Introduction and Backstory**:

Introduced in 1993, the Rayovac corporation marketed and sold a rechargeable battery system dubbed "Renewal". It was unique because it used a rechargeable alkaline battery which is very similar to a regular "disposable" battery and it promised to fill the gaps that the nature of "normal" rechargeable batteries left. They had a several year shelf life compared to at best a few months, fully charged they offered the same 1.5 volt power as normal alkaline compared to the 1.2 volts of Ni-Cd or Ni-MH batteries and of course were much environmentally friendly because they were basically alkaline batteries that could be recharged, no heavy metals or toxic materials requiring special disposal.

However, you had to buy a special "smart" charging unit AND fairly expensive special batteries that only lasted 20-50 charging cycles as the capacity dropped rapidly with each charge. Add in that those special batteries were notorious for leaking which often ruined both the chargers and the devices they were used in. Needless to say, the entire system was not well received met with discontinuation around 2000(?).

Still many thousands of chargers and batteries were sold in the USA. I happened to be one of those that bought both the chargers and the batteries and used them for a very long time.

Finally, however, I just retired my very last Renewal battery a few days ago. This left me with not one, but 4 Renewal branded chargers that were now utterly useless due to the lack of rechargeable Alkalines and the fact the early model chargers I owned could not be used to charge regular Ni-CD or NiMH batteries! (Yes, I do know they are still KINDA available under different names, but they suck, just like back then)

What to do? What to do...

**To get to the good stuff where the magic happens and avoid all this long winded nerdy cruft, skip ahead to step 2!

Step 1: Information, information, information...

To think of a solution, first you need to find a problem!
Now, due to the limitations of regular rechargeables, I still use disposable alkaline batteries in a few places in my house in devices like flashlights, my wireless keyboard, remotes, clocks and a "emergency" back ups for when a rechargeable died and I didn't want to wait for them.

As you can see, most of those devices have a fairly low to extremely low battery "turn over" rate and hence my "stock" of alkaline batteries is very small and I often have none or run out when I need some fresh ones.

Problematic no? Yes! Not to mention expensive and hard on the environment!

Well I have long known about these special chargers for regular alkaline batteries that could "top off" a normal, non-rechargeable battery and give you some more use from an otherwise "dead" disposable battery. The problem was I didn't want to buy yet ANOTHER charger to go with the stack I already have for Renewals, just NiCad's, just NiMH's and of course NiCd AND NiMH's...

No joke, I have 11 battery chargers in my house. So, another one was NOT welcome.

Still, I was curious about the concept and spent some time poking through the internet for tidbits on the interesting idea of doing something that was not supposed to be possible, or even attempted according to the warnings on disposable batteries...

There is surprisingly little solid information about the whole concept, but I mostly found that it could be done and done fairly safely if you followed some basic rules, used a custom built charger and baby sat it... Oh goody! I won't need to buy another charger, I LOVE building electronics AND I can use one of these old useless renewal chargers for parts! Whee!

Wait... I'm going to build a charger to recharge alkalines... I HAVE a charger designed to charge rechargeable ALKALINES... What the heck is the difference?

Turns out, not that much.

About half an hour of research on Google, Rayovac.com and Wikipedia, left my lazy side grinning like an idiot. Between rechargeable alkalines and disposable alkalines, there were minor differences in chemistry so the rechargeable variation would take a charge better and repeatedly, along with better leak protection... In short WHAT difference?

I grabbed my tools and I found, to my delight, that the Renewal charger uses a low average current (~20-40ma) provided by 2 volt pulse at a 50% duty cycle... According to the information I've found that's practically PERFECT for charging a regular alkaline! It's even got a "full charge" cut off at 1.7 volts, a bit high, but I wouldn't even need to baby sit it when it was charging! Besides, if a battery blew up, no big deal, I had 3 more and the charger was useless anyhow!

I could Reduce, Reuse AND Recycle all at once! At this point I was happy enough to start crapping electrons.

Figuring I should be able to stuff a regular alkaline right into a Renewal charger and be good to go, I grabbed a near death battery from my remote control and popped it in to witness the astonishing act of... nothing.

Back to my tools and a closer examination. Turns out the battery wasn't making a connection because Rayovac designed a safety system so people couldn't do exactly what I was trying. (ref: http://www.rayovac.com/technical/wp_batoptions.htm -Near the bottom above Fig. 6 after lots of marketing propaganda and useless fluff)

Now, if there is one thing I have learned in life (often after regaining consciousness) the best part about safeties, is finding ways to get around them ;)

Lets get crackin'!

