What's your battery system?

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What battery chemistry do you use? (check all that apply)

Alkaline
22
25%
Lithium primaries(non-rechargeable)
8
9%
NiMH
17
19%
NiMH (Low self discharge)
19
22%
Li-ion (standard form factors)
7
8%
Li-ion (specialized form factor)
9
10%
I use carbide
6
7%
Other (?)
0
No votes
 
Total votes : 88

Re: What's your battery system?

Postby NZcaver » Nov 14, 2009 3:34 am

harrym wrote:Rechargable batteries become unreliable after multiple cycles of charging and discharging. At some point you just don't know how long they will last. Disposable alkaline batteries are extremely reliable and have a fairly predictable and consistent burn time. This makes them the perfect backup light battery, and it's why cave divers trust their lives to disposable alkaline batteries.

I don't fault you for using/carrying a combination of rechargeable and disposable battery technologies (I do also), but parts of that blanket statement you just made are simply not true. At least, not any more.

Rechargeable batteries becoming unreliable after multiple cycles is somewhat true, but as you probably realize this varies greatly by technology. NiCads are crap, NiMH is better, LSD NiMH and Li-Ion are even more reliable. And apparently most rechargeables are less prone to leaking/corroding than alkalines when left in lights and other devices. Plus with modern regulated lighting, AA NiMH cells can offer twice the capacity of an alkaline in the same light. So of course there are different factors to consider for different applications.

The more important thing to note is with the use of an intelligent charger you can predict how long rechargeable NiMHs and Li-Ions will last. You can also identify potential problem cells automatically each time you charge your batteries. This method of testing is even more reliable than metering every alkaline cell to see if it's still good. Bottom line - continuing to perpetuate the old claim of (paraphrasing) "rechargeables are less reliable than alkalines" doesn't make it true. No offense.

Gotta love technology.
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Re: What's your battery system?

Postby ArCaver » Nov 14, 2009 6:36 am

NZcaver wrote:
harrym wrote:Rechargable batteries become unreliable after multiple cycles of charging and discharging. At some point you just don't know how long they will last. Disposable alkaline batteries are extremely reliable and have a fairly predictable and consistent burn time. This makes them the perfect backup light battery, and it's why cave divers trust their lives to disposable alkaline batteries.

I don't fault you for using/carrying a combination of rechargeable and disposable battery technologies (I do also), but parts of that blanket statement you just made are simply not true. At least, not any more.

Rechargeable batteries becoming unreliable after multiple cycles is somewhat true, but as you probably realize this varies greatly by technology. NiCads are crap, NiMH is better, LSD NiMH and Li-Ion are even more reliable. And apparently most rechargeables are less prone to leaking/corroding than alkalines when left in lights and other devices. Plus with modern regulated lighting, AA NiMH cells can offer twice the capacity of an alkaline in the same light. So of course there are different factors to consider for different applications.

The more important thing to note is with the use of an intelligent charger you can predict how long rechargeable NiMHs and Li-Ions will last. You can also identify potential problem cells automatically each time you charge your batteries. This method of testing is even more reliable than metering every alkaline cell to see if it's still good. Bottom line - continuing to perpetuate the old claim of (paraphrasing) "rechargeables are less reliable than alkalines" doesn't make it true. No offense.

Gotta love technology.


It's true that NiMh batteries are more reliable than NiCad but NiCads weren't as bad as we all seem to remember. I used them for a long time in power tools an if you followed the discharge/recharge guidelines from the beginning they were reliable and long lasting. I think charger technology has evolved over the years to the point that NiCads today would probably not suffer the memory problems of old. NiMh batteries are much lighter though, and longer lasting. The real issue I've always had with any rechargeable is the voltage being lower than primary battery types. I know the voltage difference goes away quickly but I just feel they should design the rechargeables to put out 1.5v from the start.
I always carry alkaline batteries as backup because they hold their charge in storage more reliably. I think this may not be as much of an issue with some of the newer designs.
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Re: What's your battery system?

Postby pub » Nov 14, 2009 7:20 am

harrym wrote:I also use carbide for cave diving. (Just kidding, threw that in there to see if you were paying attention.)

... you mean an underwater housing hasn't been developed for carbides? ...can't it be supplied from your tanks? :kidding:
Balincaguin comes from the Zambal phrase, "Bali lan caguing" meaning "house of bats."
This was the former name of the Municipality of Mabini, Pangasinan, when it was part of the Province of Zambales (of Mt. Pinatubo Volcano fame).
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Re: What's your battery system?

Postby Chads93GT » Nov 14, 2009 3:33 pm

I guess some people still don't know about smart chargers ;)
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Re: What's your battery system?

Postby potholer » Nov 16, 2009 8:22 am

Personally, I use NiMH battery packs for all local caving, and overseas trips with charging facilities, and a mix of NiMH and alkaline packs when away from charging facilities.

