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Assault and Batteries: a cautionary tale

I have several electronic devices that run off batteries. (No, not those types of devices -- get your minds out of the gutters.) A while ago I got tired of buying an endless stream of AA and AAA batteries, so I figured I'd invest in some rechargeable batteries.

Bad move. I shoulda read the fine print.

The first sign of trouble was when I plugged a AAA into a medical device. It gave me the "BATTERY FAILURE" message immediately, even though the battery had just spent 24 hours in a charger. The second was when my digital camera's LCD screen wouldn't light up. That's when I looked at the tiny print on the side of one of the new batteries, and compared it with a standard AAA.

The rechargeable only puts out 1.2 volts. A regular puts out 1.5 volts. And a lot of modern devices are very sensitive to that 20% shortfall.

I've done some further investigating (such a fancy term for "browsing the battery selection at a Wal-Mart") and all the rechargeables I've found put out between 1.2 and 1.25 volts, not the what-I-thought-was-the-industry-standard of 1.5 volts.

I'm posting this embarassing story in hopes of sparing others my expensive mistake. READ THE FINE PRINT. There's a REASON a lot of gadgets don't recommend using rechargeable batteries.

So here I am, stuck with almost 30 bucks of useless batteries and charger. I wonder if my gadget-minded friend would mind his Christmas present coming unwrapped, opened, and very slightly used...


Update: Yes, the medical device I referred to is a Paradigm 512 insulin pump (good guesses, Master and JMarler). And I'll have to double-check on the camera. Maybe I just didn't let them charge long enough.

And yes, Paul, they were NiMH batteries. I was originally gonna call this posting "Mr. Tea and the Batts of NiMH," but didn't write it down when I thought of it and forgot it when I actually posted the thing.

Comments (27)

Look up rchargable batterie... (Below threshold)

Look up rchargable batteries and you'll see that they carry different powers etc.

one source of info:


Thanks for the suggestion, ... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

Thanks for the suggestion, Epador, but it was pretty much useless for me. From their FAQ:

"The one time when the voltage difference of the two is important would be in the case of a device that checks the voltage of a battery to estimate the amount of charge left on the battery. "

That seems to fit my situation to a T...


I'm really surprised that y... (Below threshold)

I'm really surprised that your rechargeable batteries didn't work in your digital camera. Digital cameras are actually one of the best uses of rechargeable batteries. What camera do you have? In my experience, rechargeable batteries work well in digital devices, but not so well in analog-type devices. An example where rechargeables didn't work so well for me was in the outdoor sensor for my indoor/outdoor thermometer (I noticed the measured temperature was WAY off). Some devices that use the battery's voltage to determine how much battery life is left allow you to specify what type of battery you are using. An example is my old Palm IIIx. Another thing to consider with rechargeables is that NiMH batteries are better (and more expensive) than NiCad batteries. Steve's digicams has good information on batteries in digital cameras.

Here's another (better??) l... (Below threshold)

Here's another (better??) link for testing information on rechargeable batteries: Imaging-Resource.Com. Also, the green batteries (yahoo store link in first comment by epador) has a nice page on battery myths.

Yeah, what TopDog said. I'v... (Below threshold)
Red Five:

Yeah, what TopDog said. I've got NiMH batteries in my Canon PowerShot A310, and they work MUCH better than alkaline batteries. The batteries included with the camera died in 1 day; my NiMH cells aren't dead yet, nearly 2 months later.

NiCd batteries are notorious for putting out only 1.2-1.25V; usually not a problem, but on devices that measure the charge, it's obviously a problem. NiCd 9v batteries are even worse, since they put out only 7.2-7.5V. NiMH cells will typically charge to 1.4V.

Holy smokes. I've got handf... (Below threshold)

Holy smokes. I've got handfuls of rechargables for my professional photography sessions. My flash takes 5 AA batteries. A regular set can't keep up with the amount of blasts I tend to do, the rechargables kick regulars ass, they just don't last as long. But since it only takes 15 minutes to recharge them and I always have other sets on hand, no big deal.

My digital camera actually ... (Below threshold)

My digital camera actually recommends NiMH batteries, and a normal, alkaline battery lasts only for two or three shots.

Don't give up so soon. The... (Below threshold)

Don't give up so soon. There's a lot more to know about rechargable batteries than most people realize. While most gadgets can use either NiMH or NiCad batteries, there are a very few items that won't. You may have one on your hands. The best place I've found to learn about rechargables is www.batteryspace.com. Go to their forum and read up about batteries and chargers. I've got a house full of electronic gadgets and kid's toys and every single one of them runs on rechargable batteries. I've got nearly 100 of them floating around my house either in use or "in reserve".

Just to make a couple of quick points, even regular non-rechargable batteries put out 1.4v shortly after you begin using them. NiMH batteries start out there, but stay there longer than alkalines. They have a flatter discharge curve, as they say in the industry. NiMH batteries slowly run down just sitting on the shelf. Annoying yes, but managable once you know about it. This makes them a bit less than ideal in low drain applications like smoke detectors or remotes. They are ideal in high drain applications like digital cameras. NiMH batteries work best after they are "seasoned". You should charge and discharge them 3-5 times before you gage their performance. If you just charge them up once and use them right away, you will find that they run down VERY quickly. "These batteries suck. They're already dead!" I've been there. NiMH batteries never develop the "memory effect" that the older NiCad batteries sometimes do. I like NiMH batteries for most things around the house, but both NiMH and NiCad have their place. Almost all cordless tools use NiCad batteries. This is because a NiMH battery hasn't been developed that will put out enough power for a long enough time.

