I enjoy pushing my tools to their limits to understand their battery’s endurance. Manufacturers often provide a lifespan estimate for lithium-ion batteries, ranging from one to three years. To ensure your battery pack remains in excellent condition, here are some essential tips for charging and maintaining lithium-ion batteries. Whether you frequently use power tools or store them for long periods, these guidelines will help you avoid common pitfalls and optimize the lifespan of your Li-ion battery.
Li-Ion Battery Charging Tips: The Top 5 Factors that Impact Runtime, Power, and Lifespan
1. Manage Heat
Heat is the primary enemy of batteries and one of the crucial factors to consider while charging your Li-ion battery pack. Charging or discharging the chemicals within the battery generates heat. Once the reaction stabilizes, the battery cools down. Aggressively using more powerful tools creates higher temperatures, resulting in reduced runtime. For instance, a 4.0 amp-hour battery may reach 99% of its potential runtime on a work light, 95% on a drill, and only 90% on a hammer due to heat buildup.
2. Avoid Extreme Cold
Alternatively, extreme cold can also negatively impact battery runtime. Users working in colder climates experience reduced power and runtime compared to those working in warmer weather conditions. Our cold weather test during the 12V Impact Driver Shootout revealed that drivers exposed to -10-degree temperatures operated at only 60 to 80 percent of their normal speed.
3. Manage Vibration
When you open a cordless tool battery pack, you’ll find a series of oversized AA batteries that power it. These batteries consist primarily of a lithium-ion coating, a cathode, and an anode. Vibrations from these batteries can significantly affect their lifespan.
Using aggressive tools like reciprocating saws and hammers generates substantial vibration, diminishing the battery life of these tools. One of our Li-Ion battery charging tips is to alternate between batteries in these tools to distribute the workload evenly.
4. Control Moisture Exposure
It’s common knowledge that water and electricity don’t mix, and the same holds true for batteries. Although most batteries can withstand some humidity, direct exposure to moisture can be detrimental. Battery packs made with inferior materials can quickly corrode when exposed to moisture, rendering the battery useless within days. Even high-quality batteries are not entirely waterproof.
While some tools have better water resistance, submerging batteries in water can be hazardous in certain cases. However, many tools can be used in the rain for a short period without issues.
5. Watch the Depth of Discharge
While lithium-ion batteries do not have the same “battery memory” as older battery technologies, the depth of discharge does affect their lifespan. A study conducted by Cadex Electronics demonstrated that a typical Li-ion battery lasts 50% longer when charged after being discharged by 50% compared to being fully discharged. Similarly, recharging after only a 25% discharge extends lifespan by 67% over full discharge.
Following these practical Li-ion battery charging tips as part of your maintenance routine will help you maximize the lifespan of your investment.
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Note: The aforementioned study focused on laptop batteries. While laptops and power tools share the same technology, they have different builds. Therefore, the results of the study may not entirely apply to power tools, but it does emphasize the considerable variation in Li-ion battery lifespans based on discharge during maintenance.