Increase Battery Life for Electronics

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Introduction: Increase Battery Life for Electronics

This instructable will tell you how to increase the life of electronics without the need to buy batteries that are expensive and designed to last long.

These are ideas that I am making up as I write this instructable. Please correct me on anything that, well, needs correcting! This is only my second instructable, so I would like any advice on improvements (my first and second instructables were whack and they didn't really even work, cause I didn't test it until after i wrote the instructables, and I abandoned them due to huge flaws). This one will be much better, I hope. Besides, I'm only 13 years old, so I sometimes make very odd creations that never work. :)

Please suggest information for me to add to this Instructable if you believe there is one you think is good. I will select good ones and I will add them to this Instructable.

ADDED:
Using Rechargeables: Several commenters suggested the idea of using rechargeable batteries because usage over time just saves waste and will be cheaper overall to use these over time. So I think rechargeable batteries are the way to go. Read more in the Going Green Section.

JUST A MESSAGE: Wow, I wrote this instructable on August 19th. I was planning on entering it in the Burning questions contest, but I missed the cutoff date by 2 days. After I finished, my computer's power supply failed, so I needed to get a replacement and ordered one. I continued about an hour later with a different computer and when I was going to enter it, I noticed I missed the cutoff date..... For Burning Questions Round 6, there should be one on "How to get good luck", because mine sometimes stinks really badly. Oh well, please take a look at my Instructable and see if anything is here that can help you. I may have missed the contest, but I still had the fun of making an Instructable!!!!!

Step 1: Media Players (like IPod, Zune, and Other) and Pocket PCs (non-cellular)

Well, the first thing to do that can increase battery life for iPods, Zunes, and other ones with the LCD screens like those, is to lower the brightness, when not necessary. For example, you do not need to set the brightness to 100% in a dark room. Lower the brightness so that you can still see the screen without strain. Mine is set to 30%, while they usually ship with 50%.

Another option also has to do with the screen. Set the amount of time that the screen stays on to a shorter time. Personally, I don't think anyone should need to have the backlight stay on for more than 10 seconds after you stop interfacing with it. My iPod is set to 2 seconds.

For the iPod Touch, turn off the WiFi when not in use.

I'm pretty sure the same principles apply to Zunes and other players. I don't have them, so I can't really show anything.

Note: The pictures suck because, well, the iPod Nano's screen is very VERY small.

Step 2: Laptops and Tablets

The iPod section says that turning the screen brightness lower can help improve battery life, and that also apply's here. The only problem is that, you're not really gonna want your computer's screen to turn off in 2 seconds do you? 5 minutes seems good for this purpose. It's a good amount of time for shut-off after inactivity. My computer has a light sensor so it's the simplest method of finding the best brightness. But, if you do not have one, just adjust it so that it is the lowest brightness possible that you can see it without strain.

WiFi can suck up a pretty large amount of power. Bluetooth counts also. Turn off these radios while not in use. Some computers have cellular modems. That also counts for this category. These save a great deal of power for laptops.

Interestingly enough, leaving a disc in your CD/DVD drive may actually decrease battery life. I don't know differences for computers, but if the drive spins up occasionally, it uses up a lot of power. One of my older laptops had drives that spun up every time I accessed My Computer. Better safe than sorry, so take out unused discs when possible.

Run less applications in the background if you are not using them. I notice some applications suck up CPU time even while I don't use them. The more CPU time that is used up, the more power is consumed by the system. NOTICE: Windows Vista has a special power management for the CPU that manages the minimum and maximum power state of a scheme. This determines what the minimum and maximum percent of a CPU stays active in a power scheme.

Defragment your hard drive occasionally to decrease file scatter across your hard drive. It would be easier and it takes less energy to read a book like they already are than if the words were scattered all over the page in no particular order, and you had to move your head around like crazy to make up a sentence. Hard drive fragmentation makes your hard drive need to work like this and it uses more power. I recommend using Auslogics Disk Defrag (free) because personally, I think that the Vista Defrag SUCKS!!!

ADDED:
Set a reasonable standby time so that your computer enters standby after a period of inactivity. Set this longer that other times, say 10 minutes. Standby uses much less power than just turning off the backlight. You can also enter standby manually, so you don't need to wait. It will resume quicker than a cold boot and theoretically saves a bit of power. Be aware that the standby resume can use some power as well. Do not enter standby manually if you plan on using the computer 30 seconds after standby. Shut down your computer fully or hibernate if you are leaving it for more than a few hours.

I will add more information if suggested by commenter or when I get the idea for them.

Step 3: Cell Phones

You probably have a cell phone. Everyone does these days, don't they? Well, if you think you're battery life stinks, use some of these ideas.