It is generally not a good idea to recharge regular alkaline batteries.   The reason being is they produce a lot of gas, and thus frequently end up rupturing the seals.  The seal may not fail until days later - after the battery you thought was good and you put it into a device... goes pop! and now you have a mess to clean up.
Actually, the gas (hydrogen) is re-absorbed into the electrolyte after the battery has been resting for some time, this relieves the pressure you are referring to. This is also why the voltage tends to drop off after it's been sitting idle for an hour or 5 if you're bringing the battery back from &quot;the brink&quot; or a very low discharge state.<br /> <br /> So, your warning is sound, but you really don't need to worry about the battery &quot;bursting&quot; the seal days later. If the cell leaks when not charging it's usually not due to any internal pressure, it's because the seal had degraded and failed from either age, poor manufacturing or the stress of being re-charged from a very dead state.<br /> <br /> I&nbsp;will be updating my guide in very short order in order to reflect new information I have now that I have been recharging and using recharged alkalines for more than a month.<br /> <br /> Thanks for you comment!<br />
For a battery that has zero provisions to be recharged, I find it very difficult to believe that gassing would be re-absorbed. <br> <br>Rechargeable types such as NiCad and NiMh have mechanisms to insure only oxygen is produced, saving hydrogen for only more severe overcharges, of which one or more mechanisms is used to recombine gas. For non-rechargeable alkaline cells, the gas will be oxygen and hydrogen as it is splitting the water in the electrolyte. It is true, however that gas production in Alkaline cells is reduced (not recombined) to some point by the major manufacturers during normal discharge, but once the first discharge takes place, the cell is no longer as stable. One way is said to reduce gassing during charge is to hit the cell with some current pulse, then back off for a rest, etc. <br> <br>Since the water is consumed in the discharge process, the cell gets drier and drier the more it is reused. This is one process of leading to ever increasing internal resistance. The recharged cell will retain the increased internal resistance of the former discharged. So yes, there is less water available for splitting, ie. gassing, but the drier cell has elevated internal resistance thereby reducing its usefulness. <br> <br>The zinc does not like to replate evenly, rather it is unstable and likes to form dendrites, which results in the voltage spiking up, and going down quickly when the cells are reused, which results in low capacity. <br> <br>There can be a triggering of sudden corrosion of the zinc by destabilizing the cell by recharging it, adding to the &ldquo;popping days later&rdquo; leakage as the gas bubble then grows bigger. <br> <br>These sorts of things are tightly controlled in NiCad and NiMh since not only are they rechargeable in theory, but by design they have mechanisms and stabilizers to ensure the metals replate were it belongs, and how and when gas is evolved, etc. <br> <br>NiCad and NiMh have a few more things going for them. The water isn&rsquo;t readily consumed, so the electrolyte can be made drier. The seal is much stronger to withstand repeated charging. Even if the seal fails, or is forced open by a severe overcharge, the resulting leak will be much &ldquo;drier&rdquo; or slower growing white crystaly &ldquo;crud&rdquo; vs. the sudden wet spewage you get from alkalines. So in a sense, leaks are much rarer and you have a lot more time catch it before the equipment in which the cells are installed is damaged. <br> <br>So! In all reality, it isn&rsquo;t as easy as snapping any old battery into a charger and assuming that everything will go back to where it came from. Making batteries rechargeable isn&rsquo;t as easy as one might think. <br> <br>I have to give Rayovac credit, they took steps to make a semi-rechargeable Alkaline, but as using them yourself, you saw that even a &quot;rechargeable&quot; alkaline cell isn't the most rechargeable thing out there. In this day in age we have very nice low self discharge NiMh technology commonly available, I wonder why people continue to mess with recharging alkaline cells?
I have a renewal power station that I do not use.&nbsp;&nbsp;If I make these adjustments can I charge any rechargeble battery????
The PS1 (shown in this instructable) and the PS2 models can ONLY charge Rechargable Alkalines and, after the modifications, regular alkaline batteries. It WILL charge a NiCD or NiMH rechargeable but it will ALSO destroy it 100% of the time! So please don't do it!<br /> <br /> The only Renewal Power Station that will allow you to charge any battery (with no modifications at that!) is the PS3 model. <br /> <br /> Flip them over, the model number is printed in a very large font on the back of all Renewal power stations. If it's a PS3, you're good to go with ANY battery, no modifications needed. If you have the PS1 or PS2, do NOT charge regular rechargeable batteries in them, it will burn them up.<br /> <br /> *edit* deleted last comment and updated to correct a bad typo!<br />
.&nbsp; I just dug my old Rayovac battery charger (I tried the rechargeable alkalines and was not pleased with them) out of a cabinet and it's a PS3! I didn't realize it would work with other batteries, but the &quot;label&quot; on the back does say it will handle rechargeable alkalines, NiCds, and NiMHs.<br /> .&nbsp; Thanks for pointing out that it will work with other batteries. I now have another battery charger.<br />

About This Instructable


7 favorites


Bio: I'll fill this out later...
More by MrMacman2u: Renew and Reuse your Renewal brand charger!
Add instructable to: