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Do Batteries Really Last Longer if They Are Stored in the Refrigerator?

Batteries typically last longer when stored in a refrigerator.
A dry cell battery.
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  • Originally Written By: Michael Pollick
  • Revised By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 18 October 2014
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Some household batteries may last slightly longer if stored in the refrigerator or freezer. Even when not being used, the internal components slowly corrode over time, and cool temperatures can slow down this process. The type of battery and how it is stored will greatly affect whether refrigeration is an efficient means of extending its shelf life, however. Rechargeable varieties get more benefit from the cooler temperatures than alkalines do. All types of batteries must be protected from moisture in the refrigerator, so they should be kept in a sealed container.

Refrigerating Alkaline Models

Since most manufacturers recommend storing batteries in a cool, dry location to last as long as possible, it may seem logical to keep alkaline models in the refrigerator. Most refrigerators maintain an average temperature of 40° Fahrenheit (approximately 4° Celsius) or lower, and the atmosphere inside is very low in humidity. This seems like an ideal storage environment, as the lower temperature reduces the power drain on the electrolyte fluid inside the battery, which acts as a medium for the flow of the electrical current. According to the results of several tests, storage at very cold temperatures will increase the shelf life, but only by a small amount. Alkaline models stored in a refrigerator can retain 93% of their power after five years, compared to 90% for non-refrigerated models stored in other cool, dry areas.

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The downsides of refrigeration for alkaline varieties may outweigh the minor extension in their shelf life. Although a refrigerator has low humidity, batteries that are not sealed in an air-tight container may be subject to contact with moisture from other items in the refrigerator, which can destroy the electrical circuit. Extremely cold temperatures can also corrode the contact points on either end of the battery, rendering them unusable. One of the biggest downsides is that the batteries must be returned to room temperature before they can be used, so they cannot simply be taken out of cold storage and put immediately into electronics.

Refrigerating Rechargeable Models

Rechargeable varieties, such as nickel-metal hydride (NiMh), can benefit greatly from cold storage when cared for properly. While rechargeable models offer many advantages over alkaline varieties, they suffer from a fairly short charge life, and may need to be charged every few days when stored at room temperature. Carefully stored in the refrigerator, a rechargeable battery can hold at a 90% charge for months at a time.

For best results, rechargeable batteries need to be kept in a sealed freezer bag inside an airtight container to reduce the risk of moisture damage or condensation. Any moisture can cause corrosion inside of the battery, making it unusable. Like alkaline models, rechargeables will need to be thawed before they can be used.

Other Ways to Extend Shelf Life

People who are concerned about getting the most use out of their batteries should consider investing in rechargeable models, which can be used dozens of times without replacing. This not only cuts down on the cost of supplies over time, but is also more environmentally friendly. Recharging the batteries before they are completely depleted can also extend their lifespan, as draining a battery fully usually causes it to wear down more quickly.

It is also best to use the right type of battery for specific electronics. Some devices, such as digital cameras, use up a lot of power quickly, and eat up regular alkaline varieties in just a few hours. Some batteries are built to withstand the increased power needs of high-drain electronics, so they should be used to reduce costs.

Batteries should be removed from electronic devices when they are not in use to extend their life. Most electronics draw small amounts of power even when they are turned off, sometimes called "vampire power" or "phantom load." These electronics will drain batteries over time. For rarely used devices, removing the batteries can cut down on energy costs.

Rather than worrying too much about refrigeration, most users get more benefit from finding a cool location with low humidity to store their batteries. While cold storage may extend the shelf life slightly, exposure to heat and humidity will cause a much more rapid decline. Some experts recommend avoiding storing batteries in the kitchen, since using the stove can cause frequent and rapid temperature jumps. Cool closets that do not receive much light are often excellent storage locations.

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Discuss this Article

anon322795
Post 26

Do not put your batteries in the microwave, even for a couple of seconds, unless you want to see sparks fly and potentially light the inside of your microwave on fire.

Also, storage life increases as temperature decreases, available current decreases as temperature decreases. This is common sense, apparently what you have is something else.

anon243035
Post 24

I like to store my batteries in the fridge in a box. That way I always know where they are. Also, any type of heat is the enemy of expensive Lithium Ion batteries so with those the fridge is the place to be.

anon159026
Post 23

Storing batteries in the cold kills them. Wow. I know this because my car stereo runs well in summer and horribly in the winter.

I thought it was common sense but apparently I'm wrong. Just wow. Hahaha.

And I guess microwaving batteries to charge them is disproved. I still say microwave a dead battery for 2-3 seconds to see if it gives it more life. test before and after. I don't see what it would hurt. any longer than that though you risk blowing the battery up.

Marek Skopinski
Post 22

najan1, yes. You just buy one of those almond-sized light globes and hook the batteries up to the globe, one by one to check them. And you just use two thin wires to connect the battery to the light.

anon118839
Post 21

this is so awesome! I need this information to do my project, and my hypothesis is right after all!

anon114195
Post 20

Wow. I love these kinds of comments where nobody agrees on something as well understood as the flow of charge (current). Conventional charge flow as 'actual current flow' was proposed as by Ben Franklin.

