Batteries are a mainstay in emergency preparedness. So much of what we need to use in an emergency, just to get by, relies on battery power whether it be flashlights, lanterns, radios, and other helpful devices. Because many emergency devices require batteries as their source of energy, this is something we want to get right.
Not all batteries are best suited for emergency prep needs. Technology has changed and some are better than others, yet older technologies are still on the market. Take some time to figure out what your battery needs are and what type of batteries are best suited for each individual need.
The best plan for storing batteries for emergencies is to include chargeable batteries with non-charegeable batteries as backups. For this option to work, a solar charger, solar power bank, or hand-crank charger needs to be stored as well.
A disposable battery by very definition cannot be recharged. These batteries are workhorses but once used, they must be replaced. These include alkaline, lithium, silver-oxide, and zinc carbon batteries. For emergency preparedness, lithium is the better battery.
Lithium batteries are more expensive than the popular alkaline battery, but perform much better. Because alkaline batteries have a low self-discharge rate, they are great for low-drain devices like clocks and remote controls, but they die quickly and are prone to corrosion. Lithium batteries can store and release more energy than regular alkaline batteries, making them more powerful.
Shelf-Life: Lithium batteries have a very low self-charge rate and will hold up to 80% of their charge in storage for a good 15 years, lasting twice as long as alkaline batteries.
There are a few different kinds of rechargeable batteries on the market but the best for emergency prep is the nickel-metal hydride low self-discharge battery aka NiMH (LSD).
The NiMH (LSD) battery is a low-discharge battery that is currently the very best option for devices or other applications requiring AA or AAA batteries. It has a little lower overall capacity but holds a long charge. It is more expensive than higher-discharge batteries, but last longer. Stored properly, the battery can retain up to 85% of its charge after one year in storage and 70% at 5 years. These batteries are typically labeled as pre-charged or ready to use as they come packaged with 70% charge give or take.
While NiMH (LSD) batteries are the best overall, there is a place for the lithium-ion or Li-ion battery, which is a rechargeable version of a lithium battery. If you need to run a power-hungry device that needs a constant supply of power, like a laptop, then a high-drain battery is better. A lithium rechargeable battery is high capacity and is more suited for this use. Never store lithium-ion batteries in your car. They can explode at temperatures higher than 140F.
Where to Use the Batteries
With emergency preparedness in mind, the best plan is to have NiMH(LSD) rechargeable batteries as the primary battery with lithium batteries on standby for backup use. There are a few exceptions to this, where lithium is the better choice.
NiMH(LSD) - Lithium Backups
- grab & go bag devices
Store the batteries with your supplies. Include a solar charger, solar power bank, or hand-crank charger as well.
Lithium Batteries Only
- emergency radios
- car emergency kits
- carbon monoxide & smoke detectors
Do not store batteries in a hot car. Store with other emergency supplies at room temperature.
Do not leave a battery inside any device while not in use.
- It is best to store batteries at room temperature. There is no need to place them in the refrigerator. Avoid long periods of extreme cold or hot temperatures
- Do not store near an open flame, any heat source, or in direct sunlight.
- Lithium: holds 80% of charge up to 15 years.
- Lithium-ion: 3 years
- NiMH (LSD): can retain up to 85% of its charge after one year in storage and 70% at 5 years.
- Note: Rechargeable batteries are considered to have reached the end of their life span when they are unable to charge up to 80% of their original capacity.