Does storing batteries in the freezer actually make them last longer?

1. CHICKEN STOCK

We’re not talking about the stuff at the store that comes in a can or a box. The next time you make a rotisserie chicken (or buy one ready-made), make a quick stock out of the leftover bits. Throw it in your freezer and you’ll have a rich, delicious liquid on hand that will make your soups, pastas, and sauces exponentially more flavorful.

When your room’s temperature isn’t “room temperature”

While refrigeration is a no-no, temperature still has a big impact on a battery’s shelf life. 

When battery makers recommend “room temperature,” they generally mean between 68-78°F. Depending on your location, though, your house may get a lot warmer than that.  And the hotter it gets, the faster your batteries lose their charge. Stored in a hot garage or closet, those batteries could drain themselves out two- to four-times faster.   

Video

If You Put Batteries in the Freezer, Will They Last Longer?

Here, there are two situations to consider; one is short-term and another is long-term.

If you are planning to keep the cells for a long time or use the freezer as a storage unit, you will be making a huge mistake.

When the battery temperature gets reduced below freezing, it damages the internal chemistry of the cells.

The first and most harmful thing that happens to them is corrosion. With the outer layer being destroyed by rust, toxic chemicals get released.

The main lesson from this section is that one must never keep their batteries in the freezer for a very long time.

Energy source

In the end, refrigerators and freezers will empty even the biggest battery packs in a few days, and you should consider the power source you are going to recharge the batteries from.

The topic of off-grid energy production is wide and outside the scope of this article, but a few points can be shortly made. The energy source plays into your freezer and refrigerator system design through two aspects:

  • Average output (daily or three-day): sizes your fridge/freezer –determines how many watts your freezer or fridge can can draw on average
  • Intermittency/availability: sizes your battery pack – how many hours or days of autonomy you have to prepare for

For most off-grid properties, the main energy source is going to be solar, but wind or micro hydro may also contribute. Some locations may use a generator as a backup or even a primary power source for recharging.

Mobile freezer and fridge installations on boats, RVs or vans, on the other hand, typically rely on nightly line power (“shore power”) connection to recharge, but may also charge from the engine alternator or solar power.

Recent Posts

FAQs

1. Can a dead lithium-ion battery even be revived at all?

Recharging or reviving a dead lithium-ion battery is not impossible. The internet is full of exciting hacks, tips, and DIYs to revive an old battery. However, there are certain things you want to remember:

All the tools and methods required to revive a dead battery are expensive, unstable, and can only be used by professionals. So, if you don’t know much about restoring old batteries and are a newbie in the field, it is far safer and convenient to buy a new battery than trying to fix the old one. Moreover, the amount of time, energy, and money you have to spend on reviving a dead lithium-ion battery is no joke. And even after investing so much in it, there is no guarantee that the battery will start working again.

Hence, even though reviving an old lithium-ion battery is not impossible, it is definitely not worth the hassle!

2. I listened to the myth and put my batteries in the freezer. What should I do now?

The short answer is that you throw it out! The long answer is as follows:

Frozen batteries are usually unsafe and useless. So, instead of reviving them, replace them with a better, more modern, and appropriate battery. You can throw it out, put it somewhere in the garage, store it, or give it to someone who needs it (I don’t understand why anyone would need a dead battery, but people have their needs and preferences!) But whatever you do, never try to jump-start a refrigerated or frozen battery!

Frozen batteries are dangerous! You must not install them in the vehicle or try to jump-start them at any cost. They might blow up and cause a lot of damage to both you and your vehicle. Instead, let it thaw, and then see what you want to do with it. Moreover, if your battery is frozen, the best thing to do would be to replace it. Even if you put it in the car and it starts working, there is no guarantee how long it will work and whether it will leave you stranded somewhere.

9. PLASTIC WRAP

If you've ever experienced cling wrap that's a bit too clingy, you know how frustrating it can be. But if you store your rolls of wrap in the freezer, the material will be less likely to stick to itself. Don't worry; it'll still have enough oomph to cover bowls and plates.

What do the manufacturers say?

If you still don’t believe me. First of all, how dare you!

And second, let’s look at what your battery’s manufacturing company suggests. Here are what some of the most popular battery companies say about freezing or refrigerating their batteries:

  • Duracell suggests that users should store their batteries in a dry environment at room temperatures. Extreme cold or heat will eventually reduce the performance of their battery, and they suggest you stay away from such practice.
  • Similarly, Energiser also does not think storing batteries in a freezer or a refrigerator is a good idea. Instead, the company also recommends keeping its batteries at room Temperatures around 20 degrees Celsius to 25 degrees Celsius with average humidity levels of 35 to 65% RH.

In a nutshell, no companies, manufacturers, or scientists recommend that you put your batteries in colder temperatures. Stick to fruits and vegetables, maybe even pantyhose and nail polishes, but keep your batteries out of the fridge!

