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Mr. Tea and the batteries of NiMH

A couple days ago I wrote about some unfortunate experiences I had involving some rechargeable batteries. Apparently I didn't realize it at the time, but I was talking out of my ass. I'm not saying this is anything new, but usually the evidence isn't so quick and irrefutable.

I mentioned that the batteries apparently lacked the voltage to power the LCD screen on my digital camera. (For the technically inclined, the batteries are Rayovac Rechargeable NiMH AA and AAA batteries, and the camera is an Aiptek DV3100 that was part of a Christmas bonus from my employer.) I never got around to trying it with new disposable batteries, though. Earlier I did, and now it looks like the LCD screen is dead. Can't blame the batteries for that one.

The other gadget that flunked the battery test was a Medtronic Minimed Paradigm 512 Insulin Pump. A couple alert readers pointed out that Medtronic specifies Energizer batteries, and they tend to reject any others -- a fact I had forgotten.

There were also numerous comments singing the praises of NiMH batteries, and no horror stories to back up my own.

So, based on the results of these two experiments, I can safely come to two conclusions.

1) NiMH batteries really are the cat's pajamas for most uses.
2) I really oughta do more homework before I start talking out of my ass on technical matters I really don't know squat about.

My thanks to everyone who pointed out my stupidity in such a gracious manner -- even you, Paul. I appreciate that it was a real effort, and I am thankful for your restraint.


(Paul adds) Jay- I'm going to take the unusual step to answer you here because there is a fairly important thing to know about NiMH batteries that should be on the front. When you first get them, they need to be "broken in." That is after you cycle them a few times they get up to full strength. I've had NiMH batteries that would give me 6 shots from my camera new that after I cycled them a few times produced strong results. Maybe you just need patience grasshopper. -Paul

Comments (13)

Not a problem, Jay. Everyon... (Below threshold)

Not a problem, Jay. Everyone makes these mistakes when they think they know enough about a subject only to realize that they don't know enough.

and Jay- Smart people say d... (Below threshold)

and Jay- Smart people say dumb things all the time.

It is dumb people who choose to remain dumb that I have no patience for.


Hey Jay,It takes a... (Below threshold)

Hey Jay,

It takes a real man to admit when he's wrong. I liked you already. After this, I like you even more!


There is a big difference b... (Below threshold)
Corky Boyd:

There is a big difference between alkaline cells and NIMH cells. Aside from the fact that one is rechargeable the other is that alkalines are 1.5 volt cells, NIMHs are 1.2 volts. If your camera or insulin pump is designed for alkaline voltages, NIMH cells may quickly drop below the operating threshold to operate the device.

On the other hand my Fuji digital camera is apparently designed for NIMH voltage, though it came with alkalines. When I used the alkalines they would last only 8 to 15 shots depending on flash, LCD use and time left on. Too much voltage burned too many amps. When I switched to NIMHs (incidently Rayovac AAs) they last for the 84 shot capacity of my memory chip.

There is no way around the 1.5v vs. 1.2v discrepancy. It's in the chemistry of the cells.

Corky Boyd
Sanibel FL

Yep, that insulin pump is p... (Below threshold)

Yep, that insulin pump is probably not going to be happy with any rechargable. A very few gadgets will not take either NiMH or NiCad rechargable batteries. Most things are happy with one or both.

I've got a few AA Rayovac batteries in my stable of close to 100 rechargables. They're the weakest batteries I have. Take a look at the label to see their rating. Not the voltage, look for the MaH (milliamp hours), which is a measure of their capacity. My rayovacs are 1600 mah. That's a pretty crappy rechargable battery. Decent AAA NiMH batteries rate 700 or 750 mah. From what I've seen all the AAA batteries are pretty close. They're either 700 or 750 mah. But AA batteries range from 1600 up to 2350mah.

The whole 1.5v vs 1.2v controversy is actually much less important than most people think. The fact is that regular alkaline batteries hit 1.2v shortly after you begin using them. With NiMH batteries, they start at 1.2v and stay there longer. They have a flatter discharge curve, as they say in the industry.

www.batteryspace.com is a great place to buy and also to learn about batteries and chargers. Very nice prices on bulk batteries. I've got 5 dozen Powerizer 2250mah AA batteries and they work great. :)

*Queue up the "Star Trek" t... (Below threshold)

*Queue up the "Star Trek" theme*

Technology... The final frontier...

