Recharging Your Batteries

Rechargeable batteries

Are you Nickel or Lithium based?

Prevailing wisdom for nickel-based rechargeable batteries (NiMH and NiCd) is to run the battery to nearly 0%, and then charge it fully to 100% on a regular basis. The theory is that these batteries develop a memory for the most frequently used range. If you routinely run the battery down to 50%, then recharge fully, the battery will forget about the unused 0-50% range and only know about 50% of its full capacity. Likewise, if you routinely run it down to 10%, and only recharge it to 75%, over time, it will retain memory of only 65% of its full capacity (75 – 10 = 65).

Newer Lithium Ion batteries (Li-ion) are different. They do not suffer from the memory issue. Still, research indicates that constantly running the batteries through the full cycle of 0%-100% is not ideal for long term battery health. The heat generated when charging is detrimental over time. Instead, experts recommend keeping Li-ion batteries in the 40% – 80% range as much as possible. They also recommend not allowing your battery to dip below 20%. That means plugging it in sooner, and removing it from the charger before it is fully recharged.

Which of these models better matches you? Before you take a vacation to recharge, do you run yourself empty? And if so, do you take a long enough vacation to fully recharge? Do you feel like vacations don’t offer the same level of recharge in your work as they once did? Has your memory forgotten about your full range of capability? Do you stay on vacation so long that you overheat and do damage to yourself?

When I was younger, I followed the NiCd model. I used to enjoy running myself to 0, taking a long vacation, and coming back at 100. The extreme ends of this were not always pleasant for people around me. But, I liked it.

Now I find myself more akin to a Li-ion battery. Keeping myself in the 40%-80% range is much healthier. Unplugging from work to recharge before I dip below 40% is better for me and all of those around me. I do not function well on a low battery. You definitely don’t want to be around me if I’m below that 20% mark.  I have also found that staying away beyond recharging to the 80% level (OK, maybe 85…) has diminishing returns.

Which model better describes you? If you are nickel-based, spread your vacations out, run yourself down to near zero. Just remember to take a long enough vacation to fully recharge. On the other hand, if you are lithium-based, take more frequent breaks. Avoid running yourself toward that empty mark.

Either way, recharging is important. Take your vacations. Knowing which model is better for you will help get the most out of them.