battery tester

The Importance of Testing “Dead” Batteries Before Recycling Them

This is a tip sent in by one of our readers. I think it is a good one.
I wanted to share a money saving tip that applies to inexpensively preparing for TEOTWAWKI. With so many digital devices depending on batteries these days, most of us are conditioned so that, when a device like a digital camera or other smart gadget tells us the AA or AAA batteries need replacing, we simply toss out the “dead” ones and put in fresh batteries. But are the batteries really dead? Usually, not all of them are.

I have a handy little Canon digital camera that we use around the house for insurance documentation, family photo opportunities at parties, pictures for craigslist ads, etc. It uses four AA batteries. Yesterday, while taking some pictures, it issued its standard low battery warning. I took the four “dead” batteries out and replaced them with fresh batteries. I didn’t discard the old batteries. I have a 40 battery rack with tester. I tested each of the four batteries. The tester indicated one battery was completely dead, while the other three still had useful voltage. Without more sophisticated battery testing equipment, I couldn’t know how much useful amperage was left. So I did an experiment. I placed each of the remaining “good” three batteries in a cheap, single cell AA LED flashlight ($1 each on clearance from Home Depot during the holiday season). I left the flashlights on. For about six hours, each of the lights worked at very good brightness. After that, they continued to produce useful light for another 3 to 4 hours. That’s nearly 30 hours of useful utility/reading/navigating-in-the-dark light from three “dead” batteries most of us would discard without a second thought. How valuable would 30 extra hours of battery powered light be if the power grid was down for an extended period? Very valuable!

I’m putting a simple system in place to take advantage of this: I will now test all “dead” batteries. Ones that still show good voltage go in a plastic bucked, to be used for non-critical, single cell LED flashlight duty. Front-line flashlights (emergency kits, cars, gun mounted lights, gun safes, etc.) will still always get fresh batteries. But the ones I keep in tool boxes, kitchen drawers, etc., now use the “dead” cells. I don’t expect they’ll store forever, but I will keep rotating them and using them until they are truly dead. My fresh battery supply will last longer, and I will save money that can be put toward other preparations.

4 thoughts on “The Importance of Testing “Dead” Batteries Before Recycling Them”

  1. I have taught my kids and grandkids how to test batteries as it is a big cost saving.
    Buy a good quality battery tester and learn how to use it correctly.
    The only other advice is to use good quality batteries and make sure there is a date code on them or write the date of installation as the batteries will eventually leak into the equipment.

  2. You can recharge a alkaline battery about ten times, I got my charger off E-Bay for $20.00, It also does Ni-CD & Ni-MH and 9 volts. I have saved a lot of money doing this.

  3. The writer is correct. Using a multi-meter I tested my dead battery pile and found that most of them weren’t dead. This drove me to pull the batteries out of all my devices and check them. What I found is that if you have multiple ‘good’ batteries in a device, they will all read about the same voltage (ex: 1.39v, 1.40v, etc.). It seems the batteries sort of charge each other to an equilibrium. If one of the batteries is lower voltage than the others, it will soon be a dead, bad battery.
    Now, whenever I need to change batteries I always test all of them and so far it has always been just one of the series that is truly bad. My multi-meter has paid for itself 10 time over by getting full use out of batteries prior to disposal.

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