Many of today's intricate and cool phones have special features like animated wallpapers and the like. That uses a lot of power. I turned off the wallpaper and I notice a bit of extra time on my phone battery.

The screen backlight time, again is a huge influence. Set it to a lower time, because I highly doubt you can use your cell phone while you are talking on it. The only possibility is that you have a headset, which most of are Bluetooth, which brings up the next section.

Bluetooth can eat a HUGE amount of your battery. Make sure you turn it off if you aren't using a Bluetooth device. You might not even have a device!
Please don't take this the wrong way. Bluetooth by all means is perfectly fine to leave on. It's just a suggestion to save power (when you see the picture, you'll need reassurance :D).

I really don't think there is much that you can do to cell phones, so I'm going to stop here.
Please advise if you have any ideas for me to add.

Step 4: Other Electronic Devices

This section describes a few electronics that do not have many possibilities so a step is not dedicated to these devices.

Point & Shoot Cameras: Well, what's there to do? If you can, lower the screen brightness (although this may not be the best idea because picture shooting may bring light changes). Bring an extra battery if you really need it. Also, some cameras have standby. If you plan on shooting very quickly after a shot, don't turn it off. The lens coming in and out can use a bit of power. Besides, may cameras have a quick standby mode.

SLR and other extreme high quality picture shooting cameras: Power conserving is not a good idea for this because you are trying to go for extreme high quality, and attempts to conserve may result in subpar quality. Any ideas that are good will be added anyway.

Wireless computer mice and keyboards: Just turn them off while not in use, not much more to do. Make sure you remove batteries if you plan on storing the device for a long time. You do not want the battery to corrode your devices.

Other stuff: Make sure you remove batteries from devices before storage in the event that they corrode because you do not want your devices destroyed.

Rechargeable Batteries: It is recommended that you cycle them a few times before first use to prime them. After doing this, they will last a little longer per charge. For NiCd and NiMh batteries, fully cycling them is recommended (use the whole battery before recharging) to prevent memory effect. Li-Ion does not need this procedure.

Step 5: Going Green

If you have any devices that use a lot of power (like cameras) and the batteries are standard types (like AA and AAA), save them when they stop working and reuse them for devices that do not require as much power (TV remotes, wireless mice) so that residual power is not wasted. This power isn't used because since it requires a lot of power each time, at the very end of the battery, there is quite a bit of power left, but not enough for the device to use. That is when you can use them for other devices that do not require as much power, and can make use of that residual power.

After the battery has been drained as much as you can drain it, recycle it. They probably have these collection bins at your community center, as they have them in my library. You don't even have to take them here often. Save them up in a bin and then dump them there when you get the chance. You can find these containers in very odd places.

Addition:
The best option probably is to use rechargeable batteries. Buying these batteries may provide a more expensive up front cost, but after a few recharges and uses, you can save a lot of money. Buying batteries with more mAh will make the electronics last longer. Depending on how much current is drawn, you can calculate how long it lasts.

Rechargeable non-alkaline batteries (such as NiMH {nickel-metal-hydride}) are not only the obvious choice for economical and ecological reasons, but actually are better for your electronics. NiMH batteries hold voltage nearly constant as the battery discharges, then relatively suddenly, loses almost all power, where alkalines just go downhill from the start. As the voltage drops, your (e.g. digital camera)'s electronics have to work harder just to produce the same output, increasing wear and tear, until there is simply not enough power available to perform. Alkaline batteries run out like momentum on flat ground, the non-alkaline rechargeable runs out like a gas tank.

Alkaline rechargeables are a ridiculous attempt by the battery industry to salvage use of their alkaline production and get a hold of the rechargeable market. Don't buy them, because all alkaline batteries work on the chemical destruction of another element, usually copper and zinc.

Buy the REAL rechargeables for the highest Ah or mAh you can find (amp-hours= will last one hour with a load of one amp...2500mAh will last 2.5 hours on a one-amp load, or one hour on a 2.5 amp load....go look it up) and a charger. The money you spend to get started will pay for itself more than 250-fold if the batteries are properly maintained and used.

Would you buy, or even consider buying disposable car batteries? Cell-phone batteries? iPod batteries? No, that'd be ridiculous, because you'd be changing the battery at least twice a week...seems silly when you can just recharge them...so why are you buying disposable batteries for everything else? Convenience? Convenience is not having to go to the store to buy new batteries in the first place, when you can just take the ones from the charger....

You spend $80 a year on disposable batteries every year. I spent $35 for all the equivalent number of rechargable batteries and a charger 5 years ago, and haven't bought nor thrown a battery away since. You do the math.