It was a 'guess' and he guessed wrong, and now generations of lay-people continue to misinterpret this fact. As it turns out, you can work almost all electrical engineering problems using either electron flow or conventional flow with the same results; electron flow is reality while conventional flow is just a good tool.

Lots of issues with this article. From the supposed ‘liquid’ [paste] in an alkaline battery, the flow of electrons [charge], to hot and humid [room temperature and humidity] kitchen drawers, just made me cry.

On the upside, the article is correct in that storing a battery in the refrigerator [35-40F] is not does not make much difference, and I guess that why people came to this site in the first place. To really extend the battery life, you need to slow down or stop molecular motion by driving the temperature down to absolute zero (-273.15C), not to refrigerator-freezer zero (0.00C). CTHP

love1
Post 18

I keep my batteries in a bowl and was told that they will die faster if they are touching ends to ends. is this true? Thanks.

anon92722
Post 17

Alkaline batteries stored at "room temperature" self discharge at a rate of less than two percent per year. So normally refrigerating or freezing them will only help maintain their charge by a tiny amount. Hardly worth the effort of chilling them.

However, if alkaline batteries are stored at higher temperatures they will start to lose capacity much quicker. At 85 degrees F they only lose about 5 percent per year, but at 100 degrees they lose 25 percent per year.

So if you live in a very hot climate or are storing your batteries in a very hot location, it may be worthwhile for you to store your alkaline batteries in a refrigerator instead.

NiMH and NiCd batteries self discharge at a much faster rate than alkaline batteries. In fact, at "room temperature" (about 70 degrees F) NiMH and NiCD batteries will self discharge a few percent per day. Storing them at lower temperatures will slow their self discharge rate dramatically. NiMH batteries stored at freezing will retain over 90 percent of their charge for a full month. So it might make sense to store them in a freezer. If you do, it's best to bring them back to room temperature before using them.

Even if you don't freeze your NiMH batteries after charging them, you should store them in a cool place to minimize their self discharge.

anon63893
Post 14

@anon63162: *You* are wrong about flow of electricity.

The electron flow in a circuit do indeed flow from the negative terminal to the positive terminal.

However, conventional current is defined as the flow of imaginary positive charges from the positive terminal to the negative terminal. This was standardized before the actual charge carriers were discovered to be electrons, so all electrical laws assume conventional current (+ved charges from + to -).

anon63162
Post 13

You are wrong about the flow of electricity.

Electrons are negatively charged so they from the negative pole of a battery to the positive when a circuit is closed.

anon56266
Post 12

The article mentions "kitchen drawers" as hot and humid storage locations -- not ideal. In reality, what is not ideal, and can happen in the refrigerator as well, is storing your batteries in a jumbled mess. When the negative and positive ends of neighboring batteries touch. Batteries need to be stored alongside each other, all facing in the same direction, not touching end to end.

anon54469
Post 10

Anon is wrong. The condensation would not come from the fridge. The water vapor that condenses would be from the outside air when the battery is taken out of the fridge. Water vapor will normally only condense onto another surface when the temperature of that surface is cooler than the temperature of the water vapor.

anon45164
Post 9

about the condensation problem: if the fridge is dry it shouldn't have any problem with getting wet, thus no condensation. :P

anon36483
Post 8

In a hot & humid area, such as the southern USA, the only cool and dry place for storage is the fridge!

anon34944
Post 7

If refrigerator temperature is typically at 10C, and the recommended operating range of alkaline batteries is between -18C and 55C, then why does the article say "they could not be taken straight from a refrigerator and placed directly into a flashlight or radio during an emergency"? The performance may be slightly affected, but they can be used immediately during an emergency. If the batteries were stored in the freezer instead, then they couldn't be used immediately.

habura
Post 6

najan1 - One way to check whether a battery still has life in it, is to buy a new pack of batteries -- a new pack that has a power checker in the packaging itself. Put the questionable battery between the two ends of that strip and you should be able to find out if that battery has any more juice in it.

anon30997
Post 5

Only one inaccuracy detected in the article. It says electrons flow out of the positive terminal and into the negative. He is describing the direction of flow of "conventional current" but in fact the electrons, being a negatively charged particle, flow from the negative terminal into the positive.

Moderator's reply: Check out the third post (by habura) post below.

najan1
Post 4

Is there a way to check if a disposable battery is still good? My son got the used batteries mixed up with the new ones.

habura
Post 3

Anon10974 - You raise an interesting issue. The electrical current actually flows in the opposite direction than the electrons are flowing. But, it doesn't have a practical meaning; it is just a concept. In fact, there is a dispute about which direction the current goes, and which direction the electrons go. It's the dispute between "conventional flow notation" (what the scientific community and this article uses) and "electron flow notation" (what follows the actual motion of electrons). You can Google these theories for more info about their differences and how they arose.

anon10974
Post 2

Thanks for the information. However, electrons are negatively charged, and flow from the negative pole to the positive.

anon10447
Post 1

This is definitely one of the most common myths regarding preserving battery life and it really isn't necessary to prolong the life of batteries. Energizer has a good guide on battery care called Battery Care 101 that gives you a good overview on how to best care for your batteries.

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