It happens the same way every time: You’re settling in for a House Hunters marathon and find that your TV remote has quietly died. Or your nephew is super excited to show you his remote-control car, but no amount of button-smashing can get it to work.
The batteries are dead. They’re always dead when you’re expecting them — nay, relying on them — to function.
And all those batteries you need for your remotes, digital cameras, wireless keyboards and mice? They’re not cheap. Battery desperation is even more expensive: When you’re anxious to get your battery-powered device working again, you’re not exactly hunting for a coupon to take to the drug store. You just want to get the darn things working again.
But raise up those heavy heads, battery shoppers. There’s something new on the power horizon, and we’ve got some solutions for you in the meantime.
A Battery Revolution?
Here’s the big problem with modern batteries: They have tons of power left in them when they stop functioning. CNNMoney’s David Goldman describes it well. “AA batteries start off with 1.5 volts of energy, but the voltage goes down as the batteries are used up,” Goldman explained. “Once the batteries dip below 1.35 volts, they appear to be dead, even though they still have a lot of juice left.”
What can you do to get to that leftover energy? Enter the Batteriser.
The Batteriser is a thin, reusable sleeve that snaps on your regular old battery and claims to extends the life of a regular battery as much as eight times its normal use. The small wonder of computer science professor Bob Roohparvar, the device costs $2.50 and will be available starting this fall in AA, AAA, C and D sizes. Roohparvar says the device will pay for itself once it extends the life of just one battery.
Mother Nature will love this doohickey. With 15 billion disposable batteries purchased each year worldwide, extending the life of the batteries already in our homes means money saved plus fewer batteries in landfills.
Beyond the Batteriser: Home Fixes to Extend Battery Life
What’s a money-conscious battery user to do until the Batteriser debuts? Luckily there are several battery hacks that you can try to stretch your battery power for a little longer. In addition to the Batteriser, here are five more of our favorites:
1. Don’t Stock Up
If you only go through 20 or 30 batteries each year, don’t jump at the chance to grab a 60-pack on sale. (I don’t even know if they sell those, but you catch my drift.)
“A good approach is to take is to treat batteries and battery-powered devices like you do dairy products,” Lifehacker Australia writer Valentin Muenzel explains. “Buy the freshest one whenever given the choice.”
Be sure to check the date listed on a pack of batteries, Muenzel warns, as batteries lose power even without being placed into a device. Take a deal on some older batteries, sure, but prepare to use them right away — and expect a shorter life span.
2. Complete the Circuit
This tip comes from Dylan Hacker of the Household Hacker Youtube channel.
“The juice from one fresh battery is typically enough to power a small device like a remote control,” Hacker says. He recommends digging a bolt or screw about the size of a battery out of your junk drawer; insert one fresh battery, insert the metal piece, and get back to business in front of your TV.
The remote-control car won’t work, but that doesn’t mean the batteries are actually dead. As we know from the research for the Batteriser, there’s still plenty of juice in there. Stick those used batteries into a device that requires less energy, like a clock or remote control.
4. Refrigerate (but only in extreme conditions)
If you live in a hot climate or don’t have AC in the steamy summer months, you may want to refrigerate your batteries. But don’t sweat it too hard: “Prolonged heat of over 100 degrees is known to damage the charge of a battery by up to 1/4,” the Batteries and Butter blog explains. “However, it is doubtful that your batteries will ever be subject to those extreme conditions.”
If you do refrigerate, remember you can’t put cold batteries into a device — they’ve got to warm back up to room temperature first.
5. Don’t Overcharge
This tip applies to rechargeable batteries along with those that stay inside a device (like your laptop battery). If you leave your batteries on the charger whenever they’re not in use, you’ll actually burn them out more quickly. “One reason is the ‘gassing’ effect, where over-charging leads to increased pressure, which will temporarily increase performance but drastically shorten lifespan,” Anna Jacobsen explains at Brokelyn.
Instead, charge your batteries (and your phone and computer) only when the battery level reaches about 40%. Resist the urge to plug in early and often!
Your Turn: What tips have helped you extend the life of your batteries?
Lisa Rowan is a writer, editor and podcaster based in Washington, D.C.