Author Topic: Batteries and Chargers  (Read 4008 times)

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Offline david57strat

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Batteries and Chargers
« on: April 22, 2015, 11:07:19 PM »
It seems, most everyone's preferences and needs are different than everyone else's - which is why there are a plethora of battery chemistries from which to choose. This can be a little confusing, to the battery novice. Hopefully, some of what I've written below will clarify some of it for you. Definitely feel free to ask any and all questions. I sure did - and still do.

Here's my take on batteries, as they relate mainly to flashlights:

Some people need a battery they can install in a light, and never think about. They may not use the light for a year (or five); but when they do, they need it to work, without fail - sometimes in extreme weather (the cold, for instance). When they use the light, it may only be for a few minutes at a time. For people like these, I recommend lithium (primary) batteries. They have an extremely long shelf life, they're more prone to function properly in really cold weather (where other batteries can't seem to perform), and they do not leak (Alkalines will almost invariably leak, given enough time. They're also relatively inexpensive (just a bit more than alkalines, which are actually very cheap - for a reason lol).

Others are environmentally conscious and don't want to be constantly buying batteries, that will, more than likely, end up in a landfill - not to mention, the unceasing expense of replacing batteries all the time. It gets really expensive. There are numerous rechargeable options, in varying price ranges.

Or, maybe those same people above want to actually enjoy the use of their lights without experiencing what is sometimes referred to to as "guilty lumens". Who wants to throw boatloads of money into a battery they have to replace every week? Maybe not a big deal, if you only have a few lights; but when you have dozens, the potential cost really starts to multiply dramatically.

Some people are light fanatics, and use their lights very heavily, and they want (or need) a battery that can handle repeated heavy use (and a higher amperage load), without the battery, sagging. Sagging is when a battery's amperage drops, during heavy use, because the battery wasn't really designed to get used heavily, in a high performance piece of equipment (like a high end flashlight). It can't keep up with the load, so performance suffers.

In many instances, this is when alkaline batteries are most likely to leak. For example, Joe Schmoe puts four D alkaline batteries in his trusty old Maglite, and years pass, without the light ever being used. One day, he's in need of some emergency lighting, so he goes to grab his trusty Maglite, and what do you know? The son of a bi*** doesn't work! He opens up the light, only to find that the batteries have completed corroded inside the light, and he can't even get the batteries out of the light, to save his life.

At this point, he has several choices:

He can scratch his head, and swear up and down "I know those batteries were dated out to (whatever date), and it's way before then. Why did my batteries take a dump?

He can choose to buy lithium batteries (assuming they're even made in the size he needs), which may seem somewhat expensive on the outset, but actually save him a lot of money, and a lot of grief, because those batteries will work five years down the road, and leakage is not an issue.

He can switch chemistries, altogether (Maybe a NiMh - nickel metal hydride equivalent), save a ton of money, and periodically charge the batteries, so they're at their best possible shape, when needed.

He can throw away the light/batteries (which, at this point, have become nothing more than an over sized paperweight) and get something more efficient, that uses higher performance batteries - batteries which won't give him this kind of grief, ever again.

Way too many possibilities to fully list, here - but you get the picture.

I keep all my lights and all my batteries (almost all of which are rechargeable of one form, or another) on a very elaborate spreadsheet (in Excel), and track when I charge my batteries, so I'm never surprised to find a light, not working. It's part of the flashlight OCD lol. It's a game. That's why I have so many chargers, which helps me play the game faster :-). I can charge 26 18650 batteries at a time, thanks to the addition of two new XTAR VC4 chargers.



The latest charger line-up.  I'm not really using the iv V2 chargers as much as I used to; but they still work beautifully.

 

I have 65 lights, currently (soon to be 100....probably by year-end, at the rate I'm going :D.

