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Should You Put Batteries in the Freezer? Temperature Effects on Stored Batteries

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Most of us have heard this famous myth at one point or another: If you store your batteries in the freezer, they’ll last longer. But is there any truth to this common battery folklore? Or are you taking up precious freezer space for no reason?

Here at Battle Born Batteries, we build lithium-ion battery packs, and yes, even test them in the freezer. Below, we discuss everything you need to know about the effects of temperature on batteries and whether or not you should freeze your batteries. Let’s begin!

Batteries in the Freezer: The Myth and the Reality

So, are batteries really better off in the freezer? In short, not really. If this is the first time you’re hearing this, try not to beat yourself up too much; once upon a time, this myth did have some merit. Most of the battery types that people stored in the freezer are household AA, AAA, C, or D batteries. Don’t try putting your boat, RV, or car battery in the freezer.

testing Battle Born Batteries in freezer
Yes, we have tested batteries in the freezer so you don’t have to!

When rechargeable batteries first came on the scene, they had a pretty horrible reputation. With a nickel cadmium chemistry, they could lose up to 20%-30% of their capacity each month. This was a problem that forced consumers to get creative. Thus, people started storing batteries in the freezer or refrigeration in an attempt to slow down this process of losing capacity and preserve as much juice as possible. By putting these batteries in the freezer they could hold their charge twice as long.

Luckily, rechargeable household batteries have come a long way since then. Now, the top brands can maintain up to 85% of their charge for an entire year. So really, there isn’t much of a need to store your batteries in the freezer anymore, and most battery manufacturers will tell you not to. 

Likewise, non-rechargeable alkaline batteries have very low discharge rates of about 2% per year at room temperature. Putting these batteries in the freezer will have more negative potential effects than positive.

an empty freezer

How Does Temperature Affect Battery Life?

Colder temperatures can indeed slow down the chemical reaction in batteries. However, most household batteries are built to function in room temperature settings (somewhere between 60 and 78 degrees). It’s important to keep this in mind because cold temperatures can affect how a battery charges and sometimes even make them drain faster. 

On the other hand, hot temperatures can cause your batteries to lose their charge quicker. A general rule of thumb is that the hotter it is, the faster your battery will drain–sometimes up to 4% faster. Because of this, always follow the battery manufacturer’s storage and charging recommendations. 

Here at Battle Born Batteries, we have tested our lithium-ion batteries extensively in the cold and even wrote a whitepaper all about cold weather operations. Learn more about it here: Lead is Dead White Paper: Cold Charging Study

Environmental temperatures change the rate of the chemical reaction in a battery.
Environmental temperatures change the rate of the chemical reaction in a battery.

Batteries Need to Be Kept Dry

Moisture is another environmental factor that can have a huge effect on batteries. If you look closely at the labels on your batteries, you’ll see that you need to store them in a dry place. Why? Because excessive humidity can build up inside a battery and permanently damage how the battery functions. Moreover, if rust builds up within the terminals, it will be difficult for the battery to maintain good connections.

Remember that old saying: “Electricity and water don’t mix?” Well, it’s never been more true than when it comes to batteries, and it’s yet another reason to avoid storing them in the freezer. 

How to Store Battle Born Batteries for Winter

Yes, some lithium-based batteries can benefit from cold storage when done right. However, that doesn’t mean you should store your Battle Born Batteries in the freezer. On the contrary, we recommend fully charging your batteries to 14.4V. Then, completely disconnect them from any kind of power source. 

You can do this by manually disconnecting the negative cable, or you can disengage the disconnect switch that leads to your electrical system. It’s important to ensure that your batteries are truly disconnected. Some C02 sensors and stereo backlights can bypass the disconnect switch. 

When left fully charged and in the right storage conditions, you should be able to come back to a fully functional battery after even a year of storage, as it should only drain 2%-3% each month. Just make sure to keep the storage environment as dry as possible.

Consider investing in a battery guardian if you’re storing an entire system.

For more information on storing your Battle Born Batteries, check out How to Winterize and Store Your Batteries

How to Protect and Keep Your Batteries Functioning in Cold Temperatures

If you anticipate needing to use your batteries in cold temperatures, that is another situation. One thing is for certain: lithium batteries work WAY better in cold temperatures than lead-acid.

However, even lithium batteries perform best when above freezing temperatures. In fact, our internal BMS has a charging cut-off that prevents the battery from charging and damaging itself at these low temperatures.

By keeping your batteries warm in colder temperatures you can avoid charging difficulties. This can be accomplished by using an external heating pad or by keeping your lithium batteries in an insulated or heated compartment. (Reminder: lead-acid batteries cannot be installed in a non-vented compartment, but our lithium batteries can!)

However, to make the process even easier, we’ve installed heat-enablers in our lithium batteries. The technology incorporates an internal heating system, allowing for charging and discharging in colder climates and expanding the temperature restrictions for the Battery Management System (BMS). The heating element is easy to use and can be enabled and disabled with a switch to prevent accidental usage. They are also very easily prepared for long-term storage.

Learn more about our Heated Batteries in the video below!

Still Want to Store Your Batteries in the Freezer?

If you really want to store your batteries in the freezer, just be sure to know which types actually benefit from those cold temperatures. For example, zinc-carbon, NiCad, and NiMH batteries truly do hold a better charge in colder temperatures. 

Nevertheless, if you take a battery straight from the freezer, let it come back to room temperature slowly in a well-ventilated area before using it. Additionally, make sure to store your batteries in an airtight container to protect them from any moisture in your freezer or refrigerator. 

Freezing Your Batteries Isn’t a Fix-All Cure

The concept of storing batteries in the freezer is as old as batteries themselves. The batteries of the past indeed held their charge for longer when kept in cold conditions. However, battery chemistry has come a long way since then. More often than not, storing your batteries in the freezer will do more harm than good. 

Because of this, the best course of action is to follow the battery manufacturer’s recommendations for storage. If you do this, you’re sure to get the most use out of your batteries. Plus, you’ll avoid accidentally damaging them.

Do you have any questions about battery storage? Drop them in the comments below!

camper van in the snow danny mcgee

Want To Learn More About Electrical Systems and Lithium Batteries?

We know that building or upgrading an electrical system can be overwhelming, so we’re here to help. Our Reno, Nevada-based sales and customer service team is standing by at (855) 292-2831 to take your questions!

Also, join us on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube to learn more about how lithium battery systems can power your lifestyle, see how others have built their systems, and gain the confidence to get out there and stay out there.

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