The 4.5V alkaline packs I use have a higher nominal capacity than my NiMH packs, but do tend to suffer at low temperatures, and most of the away-from-charging caving i do tends to be in caves which are only a degree or two above freezing.
In that situation I'd probably actually get more runtime from NiMH, and end up carrying no more weight up/down the mountain, but there's a limit to how many packs I want to make just to use once a year, and then have to keep exercised inbetween expeditions.

I don't find a particular problem with NiMH cell reliability, even with some packs made from pre-owned cells (discarded backup power packs from medical equipment). However, I do have a homemade smart charger/discharger/analyser, so it's easy to pick up on underperforming (low capacity or high self-discharge) packs.
Given that I can make a NiMH pack for less than the price of 4 alkaline packs, even if the rechargeables don't last forever, they are still way cheaper, and I can always top the packs up before a trip to ensure maximum capacity.

With alkaline packs typically lasting several short trips, I'd either have to throw away part-used packs, or start trips with packs where they might be at the point where light output would start to slowly decline at some point in the trip.
That latter decline isn't a problem as such. It is at least getting fuller use from the battery, but it's something that isn't really an issue with NiMH packs.
I can happily change NiMHs preemptively without worrying about wasting money or other resources - with a pack that will give 8-10 hours at full power, I might just swap a reserve pack in when I'm getting close to 8 to avoid bothering doing it later or having to think about whether my light *might* be getting dimmer.
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Re: What's your battery system?

Postby trogman » Nov 16, 2009 3:19 pm

I use a Sten with the extra long battery life. Does that go under "Li-ion (specialized form factor)"? I wasn't sure what kind of battery life I would need when I bought it, so I went ahead and spent the extra $ for the better, albeit slightly larger and heavier battery. It is twice the size and weight of the standard Sten battery, with twice the amp-hour rating, yet it is still roughly equivalent (in size and weight) to 4 AA's. My light runs forever on a charge, and puts out a great light. My backups are all run on alkaline AA's. My GPS uses either alkaline or NiMH; lately I've started using the latter in it and it seems to last just as long as it does on alkalines. (My old GPS wouldn't even run on rechargeables).

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Re: What's your battery system?

Postby Scott McCrea » Nov 16, 2009 3:31 pm

All the lights I cave with take AA. Saturday, I got 15 hrs from 4 AA RayOvac Hybrid (LSD NiMH) in my 14 LED Duo. I was pleased. My back-ups get a lithium or a LSD.
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Re: What's your battery system?

Postby Marduke » Nov 18, 2009 12:51 am

NiMH are leaps and bounds more reliable, better performing, and cheaper than alkalines, assuming you have a proper charging system and actually learn how to use them.

You can charge them up and KNOW without a doubt they are fresh and ready to go, instead of guessing with partially used alkaline. They are ~100 times cheaper in the long run. And per use, they last 2-4 times longer depending on the current draw.

Alkalines are a HORRIBLE and IRRESPONSIBLE idea for backups. Backups MUST work when you need them. Why would you want to use cells of unknown charge state which have a propensity to leak in storage and can ruin the inside of your light and cause it to fail when you need it the most?
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Re: What's your battery system?

Postby harrym » Nov 18, 2009 1:03 am

Marduke wrote:Alkalines are a HORRIBLE and IRRESPONSIBLE idea for backups. Backups MUST work when you need them. Why would you want to use cells of unknown charge state which have a propensity to leak in storage and can ruin the inside of your light and cause it to fail when you need it the most?


I guess that world's leading cave divers and cave diving organizations are HORRIBLE and IRRESPONSIBLE for using only alkaline batteries in their backup lights. huh? (;
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Re: What's your battery system?

Postby Marduke » Nov 18, 2009 1:26 am

harrym wrote:
Marduke wrote:Alkalines are a HORRIBLE and IRRESPONSIBLE idea for backups. Backups MUST work when you need them. Why would you want to use cells of unknown charge state which have a propensity to leak in storage and can ruin the inside of your light and cause it to fail when you need it the most?


I guess that world's leading cave divers and cave diving organizations are HORRIBLE and IRRESPONSIBLE for using only alkaline batteries in their backup lights. huh? (;


20 years ago it was the best you could hope for. But today, technology marches on and and using alkalines for backup is akin to using a candle for your 3rd source of light caving...
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Re: What's your battery system?

Postby harrym » Nov 18, 2009 2:19 am

I use rechargable NiMH batteries in my underwater flash. The same little AA batteries I would use in a headlamp. Even with a smart charger, I often find myself underwater with a dead flash unit even when the batteries were supposedly charged. That was last year, not 20 years ago. Ever try changing batteries underwater? I just don't see the reliability that you claim is there.

