Lithium-ion batteries are almost completely maintenance-free. These sealed units work for thousands of cycles and have several safety features to prevent issues with normal usage. However, there are a few things you can do to ensure that your lithium batteries last for as long as possible, improving their performance-to-price ratio.
Keep a logbook
When you buy a new lithium-ion battery, pay attention to how well it works. Note down the date you purchased it and the run-time of a fully charged battery. Then, take note of how long it takes to charge back to full. Over time, you might notice that the battery run-time has dropped below 80% of the original value, or that there is a significant increase in the charging time.
By keeping a logbook with times and dates, you can easily see how long a battery has lasted, and where it is in its lifespan. If your battery run-time has dropped below 80% of the original value, or there is a significant increase in the charging time, then you should consider replacing that battery. If your battery is connected to a complex system, these measurements are trickier to compare but try to have the same power draw each time for a more accurate comparison.
Good storage habits
If you are not going to use a lithium battery for an extended period of time, you should consider putting it into storage instead of leaving it connected to a power source. There are a few things to keep in mind to improve battery condition and lifespan.
- Charge or discharge the battery to around 50% capacity.
- Remove the battery from the product/charging source.
- Store the battery somewhere relatively cool. Between 5℃ and 20℃ is best.
- If the storage is very long-term, charge the battery back to 50% every six months.
Your battery will self-discharge while in storage, but it will discharge even faster at higher temperatures.
Overcharging a lithium-ion battery will reduce its maximum lifespan. Luckily, most lithium-ion batteries have a built-in power regulator to prevent overcharging. However, cheaper batteries or using different sizes of batteries connected to the same system could result in the smaller cells getting damaged when filling a higher-capacity battery.
Lithium-ion batteries do not like deep discharges. While they are capable of great depth of discharge, it is better to have a partial discharge instead of completely depleting your lithium battery. These batteries have no memory effect, making partial charges possible.
Handle lithium batteries with care
The quickest way to ruin a lithium-ion battery is by mishandling it or doing physical damage. These tips may seem obvious, but just to be certain:
- Don’t disassemble, crush or puncture a battery.
- Do not short-circuit the contacts.
- Do not expose to fire or water.
- Do not have a battery near a heat source, or in any area above 60℃.
- Keep away from children.
- Avoid excessive shock or vibration.
- Do not freeze the battery.
If a battery pack does get damaged, do not attempt to charge or use it. If you can see fluid leaking from it, avoid touching the liquid and do not let it make contact with your eyes. In case of contact, flush the eye and both lids for 15 minutes and seek medical attention.
Depending on the makeup of the battery, some types of lithium batteries are safer than others. For example, lithium iron phosphate batteries (LiFePO4) will not explode or catch fire when exposed to extreme heat and flame, which makes them much safer in scenarios where that could accidentally occur!
With good habits, your lithium battery will last for many years and cycles, keeping your lights and electronics powered during blackouts.
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