Of those 65 lights:

    8 are running on 14500 batteries. 14500 batteries are lithium ion batteries that look almost exactly like AA batteries, but have nearly three times the voltage. Some compact lights function well with this type of battery. Many do not. Advantages (assuming the light can take the extra voltage) - sometimes longer run times, higher output. Disadvantages: excessive heat - running a light at three times the voltage will more than likely, make the light heat up a lot more quickly than one might imagine. Be careful running 14500 batteries in AA flashlights. Many are not designed to withstand the additional voltage, and even if you are able to use them successfully, you'll void the warranty. Manufacturers of nicer lights (such as Fenix, Olight, Foursevens, etc.) very clearly state what kind of voltage ranges can be used safely in their lights.

    2 are running on 16340 batteries. 16340 batteries are the lithium ion CR123 batteries. They come hot off the charger at 4.2 volts each. Some lights work very well with them; others, not at all. This is my least favorite lithium ion battery, because they don't offer the same performance/run times that 18650 batteries do. Many lights will accommodate 2 CR123s, and sometimes 2 RCR123s (16340s), or a 18650. Be very careful if you're attempting to use two RCR123s in a light. Some lights cannot handle the additional voltage. 2 CR123s add up to 6 volts. 2 RCR123s (16340) add up to 8.4 volts, hot off the charger. Just cause they fit your light doesn't mean they're safe to use, in your light. When in doubt, read your flashlight manual, or ask the manufacturer what type of battery they recommend for your light.

    2 are running on a single 17650 battery. The 17650 battery is a little bit skinnier than the 18650 battery, but is the same length. Disadvantage - lower Amperage. Mine are rated at 1500 mAh, while the 18650 are all over the board, between 2200 mAh and 3400 mAh. That's a lot more juice, which equates to much longer run times.

    34 of my lights are running on 18650 batteries :-) :D :P. This is, by far, my favorite type of battery to use in a high performance flashlight. Longer run times, higher amperage capacities, excellent performance, and very economical, over time. These can be charged hundreds of times (as is the case with most lithium ion batteries).

    1 light (A Foursevens Maelstrom X10) is using a 26650 battery. This is the highest capacity battery I own.

    10 lights are using AA batteries (mostly Eneloops, or the Duracell equivalent). These are extremely inexpensive, very stable (low-maintenance, and easy to find in a lot of stores. The lower voltage (1.2 volts) is sometimes not too friendly in some flashlights. Newer, nicer flashlights are designed to accommodate the lower voltage and still maintain constant output even at this lower voltage. Generally speaking, if you want super high output from a battery like this, you're going to have to use a lot of them :|. My Fenix TK41 is amazing, but it needs 8 AA batteries to provide the output it does. It works very well with Duracell LSD (low self discharge) NiMh batteries. LSD batteries maintain their charge for a longer period of time, compared to their original NiMh counterparts (which used to pretty much die after about a month. These newer batteries can maintain most of their voltage even over several months, and often come fully charged and ready use, right out of the package.

    3 lights are running on D alkaline batteries. I HATE alkaline batteries, but haven't gotten around to purchasing the NiMh equivalent D batteries. These are in my Maglites, which I very rarely use. They can't keep up with my other, more modern, far more compact lights. I have to really keep an eye on those batteries, since I don't want another corroding battery fiasco to surprise me, there.

    Lastly, 5 of my lights are running on CR123 LiFePO4 batteries. These are lithium iron phosphate - a slightly different battery chemistry than than lithium ion). These have a slightly lower resting voltage than regular 16340 (RCR123) batteries, and are more flashlight friendly, for those lights that weren't initially designed to run on the higher voltage that the lithium batteries provide. They're not perfect though. Some lights just don't like them (the low modes, for instance, sometimes don't work properly, etc.

Oh....here's how the lithium ion numbering system works:
You see five digits. Here's what they mean. All of the measurements are in millimeters. Let's take the ever popular 18650 battery :D
18 is the diameter of the battery
65 is its length.
0 is the shape of the battery (circular)

Okay - this is a start, anyway. I'll be periodically updating this entry.

If you guys find any mistakes I've made about any of what I've written here, please jump in and give me a holler, and I'll gladly make the necessary corrections.

