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Lithium Batteries Best Choice For Emergency Applications

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Lithium batteries may be considered a best choice for the most common type of consumer battery (AA-size) (and other sizes!) when used in emergency applications. That is, in a electronic device whereby you need the assurance that it will function at its full potential under harsh conditions and perhaps after having not been used for a very long time.

Here is a list of reasons why lithium batteries are the best:


 
Lithium batteries are becoming much more common and are now readily available as a replacement for the common alkaline-AA battery. While ‘NiMH’ Rechargeable Batteries are great and definitely have their advantages (they’re rechargeable!) (and for these reasons), there are certain applications and reasons why you might want to consider the lithium battery…

For example, lets say that you keep an emergency flashlight (e.g. the 300 lumen Fenix LD22) (reviewed here) in your vehicle for ’emergencies’. You definitely want to be sure that this flashlight will operate at its full potential if you ever need it. So, which ‘AA’ battery is the best for this? In my opinion, it’s the lithium battery.

Similarly for other important electronic devices that may take ‘AA’ batteries such as an emergency radio, handheld 2-way radios, a weather alert radio, portable GPS, smoke detectors, etc.., a best battery might be the lithium.

Here are the major reasons why lithium batteries may be considered the best:

 

High Power Density

Lithium batteries have more than three times the energy density of alkaline batteries (4.32 versus 1.3 MJ/L)! In fact the next most energy dense ‘chemical’ is Hydrogen at 5.6 MJ/L, so as you can see, these batteries pack quite a punch…

What does this mean? It means that the lithium battery will last significantly longer than a similarly sized alkaline battery. For example, ‘Energizer®’ claims for their ‘AA’ lithium battery: “World’s longest-lasting AA battery in high-tech devices lasts 6x longer than the other leading brand in digital cameras.”

For some applications this might not be exceedingly important, however for certain emergency or other uses this is most definitely an important consideration.

Energizer® Ultimate Lithium AA Batteries (8-Pack)

 

Low Self Discharge

All batteries will slowly discharge over time. Some faster than others.

Often, a so called ’emergency’ device may not be in use for a long time. But if and when it comes time to use it, you surely want to be sure that it works and the batteries have not discharged and become weak over time…

 

Cold Weather Performance

A major reason why lithium batteries are best for some applications is due to their resilience in cold weather climates. Other batteries will diminish (some significantly!) when they get cold, but the lithium will hold up very, very well in cold weather.

From the Energizer® website, their ‘AA’ lithium battery “performs in extreme temperatures from -40°F to 140°F “.

For example I use ‘AA’ lithium batteries in my driveway alarm transmitter (winter gets very cold up here in north-country). They have been working great! I also use them in my flashlight for the truck.

 

Long Shelf Life

Because of the inherent low self-discharge properties, the shelf life of a lithium battery is outstanding. Lithium batteries can ‘sit on the shelf’ for a very long time and still maintain most of their energy. Again from ‘Energizer®’, they claim that they will “hold power for 20 years when not in use.”

 

Light Weight

Weighs 1/3 less than standard alkaline batteries. This may or not be important to you (depends on application), however it is notable.

 

Leak Proof

Energizer® claims “No leaks Guaranteed” for their Energizer® Ultimate Lithium Batteries. A leaking battery will damage your electronic device, and traditional alkaline batteries tend to leak/corrode at the battery terminals over a long time of non-use.

 
CONCLUSION
The price of lithium batteries have come down significantly and I have been incorporating them into my electronic devices where applicable. I still keep a supply of NiMH rechargeable batteries for many things, however the lithium’s are great for other applications as listed above.

 
Energizer® Ultimate Lithium AA Batteries (8-Pack)

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21 Comments

  1. Do they need a special charger or will the chargers we have for NiMH
    Batteries also work?

      1. As Ken mentioned, lithium primary cells are not rechargeable, but have a long shelf life and higher energy density than even alkaline.

        The rechargeable lithium cells that power our laptops, mobile devices and newer power tools are always part of a system that prevents over-discharge, overcharge, and overcurrent, any of which can damage the cells (or worse). Further, the system will include battery management circuitry to keep the cells “balanced” (equal voltages across each cell) when charging. As long as the cells are operated within the system, they are safe and provide remarkable power. In the DeWalt 20v tools, the low voltage cutout is built into the tool, and the balancing circuitry is built into the charger. This system approach is why you cannot just buy a rechargeable lithium battery at Wal-Mart. Some rechargeable lithium cells contain flammable solvents and if severely abused, can catch fire or explode (engineers call this “rapid disassembly”). If the engineers get the system wrong, or the cells are not produced to spec, you get problems like the Samsung Galaxy note7.

    1. Livin’,
      Ken is talking about the Lithium batteries. Lithium batteries are NOT rechargeable. I have been recharging AA batteries for years and I believe that is the way to go if you want to 1. save money and 2. have “charged” batteries always available in your home, car, truck, office, airplane, work shop and so forth. I have had good success with the Energizer rechargeable AA batteries. I use Duracell Alkaline D cell batteries in all of my Maglite flashlights…both 2 and 3 cell Maglites. They also make for an excellent defensive weapon if needed in an emergency.