I use two "smart" chargers and a multimeter to maintain my stable of batteries. With over 60 batteries of various types in use at any given time, there's no way I'd go back to alkalines.

UPDATE: I had meant to say ... (Below threshold)

UPDATE: I had meant to say NiMH batteries are rated at 1.2v not 1.4v. Alkalines also put out 1.2v shortly after you begin using them. My NiMH batteries here actually test at 1.38-1.45v after they are charged.

Jay- Is your medical devic... (Below threshold)
Master of None:

Jay- Is your medical device an insulin pump? The ones that I'm slightly familiar with will only run on regular batteries because they have the proper voltage/current curve that allows them to accurately predict battery reserve. This allows the pump to give audible warnings long before the batteries are too low to power the pump.

Don't give up on rechargeab... (Below threshold)

Don't give up on rechargeables yet. They work great in digital cameras. That's the best use for them. There's a reason why more and more digital cameras are going to proprietary rechargeable battery units similar to what camcorders use. There's a ton of info and batteries available here:


Most recent digital cameras... (Below threshold)

Most recent digital cameras require rechargable batteries for extended use.My cordless mouse and keyboard instructions say "do not use rechargables".I have been using them and everything is fine.It is so nice not having to buy regulars.I also have a 'rapid' charger.It takes about 90-120 min.to charge 4 AA's.I do suggest getting the highest quality rechargeables.Check out ebay,you can get some great prices on batteries and chargers.

Jay, you gotta be doing som... (Below threshold)

Jay, you gotta be doing something wrong... ;-)

What kind of battery did you get? If NiCad, they sucked 20 years ago when they were introduced.

If NiMH, I'm puzzled but heck, send them to me, that's all I use.


more info?

Would that medical device h... (Below threshold)

Would that medical device happen to be an insulin pump? I have a Minimed 512 insulin pump that takes a single AAA battery. If it's not a Energizer, Minimed won't even support it. That's right ... not only can it NOT be a rechargable, it HAS to be an Energizer.

I have NiMH batteries that ... (Below threshold)

I have NiMH batteries that I use for my sony discman. Its perfect because the discman itself has a charger built in. I've used the same batteries for about 2 years, and the batteries still have a long useful life each time I use them. (course sony discmans are AWESOME when it comes to battery life compared to other cd walkmans)

JMarlerAn insulin ... (Below threshold)
Master of None:


An insulin pump has some requirements to monitor battery life and to be able to give a low battery warning and then continue to run for a specific amount of time. The medical device company has to test this and has to certify batteries for operation in their unit. If they didn't specify a battery type then you could put anything in there and if it didn't perform correctly they could get sued.

Read this:<a href="h... (Below threshold)
I've used NiMh (nickel meta... (Below threshold)

I've used NiMh (nickel metal hydride) rechargeable batteries in everything I have since they came out a few years ago. Saved a couple hundred bucks over a few years time, and more importantly saved me the inconvenience of having to buy/store regular batteries.

Regarding your update: ... (Below threshold)

Regarding your update: And here I thought you were including batteries with all those GloThongs you bought for Christmas gifts.

I recently got a new digita... (Below threshold)

I recently got a new digital camera that uses off-the-shelf rechargable batteries. I went with the Energizers because they were right next to the camera display. They're fine if after they're fully charged I put them in the camera. If I just leave them in the charger they start to lose power. Another problem is that they seem to last only about 15-20 shots, but maybe they're just new and need to be broken in. Even with the problems these puppies will save me a ton in battery costs.

JT,do what you gotta... (Below threshold)

do what you gotta do :P
and I'll continue to "do me"


that's odd, I used the same... (Below threshold)

that's odd, I used the same 4 batteries for the entire time I was in Iraq and my digital camera lasted almost 3 times as long as the regular batteries. Got mine at costco too.

Donate them to Toys 4 Tots ... (Below threshold)
Steel Turman:

Donate them to Toys 4 Tots and deduct the full
purchase price.

1. That was a great, great... (Below threshold)

1. That was a great, great movie.

2. They aren't completely useless. Use them in tiny flashlights.

Rechargable batteries... (Below threshold)

Rechargable batteries

If you want any and all information on any kind of rechargable battery and equipment check out www.thomasdistributors.com. I found this web site about 3 years ago when I first got into digital cameras. Their staff is knowledgable and pleasant and they stand behind any product. As an example just 2 weeks ago I called to purcahse an AC adaptor becuase I burnt out the original and the sales person sent me one free of charge, and that was over a year after the sale.

I can remember as a kid in ... (Below threshold)

I can remember as a kid in the 70's recharging regular crappy batteries in a battery charger all of the time. It seems only recently that you had to buy expensive rechargeable ones. Has anyone even tried to recharge throw-away types in a recharger, despite the warnings of catastrophe posted on the side of the battery?

And is your house still standing?

Yo,Screw the pump ... (Below threshold)


Screw the pump and get on Lantus (I think Aventis makes it - I've been using it for years and have the A1Cs to testify to its effectiveness). One shot a day, smooth-sailing constant insulin activity with no peaks, and you don't have the travails of being a cyborg, batteries and all...






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