Battery life in cold temps
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Erica R.
(skrapp138) - M
Battery life in cold temps on 08/08/2013 13:31:18 MDT Print View

I'm about to head out on the JMT in Sept - where I'm expecting nights to drop as low as 15 degrees. I don't have much experience with dealing with batteries and cold temps - but I know temps (both high and low) can be bad for battery life.

I'm bringing a GoPro and a camera - should I bother to remove the batteries and put them somewhere at night (or during the day if the temps drop) where they'll be insulated? Does anyone else do this when the temps or cold - or am I being paranoid?

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Battery life in cold temps on 08/08/2013 14:04:13 MDT Print View

15F ain't cold (says the Alaskan). Alkalines are okay if you're a little careful with them (in an inner jacket pocket, for instance). Fully cooled to 15F and their output is much less. UV water treatment is the most demanding thing we do and for that, you're talking body orifices to get things up to adequate output of amps.

But lithiums are lighter, higher energy, and good to -20F, so why not? Win, win, win (except they're a few times the cost). I get mine on line off eBay for 1/4 the retail price which solves that cost problem.

Emergency gear in our cars is all on lithiums. Because if it doesn't work well below 0F, it isn't emergency gear.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Battery life in cold temps on 08/08/2013 14:34:07 MDT Print View

I've had NiMH batteries that were a little old, and they especially didn't last very long if it was cold. If you have rechargeable batteries you might want newer ones.

If you put camera in pocket when you're not using it, then they'll stay much warmer. It doesn't matter if they get cold at night, just when you're using them, and it doesn't take very long to warm up.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Battery life in cold temps on 08/08/2013 14:44:04 MDT Print View

For the JMT, I would take lithium primary batteries. Alternatively, I would take alkalines. I do not think that I would take NiMH, which would be much more practical if I had frequent places for recharging or if I had to carry a solar recharger. NiMH does not pack quite all of the power of other battery types, and it is not very peppy in cold weather, even if it is better than nothing.

One strategy would be to take two battery sets. Use one in the camera and carry one for spare. Keep the spare in some warm pocket as much as possible. After the camera has been getting cold overnight, swap the batteries so that the warm set is now used, and put the cold set into the warm pocket.

--B.G.--

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Battery life in cold temps on 08/08/2013 15:09:03 MDT Print View

> But lithiums are lighter, higher energy, and good to -20F, so why not?
> Win, win, win (except they're a few times the cost).
Actually, while the Energiser AA and AAA lithium batteries cost more per cell, they work out cheaper than alkalines over time. Yes, cheaper! They contain a lot more ampere-hours than the alkalines.

Other types of lithium batteries may not handle the cold quite as well, but they are a lot lighter.

Cheers

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: Battery life in cold temps on 08/08/2013 15:13:28 MDT Print View

Roger, I agree, but it may be difficult to get all of the energy out of a lithium primary battery unless you have a device that can use it properly. For example, many good headlamps are regulated. That means that they can draw power from a worn battery and keep going a lot longer. Other devices will use a battery well when it is new, but it will all suffer badly as soon as the battery voltage drops a bit.

--B.G.--

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Great Lakes Bay Region
Re: Battery life in cold temps on 08/08/2013 15:13:38 MDT Print View

I carry rechargeables for day to day use and then have some Lithiums as a backup.
Works out slightly heavier but cheaper.

Dena Kelley
(EagleRiverDee) - M

Locale: Eagle River, Alaska
"Battery life in cold temps" on 08/08/2013 16:02:58 MDT Print View

I carry my spare batteries in an inner pocket when it's cold, if the device itself will fit in my jacket or a cargo pocket I'll do that as well. And I sleep with my devices (phone, ebook) inside my sleeping bag to help preserve the batteries.

Rex Sanders
(Rex) - M

Locale: Central California Coast
Re: Battery life in cold temps on 08/08/2013 21:25:27 MDT Print View

Using most batteries in cold temperatures will kill the batteries fast.