      I also recommend keeping a stash of batteries in your home and storm cellar and keep them recycled. It’s not hard at all when you get in the habit of recycling.

      1. Ironically about an hour before I read the article, I had to recharge some batteries for my portable radio. I agree about the cost savings with rechargeable batteries. We have at least 10 AA and 10 AAA
        NiMH rechargeables.
        The reason I asked about the charger is because I have ryobi tools with lithium batteries, and the charger will charge both older batteries and the new lithium ones.

  2. I’ve kept standard AA batteries in the freezer for years without a problem. They don’t FUNCTION as well at those temps, but once thawed they seem to work fine. Heat seems to be more of an issue than cold.

  3. Thanks for the article Ken, but you sold me on ENELOOP’s from the previous article, and after buying stock in the company….. HAHAHAHA

    I do like the ENELOOP and have recharged with absolutely no problems. Add to that, they are claiming 2100 recharges…… Just call me a cheap old Fart… :-)

    NRP

    1. ENELOOP batteries are all that I use for my rechargeable ‘consumer’ type battery needs.

      I believe that there is a place for both rechargeable NiMH batteries (e.g. ENELOOP) and for Lithium batteries (for their high power density and cold weather longevity attributes).

      For ‘Mission Critical’, I feel better with Lithium batteries inside.

      1. I use the AGM, (Absorbed Glass Mat) batteries for my truck, motor home, and solar batteries.
        Most of the solar work I do, I use only AGM. Just because of the, exceptional performance, higher number of recharge cycles, ability to survive abuse, low discharge levels and being virtually maintence free. Just can’t be beat, but you get what you pay for.

        1. I too use AGM batteries for my solar powered battery bank. They do cost more, however they perform quite well in a ‘room temperature’ environment (the battery bank is inside as opposed to an outside vented enclosure which is necessary for lead-acid batteries). So far, so good…

  4. I use the Eneloop rechargeable batteries and have both an electric and solar recharger. The solar one is kept in a sealed mylar bag inside a five gallon mylar bag with other electronics which is inside a metal can sealed with aluminum tape.

    Next summer I hope to install a small solar system. I have four panels of 258 watts each. Should I go with the massive expense of the Tesla lithium wall mount battery, I would need a different controller than what is commonly sold. The inverter is part of the battery.

    I agree with Ken that the lithium batteries have their place, and I will be taking his advice and buying some. Night vision monoculars use a lot of energy, and, because they are used during the coldest hours, the lithium batteries will be needed during winter months. The same is true for motion sensor lights.

    As always, Ken, a great topic.

    1. Plain old Lead acid batteries will last 15 years plus if properly maintained.
      Sealed gel batteries half that life – if your lucky.
      The disadvantage of lead acid is that you need to keep them ventilated

      I would hold off on Tesla power walls – the Chinese will come out with s similar or better product for half the cost.

  5. Thanks for the info! I have been using the rechargeable batteries for everything, and have noticed considerable drain from sitting without use. I will get some lithium batteries for those rarely used items, like the headlamp in the glovebox.

  6. Useing lead L16s in ranch night power sys. Last a good 7 to 10yrs. Think most cost-effective ,have looked at lithium don’t like over heat /fire problems ,the ranch has no fire protection other than what we do our self, but you have my attention tell me more ?

  7. @Ken. Another great article. I understand your recommendation of “lithium ” batteries due to their extended shelf life and reliability. Especially for ” mission critical” applications.

    Can you clarify if “LITHIUM ” batteries are rechargeable, or if there are different types that are/are not rechargeable?

    I checked amazon, they have AA lithium rechargeable batteries and chargers available. I called the golf cart dealer that I bought the trojan batteries for my solar system. They said they have lithium replacement plug and play batteries available. Checked my cell phone, walkie talkies, newer cordless tools (3 different brands) and my cheapo tablet that I am using now. All lithium batteries. Also checked the Tesla website. Tesla PowerWall. Lithium battery.

    Don’t know if I missed something or possibly miss understood that lithium batteries are not rechargeable.?

    1. Yes, there are lithium batteries that are rechargeable. However in the form-factor of the ‘AA’ size battery, I am not aware of a lithium rechargeable battery (at least one that is ‘safe’).

      Most all laptop batteries are lithium rechargeable, many hand-held tools have lithium rechargeable batteries, and all sorts of other things. HOWEVER, these specific batteries have their own form-factor (shape/size) unique to their own charger characteristics so as to charge correctly and safely.

      In the article above, I am referring to the ‘AA’ size battery and the Energizer Lithium (non-rechargeable) battery which has the same form-factor as any other ‘AA’ battery.

  8. I use the rechargeable Panasonic batteries for day to day use.
    And have the lithium along for back up.
    Also keep some of lithium in our various bags, and try to stay with the (AA) size.

  9. After having far to many alkaline batteries leak in devices in my car, I only use lithium batteries for emergency gear.

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