which can operate from a car battery or from solar power. The latter two options are useful alternatives when travelling or staying somewhere which has an unreliable or non-existent mains electricity supply. Solar power or using a car battery to provide charge does not give the same high performance as mains operated chargers, but are ideal as a temporary or emergency measure. Some chargers can run from both mains power sources and an alternative supply. These can be useful for maximum versatility, although careful selection is required to ensure performance isn't compromised.

Do check compatibility with the relevant country's power supply.

In the UK and elsewhere in Europe, domestic voltage from the mains is between 220 to 240V; in the USA and a significant number of other countries, mains voltage is somewhere between 120 to 127V. Generally, goods on the UK market are intended for UK use, but it is always advisable to make sure that the chosen product is compatible with the proposed mains voltage. If a charger is purchased which is incompatible, a step-up or step-down transformer will also need to be found to enable the device to work effectively from the mains power source. As well as a transformer, if the charger is required for international use, then a suitable plug fitting will also be needed, as these vary from country to country.

Inadvisable Actions When Purchasing a Battery Charger

In the same way as there are sensible guidelines for what to consider during the battery charger selection process, there are also some important elements to eliminate from the purchase decision. Avoiding risky behaviours, which can increase the chance of a poor acquisition, is a key part of successful buying. The following table gives brief details of what to avoid for the best purchase result.

Don't buy from an unknown or dubious source

A battery charger has the potential to not only prolong the life of batteries but can have a seriously deleterious effect on them if not performing successfully. In the same way as any other electrical appliance, a poorly maintained or faulty charger can overheat and even explode. Due to health and safety considerations, battery chargers should only be purchased from a reputable source. If in doubt, check external reviews of the purchase site

Don't ignore guarantees and warranty information.

The warranty or insurance for an electrical gadget may be invalidated by using a charger which isn't supplied with the appliance at the time of purchase or from an approved manufacturer. This needs to be checked prior to purchasing a charger to ensure warranty compliance. It is also important to check what, if any, additional warranties and guarantees are given by a supplier prior to purchasing a charger. Consumers have recourse in law if an item is bought which is unfit for purpose, but many suppliers offer additional protection, which is always useful.

Don't automatically buy the fastest charger.

For many people, charge speed is a key determinant of battery charger choice. A quick charge is often not the most effective method of charging the battery and can be unsuitable for lithium based batteries. Fast chargers are also more expensive than their slower counterparts. A medium speed charger will still complete the task within a few hours and may well do a better job.

Locating a Suitable Battery Chargers on eBay

eBay stocks a comprehensive selection of both new and used battery chargers so is an ideal place to locate the required item. To commence the search for a battery charger on eBay, initially select the All Categories tab, followed by Electronics.. From this menu, choose the Sound & Vision tab. This leads on to a series of sub-categories. From this selection, choose theMultipurpose Batteries & Power heading to find battery chargers in a large range of types and sizes. It is also possible to narrow the search further by putting in a specific term in the large search box at the top of the page. Searching by power source, for example solar powered battery charger works well in locating suitable products. The name of a preferred manufacturer or battery type can also be used, for example NiCD Battery Charger.

Conclusion

With so many indispensable items now powered by rechargeable batteries, a reliable, compatible phone charger is a necessity for many people. To minimise the chances of a charger failing to operate properly at a crucial moment, follow the indicated guidelines to purchase a good quality charger which will perform effectively, reliably and meet expectations.

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