Make Canoe my Homepage

Recharging ordinary disposable batteries

- October 5th, 2010

Rosewillexp

Just about every device today is hungry for power and while many devices have gone to proprietary rechargeable batteries there still many gadgets out there that use standard off-the-shelf AA and AAA cells.

Running in my kitchen clock, a good quality disposable Duracell AA battery can last for over a year and a half, but using them in a digital camera – taking rapid shots in succession and using the flash can suck the life out of a battery in less than a day.

And while there are many AA & AAA rechargeables, many of us still opt for disposables, because they’re quicker, easier and cheaper.

Rosewill Battery Charger

So the folks at NewEgg.com (NewEgg.ca in Canada), under the Rosewill.com brand, have come up with a neat little device – Rosewill Battery Charger RGD-CT505. For $39.95 (on sale for $34.95), it’s designed to extend the life of the throwaway AA & AAA alkalines as well as Ni-MH (Nickel Metal Hydride) batteries and help keep the earth just a little more green.

It’s  AC powered and will charge up to 4 batteries at one time. It has a few built-in protection features including a microprocessor chip that helps keep your batteries from overcharging.  And if a battery falls out or the unit gets too hot, the system will shut itself down. And as an additional safety feature, it will also stop charging after four hours which by then, the batteries should be fully recharged.

NiCads & Carbon Zinc Not allowed

If you take the time to read the manual, you’ll notice some obvious translation issues, but the warnings are fairly clear. Do not to attempt to recharge Ni-Cads & Carbon Zinc batteries or those that are very old or deeply discharged batteries. It also discourages you from attempting to recharge low-grade low-cost batteries that typically ship with TV remote controls.

So I thought what a neat little idea if I could actually extend the life of the disposable batteries that I use.  Not only would it save money, it would also take longer for them to end up in the landfill.

The unit itself is of a very simple design. Strangely enough, the AC power jack is on top of the unit. And while the unit will stand upright, because of it’s light weight any simple movement of the charger or the power cord would cause the unit to topple.

rosewill1a

The Great Big Battery Test

So I happily scurried around the house digging through drawers, boxes and under the couch, removing batteries from just about anything I could find.  It didn’t take me very long to gather a very huge pile.  No surprise there, I’m the Gadget Guy!

I measured the voltage of each one and marked them with masking tape. I then took one more peek at the manual and then started my quest.

I didn’t risk trying to recharge NiCads or NiMH batteries. And of course the manual was right – deeply discharged batteries failed immediately – so they didn’t charge at all. A number of off-brand batteries out of remotes actually started to get warm. I didn’t want to take a chance on them possibly leaking (I had read instances of that on the Internet) or exploding, so I actually removed the rest of them from the test pile.

I also decided to never leave unit unattended.

I tried many brands, including Eveready, both standard and Energizer as well as Duracell copper-tops and ProCell – Duracell’s professional line. I even tried IKEA’s brand alkaline’s, which I find work quite well in cordless devices like keyboards and mice.

The first set of batteries I tried ranged between 1.21V and 1.23V left on the charge for four hours.  They didn’t fully charge so I recharged them again. They maxed out at 1.39V.

The next set started at 1.34V and they charged to 1.55V in less than 4 hours. I started using them in a FujiFinePix 2800Z, camera and they lasted about the same length of time as brand-new batteries did. I repeated the process 3 times without issue.

Attempting to recharge batteries of mixed voltages yielded mixed results. A few batteries that appeared to recharge to 1.49V to 1.52V failed quickly, once I started to use them.

Overall, I managed to get more good sets of batteries than poor ones. but given they were from the same brand, same batch and used in similar devices, the results were inconsistent.

I contacted the PR firm that initially made me aware of the device. They followed up very quickly and indicated that the manufacturer would like me to send the unit directly to them for testing.

Kudos to the company for standing behind its products and wanting to know if in fact there was a problem.

At this point, it’s hard to say if it’s a defective unit, a design flaw, or just a good effort at something that shouldn’t be.

I hope it’s simply the former. It’s a clever idea with respect to what it wants to achieve – save people money, give batteries a longer life and help the environment. However today, I need to know that I can rely on my batteries, so for right now, while people do seem to be be buying them, for me, the execution just seems to miss the mark.

Greg Gazin is the Real Canadian Gadget Guy.

Follow me on Twitter @gadgetgreg

Subscribe to the post

Leave a comment

 characters available