Consider the batteries you throw away every year, and then multiply that by 7.6 million. Now you see how much money that wastes, and how much landfill that is, I hope.
Credits go to Prometheus for this information. Thanks Again!

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    52 Comments

    Another powersaver is the joule thief, a device that gets the last bits of juice (down to 0.35V) out of a battery to light a LED for weeks from a 'dead' battery. You can even recharge other batteries with it!

     charge dead rechargeable batteries  or they will die completely 

    Alkaline produces 1.5v open circuit when new but has higher internal resistance.  NiMh or NiCad has very low internal resistance.  This means even through your new 1.5v battery when it sees a load will drop to a certain point.  The volt drop goes to heating up the battery itself, and not running the load.  Then Alkaline's open circuit  voltage drops gradually as it is discharged as well.  While NiMh and NiCad stay at 1.2 most of the time, then drop when only less than 1 percent capacity is remaining.

    The capacity of Alkaline varies greatly depending on load.  An ideal very low drain Alkaline has about 3000mah.  At high drain, you might see only 600mah.  The rest of the capacity goes to warming the batteries themselves.   NiMh and NiCad has very low internal resistance, so that you don't see a big capacity variation in typical loads found in normal use.

    Few more things to test out : When reception is restricted (like in concrete buildings) phone may use more power for transmission. Using and keeping it near the window and / or with the antenna pulled out may enhance battery Screen contrast may affect battery Screen backlight color may affect battery (different efficiency of different color LEDs) All whats applicable for notebook computers is applicable here too Most important : Enjoy life not the phone ! Second hand Nokia 5110 owner. Charging once in 1.5 weeks

    9 replies

    you're right about reception... when it's constantly looking for a signal, it's using more power. but the contrast and color of the screen does not affect power usage. the backlight doesn't change color, the screen does. the only way to save energy with the backlight is to simply decrease brightness when you don't need as much. and the screen is not LEDs, it's an LCD. it will use the same amount of juice no matter what color or contrast it is.

    the backlight of the screen is LEDs. there are phones with black and white screen and colored backlight which can be changed in the settings

    the backlight isn't always led's. led backlights in laptops is just starting to emerge. besides, how do you know it isn't a filter? and if it is led's, i bet that the color is from a combination of different colored led's... meaning, even if you chose red (the lowest frequency and therefore the lowest power usage), it wouldn't be simply red... it would be a combination of led's making a red color, because it would be nearly impossible to see the screen with a normal red led. i just don't think it's very likely at all. if this was the case, then the difference in battery life would be enormous by switching to a red screen. most led colors use more than twice as much power as red.

    it'd be the other way then - that blue is the most efficient blue led voltage is higher so it needs less current (smaller resistor) to get the same power the current determines how fast the battery is drained (i saw leds in phones cnnected between resistor and ground each so i assume this is the way they are. if they are PWMed in newer phones then the current thing does not apply) are there any phones with backlight other than leds ? whats used in them ?

    some are long lube ones like in stores

    The backlight is always white. Black and other colors are made with covering the lights

    LEDs have never been widely used in cell phone screens. The screens, being LCDs, generally use fluorescent lamps as backlights. LCD screens with LED backlights are possible and have been done, but they are expensive and very far from being perfected. Also, higher voltage components require a higher current to operate.

    this really isn't the place for this discussion. if you have a colored backlight, try changing the colors and see if it helps. good luck.

    I've never heard that before, but that's an interesting idea, and with 1.5 weeks of battery life, it seems that all this helps. And yes, we'll enjoy life. :)

    Has no one else come across the chargers that can recharge regular disposable alkalines? I have one, and it can be set to charge nicads, NiMhs or disposable alkalines. It works great. You can usually only get 10 or 15 charge cycles out of a disposable alkaline, but for low draw devices its great. If you get 6 months out of the batteries in a remote now you can get 60 months out of the same batteries. Seems like a damn fine idea to me.

    3 replies

    regular ones cant be recharged on the one that say can like pure energy ones i have are alkaline but disposable will explode if  u try cause they are not made to recharge.

    I want one too. What's the name of it?

    i had one but it got lost in a move

     i used seven 9vs and i could almost weld with them

     This is a really good instructable! Good job!

    When our kids were young and had battery toys I sometimes bought a battery holder from Radio Shack. Used AA batteries were often no longer useful when each had gone down to 1 volt. But, I could gang three of them together in series with a battery holder and they would do the work of fresh 2 AA batteries, at least for a while. I might have to make a shunt from a dowel rod with a piece of copper wire to reach around both ends.