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Do Rechargeable Batteries Lose Charge When Not in Use? 

 September 19, 2021

By  Phil Borges

Rechargeable batteries tend to lose charge gradually regardless of how well you use and maintain them. This kind of discharging happens even when they are not in use.

Rechargeable batteries lose charge when not in use as they tend to require regular recharging to maintain the flow of ions between the positive and negative terminals. Gradually, these terminals begin to wear out and can cause discharge or even damage, especially if they are not used over a certain period of time.

For this reason, it is important to be aware of the reasons behind this process along with ways in which you can slow it down, even though you may not be able to prevent it completely. Keep reading ahead if you want to find out how to do this.

Do Rechargeable Batteries Lose Charge If Not Used?

Rechargeable batteries lose charge if not used. If they were in use for a certain time period and are then left in storage without regular recharging, the flow of the current is disrupted due to which they tend to self-discharge over time.

For example, for lead-acid batteries in particular which are widely used across many applications, sulfation can occur when they are stored away for a long time, leading to crystallization and an early loss of capacity that makes it difficult to recharge the battery after removing it from storage.

Similarly, if the battery is not used at all from the very beginning, then this can lead to a deep discharge that prevents you from charging the battery if you want to use it.

Why Do Rechargeable Batteries Lose Charge Over Time?

Rechargeable batteries tend to lose charge over time regardless of whether or not you use them. There tends to be a flow of ions in the form of a current between the positive and negative terminals of the battery in a particular direction, depending on whether you are charging the battery or making use of it.

These batteries also tend to have a limited capacity in terms of their lifespan, which means that within a few years, they will drain out completely. This lifespan can also be indicated using the charging cycles of the battery.

As you use and recharge the battery more and more, its efficiency reduces as it begins to self-discharge over time. Yet, regular recharging is required to maintain the healthy functioning of the battery.

The rate of this self-discharge quickens when the rechargeable battery is not in use for an extended period of time. This makes it difficult to recharge the battery after storage if you kept it in poor conditions throughout the time period.

If you store it well, however, it is possible to recharge it easily even if not in use. It is, however, nearly impossible to prevent rechargeable batteries from losing charge over a period of time.

Do Storage Conditions Matter?

Storage conditions matter when it comes to maintaining the efficiency of a rechargeable battery even if it is not in use. For this, you must take care of the following conditions to prevent your battery from getting completely damaged.

Extent of Charge

The amount of charge that your battery holds while it is not being used is significant to maintain. Even if you don’t need to use your battery for a certain time period while keeping it in storage, you must ensure that you do not completely discharge your battery beforehand as this could make it difficult to bring it back to life.

You must also not overcharge it as this could reduce the lifespan of the battery significantly.

Ideally, the best charge level for a battery that is not in use is around 30%-70%. You should maintain this throughout the storage period so that they don’t die while not in use.

Temperature

You must also maintain the temperature conditions around rechargeable batteries whenever they are not in use. The ideal temperature for this is 15℃.

It is important to ensure that you do not keep these batteries in extremely hot conditions as heat can create an imbalance in the battery composition, making it lose its capacity and regular lifespan.

Extremely cold temperatures may also slow your battery down, making it difficult to recharge or reuse it.

Humidity

You must also maintain the humidity levels around the batteries as it could otherwise be damaging for them. Ideally, humidity levels of around 50% (a little more or less is okay) can keep your battery in a good condition.

If the atmosphere in the storage area has high levels of humidity, then you can opt for a tight enough box to keep the humidity away from the battery.

Storage Container

If your rechargeable batteries are not in use, you must keep them in an appropriate storage container and place the container in a cool and dry place.

This container should be a plastic box or the wrap or box that the batteries originally came in. If you are keeping the batteries loose in a box, you must ensure that the opposing terminals do not meet each other, as this could create the flow of a current between them.

This is also why you should avoid metal boxes for storing these batteries.

Physical Damage

When your rechargeable batteries are not in use (or even if they are), you should ensure that they do not meet any physically damaging conditions, such as fires through flammable surfaces or temperature conditions.

You must also keep these batteries safe from falling or crashing against any hard surface, as this could lead to cracks or breakages, causing harmful gases to leak out and cause further damage.

In case you notice any such problems with your battery, you should prevent using and charging it to avoid major issues around you.

Additives

There are several additives or supplements that producers add to the composition of rechargeable batteries in order to keep them in good condition throughout their lifespan.

These additives can help prevent major damage to the battery while also improving its efficiency. Most batteries should have these additives that can be useful even when they are not in use, which is why you must confirm their presence before buying batteries.

A good idea for this would be to simply buy from reliable brands so that you can trust the composition and quality of these batteries.

If you maintain all of the above conditions, you can prevent your rechargeable battery from losing a significant amount of charge when it is not in use.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long do rechargeable batteries stay charged?

How long rechargeable batteries can stay charged tends to depend on the composition of the battery and the brand that you buy it from.

Generally, however, you can expect your rechargeable battery to hold three-quarters or around 70% of its charge for a month if you are not using them throughout this duration.

If the temperature and humidity conditions are suitable, then you can extend or maintain the charge level for an extended period of time without letting the battery discharge completely.

Should rechargeable batteries be left in the charger?

You should not leave your rechargeable batteries in the charger as this could lead to overcharging and overheating, causing leakages or explosions in extreme cases.

This could also end up reducing the lifespan of the rechargeable battery to a significant extent by increasing the self-discharge rate.

How long do rechargeable batteries last?

Rechargeable batteries last for several years depending on their composition and maintenance. A lithium-ion battery has a shelf life of nearly ten years with a self-discharge rate of 2%-3% per month, whereas other battery compositions have a much shorter shelf life.

This can give you multiple charging cycles of up to or over 1,000, once again depending on the composition.

Should I let the battery drain before recharging?

You should not let the battery drain completely each time you want to recharge it as this could end up reducing the lifespan of the battery, making it difficult to function efficiently. This is particularly true if your battery is not in use.

Once in a while, however, you can let it drain out to a certain extent.

About the author

Hi, I'm Phil Borges.. thanks for reading.. My wife says I can't shut up about batteries so to save my marriage I've started this blog .. where I'd be ranting about batteries! Please leave a comment if you have any questions, I'm happy to help!

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