Why Do People Put Batteries in the Freezer?

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Some people believe that storing batteries in the freezer will prolong their lives. This is partially true -- depending on the battery. In general, standard household alkaline batteries will benefit only slightly from being stored in a refrigerator or freezer. Nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) and nickel-cadmium (NiCD) rechargeable batteries, though, can benefit dramatically from being stored at lower temperatures.

Discharging

  • Freezing alkaline batteries typically will only extend shelf life by about five percent. And these batteries only self-discharge at a rate of less than two percent per year. In other words, they have an extremely long shelf life under normal conditions. NiMH and NiCD batteries, though, can lose a few percentage points of power every day at room temps. Freezing them will slow their discharge rate up to 90 percent in a month.

Temperatures

  • High temperatures seem to affect alkaline batteries far more negatively. Alkaline types are fairly stable up to about 85 degrees Fahrenheit. However, they'll lose around 25 percent of their power per year at temperatures of 100 degrees F or more. NiMH and NiCD batteries only lose a small amount of power per day regardless of temperature.

Memory

  • Certain types of batteries such as lithium-ion (Li-ion) versions used in cellular phones and laptops can develop issues when exposed to excessively high temperatures. In addition, if they're not discharged completely on occasion they may develop memory-like activities that prevent them from discharging and recharging fully. Storing them in cool, or even cold, places can help lessen this problem.

Recommendations

  • Most major manufacturers of alkaline batteries do not recommend refrigerating or freezing them since it's not worth the effort. NiMH, NiCD and Li-ion batteries, if frozen or chilled, should be brought back to room temperature before inserting them into any electronic device. Also, after they are fully charged, you should store them in a cool place until they're ready to use.

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