How To Extend Your Battery Life

Reader Don felt compelled to share this tips about proper love and care of your electronic items’ batteries so they last longer and you don’t have to buy more unnecessarily…

  • Do not set your laptop on a bed, couch, pillow, or in some cases your lap. This will heat up the laptop due to poor ventilation and destroy the battery.
  • Kill it once a month. Once a month allow the battery to go through a complete charge cycle. If you are using a laptop or cell phone, just pay attention to the warning message that tells you to plug it in and you should be fine.
  • Do not expose to extreme heat, this will drastically shorten their life spans. One day in a hot car (90 degrees plus) and you will not be able to hold more than a 10 minute charge
  • Do not expose to extreme cold (below 40 degrees can start to harm battery life). If you do, allow the battery to warm up to room temperature before using it.
  • Use your laptop (phone, iPod, etc) at least once a month. If you let the laptop sit in a drawer too long without using it, you will damage the battery and affect its ability to hold a charge.

With a little caution and best practices, you can make your batteries last longer and save money. In some cases, replacement laptop batteries can cost as much as $500 to replace

(Photo: Brymo)

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  1. skrom says:

    This is a very useful article. All of these things will help you prolong the life of your battery. In addition, #2 is also a good idea because it prolong the life of your CPU. When you sit your laptop on a bed or carpet, the vents can get blocked. If this happens your CPU can overheat and that is much more expensive than a battery to replace.

  2. Eric1285 says:

    Your laptop should shut off well before it gets hot enough to damage the CPU. The battery however will benefit from not being placed on carpets/couches/etc.

  3. CurbRunner says:

    Some good basic tips in the article above.
    However, much, much more useful info and just about everything you would ever need to know about all kinds of batteries here: [www.batteryuniversity.com]

  4. Televiper says:

    Another tip for Cell phone users is to try and avoid unnecessary charges. If you’re not heavy cell phone user you can safely go 2-3 days between charges.

  5. warf0x0r says:

    $500 to replace, lol. Please reference that BBY article as much as possible.

  6. Honus says:

    I’m not sure about the battery in 90 degree temperature claim. Core body temp is 98 degrees, radiating body heat stuck in clothes could make a pocket around up to 90+ degrees, especially during activity. Shouldn’t that destroy my iPod and cell phone batteries by this rule?

  7. brettbee says:

    The temperature *inside* a hot car on a 90+ degree day can get hot enough to kill a dog or child — perhaps as high as 150 — and that’s apparently hot enough to damage batteries, too.

  8. mediaserf says:

    One tip that is not true is the cold tip. Lithium Ion batteries are best stored in the cold. I recommend getting an extra li-on battery when you purchase a new laptop or cell phone, charging it up then running it down half-way and putting it in the freezer. By the time your original battery dies, you never know how old the replacement one you buy “new” is.

    The wikipedia entry is a very good source of information on storing batteries.

    [en.wikipedia.org]

  9. agb says:

    Also check out [www.apple.com] for an article on Lithium-Ion batteries used in their laptops and iPods (also used in many non-Apple devices.)

    Of interest, and not above:

    “If you don’t plan on using your notebook for more than six months, Apple recommends that you remove and store the battery with a 50% charge. If you store a battery when it’s fully discharged, it could fall into a deep discharge state, which renders it incapable of holding any charge. Conversely, if you store it fully charged for an extended period of time, the battery may experience some loss of battery capacity, meaning it will have a shorter life.”

    I have a 3-year-old laptop which still has amazingly long battery life because I’ve maintained it properly.

  10. TexasScout says:

    I agree with all of them save the “don’t leave them in a hot car”. This may be true, but I live in South Texas and regularly leave my laptop in the car. Temps in the care can exceed 150 deg on a daily basis. My battery is just now starting to lose a bit of it’s charge capacity two years later.

  11. mconfoy says:

    “Do not set your laptop on a bed, couch, pillow, or in some cases your lap. This will heat up the laptop due to poor ventilation and destroy the battery.”

    In other words, don’t use it as a laptop? Take battery out and just use AC power, though if you accidentally pull the plug ……

  12. f0nd004u says:

    Most of these tips are great,but you should NOT deep cycle your lithium ion batteries (e.g. running it all the way out and charging it up again). This is proper for nickel metal hydride batteries,but not the type that are in most devices today.

  13. huadpe says:

    @mconfoy: To resolve this, I use a large hardcover book to rest my laptop on. Then I put laptop + book on whatever surface I please. I have never actually read the book, but it is rather light for it’s size and 11×17. I have named it “flat surface.”

  14. Scazza says:

    @f0nd004u: Almost every cellphone mfd and laptop battery states on the side of the packaging to full draw cycle it not only once, but TWICE a month (back to back) to keep the batterys life longest.

