Batteries

January 26, 2022

With all the cold weather we are (now) getting it has placed a stress on our batteries.  I had mentioned Melissa’s battery going weak and my replacing it before she went on her trip.  Two months before that I replaced the battery in our sports car as it had sat too long and had gone completely dead.  I replaced the battery in my niece’s car when she had stayed with us last fall.  I also replaced the batteries in both my lawn mower and boat over the summer.  I am getting to know the man who sells batteries very well.

When I looked online, I found the electric current generated by a battery is produced when a connection is made between its positive and negative terminals.  When the terminals are connected, a chemical reaction is initiated that generates electrons to supply the current of the battery.  Lowering the ambient temperature causes the chemical reaction to proceed slower, so a battery used at a low temperature produces less current than at a higher temperature.  As cold batteries run down, they can quickly reach the point where they cannot deliver enough current to start the vehicle.  When a battery is not in use, leakage between the terminals will still cause it to slowly lose its charge.  This chemical reaction is also temperature-dependent, so unused batteries lose their charge slower at cooler temperatures than at warmer temperatures.  I always buy household batteries in quantity to have them available, then store them in the refrigerator to make them last longer.  Now I know why.

The lead acid batteries in all my vehicles contain lead and sulfuric acid and were all recycled at the automotive store where I purchased the new ones.  The secondary (rechargeable cells) of Nickel Cadmium (NiCd) have heavy metals and should be recycled properly.  The button cells are hard to identify as being silver, mercury, or alkaline, so it is recommended to treat them as hazardous and recycle them properly.  The small household batteries are alkaline cells (manganese dioxide) and along with the heavy-duty batteries (carbon zinc) are considered harmless.  These batteries can be disposed of in the normal waste stream (except in California), but that does not mean they should be.  Recycling batteries not only diverts potential hazardous metals from the landfills but allows valuable metals to be reclaimed, minimizing the need to mine virgin resources.  Recycling centers are located across the US.

Thoughts:  While I was on my reorganization mission last week, I took some of my electronics to the city recycling center.  When I looked in the recycle bin, I saw a large bag filled with old household batteries.  I had felt bad about throwing these in the trash but did not know where to take them instead.  Melissa later replaced the batteries in her flashlight and asked if we were recycling the batteries.  I told her of the center, and she made a plastic bag to store our used batteries until they go to recycling.  Another tip I found was to cover the end node with cellophane tape to avoid sparking as the batteries rub together, as this can ignite a fire.  As with most things, the information is out there if you care enough to look.  Do the work.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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