These are the voyages of the Starship Paradigm 512. It's five year mission to explore strange new batteries, to seek out new power and new energy sources, to boldly go where no battery powered device has gone before.

*end music*

Ok, I ruined a bad thing, sorry Jay Tea, but it struck me quite funny at the moment I thought of it.

In all seriousness though, I don't have any real experience with rechargable batteries, perhaps when I get my first digital camera I'll find out. Though I think the higher-end camera's come with their own battery packages.


Too many people don't admit... (Below threshold)

Too many people don't admit it when they're talking out of their ass. I may not agree with you on most things politically, but at least you've earned my respect. No one is infallible.

Nicely done.

Well, I don't know about an... (Below threshold)

Well, I don't know about anyone else, but I absolutely refuse to buy a digital camera that takes proprietary batteries. I thought cameras were moving AWAY from them to standard AA batteries. Using some one of a kind battery can only add to the cost of the camera, the cost of replacing the battery, and dramatically decrease the convenience of using the camera. With standard NiMH AA batteries you can have as many extra sets on hand as you need.

I have that exact same insu... (Below threshold)

I have that exact same insulin pump. I love that friggin thing!

I think it's absolutely ridiculous that Minimed only supports one brand of battery. I can somewhat understand it, but it's really ridiculous to limit to one brand. I've called in to Minimed tech support and they have literall told me to switch to energizer promising that the problem would go away. I [email protected]! you not!

I'd LOVE to be able to use rechargables in my insulin pump. I go through so many batteries every week, I should own stock in energizer by now.

Most devices cameras, camco... (Below threshold)

Most devices cameras, camcorders, phones, laptops are designed to operate at the lower voltages of NiMH batteries.

On the other hand, many devices were designed to only operate at a full 1.5 V and will not work with right with NiMH batteries. Trying to run such a device at a fixed low voltage for a long time may actually damage it. I know this seems odd and it is rare, but it can happen and there is a sound technical reason for it.

Bottom line - read the manual.

I tried Powerex batteries f... (Below threshold)

I tried Powerex batteries from Maha -- a company that makes good chargers and whose batteries are supposed to be the cat's a--. But the da-n things didn't work, so the supplier sent me a new set with a different charger that I upgraded to: those didn't work either. But the semi-cheapie Duracell rechargeables I bought off the rack at CompUSA as a set of backups worked like an effing charm right after their first charge!

And when The Monk took his trip to Scotland and shot 50-70 pics/day, he never lost the charge with the batteries (could go 2+ days if I needed them to), without cycling them first or doing multiple cycles thereafter. There's a moral to this: stick to the brands you know and get something reliable. Duracells and Energizers are generally better than RayoVacs, seems to be true for NiMHs too.

"Well, I don't know about a... (Below threshold)

"Well, I don't know about anyone else, but I absolutely refuse to buy a digital camera that takes proprietary batteries. I thought cameras were moving AWAY from them to standard AA batteries. Using some one of a kind battery can only add to the cost of the camera, the cost of replacing the battery, and dramatically decrease the convenience of using the camera. With standard NiMH AA batteries you can have as many extra sets on hand as you need."

Ugh...AA batteries are so frigging big, and at most you get, what, 100 or so shots out of them? I prefer ultrasmall cameras with proprietary batteries. Yeah, its not as convenient in the case of battery failure, but they're much smaller and get 200-300 shots if the manufacturer knows what they're doing (I use a Dimage XG as my primary camera, and have taken 350 shots before having to swap in a spare battery).

I get at least 150-200 shot... (Below threshold)

I get at least 150-200 shots and I'm not even using premium batteries. For the serious camera user it may be an issue, but its not something I worry about. I feel the same way about cameras as I do about cell phones. "Enough! Smaller is NOT better!!!!" I'm not buying a camera smaller than about 2"x4", and I prefer the slightly larger Canon Powershot A70 I got my wife.






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