Does keeping batteries in the refrigerator ensure longer battery life?

Rechargeable batteries then and now

Rechargeable batteries are likely the main reason so many people store batteries in the refrigerator. Up until a decade ago, the customer experience was pretty terrible and refrigerators were a stopgap measure. 

NiCd (nickel-cadmium) and NiMH (nickel-metal hydride) – the most commonly used rechargeable batteries – could lose as much as 20%-30% of their capacity per month. A few months on the shelves and they were effectively dead and in need of a full recharge. 

At that time, storing these types of rechargeable batteries in the refrigerator, or even the freezer, was recommended by some as a way of slowing such a rapid loss.  

Fortunately, there have been significant improvements in rechargeable batteries. Reviewed’s current top recommendation for rechargeable batteries, Panasonic Eneloop Pro, can maintain 85% of their full charge for up to a year at a time – no fridge required.   

Manufacturer contradictions

Contradictory advice now abounds, even from the most respectable of sources.

A clear example is Energizer. Their Non-rechargeable batteries: Frequently Asked Questions document specifically states that “storage in a refrigerator or freezer is not required or recommended for batteries produced today” but their Carbon-Zinc application manual provides data proving that their own range of carbon based batteries benefit from reduced self discharge and states “The storage of carbon zinc batteries at temperatures below 21°C will increase their service maintenance” before going on to demonstrate that “storage at 5 to 10°C is effective“.

You would be forgiven for thinking that if a company like Energizer has mixed messages … who really knows?

Video

How Long Does Cheesecake Last in the Refrigerator? – Homemade Cheesecake

Except you plan on having a large group of people over, it is really not advisable for you to make so much cheesecake that you and your household wouldn’t be able to finish sometime soon.

However, in the event that this happens, you can store the cheesecake in the freezer for a little over 3 months and in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days.

If it stays too long in your refrigerator, then the cheesecake will start to show signs that it is going bad.

Meanwhile, you’ll need plastic wraps to place slices of the cheesecake in before you store the cheesecake in the fridge or freezer.

Don’t have any yet? We recommend the Cheesecake Wedge Containers from Mr. Miracle. They are food-grade containers with lids that come in a pack of 25 and cost less than 10 dollars to have.

Alternatively, you may like the larger Dart Clear Hinged Lid Plastic Container. These containers also come in a pack of 25, are durable, crush-resistant and see-through.

Image by Malgorzata Haggu from Pixabay
Image by Malgorzata Haggu from Pixabay

 

 

Checking This Out Further

One thing that surprised me about this test was that refrigerated batteries lasted just as long in real use as the room temperature (or better) batteries. I am still wrapping my head around that because doesn’t an automobile battery discharge itself more quickly in the dead of winter than in the heat of summer? Perhaps it is my imagination, perhaps it has to do with chemical reactions in a sealed-lead acid battery. (Sealed-lead acid is what you find in a car battery).

Also, the idea of condensation and chemical reactions would seem to be a detrimental factor when it comes to cold storage. Here is what Energizer has to say:

Storage in a refrigerator or freezer is not required or recommended for batteries produced today. Cold temperature storage can in fact harm batteries if condensation results in corroded contacts or label or seal damage due to extreme temperature storage. To maximize performance and shelf life, store batteries at normal room temperatures (68°F to 78°F or 20°C to 25°C) with moderated humidity levels (35 to 65% RH).

The Energizer website included some other tips.

When stored at room temperature (i.e. 70°F/ 21°C), cylindrical alkaline batteries have a shelf life of 5 to 10 years and cylindrical carbon-zinc 3 to 5 years. Lithium Cylindrical types can be stored from 10 to 15 years. Prolonged storage at elevated temperatures will shorten storage life.

A battery tester (loaded voltmeter) is a simple and effective way to determine if a battery is “good” or “bad”. Most testers place an appropriate load on the batteries and then read the voltage. A voltmeter without a load can give very misleading information and is not recommended for this purpose. Note that testers are typically not capable of providing reliable run time estimates.

So should you store your batteries in the fridge? Well, at the end of the day, I do concur with Ron. Refrigerating household batteries is a waste of both time and refrigerator space.

On a similar note, as much as it makes sense to store household batteries for emergency preparedness purposes, nothing beats using rechargeables. 

What I like about these batteries is they can remain fully charged and ready for an extended period of time without discharging themselves.

Because I tend to forget to charge up my drawer full of batteries, this is a huge plus. I can plug in my charger and have a marathon charging session and I am good to go for a long, long time.

Recent Posts

Warning Signs That Your Refrigerator is Dying

The best way to avoid problems because of a faulty refrigerator is to get ahead of it. If you notice any of these problems in your old refrigerator, consider a replacement as opposed to putting money into it. You can start by referring to these refrigerator maintenance and repair tips. Keep reading to learn these 5 warning signs that your refrigerator is dying.

The Exterior of the Refrigerator is Getting Hot

Unless you’re cooking something on the stove, no kitchen appliance should ever be hot to the touch on its exterior. That’s especially the case with your refrigerator. The motor generates heat when it runs, but that heat is supposed to be contained so you won’t really notice it. If you suddenly start feeling that heat on the exterior of the unit, it could be a sign that the motor is failing or that the coils have stopped working.

