Ask Leo: How do I maximize my battery life?

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By Leo Notenboom

When I first got my laptop (8 mos. ago) my battery life was about 2 hours 45. Now after daily use (mostly with plug but using battery as well) it is down to 1.5 hrs which is basically useless. I have tried draining totally recharging etc and still only 1.5 hours. SO I am buying a new one. My question is how do I make my battery keep its charge so I can have it when I need it?

I originally wanted to title this article “Why does my battery life suck?”, because I know that’s exactly what it feels like when the battery life gets shorter and shorter. My oldest laptop has about a 20 minute lifespan, so in many ways the battery is really nothing more than a glorified UPS. Not that that’s bad, but it does limit the laptop’s portability.

I turned to a friend, Jerry Foutz, for some help on this one. Do a Google search for Power Supply Design, and Jerry’s site, SMPS Technology, is the top result. Jerry knows power supplies.

It turns out that the single, most important aspect to maximizing battery life is something that I wouldn’t have thought of: matching the battery to its charger. In Jerry’s words: “Make sure your battery and charger match and you have a quality charger. About the only way you can maximize the probability of this happening is to buy both from the computer manufacturer for the exact computer model.”

“Apparently even small differences in output voltage of the charger can have dramatic impact on the lifespan of your battery, by either under, or over-charging. If you get a low-cost charger and it is off by as little as 10 mV (millivolts, 1/1000 of a volt), you will also get less than optimum performance.” An example Jerry shared is that a 4.1V cell charged at 4.050 V might be good for 4,000 charge cycles. Increasing the charge voltage to 4.250, a difference of less than 1/4 of a volt, can reduce this down to less than 100 cycles.

I had no idea that batteries were that sensitive.

I’m also glad that I’ve purchased my batteries, extra batteries, and chargers from the manufacturer at the time I got my laptop. That, further, minimizes any manufacturing differences that may occur over time.

The number two factor in battery life?

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7 thoughts on “Ask Leo: How do I maximize my battery life?

  1. Every time I buy a new laptop I buy a 2nd charger – so I can leave one on my desk at work and one at home and don’t have to bother/remember to pack up the charger when I’m finished with the PC. I’ve never bought the 2nd charger from the manufacturer because they’re ridiculously expensive. Maybe that’s why my 4 year old laptop (which the kids use) has a battery life of 10 minutes? Or maybe it’s because it’s a 4 year old laptop battery?

  2. I cannot believe this article made it to the web!
    Whilst “Cycling” old Nicad batteries was the done thing ten years ago, they were soon replaced by Nimh batteries that did not really need cycling.
    These batteries were superceeded by Lithium cells.
    LITHIUM CELLS ABSOLUTELY HATE DEEP DISCHARGE CYCLES.
    To keep your modern laptop battery:-
    1. Do not discharge to more than 20% EVER!
    2. Try not to let them go below 50%
    3. NEVER leave them in a discharged state.
    4. keep them cool – the lithium ion plates oxidise in temperatures above 25degrees.
    5. When using the laptop as your main PC at home, remove the fully charged battery from the laptop and store it in the fridge! [ no, i’m not kidding!]
    6. what no salesman will tell you is that lithium ion batteries have an average life of about 3 years FROM MANUFACTURE, so buying a spare is not really an economical option. It makes no difference if the battery is in daily use or sitting unused on a shelf – like us, from the day it is borne, it is dying!
    The only known way of increasing its life is to keep it cool [don’t go extra and put it in the freezer!!!]

    My laptop has a battery monitor program and my battery is following the predicted 3 year life span.
    I try to follow the above advice but sometimes it’s either impractical or imposasible! The monitor shows that my battery is down by 28% of it’s original capacity – the laptop is 15 months old i’m slightly up but you do the maths.

  3. I remove the battery from the laptop and use the cord while at home. I have an old XP and the battery is still good. When I use the battery, I drain it until the warning gets annoying and then plug it in over night

    I learned this from the store I bought it from. Their display laptops have their batteries removed.

  4. When you buy both at the same time, how do you maximize battery life? My battery drains at 10-15% a day when it is turned off, and not plugged in (which Sony mentions in help section). When I turn my computer on, it is always at 92-95% battery life, which I’m sure it isn’t good for the battery. Should I use it unplugged and let it almost go dead before charging?

  5. Well that is 1 thing dell got right with the studio xps 1645 it has an option to disable battery charging,so when your battery is full just tick the box disable battery charging and when pluged in it sends power to power laptop not charge battery which doesn,t need charged when already fully charged

  6. Good tip, but most every laptop user that I know merely lets the battery charge while it’s plugged into the wall outlet. They don’t usually buy another charger.

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