Not using (or storing) batteries at 15° F won't hurt, as long as you warm up the batteries before you use them. For example, Energizer AA Alkaline batteries are OK from 0°F to 130°F.

If you aren't using your camera batteries at night, don't worry. Just warm the batteries up in the morning before you use your cameras.

I would still use Energizer Ultimate Lithium batteries for the best performance and lightest weight – and then you don't need to worry about their performance in the cold. (*)

More specs here. Amazon has decent prices if you don't want to buy through Ebay:
http://www.amazon.com/Energizer-Lithium-AA-Batteries-Count/dp/B00AYE5FZ2/

-- Rex

(*) Warranty void in Alaska, Canada, Russia, Antarctica, and other places too cold to think about :-)

Edited by Rex on 08/08/2013 21:29:35 MDT.

steven franchuk
(Surf) - M
Re: Battery life in cold temps on 08/09/2013 00:40:53 MDT Print View

Cold temperatures slow the chemical reaction that the battery uses to generate power. Cold temperatures generally do not cause permanent damage to the batteries.

cold nights followed by above freezing temperatures during the day will not have a noticeable impact on the life of a battery. At night when it is cold the device may show a low battery warning because of the slow chemical reaction or at worst case will not work at all. However once the temperatures warm up the battery and device will work normally.

High temperatures can cause permanent mechanical damage to the inside of a batteries and reduce the cycle life of rechargeable batteries. However in september you will not see temperatures hot enough to have any noticable effect. Even in persistent 100 degree days in the desert you probably wouldn't notice any hot temperature effect.

The only issue you have to worry about is condensation. Electricity and water don't mix. Water in a device will cause shorts that could kill the device. Also when electricity flows from on wire to another through water the wire will corrode at an accelerated rate. If a device gets wet remove the batteries immediately and don't reinstall them until you are sure the device is dry.

Rick M
(rmjapan) - F

Locale: London, UK
Re: New Pany NiCAD battery works at -40C on 08/09/2013 06:54:50 MDT Print View

No AA size unfortunately.

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/economy/biz_briefs/AJ201308080056

Erica R.
(skrapp138) - M
Re: Re: Battery life in cold temps on 08/09/2013 09:31:15 MDT Print View

"Not using (or storing) batteries at 15° F won't hurt, as long as you warm up the batteries before you use them. For example, Energizer AA Alkaline batteries are OK from 0°F to 130°F."

Thats interesting - and exactly the tip I needed. I had always assumed that them being cold in non-use situations would affect the charge - but I've been wrong! I can just pull out the batteries and warm them up next to my skin before I use them, or just keep them in my pocket..

Thanks for the tip!

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: Re: Battery life in cold temps on 08/09/2013 10:46:56 MDT Print View

Some people say to store batteries in frig or freezer when you're not using them, especially if you're not going to use them soon

Gary Dunckel
(Zia-Grill-Guy) - MLife

Locale: Boulder
Re: Battery life in cold temps on 08/09/2013 12:43:41 MDT Print View

In accordance with my general gear geekiness, 10 years ago I did a rather extensive test of the performance of AA and AAA Duracell alkaline, AA and AAA Energizer NiMH rechargables (AA-2100 mAh; AAA 800 mAh), and Energizer lithium AA and AAA cells in ~20 different models of Princeton Tec flashlights and headlamps. I measured the run times of each type of cell at temperatures of 70*F, 32*F, and 0*F, and I compared the performances of Krypton, halogen and Xenon bulbs. I did minimal testing of LED bulbs.

The Xenon bulbs provided the greatest lumen output, and of course drew the most power (therefore the shortest run times until the batteries died), followed by the halogen bulbs, and then the lowly (and now rare) krypton bulbs.

