Store your Batteries in the Fridge: Good or Bad Idea?

Catherine Crépeau, Agence Science-Presse

For a long time, people have put their batteries in the fridge in order to prolong their life. Myth or reality, asks the Rumor Detector.


This article is part of the Rumor Detector file. Click here to see other articles from that file.


What is a battery?

A battery is, above all a chemical reaction that produces electricity. This happens thanks to an exchange of electrons between a positive electrode and a negative electrode through a metal wire. The ions coming out of this transfer of electrons go through what we call an electrolyte, a liquid in gel form. The reaction continues until the electrolyte is completely depleted.

Like all chemical reactions, this one can be affected by the temperature.

Not Too Cold

The American battery maker Energizer has conducted a lot of research on how temperature affects the performance of batteries. Their data shows that batteries are less efficient when used at temperatures corresponding to a fridge or a freezer.  

In other words, all the major battery makers agree on this one point: optimal battery performance doesn’t happen at cold temperatures. To obtain top performance, they suggest you keep your batteries in a dry environment at normal room temperature.  

So storage in a fridge or a freezer isn’t recommended for batteries manufactured nowadays. Cold can actually have harmful effects on their lifespan. And the humid environment of a fridge or freezer is really very bad for them, producing rust or other damage.

Energizer suggests that you store batteries at a normal room temperature (20 to 25 °C) and at a moderate humidity (35 to 65 % relative humidity). Panasonic recommends that you store your batteries in a dry environment at 15 °C. In these conditions, a standard set of cylindrical alkaline batteries can last up to 5 to 10 years, and cylindrical lithium batteries between 10 and 15 years.

To prolong the life of your batteries, Duracell also recommends that you remove your batteries out of appliances that aren’t being used and store them in a dry place at room temperature, so that the terminals (contact points) aren’t touching anything.

Nor Too Hot

These are approximate temperatures. Panasonic specifies that a temperature “a little warmer” than 15 °C won’t damage your batteries. In return, heat can be as damaging as cold. A temperature exceeding 30 °C will accelerate the discharge process. That’s why manufacturers such as Duracell advise you to keep your batteries out of direct sunlight, and to avoid storing them in places that are very hot. That will preserve the life of your batteries.  

Extreme temperatures, be they cold or hot, can not only reduce performance, they can cause a leak or a rupture. When stored properly, the discharge rate of an alkaline battery is tiny: about 3% per year. Lithium batteries lose even less of their charge. On the other hand, the more you use a battery, the less efficient they become. That’s why your telephone battery doesn’t work as well after a year or two. 

Verdict

Avoid extreme temperatures, cold or hot. The fridge is therefore not a good place to store your batteries. Cold doesn’t prolong their life, and condensation can damage them. 

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