Sorry, but if your light fails in a cave, you have an unlimited air supply to get out of the cave. If my light fails underwater, I have, at most, 350 cubic feet of air to get out of the cave. I want a light that I know will work, and that's why I don't use rechargable batteries in my 2nd and 3rd source backup lights underwater.

The cutting edge cave divers in the world mandate only disposable alkaline batteries in all backup lights. They have an unmatched safety record. If you want to argue with that, go ahead. Since that system has worked so well for cave divers, it's the same system I use in one of my backup lights for dry caving. The only rechargable battery I am willing to use for dry caving is the Lithium battery.

If you don't mind suggesting a good smart charger, I would like to look into it to replace what I've got. I am going cave diving in Mexico in a couple of weeks and am sick and tired of having my flash die in the middle of a dive. Thanks.
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Re: What's your battery system?

Postby potholer » Nov 18, 2009 5:32 am

harrym wrote:If you don't mind suggesting a good smart charger, I would like to look into it to replace what I've got. I am going cave diving in Mexico in a couple of weeks and am sick and tired of having my flash die in the middle of a dive. Thanks.

I'd consider a charger/analyser like the Maha C-9000 or the Lacrosse BC-900.
I have a Maha, which I really like, but it's not particularly compact. The Lacrosse seems to get good reviews, and is somewhat cheaper.

Rechargeable cells are not all the same in terms of reliability. Especially at the high-capacity end, there are some cells (combination of brand and capacity) which seem to be pretty durable, and some which just suck.

Even ignoring the vagaries of one specific type over another, when used as sets, one cell will tend to get flat before the others, and if the equipment is such that significant current can be drawn even after one cell is flat, that cell can end up taking a real kicking, which tends to drop its capacity and/or increase its self-discharge, which means it dies even earlier the next time a set is discharged a bit too far, and gets an even larger kicking.
Even small initial differences can get magnified to the point where the weakest cell is much weaker than the rest.

Having an analyser rather than just a charger does allow you to pick out poor cells, where either capacity is dropping, or self-discharge is increasing.

For general charger/battery advice, candlepowerforums.com is a mine of information, most of it useful. (though it currently seems to be down).
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Re: What's your battery system?

Postby Marduke » Nov 18, 2009 9:14 am

Your experience is not a case for alkalines, but for getting proper charger, quality cells, and the knowledge of how to use them.

Do you own quality cells? What charger? What termination method does it use? Do you match cells of similar capacity? Monitor cell health over time?

But for backup, if you actually want something reliable that doesn't take any effort on your part, nothing matches lithium primaries.
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Re: What's your battery system?

Postby harrym » Nov 18, 2009 5:04 pm

Marduke wrote:Your experience is not a case for alkalines, but for getting proper charger, quality cells, and the knowledge of how to use them.

Do you own quality cells? What charger? What termination method does it use? Do you match cells of similar capacity? Monitor cell health over time?

But for backup, if you actually want something reliable that doesn't take any effort on your part, nothing matches lithium primaries.


Sorry, I can’t give you any details. I threw away all of my NiMH batteries and the charger last year after returning home from Mexico. I was so frustrated with the whole mess that I threw everything out. Dead batteries 10 minutes into a dive. I was so angry. I switched to alkaline batteries in the flash, available locally in Mexico, not much of a life in the flash but better than NOTHING.

A couple of weeks ago I purchased some Duracell 2000mAh NiMH (the manufacturer says that my flash will overheat if I used anything with more juice than the 2000mAh NiMH batteries). These are the only NiMH batteries I can get locally, although I saw some Enercell batteries in Radio Shack last week, a brand that I’d never seen before. I don’t have a charger yet.

I believe that all of my previous NiMH AA batteries were also Duracell.

So, got any battery suggestions?
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Re: What's your battery system?

Postby Marduke » Nov 18, 2009 5:58 pm

Nothing bad will happen using higher capacity cells, that is a load of BS. Higher capacity means it will run longer, that's it.

Using a QUALITY charger is perhaps the most important part. Most people just get one off the shelf not realizing it will most likely cook your cells into oblivion, which sounds like what happened to your first experience. Most chargers available on the shelf to consumers are dumb timed chargers and should NEVER be used.

Using a smart charger with independant channels which terminates properly is the biggest thing. That usually means it will charge cells at 0.5-1.0C (there are exceptions) and uses a -dV termination signal, with max T and max V and max time as backups. A charger which has analyizing functions will allow you to monitor the health of the cells and match pairs. The Maha C9000 or LaCrosse BC-9009 are good choices. Eneloop cells are the highest quality, and best all around value and performance.

NiMH will always give you 2-4 times longer runtime than alkaline in the same device, except at VERY low load.

I suspect your cells are the "Precharged" variety, which is good. If they are Precharged Made in Japan, they are rebranded Eneloops. If made in China, they are rebranded ROV Hybrids (still good, just not quite as good).
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