Using a representative flashlight with a Xenon bulb (the Rage model, which used 4 AAA cells), the following table lists the run times of the various batteries at the different temperatures:

70*F: NiMH--90 minutes; Alkaline--90 minutes; Lithium--2 hours 40 minutes
32*F: NiMH--90 minutes; Alkaline--50 minutes; Lithium--2 hours 40 minutes
0*F: NiMH--60 minutes; Alkaline--25 minutes; Lithium--2 hours 30 minutes

So it appeared to me that NiMH rechargable cells perform significantly better than alkaline at temperatures below around 40*F, whereas lithiums are not affected much at all. One significant issue relates to the self-discharge rates of the various cells, that is, how much capacity (power) they lose when sitting on the shelf over time.

I contacted both Duracell and Energizer and they provided me with this info:

Duracell alkaline cells retain 95% of their full charge after one year, and they continue to self-discharge at the rate of 5%/year. Alkalines should be stored at a temperature of 68*F. Their operating temperature range is 32*F-150*F, with a big capacity loss below 30*F (which will be partially reversed when brought back up in temperature). The output begins to slowly fade after reaching the battery's half-life.

Lithiums experience minimal self-discharge over a period of 5-10 years, and they may be stored in tenperatures ranging from 0*F-140*F. Their operating temperature range is between -40F and +140*F. The output remains steady right to the end.

Rechargable cells undergo dramatic self-discharge rates. After being fully charged, they will lose 30% of their capacity in the first 24 hours, then 1% per day after that. At temperatures above 70*F, a fully charged rechargable cell can lose up to 80% of its capacity in that first 24 hours. For long term storage, it is recommended that you fully charge these cells, then "almost" fully discarge them, then store them in a freezer bag in the refrigerator at 40*F. Rechargables also tend to fade after reaching the half-life, but they are somewhat more effective at temperatures below 32*F than alkalines.

It's possible that battery technology has changed in these past 10 years, especially with the rechargable cells. But I thought I'd offer what I learned. For all my backcountry uses, I now use Energizer lithium cells exclusively. The weight and dependability outweigh any other factors, although I cringe at the cost.

Edited by Zia-Grill-Guy on 08/09/2013 14:38:05 MDT.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Battery life in cold temps on 08/09/2013 14:00:13 MDT Print View

"AA and AAA Energizer NiMH rechargables (AA-2100 mAh; AAA 1800 mAh)"

I don't think that this is correct. Most single AAA are 700 or 800 mAh. They have about a third of the power of a single AA.

--B.G.--

Gary Dunckel
(Zia-Grill-Guy) - MLife

Locale: Boulder
Correction on 08/09/2013 14:13:28 MDT Print View

Good catch, Bob. That was a typo--it should be 800 mAh. Thanks for pointing that out.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: Re: Battery life in cold temps on 08/09/2013 14:29:29 MDT Print View

And the new Eneloop are slightly more capacity (2400 mAH) and lower discharge - maybe worth seeking out even though they charge a little more.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: Re: Battery life in cold temps on 08/09/2013 14:52:09 MDT Print View

"And the new Eneloop are slightly more capacity (2400 mAH) and lower discharge - maybe worth seeking out even though they charge a little more."

Eneloops have several advantages. One disadvantage is the open circuit voltage that is not as high as what you can find elsewhere. For some devices, this is not a big deal. For others, it is.

--B.G.--

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Battery life in cold temps on 08/09/2013 16:05:43 MDT Print View

Are you saying the voltage is a little less, so that means the Watt Hours are the same as other NiMHs?

"No free lunch"

That would likely mean that they won't last any longer than regular batteries if the device regulates the voltage efficiently.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Why alkalines die in the cold on 08/09/2013 16:24:47 MDT Print View

They die, because the electrolyte they are based on is water-based. Guess what happens a few degrees below 0 C? Yup, turns to ice. No electron flow at all! Warm them up: ice melts.

The Enerloop lithiums use a different non-aqueous electrolyte which does not freeze until below -40 C (approx).

Cheers