Choosing your battery charger: What you need to know

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  • We tell you what to look out for before choosing a battery charger. The types of battery supported, but also the different technologies available.

    We tell you what to look out for before choosing a battery charger. The types of battery supported, but also the different technologies available.

    You want to buy a battery charger for the first time or you already have one and you want to replace it with a more efficient model. In either case, this guide will allow you to look at a few features before your purchase. Battery chargers allow the use of rechargeable batteries and thus avoid unnecessary electronic waste. Plus, rechargeable batteries perform better if you take the right brands.

    Types of battery charger

    There are three types of battery charger. The intelligent charger, the one for the maintenance and the raw charger.

    The smart battery charger

    The smart battery charger has become very popular and can be found from 20 or 25 dollars. As the name suggests, it’s a charger that doesn’t just swing current. It checks the voltage and once the charge is complete, the charger goes into hold or standby mode. This prevents overcharging of the battery.

    We tell you what to look out for before choosing a battery charger. The types of battery supported, but also the different technologies available.

    On some models with battery formats like the 18650 which are used in torches and laptops, the charger can also “format” the battery. Thus, if the voltage is too low, the charger will repeat several charging cycles so that the battery regains an optimal state. For AAA rechargeable batteries, this is not necessarily the most useful, but it’s always good to have it as an option.

    The maintenance charger

    The trickle charger is less well known and its role is to maintain a slow charge. This allows you to leave your batteries on the charger for a long time. When a battery is recharged, be aware that it will not stay full all the time. It can have charge “leaks” and this is where we will see the difference between good or bad rechargeable batteries.

    Poor quality batteries can lose up to 20% of their charge if left in a corner for a long time. The trickle charger can be useful if you don’t use your batteries frequently, but want them to be fully charged when you need them.

    However, smart chargers often have a slow charge feature which eliminates the need to purchase multiple models at the same time.

    The raw charger

    This charger does not cost more than 5 dollars, but its role is as brutal as it is insecure. It will simply flow current through the batteries continuously. The charger continues to charge the batteries even if they are full which can cause overcharging. If you really don’t have a budget then this is a choice to consider. But honestly, battery life is going to take a toll.

    Also, you can’t tell when the batteries are fully charged because there is no indicator on them.

    The charging speed of the battery charger

    All manufacturers will promise you that their battery charger will fully charge your batteries in 15 minutes. In reality, it is a bit more complicated. The fast charging technology is good and it can give you a rated charge in 15 minutes. But the majority of manufacturers like Duracell or Energizer estimate that a good minimum charge should last an hour.

    On the other hand, you have slow battery chargers that will take all night to charge your batteries. Yes, it’s long, but at least we’ll be guaranteed a full charge. As it is often smart chargers, then they will stop charging when they are full and they will go into standby mode.

    The options to look at in a battery charger

    A few options that you should look at first before choosing a battery charger.

    • The amount of batteries supported by the charger – Typically you have chargers that can take 2 or 4 batteries. But it depends on your needs. If you use your torches frequently, then you will sometimes have 2 or 3 chargers with 4 compartments. If you only use batteries occasionally, a 2-battery charger is sufficient.
    • The type of battery supported – Another important criterion. It is better to have a versatile battery charger that can accommodate AAA batteries, but also models in 9 volts or others in 4.8 volts. But the price will be affected. Some universal battery chargers, which can support 4 or 5 different batteries, can exceed 50 dollars. On the other hand, if you know that you will only be using AAA batteries, then a standard charger will suffice.
    • The charge indicator – The charge indicator is not emphasized enough. I had a raw charger that gave me no indication. And often the batteries were hot from overcharging. The indicator can be a simple indicator that changes from red to green. But prefer LCD screens which give you a lot of information such as the battery voltage, the state of charge, etc.
    • A USB socket – The battery charger plugs into the mains, sometimes via an adapter. But you also have models that have a USB socket, allowing you to use it in a car.

    Battery charger prices

    Average prices for a battery charger range from 20 to 25 dollars for good branded smart models. Some brands like Duracell or Energizer even offer rechargeable batteries with it. A set of 4 AAA rechargeable batteries costs around $ 8-9 and add a $ 25 charger and you’ve got a small investment that will last a long time for your battery powered devices.

    Depending on the brand, rechargeable batteries can have between 500 to 1000 charge cycles. This means that you will be able to charge these batteries 500 to 1000 times before changing them. To give you an example, if you need to recharge your batteries once a week, at 500 charge cycles, that means your batteries will last 10 years.

    The best battery charger brands

    Clearly, the best brands of battery chargers are Duracell and Energizer. As it is a simple technology and mastered by several countries, you also have Chinese brands like Xtar and Japanese which are also excellent. In the end, all that matters is whether the charger is suitable for your needs for the batteries you are using.

    Tips for maintaining your rechargeable batteries

    When you buy rechargeable batteries for your charger, then buy them as a pack and always charge them together. Avoid mixing them with other batteries. One of the reasons is that it allows you to better last the life of your charge cycles. If you charge them together, at the same frequency, then they will end of life at the same time.

    If you mix them constantly, you will not know what the state of charge cycle of your batteries is. Some recommend using the same batteries for the same devices. Apart from a concern for organization, this does not make any particular sense. As AAA batteries are standardized, whether you swap them out has no impact on their performance.

    But as mentioned, it’s best to use them together. On the other hand, if you bought batteries of different brands at the same time, then this is not a problem. And better, you will see the good and the bad batteries since they will have the same configuration of use.

    L'équipe de Comparaland

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