I'll probably throw in some pictures (at a later time), comparing battery sizes, casings, and describe in greater detail, differences between battery chemistries, including advantages and disadvantages.

If what you've read hasn't made your head spin, and you actually find it intriguing, you're probably a flashaholic, and you're definitely in good company :D

Offline david57strat

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Re: Batteries and Chargers
« Reply #1 on: April 23, 2015, 06:49:18 AM »
My personal favorites, in the 18650 battery realm:


Left to Right:

EagleTac 3100 mAh - protected. These were the very first really good 18650 batteries I ever purchased. I've been using them since July of 2013

Orbtronic 3100 mAh - protected - first purchased in June of 2013

Panasonic 3400 mAh - protected - in use since August of 2013

XTAR 2600 mAh - protected (in use since December of 2014. I don't think you can find a better quality battery for the price. They're about 7 bucks at the XTAR store.

Panasonic NCR18650PF - IMR (unprotected flat top) - in use since March of 2014.

Every one one of these batteries has a Panasonic at the core. Very high build quality, and super dependability.
The NCR18650B in the middle is the highest capacity battery of the bunch. Notice it's also the longest (and fattest) battery of the bunch. Because of the heavier jacket and the greater length, this battery will not fit in all lights, OR chargers. It'll work great in an XTAR VP-2 though smile.png.

The NCR18650PF, is the only IMR of the bunch. Don't be fooled by the lower rating of 2900 mAh, though. This battery will sustain loads of up to 10 Amps! It's a popular battery with vapers, and users of high performance flashlights, where more than one battery is required for the light.

The bad news about IMRs is that:

since they're generally shorter, and often don't have button tops on them, they won't fit (or will fit, but won't work) in all 18650 lights. A lot of lights need the button contacts, in order to work properly (my EagleTac lights, for instance). Also, lights that have reverse polarity protection, tend not to be too friendly towards this battery.

since they don't have protective circuitry, there's nothing to stop the user from over-dishcarging them. If you watch your voltages carefully, this isn't really an issue. If you neglect your batteries, and wait until they don't work any longer, before charging them, that's a problem. IMR batteries don't take well to being regularly over-discharged. Just stick with the protected batteries, and you won't have to think about it.

because of the absence of protective circuitry, if you're using them in a multiple-battery light, running them in series, and one of them is over-discharged (well..uncharged), the other batteries with the bigger charge will work extra hard to compensate for the uncharged battery, and you can get what's called reverse charging. This is very dangerous, and can also cause the battery to overheat significantly, which could cause an explosion, and/or noxious fumes to be released from the light. Not good. I hope I explained this right. If I've missed something, someone please feel free to chime in, and I'll be sure to make the appropriate correction.

If you're a "I just want to install the battery and forget about it" kind of user, don't use IMRs. Just stick with the protected cells, and save yourself the potential grief.



Here's a really good post regarding lithium ion battery safety (Definitely worth the read):
http://www.edcforums.com/threads/li-ion-safety-while-charging-and-using-these-cells.42885/

Offline MRsDNF

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Re: Batteries and Chargers
« Reply #2 on: April 23, 2015, 11:44:55 AM »
You have written a book on your lights. That is dedication.  :)
When the big picture is to big, look for a point you can start at and build from there.

Offline berrypunky

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Re: Batteries and Chargers
« Reply #3 on: April 30, 2015, 05:38:49 AM »

It is all very well me. Read Ee has great knowledge. And can be used in everyday life.

Offline JohnnyMac

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Re: Batteries and Chargers
« Reply #4 on: May 03, 2015, 02:06:07 AM »
Definitely use protected cells if you are new to lights. 

I primarily use IMR cells because a lot of my lights are high output and need the amps an IMR cell provides plus I use them in all of my vaping gear.  To fix the flat top issue I put a dab of flux on the anode end (+) and apply a good drop of solder to create a button.

I prefer IMR because the chemistry is more resistant to venting and not as dangerous if if does vent.  Plus protection circuits usually trip in my lights.  At the first sign of reduced output I pull them and recharge.