Food is Going Bad Quickly

There is a certain amount of time that food can be kept safely in a refrigerator before the government recommends you discard it. The United States Department of Health and Human Services publishes a food storage chart with suggestions for how long you should keep certain foods in your refrigerator. Here are a few examples:

  • Egg salad – 3-4 days
  • Bacon – 1 week
  • Steaks – 3-5 days
  • Chicken – 1-2 days
  • Eggs – 3-5 weeks

The full chart provides recommended refrigeration times and time that food should spend in the freezer. If your refrigerator has been keeping food well for some time and suddenly stops doing so, it could be a sign that your refrigerator is dying.

Keep the Motor Running

The motor in a refrigerator is going to run from time to time to maintain the appropriate temperature. The motor should only run periodically, and not loudly, once the compartments have achieved those temperatures. If you notice that your refrigerator motor is suddenly running constantly or that it’s making a lot of noise, you may want to call a professional to analyze the situation.

Exterior Condensation

A refrigerator is a system of approximately five different components, all working together to maintain the temperature you want in the cooling compartments. When one or more of them stops working, it can lead to condensation forming on the outside of the refrigerator. This shouldn’t happen and is a sign that your refrigerator is dying. It generally means that the motor is working too hard to keep things cool or cold, so it’s possible that you don’t have much time to find a solution.

Bills Are Mounting

You may also notice that you’ve been seeing quite a bit of your regular appliance repair person in recent weeks or months and/or that your utility bills are rising. Even if you make use of home warranty plans, regular repairs can still be a hassle and time-consuming. At a certain point, it may be wise to invest in a new unit.

Cold storage issues

This was coupled with the fact that a battery will drain faster if you take it straight out of a cold environment and start using it. In the case of zinc-carbon, all those self-discharge savings are quickly lost if the battery is used straight from the chiller!

On top of this, many people experienced batteries which rusted faster and then leaked due to the condensation caused by cooling and/or warming of the batteries too quickly. This was also caused by using them straight away where the heat the battery generated caused the condensation.

This all then lead to the general advice that fridge or freezer storage of batteries was a bad idea and there was nothing to be gained from it.

Do Batteries Expire?

The simple answer is that, yes, unused batteries can go bad. But what exactly does it mean when a battery goes bad? Read on to find out!

What Does It Mean for a Battery to Go Bad?

When we talk about batteries going bad, we think about the expiration date, which is typically written on each battery.

However, the expiration of a battery is different from the expiration of a food product. It doesn’t start to smell or go rancid, but when it expires, it merely means that you can’t expect it to have a full life anymore. It may, but the manufacturer of the battery cannot guarantee that you can take full advantage of the original battery life after the expiration date.

The expiration date is the estimated date when the battery’s charge is only 80% of what it was initially. Batteries have a self-discharge rate, which is the speed at which they lose charge while you’re not using them.

Many people don’t know this, but batteries start to lose their charge immediately after they are made. Although this happens at a prolonged rate, the amount of discharge does become significant over time.

Some batteries have faster discharge rates than others. It varies based on the brand and type of battery. You can’t compare different batteries in this way since they operate using different chemical reactions in the battery’s interior.

However, even though the battery will eventually lose all its charge as it is sitting idle, it has not lost all its charge by the expiration date. On average, batteries will only have lost about 20% of their charge by this time.

This means that just because a battery happens to be past its expiration date, it does not mean you cannot use it. You will likely still be able to get a great deal of use out of it unless you have waited so long that it has completely self-discharged.

What Causes Batteries to Go Bad?

What Causes Batteries to Go Bad?

You might wonder what exactly it is that causes batteries to lose charge. The expiration date on a package of batteries depends on how long it will take for all of the energy inside the battery to be consumed. There is a chemical reaction inside the battery that generates energy, causing the structure to consume energy even when you aren’t actively using it.

The nature of the battery is such that this chemical reaction is continuously going on, even when the battery is not currently powering a device. It will happen more rapidly and consume more energy when the battery is being used, but it happens no matter what.

The shelf life of a battery varies depending on the exact type and size. However, they become weaker over time, whether or not they are being used.

There are electrodes inside each battery. Essentially, these are strips of metal tape that are coated with a substance called an oxide (a compound that contains oxygen and another element). These strips are rolled up within the battery. Over time, parts of the battery will corrode, which leaves the battery with less charge or render it unusable.

For example, in a lithium battery, the lithium concentration in the cathode will go down over time because it will combine with the anode material. This chemical reaction is irreversible. However, as with any other type of battery, the storage conditions can make a significant difference. High humidity and temperatures can accelerate the chemical reactions that contribute to the deterioration of the battery.

The Final Word

All in all, it was fun to get all of the benefits of the battery storage test with none of the work. I know I’ll be reserving my fridge space for distilled water and provisions.

My thanks go to Ron for his willingness to share his work with my readers. He seems to have this intuitive sense of knowing the answers to my questions before I even ask. Pretty cool.

Of course, those of you that have been around for a while are familiar with Ron and his 5-part Propane for Preppers Series as well as his series of books on Non-Electric Lighting. He really knows his stuff!

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