Checking This Out Further

One thing that surprised me about this test was that refrigerated batteries lasted just as long in real use as the room temperature (or better) batteries. I am still wrapping my head around that because doesn’t an automobile battery discharge itself more quickly in the dead of winter than in the heat of summer? Perhaps it is my imagination, perhaps it has to do with chemical reactions in a sealed-lead acid battery. (Sealed-lead acid is what you find in a car battery).

Also, the idea of condensation and chemical reactions would seem to be a detrimental factor when it comes to cold storage. Here is what Energizer has to say:

Storage in a refrigerator or freezer is not required or recommended for batteries produced today. Cold temperature storage can in fact harm batteries if condensation results in corroded contacts or label or seal damage due to extreme temperature storage. To maximize performance and shelf life, store batteries at normal room temperatures (68°F to 78°F or 20°C to 25°C) with moderated humidity levels (35 to 65% RH).

The Energizer website included some other tips.

When stored at room temperature (i.e. 70°F/ 21°C), cylindrical alkaline batteries have a shelf life of 5 to 10 years and cylindrical carbon-zinc 3 to 5 years. Lithium Cylindrical types can be stored from 10 to 15 years. Prolonged storage at elevated temperatures will shorten storage life.

A battery tester (loaded voltmeter) is a simple and effective way to determine if a battery is “good” or “bad”. Most testers place an appropriate load on the batteries and then read the voltage. A voltmeter without a load can give very misleading information and is not recommended for this purpose. Note that testers are typically not capable of providing reliable run time estimates.

So should you store your batteries in the fridge? Well, at the end of the day, I do concur with Ron. Refrigerating household batteries is a waste of both time and refrigerator space.

On a similar note, as much as it makes sense to store household batteries for emergency preparedness purposes, nothing beats using rechargeables. 

What I like about these batteries is they can remain fully charged and ready for an extended period of time without discharging themselves.

Because I tend to forget to charge up my drawer full of batteries, this is a huge plus. I can plug in my charger and have a marathon charging session and I am good to go for a long, long time.

What Kind Of Battery Can We Recharge In The Freezer?

There are only three types of batteries that we can store in the freezer. Not all cells are capable of being recharged in the freezer. Other examples would be damaged or harmed when frozen.

● NiMH ● NiCD ● Alkaline batteries

More Details Of Each Battery

These are the list of rechargeable batteries and their characteristics when charging. Not all batteries can be recharged. There are what we call disposable batteries. Disposable batteries when discharged go straight to the trash.

NiMH or Nickel-Metal Hydride. Compared to NiCd, it has a higher density of energy. It has no metal content which is considered toxic. ● NiCd or Nickel Cadmium. This battery type is low on energy density. It is cheaper and is used for an extended period. NiCd is typically used in video cameras, medical equipment, and two-way radios. ● Lead Acid. It is the most commonly used battery for medical equipment like wheelchairs, UPS system, and emergency lighting. It is considered to be the most economical. ● Lithium-ion. We used this battery for lightweight and high energy density. This battery is susceptible and fragile and requires a protection circuit to secure safety. It is widely used for laptops, netbook, and mobile phones. ● Lithium-Ion Polymer. It is almost similar to a Li-ion battery only that it has a slimmer in geometry. The packaging of this battery is also a lot simpler. Most commonly used for mobile phones.

Choosing a Freezer/Fridge for battery power

Any fridge or freezer can be powered from batteries. In principle, you can choose a fridge or freezer for off-grid use just as you would for a grid-connected home: based on the capacity, form factor, and special functionality (auto-defrost, icemaker, etc.).

But: energy saving models make sense off-grid. To save you batteries and sparse off-grid energy (e.g. solar), it worthwhile to add energy-efficiency high on the priority list – much more so than in a grid-connected home.

A motivation: Compared to a wasteful side-by-side, an energy-efficient bottom-freezer fridge may save you $1000 or 350 lb. worth of battery capacity*.

*Assumed: 250 vs. 500 kWh/a, 3d autonomy, $1.50/Ah, 0.6lb/Ah AGM batteries

Check the energy use

Specifically, you want a cooling appliance with a low yearly energy use in kilowatt-hours (kWh). Look for the kWh number on the yellow Energy Guide (US), the Energuide (CA), Energy Label (EU and UK), or Energy rating label (AU).

As of 2021, an energy use around 200 kWh/a is the lowest you will find for any fridge or freezer – the best small-to-medium chest freezers and small refrigerators with no freezer or a top/bottom freezer may get this low.

At the other extreme, the most power-hungry units are at around 800 kWh/a; these are invariably large side-by-side or French-door refrigerator-freezers.

For a more fine-grained breakdown of energy use by freezer or fridge type and size, check the third part of this series.

The Final Word

The Final Word

All in all, it was fun to get all of the benefits of the battery storage test with none of the work. I know I’ll be reserving my fridge space for distilled water and provisions.

My thanks go to Ron for his willingness to share his work with my readers. He seems to have this intuitive sense of knowing the answers to my questions before I even ask. Pretty cool.

Of course, those of you that have been around for a while are familiar with Ron and his 5-part Propane for Preppers Series as well as his series of books on Non-Electric Lighting. He really knows his stuff!

Tags