  15. xeijix says:

    It’s not technically a deep discharge. Another thing , regardless of a regular monthly discharge, the lithium ion/poly battery is still perfectly fine. What a full discharge does is reset the ridiculous smart-board’s electron counter chip which gives the computer estimated battery capacity and run time. Most of the time people assume that if they don’t discharge their battery once a month, it doesn’t prolong the life of the battery. The battery is perfectly fine if you do not expose it to huge temperature differences. However, you will still notice a shift in battery runtime if you do not discharge regularly due to bad software/hardware implementation.

    I modified my laptop’s battery pack and for a while the smartboard still displays a 3 hour runtime when it should be 9 hours. After a few discharges, the smart board resetted and displayed the right capacity. For the while when it wasn’t showing the right capacity, I simply disabled battery monitor. Note: that is not a foolish thing to do simply because there’s a voltage monitor on the battery pack that disables the battery right before it over discharges. The smart board and capacity reading is simply for the user to know when to save important documents before the laptop shuts down.

    And for cellphones, the battery dies faster because there’s no ventilation, it’s kept in someone’s pocket for most of the day, and when the battery runs out, but the caller still wants to call with it, it runs exceptionally hot when plugged in. It is also important to know how battery monitor circuits work. In the case of a laptop, or large battery packs with room for a smart board, it is useful to discharge once in a while to reset the electron counter. For cellphones, there are no smart boards installed in the battery, just a simple over/under voltage kill circuit. Capacity is calculated purely by software and known battery discharge curve (here, a monthly discharge does nothing to help the lifetime of the battery).

    Also note: no matter how much care you treat your batteries, there’s a limited number of recharge cycles allowed, which doesn’t mean one should top it off less, in fact, topping it off doesn’t hurt. If you don’t top it off, you still get about the same number of hours of use before it’s unusable. The rated number of charge cycles is more akin to the number of hours you can use it before the capacity drops to 80%, then you still get a good year’s worth out of it, just at a lower capacity. However, manufacturers don’t list it as rated hours of use because it depends on the drain, so they list the average number of charge cycles.

    (ps. my laptop batteries would cost about 150 dollars to replace and that’s when its modified to run for like 10 hours)

  16. 4dSwissCheese says:

    A related question for people: I’m trying to do the full discharge, reset calibration thing on my macbook battery, but the calibration is so off that it shuts down (not sleep, but turn off) when it thinks there’s 40 minutes of charge left. Which seems to mean that the battery doesn’t recalibrate. Can anyone help?

  17. MrDragon says:

    Hello!

    There is some good advice above, and some bad advice…

    I wouldn’t consider any portable/notebook computer to be a ‘laptop’ anymore. Have you seen a lithium battery ignition and/or explosion? If not, here’s a similar piece of equipment: laptop welding torch. The world is full of tables, desks, and other flat surfaces — use those.

    It’s a little-known, seldom mentioned fact that the number one cause of early cell phone battery failure is using a car charger. Many friends and family talk with me about their crappy cell phone battery life, and that’s the first thing I ask them about. When they do have one, I tell them to not use it except for REAL emergencies; replace their current battery, and keep it charged with the A/C adapter. The 3 or 4 people I’ve asked about it later, have all said that I was right.

    Last and least, Energizer Rechargeable batteries absolutely suck, IMHO. I’m a bit of a tree-hugger, but have succumbed to using Alkalines (that go to the drug store recycling bin when I’m done with them) for my digital camera, wireless mouse (gimme a recharging cradle, MS!!!), and wireless video game controllers. I take the batteries out of the Sony camera when not in use, as the camera seems to rapidly suck any batteries dry. The Logitech controllers and MS mouse absolute sip power, and are wonderful “Human Interface Devices”.

    Cheerio!

  18. uricmu says:

    By the way, most people are not aware of the fact that the major drainage on their laptop’s battery comes not from the CPU or hard drive, but actually from the display, especially if you’re going widescreen above 15″.

    Many laptops go to maximum brightness when plugged in and may stay there when you unplug.

    Learn to play with your brightness settings on the keyboard and adjust them to conditions. In a dark room, a minimal setting is enough.

    And in emergency cases (e.g., on a plane), changing application background from white to black can save a little.

  19. KerPow says:

    The displays found in most laptops contain a back light that is constantly on across the whole of the screen. When a voltage is applied to the screen elements they darken, thus setting your background or applications to a dark color may actually use up slightly more power (the difference is very small.)

    High temperature kills batteries. Battery temp can be reduced (and life extended) by using an additional bay battery. Not only will you get almost twice the time (from two batteries) but the load on each will be much lower. They will stay cool and last longer.

