Monday, September 09, 2013

Taking out the batteries from unused electronics

There was a time when everything seemed to have batteries in it -- oh wait, we're still living in it.

Fire it up
We're living in an advanced technological age where everything seems to need power. If a device needs power, it will more than likely have to get it from either an outlet or a battery. Some "self-powered" devices that power themselves from body heat and movement are in development, but they, too, may still contain batteries to store energy.

Alkaline, NiMH, et al. to Lithium-ion
The good thing is that more devices, especially the higher quality, more expensive ones, seem to be using lithium-ion batteries. I have never had one leak on me -- yet -- but I have heard of them setting things on fire and leaking being a possibility. They're relatively new, though, so maybe I just haven't had enough experience with them.

Alkaline and rechargeable NiMH (or NiCad, etc.) batteries have been around for as long as I've been alive. They're still used heavily, especially for things like remote controls for cable boxes, televisions, cheap toys, and flashlights. Unfortunately, when these items commonly get forgotten, replaced, or thrown in a corner for years.

Leaking batteries
Over the years, I've gone back to these "forgotten" battery-powered items and received a nice "welcome back" in the form of leaked batteries. They have been a combination of rechargeable and non-rechargeable batteries in coin, AA, AAA, C, and D sizes. I'm not entirely sure which type of design (e.g. alkaline, NiMH) they were, but the white powdery substance or blue-green "cake" they left in the battery compartment was unmistakable. The items rarely worked properly again because the battery contacts were usually damaged, and I didn't feel like cleaning them out.

My worst experience was with a Star Wars Snowspeeder toy that I left on a shelf beside my bed as a kid. It used two or three C-type batteries to make sounds, and I forgot about those for years. One day, I went to take a look at the battery compartment and boom, blue-green "cake". The X-wing with AA batteries suffered the same fate.

Taking the batteries out from now on
Having finally learned something from my terrible experiences, I now take the batteries out of remotes, cameras, mice, and whatever "toys" I have now -- including lithium-ions and coins -- if I know I won't be using them for a while. How do I know I'm not using them? Because I haven't used them for months and they have collected a thick layer of dust.

It is definitely an inconvenience. For example, I went to use my laptop a few weeks back, remembered that I took the battery out of the wireless mouse, and didn't feel like finding a single AA battery, so I just used the track pad. However, this way, there's a good chance that if I "really" needed to use the device, it wouldn't welcome me back with a "surprise" in the battery compartment along with dead, self-discharged batteries.

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