Easy Photo Tip: Five Things You Need To Know About Lithium-Ion Batteries

The unsung hero of our age is the rechargeable battery. Can you imagine using a cell phone, digital camera or notebook computer without high capacity, long lasting batteries? The battery technology of choice for the past several years has been Lithium Ion. Here are five things you need to know about it—for your own safety and convenience.

1. They don’t last forever.

These three things limit the useful lifespan: number of recharge cycles, high temperature and chemical breakdown caused by normal aging. Li-Ion cells like to be partially drained and then recharged—try to avoid depleting them completely. Heat is a real killer, too. Keep them in a cool, dry place. The age factor? Well, if your battery lasts longer than 30 months, consider yourself lucky—and begin looking for a replacement. Which leads us neatly to point #2.

2. Beware of counterfeits.

Canon and other manufacturers have posted warnings about fake cells being labeled and packaged to look almost exactly like the real McCoy. Buy your batteries from reliable retailers and you should be safe. Improperly made batteries can cause damage to your camera—or to your person. Okay—avoid the phony cells. But what about the bargain-priced alternatives that have their own brand name? Read on.

3. Use extreme caution if you stray from a big name brand.

Be wary of the words “equivalent” or “replaces,” especially if the price seems too good to be true. They might be just as good as the original equipment. But then again, they could be a big mistake. One common complaint about off-brand cells is that they don’t last as long as the original. Also, in many cases the ersatz cells cannot be charged in the same charger as the genuine batteries.

4. Dispose of properly – Call2Recycle.

Lithium Ion batteries should be properly recycled. Many stores provide collection bins. To find a place to recycle dial 1-877-2RECYCLE.

5. Dangers of mishandling.

Yes, Virginia, they can and will bite back if mistreated. That warning label that says not to puncture, burn or disassemble is there for a reason: Lithium Ion batteries contain a volatile liquid that can burn, “runaway burn” and then explode. This is the real reason why it’s foolish to buy off-brand batteries. Unless you’re the kind of person who would let the lowest bidder pack your parachute for you.

6. Bonus Tip for air travelers – FAA says: “Spare (uninstalled) lithium and lithium ion batteries must be carried in carry-on baggage only.”

There are other FAA travel regulations and restrictions. Go to:


To learn what’s permitted and what’s forbidden: http://phmsa.dot.gov/safetravel/batteries

—Jon Sienkiewicz