Having already covered battery charging tips, we also wanted to cover lithium-ion battery maintenance tips. Lithium-ion batteries are expensive. You want to do all you can to extend the life of the fuel that powers your cordless tools. Of the top 5 killers, we have the most control over heat, but having good charging habits also helps considerably. Combined, all these tips should help add life to your battery packs.
Lithium-ion Battery Maintenance Tip #1: Heat
Heat is the number one killer of battery performance. Most heat is generated by tool use and charging, but we can do a few things to minimize it.
Take your battery off the charger and let it cool for a few minutes before putting it back in use.
Most chargers have an auto shut-off to stop the charging process when it reaches full. If you pull the battery off right at the end of the cycle, there will be some leftover heat. Even just sitting on a plugged-in charger generates a little bit of additional heat. Give it the benefit of cooling down for just a couple of minutes before putting it back under load.
In hot weather conditions, keep your batteries in a cool, shaded area.
Temperatures in the bed of your truck and inside your truck can skyrocket compared to the ambient temperature of the air. Storing your batteries there will have temperatures at over 100 degrees before you even turn the tool on. While not as extreme as being inside a vehicle, simply sitting in the sunshine will elevate the temperature as well. Likewise, if you’re taking even a short break from using the tool, set it in the shade until it’s needed again.
Take a break.
You’ll feel the temperature rising on the tool as it gets to the auto shut off point. Help maintain productivity by giving the tool frequent breaks in aggressive applications like demo work and concrete drilling.
Store batteries inside.
Where I live, you start sweating as soon as you step foot in the garage. Opening the garage door helps some, but it’s not as nice as being in the air-conditioned house. Find a place to store and charge those batteries inside if your spouse lets you.
Lithium-ion Battery Maintenance Tip #2: Cold Temperatures
Batteries need to be not too hot, but also not too cold to perform at their best. When the temperatures drop, here are a few maintenance tips to warm them up some.
Let your batteries ride shotgun.
I know you’re running the heat in your truck on the way to the job site. Bring the batteries you’ll be using inside and point a vent near them. Allowing them to warm up on the way will help them deliver additional power and run time.
Set them in the sun.
Exactly the opposite of what you do in high temperatures, but setting the battery and charger where it gets direct sunlight will raise the temperature more than sitting in the shade.
Store them inside.
If you’re doing outdoor work on a heated building, go ahead and put your batteries and charger inside. It’s a little more inconvenient, but you’ll be switching batteries less often. When you’re done for the day, go ahead and bring them inside the house instead of making them spend the night in a cold shed or garage.
Lithium-ion Battery Maintenance Tip #3: Watch the Vibration
Sadly, there’s not a whole lot that you can do about vibration. The majority of the vibration that a battery experiences come from the tool and application itself. Still, there are a couple of common sense things to help.
Avoid dropping your batteries.
The battery packs we use are more than just AA battery cells packed together. It’s a more complicated chemistry and housing. It also includes electronic communication components. Treat them nicely.
Avoid letting them ride in the back of your pickup truck.
Secured in the toolbox? Sure. Running around loose in the bed? Absolutely not! Every time you turn a corner, accelerate, or stop, those batteries can slam into the side and generate a lot of force. For a better idea of what that looks like, go to YouTube and search for “Football Concussion Hits”.
Lithium-ion Battery Maintenance Tip #4: Moisture
Here’s another area that is hard to control. We all know that water and electricity are like daughters and dating, so be cautious of what you can do to prevent it.
Keep batteries away from water sources.
Give them some clearance around water spigots, coolers, and 48 ounce Styrofoam cups of sweet tea. The housing is designed to draw moisture away from the cells, but once the damage is done, it’s done.
Keep them out of the rain.
Sometimes you have to work in the rain. Just keep your spare batteries out of it. Keep them in your toolbox or under protective cover.
Our last Lithium-ion battery maintenance tip has to do with over-discharging. We have the most control over our charging habits. While charge and discharge create heat, there is also an optimum state for batteries to be in for both use and storage.
Charge your batteries when you drop from two bars to one.
Charge your batteries before they completely run down to nothing. Even though you may still have 15%–25% remaining when you hit one bar, you’ll significantly extend the lifespan of it by swapping it out sooner.
You also want to beware fo continuously running tools once they indicate the battery needs charging. Most drills will sit for a spell and then give you one more go. Resist the urge to use them in this way. Most modern battery packs have built-in protection against over-discharging. Still, you don’t want to push things by continuously pulling that trigger when the pack has told you to put it on the charger.
Store your batteries at half charge.
There’s a reason that manufacturers ship battier at a half-charged state: it’s their happy place. The battery chemistry is the most stable at half charge. Incidentally, they tend to perform at their highest potential at half charge as well. If you know you’re storing your batteries for more than a couple of days, go ahead and get them to a half-charged state. Even when you’re just storing them for the night or weekend, keep them at a partial charge when you’re done for the day. It’s perfectly okay to partially charge them to bring them up to half charge without limiting the life of the battery.
Take a break.
This doesn’t only let the temperature come down, it allows the chemistry to stabilize. By allowing both to happen, you’ll increase the run time on a single charge.