I never thought battery chargers were so complicated. They just charge batteries, right? Oh yes, they do. But apparently there are many more things to expect out of a battery charger. Particularly one that you use generically across various brands of batteries you buy. Now, you might ask, don’t those cheap and simple battery chargers also just about charge all rechargeable batteries? Yes, they do. But it’s not so simple.
Once, when I was buying a rechargeable battery, the salesperson asked if I had the chargeable that was designed by and from the same manufacturer as the battery? He said it mattered. I thought, yeah, right, he just wants to sell me another charger I didn’t need. Actually, it turns out that there is a small truth in there, but I’ll talk about it later.
We all know those cheap and simple battery chargers. You put in the battery, it charges till full, and stop. There will usually be some status indicators. Like, for example, blinking green when charging, and solid green when the charge is complete.
Well, complicated battery chargers like this La Crosse Technology one does that too. That’s just the basic function. Where it gets more complicated is:
- It can fully discharge the battery, then recharge it back to full. The purpose of this is to remove the memory effect of rechargeable batteries.
- It can “refresh” old batteries that have not been used a long time, or those that might perhaps be thought to be faulty but can still be coaxed back to life. Refresh mode discharges the battery, then recharges the battery, and repeating this cycle until there is no further increase in the measured capacity.
- It can measure the capacity of the battery by charging it to full, then discharging, and then recharging it back to full. The capacity measurement is done during discharge.
- You can also configure charging and discharging currents, so you can either “slowly charge” or “quick charge” the batteries.
On yet more complicated models, like this BC1000 pictured above, you can set modes and current levels on a per-battery basis. You can set currents of up to 1800 mA when just using compartments 1 and 4. You can also directly display all parameters, without having to “wait” for the display to cycle through the values for what you want. Not all battery charges, even those in this category, can do this.
The La Crosse Technology Alpha Power Battery Charger BC1000 is that sort of complicated battery charger. It’s quite feature complete and very flexible.
The bundle I got comes with the charger unit that takes 4x AA or AAA sized batteries, a universal power adapter, 4x rechargeable AA batteries, 4x rechargeable AAA batteries, 4x battery adapters (those plastic cylinders on the left), and a carrying bag.
The battery adapters let you “convert” AA batteries into C sized or D sized batteries. Pretty handy if you need C sized or D sized batteries.
Now, what is it about matching rechargeable batteries to battery chargers? Well, it is about the charger design and the amount of current it delivers. Basically, rechargeable batteries from different manufacturers may have different recommended charging current. Applying too much current will shorten the lifespan of the battery. A low current might work more safely, but it might take too long than you’re willing to wait.
It’s alright to “quick charge” a battery by using a high current once a while. But you shouldn’t do it too often. It is important also, for the the battery charger, to have a temperature sensor (this BC1000 does) to automatically stop the charging current if the battery gets too hot. A cheap battery charger might not come with this protection feature.
The BC1000 is an immensely flexible charger. It’s a little pricey compared with what you’d get for a simple unit, but it might just be worth it if it lasts many years and helps you keep your rechargeable batteries longer than they’d normally last.
Don’t forget: Save the Earth, use rechargeable batteries!