  20. sciencetext says:

    I must confess, I’ve probably broken every single one of those rules with my laptop and I reckon I’m paying the price. I switched to battery power at 8:30 this morning and by 9:50 my laptop was telling me to switch back to mains power. When I first bought this machine I could count on a 3 hour charge while doing simple word processing, email, and web browsing.

    db

  21. CyGuy says:

    @4dSwissCheese: Try booting to a command prompt and then letting it sit on until the battery drains all they way. It shouldn’t have any power management software running if it doesn’t get into Windows.

  22. Red_Eye says:

    [en.wikipedia.org]

    People for gods sake do NOT deep cycle Lithium ION unless you have no other choice. The technology is not meant to be deep cycled. If you want something to deep cycle get a DieHard.

  23. ZekeDMS says:

    One day in a hot car? 90 degrees?

    Great, that’s a normal day in Arizona, sometimes in an office building.

  24. digitalgimpus says:

    In general I don’t think deep cycling a battery helps with modern laptops. Even manufacturers recommend against it. It was noticeably helpful back in the mid/late 90’s, but not on a modern laptop.

    It’s generally considered FUD to do with LiIon… see this wikipedia entry.

    Keep your battery cool is really the only practical thing you can do.

    LiIon batteries start to die the day they are manufactured. Unlike NiCad’s they loose life as they age, not based on usage. That’s the price you pay for the technology. It’s still better than it used to be.

  25. graphophone says:

    Until OLEDs make their way economically into notebook computers, it seems reasonable to be redundant in one’s power sources. Why not simply have an extra or two battery packs in tow when traveling? Certainly the extra mass and volume are worth the extended operational time.

  26. Anonymously says:

    I love the fact that battery technology is improving so quickly, but it makes it very difficult for the average consumer to know exactly how to handle and maintain their batteries, and what they can realistically expect from them.

  27. cerbie says:

    @Honus: it’s not like a few hot days in a car, and then, *poof* dead battery. It will lose capacity quicker, and in a hot climate, you’re just not going to get as much time out of it. With NIMH and NICD, aging isn’t much of a problem, as long as they get a little use. But, with LIon and LiPo (Lithium Ion needs an easier four-letter abbr!), it’s always losing capacity.

    Using it well, not overcharging, not deep discharging, not using high-current chargers (more for cell phones and iPods), not constantly exposing it to high temperatures and temp changes, etc., help keep the battery healthy. The battery will lose capacity, and will die. If you treat it poorly, it may happen within 2-3 years; treat it well, it and should last you 5 or more. In the case of cell phones, ditch crappy chargers that let you talk and charge at the same time, and carry a spare battery, instead.

  28. theblackdog says:

    @Cy Guy: She has a MACbook, kind of hard for her to boot into a command prompt when Windows doesn’t exist on her computer :-P

  29. Call me Kenneth says:

    There are some worthwhile tips on laptop battery life here (along with some other performance tweaks): [www.mobilecomputermag.co.uk]

  30. mac-phisto says:

    also, make sure you’re using the proper charger – chances are if it’s being sold in a dollar store or a gas station, you shouldn’t be using it. the tip may fit, but many times these chargers don’t meet the charging specs for the battery.

  31. HeartBurnKid says:

    @TexasScout: I’ll second your point. I live in the Mojave Desert. In the summer, we’re lucky to get a day under 100 degrees. If spending all day in “90 degree +” temperatures killed your battery, I’d go through them like popcorn.

  32. dodonnell says:

    @theblackdog: It’s quite possible to boot a MacBook into a command line; after all, they run UNIX :) After the start-up chime, hold ⌘-S (Command-S) down until you see the UNIX boot sequence start to scroll across the screen.

    See also: this article from Apple

  33. xeijix says:

    @Red_Eye: If people cared to learn how any lithium ion battery monitor circuit worked, they’d know that you CANNOT deep cycle those batteries unless they discharge it to “0%” and leave it unused for a few months, which would definitely kill it. A COMPLETE discharge on the other hand, by letting the device drain the battery until the battery monitor circuit cuts it off, is perfectly fine. The circuit is made to PREVENT deep discharges, ie. it’s IMPOSSIBLE for someone to choose the deep discharge, but not impossible to forget about the battery and as a result, it HAS deep discharged by itself.

    @4DSWISSCHEESE: if the new macbook’s still use a bios based battery monitor, you cannot discharge it to recalibrate, it’s software based. I think the keyword to search for would be “PRAM”, along with “macbook” and “battery”. As i’ve said before, the old apple laptops used bios based battery monitors, but if the new macbooks also use it, then there’s a simple bios reset you can perform. If i remember, it’s very specific, and the battery either has to be fully charged or discharged. Also, if i remember correctly, the calibration process is after the bio reset, so you’d have to fully charge and discharge the battery after the reset. (I think the bios reset process also does one full charge and discharge cycle to calibrate the electron counter chip/program)