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Tech Tip Of The Day: Battery Refrigeration

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By PSW Staff September 15, 2010

Provided by Sweetwater.

Q: Like many people here, I volunteer at my church on Sunday and help with the Audio.

I’m at the point that I know a good bit, but I’m not an expert by any means.

So, generally when I see something a little odd I just don’t say anything. however, I’ve really got to get some clarification on a question that has been driving me up the wall.

Last weekend I was asked to load up the wireless mics with fresh batteries.

I grabbed the mics and went to the pile of “fresh” batteries and did my duty, noticing that the batteries seemed oddly chilly, but I didn’t think much of it.

I didn’t, that is, until I saw the Tech Director dumping the batteries out at the end of the service into a bag and then loading them up into the refrigerator.

Now, I’ve heard in passing that batteries should be stored in a refrigerator while not in use. However, I never really took it seriously, mainly because it sounds nuts!

First, will this actually help and secondly, why or how does it help?

A: Yep, no doubt about it, yours is a doozie of a question!

Many years ago, Consumers Report magazine took exactly 432 double A, C and D batteries and used them as part of a scientific report on this very subject.

They stored some in the refrigerator, and some at room temperatures. At the end of five years they found that indeed the refrigerated batteries had more charge, but not by much.

The room temperature batteries still had 96 percent of the charge of the refrigerated ones. So, is this enough to merit filling a refrigerator with batteries? That’s probably a call you’ll have to make on your own.

I will say that whether or not it helps keep a charge for a longer period of time, it’s not a bad way to manage your batteries. Most problems you’ll run into regarding batteries and your wireless system will be due to mis-matching partially used and new batteries, or simply not knowing which batteries are used or not.

Storing new batteries in your ‘fridge’ keeps them from mixing with used batteries, and, who knows, maybe you’ll get more hours on them too. Then again, you could just put them in n appropriately labeled box and achieve the same effect.

To answer your second question, a battery generates a current by a chemical reaction. When the chemicals exhaust themselves, the battery dies.

This reaction is only supposed to take place when the battery is being used in a closed circuit, but the chemical reaction does go on to some small degree even when the batteries not being used (unless they are stored in a vacuum or at very, very low temperatures).

Over time the reaction will corrode the battery, covering the end with a brown film. There’s no practical way to stop this reaction (unless you’re willing to spend more money-saving the batteries than they cost to buy…).

As always, we welcome input from the PSW community and would love to know your thoughts on battery refrigeration. Feel free to let us know in the comments below.

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