A better way to monitor your batteries’ performance

Last week I mentioned Sanyo’s new higher capacity Eneloop NiMH batteries. I ordered myself an 8-pack of them from Amazon.com…along with a new charger – La Crosse Technology’s BC-1000.

The package arrived yesterday and that charger is pretty darned amazing. It automatically does in one fell swoop for four batteries what used to have to be done on each individual battery – if I bothered at all. Which I didn’t…

That is, upon recharging a set of up to four AA or AAA batteries, it gives the capacity of each cell, having measured each individually during the charge cycle. Weak cells can then be reconditioned by programming the charger to go through a pre-determined number of charge/discharge cycles. If this doesn’t get the battery up to spec, it can then be thrown out.

Previously, any identification of a weak cell or the determination of its actual capacity required me to charge each and then measure them – on at a time – with my CBA II from West Mountain Radio. A tedious process to find the weak link in a set of four.

Perhaps more importantly, trends of batteries can be determined. Is a 2-year old battery with several dozen charge/discharge cycles still earning its keep?

Upon receieving the charger, I charged an older set of 1900 mAH NiMH batteries. Of the four, their capacities as determined by the BC-1000 were 1830, 1790, 1780 and 1210 mAH. I’ll recondition the 1210 wimp and see what happens.

Each of the four slots for the batteries can be programmed with specific charge currents, independent of the other three.

Is all this info necessary?

Up to now I’ve just used a basic charger with my NiMH cells. Blinking lights told me whether the charge was in progress or finished. I had to charge either 2 or 4 batteries at a time and had no way of knowing if I had a wimp in the group, let alone which in a 4-some it was.

Now I can and with no additional steps – it’s all a part of the charging process.

This isn’t really important for those AA and AAA cells used in TV remotes, thermometers, clocks, etc. But if you plan on powering a QRP rig during an “afield” outting – something into which you’re putting a fair amount of effort – it might be nice to know something of the battery pack’s reliability.

Ditto for cameras, smoke alarms and pacemakers (just kidding).

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  5 comments for “A better way to monitor your batteries’ performance

  1. February 8, 2012 at 2:09 am

    I’ve had the BC-900 for a few years now. As I understand it, it has the same specifications as yours, but yours is the result of a redesign to deal with a thermal problem. Excellent charger.

    Dave
    AA7EE

    • February 8, 2012 at 7:01 am

      Good to know, Dave – that concurs with most of the reviews at Amazon (which also mention the thermal problem of the ‘900).

  2. February 8, 2012 at 5:33 am

    Good morning John, this is a very neat device and I am going to pass the link along to Julie. She is forever charging AA batteries for her flashes and so on. This sure will take the guess work out of things for her.

    • February 8, 2012 at 7:04 am

      Mike, I thought you guys had REAL strobes?!

  3. February 9, 2012 at 5:19 am

    Hi Dave, she has her collections of flashes and a light meter I also believe is a AA hog as well. Oh and then there is my KX1 that can also benefit from the charger as well.

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