Label Your Rechargeable AA Batteries

Battery Labels

Most digital cameras today don’t use AA batteries, but there are a few still out there. Additionally, most flash units generally use AA batteries (correct me if I’m wrong). If you’re like me, you have about 20 rechargeable AA batteries floating around at any given time.

I learned a long time ago that keeping track of battery groups is crucial to extending the life of your batteries in general. What I mean is that most devices either use 2 or 4 batteries, and not all devices use batteries at the same rate. So if you get some old batteries mixed in with the new batteries, you’ve got the battery life of the old ones and you may end up throwing out recycling perfectly good batteries.

My solution to this was to label each set of 4 batteries with a unique label — I use “A”, “B”, “C”, “D”, etc. This allows me to keep the same battery set together in use and in charging. When that set dies for good, I can be confident that I’ve used up every bit of possible juice from those batteries. This method also allows me to cycle through each set so I don’t use up one set faster than the others — and I also know that the “A” batteries are older than the “D” batteries, so I have a good idea of which ones are likely to hold less charge and die out more quickly in use.

Anybody else out there pay that much attention to their batteries, or am I just nuts?

This entry was posted in Equipment, Quick-Tip on by .

About Brian Auer

a photography enthusiast from North Idaho. He's also the guy behind the Epic Edits Weblog. As a hobbyist photographer since 2003, his passion has been to constantly improve his photography skill set, to share his own knowledge with others, and to become an integral part of the photographic community.

16 thoughts on “Label Your Rechargeable AA Batteries

  1. Chandamama

    I follow this but naming notation is slightly different A1,A2….. Y1,Y2 like that. When I use them or charge them, I pick right combination even thought they get mixed up now and then. Good piece of advice.

  2. Karl Schuneman

    I mark mine as 1, 2, 3, 4….. Not so much as for life of the set, but so I know which ones I have just taken out and for the recharged set going into a device.

  3. the_wolf_brigade

    Both my (digital) camera, a Fuji s6500fd, and my flash unit for my film gear take four AA’s so thankfully mine all decline at the same rate.

    By coincidence, though I’m happy that it worked out that way, I have three sets of four AA’s, but all are different brands so I know which goes with which.

    Were I to have the same brand, I’d use snap lock bags so that I could keep them in my camera bag, but not take up any space. I’m paranoid about putting stuff into the battery compartments in case it leaks and causes a short or something, hence the lack of labels. Silly I know but I guess old habits die hard…

  4. Lau

    One question: how long do you think AA batteries live? I have my AA rechargeable for about 3 years now and still work perfectly fine…. when will I need new ones?

  5. Brian Auer Post author

    They do seem to last quite a while. I’ve also had some that are over 3 years old, but I’ve noticed that the older ones don’t last quite as long as the newer ones. I’d say it’s time for new ones if the batteries are dying out noticeably fast — like in a single session.

  6. Luis Cruz

    I mark my batteries with different colors of tape and keep different sets in plastic battery cases for the same reasons you listed above.

    Aside from this, I know if the set is charged by the arrangement of the batteries in my plastic cases. If all the batteries are facing the same way (positive end up or down), the set is fresh. If the batteries alternate (like when you pop them out of the flash), the set is spent.

  7. inspirationbit

    well, I have only 8 batteries. I use two in the camera, keep another two in the camera bag pocket, and leave the four others in the recharger (out of the plug). So I don’t usually mix them. However, I have a problem – once I get to the batteries from the recharger, they already need to be recharged again, even though I haven’t used them after the last charge. How fast do the batteries discharge on their own? And even when I don’t keep them in a charger, but in a box, they still discharge after a couple of weeks. Any advice on how to keep the charged batteries keep their charge longer?

  8. Brian Auer Post author

    No idea — I’ve had the same thing happen if I don’t use the AA’s very often, but not to the extent that they’re DOA. It’s actually recommended to recharge every 30 days if you aren’t using the batteries.

    Here’s a quote from the Wikipedia page on NiMH batteries:

    NiMH has had a somewhat higher self-discharge rate (equivalent to internal leakage) than NiCd in the past. However, this is no longer the case. The self-discharge is 5-10% on the first day[1], and stabilizes around 0.5-1% per day at room temperature.

    So if your batteries are discharging faster than that, you might consider picking up some new ones.

  9. Brian R

    Guess I’m a bit late here, but you might want to try getting a better battery charger. I picked up a Lacrosse 800(?) for about $50 from Amazon on a recommendation, and I love it.

    The feature most germane to this topic is “refresh”. This feature keeps running slow drain-then-charge cycles until the battery stops getting better. This does an amazing job of bringing back dead batteries. I had two sets of beat up old Sony rechargables that been through 3+ years of heavy use and were barely holding a charge anymore. Two days on the refresh cycle and they’re literally as good new — they each hold their rated 2000 mAh of energy.

    Which reminds me of the other neat feature, it tells you how much juice it’s put into your batteries, so if just one battery of a set is going bad you can “recycle” just that one. Handy.

    I still keep my batteries in groups, but they’re not labelled, just rubber-banded together for easier handling.

    Last thought, to “inspirationbit”… check out Sanyo Eneloops. They’re advertised to hold a 70% charge after two years. They actually ship precharged, which no other NiMH batteries do. The only downside is they’re a bit pricey, and they top out at 2000 mAh. But worth it IMHO.

  10. Brian Auer Post author

    Wow Brian, that sounds like a neat little gadget! It’s good to hear a first hand account of something like that performing as well as it did.

  11. inspirationbit

    Huh, that LaCrosse BC-900 battery recharger looks really cool. It also has the mode Discharge – when it reduces memory effect by discharging rechargeable battery completely before recharging to full capacity. Thanks for the info, Brian R. It’s now sells for $40 on Amazon and comes with free shipping in US. Too bad it doesn’t apply to Canada ;-( I’ll see if I can find it in our local stores first.

  12. Brian R

    Glad I could help. Incidentally, I got most of this info from prowling around the Pentax forums. There are some pretty capable Pentax DSLRs (K100D series) that still use AA batteries. They’ll go through a set of 4 in 200-400 shots, so people that own those cameras are pretty serious about their chargers and batteries.

  13. Eddie

    As a photographer, your batteries are quite important and it seems that you really know how to take care of them.
    Try putting your NiMH and NiCd batteries in the freezer after charging. They won’t self discharge as quick as usual.

  14. Respond

    Labeling is good. However a battery tester is MUCH BETTER. For TO MANY reasons to go into here. Batteries get discharged and decline or expire at different rates, even the ones in the same device. For example just a different chemical variation in the 4 will make one discharge faster than the others. Then a harder discharge on the remaining batteries. Also many devices are supposed to have 1.5v per and rechargables are 1.2v. In any case a simple $9 multi Meter (most) will have a unfused 10 amp meter. When fully charged you should see the (MA) amps avl.

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