A battery tester

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Evan the Diplomat
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A battery tester

Post by Evan the Diplomat » Sat Mar 14, 2015 11:32 am

Like most modern houses, we have many devices that run on AA batteries and AAA batteries. The problem: I have four little kids who leave batteries laying out so I don't know the good ones, which ones have some life in them and which ones are totally dead. Can someone recommend a reliable battery tester so that I can test the batteries as I find them laying about.

OBTW no amount of scolding or beating has gotten it through their skulls that they shouldn't leave batteries laying around.
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Re: A battery tester

Post by boskone » Sat Mar 14, 2015 1:04 pm

If you have a multimeter, you can use it. Just read the voltage off the side of the battery, put the 'meter in DC voltage mode, and see if the output is close to the rated output. NiMH are rated 1.2V, I think Alkalines are 1.5V.

I like the multimeter option because you can use it for things other than just testing batteries. I have a Southwire that's handled everything around the house I've needed: testing sockets, my truck's battery, checking the wires in my thermostat to install a programmable...and checking batteries. :) My Fluke at work is more precise and handles wider ranges, but they're not generally useful capabilities for the household DIYer.

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Re: A battery tester

Post by angelofwar » Sat Mar 14, 2015 2:27 pm

boskone wrote:If you have a multimeter, you can use it. Just read the voltage off the side of the battery, put the 'meter in DC voltage mode, and see if the output is close to the rated output. NiMH are rated 1.2V, I think Alkalines are 1.5V.

I like the multimeter option because you can use it for things other than just testing batteries. I have a Southwire that's handled everything around the house I've needed: testing sockets, my truck's battery, checking the wires in my thermostat to install a programmable...and checking batteries. :) My Fluke at work is more precise and handles wider ranges, but they're not generally useful capabilities for the household DIYer.
This. Although it's not the quickest way to test batteries, it's the best. Also, with new/different battery chemistries, the info from a conventional "Red/Yellow/Green" battery tester may not always be accurate.

Cmmon battery testers are built to test alkalines primarily.

Here's the problem. Voltages of new/fully charged batteries are as follows:

Alkaline: 1.58-1.65 (avg)
Lithium: 1.85
Eneloops (freshly charged): 1.38-1.45

See how this could be an issue with a conventional "alkaline" battery tester?

So, having a multimeter will tell you how good the battery is for the TYPE it is.

Hope this helps
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Evan the Diplomat
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Re: A battery tester

Post by Evan the Diplomat » Sat Mar 14, 2015 5:12 pm

Would I, should I, look for a multimeter at a RadioShack liquidation http://www.radioshack.com/search?q=multimeter or a place like Harbor Freight http://www.harborfreight.com/catalogsea ... Multimeter or are these thing Chinese junk?
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Re: A battery tester

Post by boskone » Sat Mar 14, 2015 6:49 pm

Most of what they have is junk.

I'd probably be willing to take a chance on the Centec at Harbor Freight (it's good good, high reviews, but I have no first-hand experience). The Extech unit at RadioShack is too much $ for the purpose, unless you can find one in a store and negotiate 'em down. We have some Extech stuff at work, and it's been reliable.

Barring that, hit up Amazon and find something reasonably-priced ($40-60), or head to Lowe's or Home Depot and find something in that price range (especially if you can hit a sale or find a good coupon; I got mine for $45 during a sale). Sears carries something that seems to be the same unit, sans the k-probe that came with mine; dad got one for like $35 from a store that was closing. It looks exactly the same, except branding and color.

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Re: A battery tester

Post by Commo141 » Sat Mar 14, 2015 7:34 pm

I have two if the Harbor Freight units and they work fine for checking battery voltage. With disposable batteries anything over 1.4 volts for the AAA, AA, C or D batteries should work.
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Re: A battery tester

Post by The Business End » Sun Mar 15, 2015 11:12 am

I'm on the multimeter bandwagon as well. I bought this Extech for thirty dollars or so from Fry's Electronics three years ago and it came with a pen-style AC voltage detector and an outlet tester. I use rechargeable batteries for my kids' toys and a few other things, and it's good to be able to see whether the batteries are why the thing's not working :P also I have an old house and work on my own cars, and it works well for general purpose repairs.
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Re: A battery tester

Post by raptor » Sun Mar 15, 2015 1:24 pm

I have always used a multi-tester to check voltage. However I was told once by an electrical engineer that while knowing the voltage is useful to truly know capacity you need a device that puts a load on the battery when measuring voltage. Do we have any ZS electrical engineers who can confirm or dispelled this?

Now we were discussing a large marine battery bank at the time which also may or may not be relevant.

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Re: A battery tester

Post by boskone » Sun Mar 15, 2015 3:14 pm

No, he's quite correct, if you want to get down to brass tacks. However, most battery testers don't test under load either so a multimeter is a perfectly functional replacement.

It's pretty easy to find multimeters with a battery test function if you want to go that way, though. Or if you have a modicum of soldering skill you can find plans online for wiring a load attachment for a multimeter; takes some wire, a few resistors, and and alligator clip or some kind of socket (for the probe).

But just measuring voltage has seemed to work for me. I guess I could find out which devices are more tolerant or whatever (like maybe a remote control compared to a flashlight), but I don't have all that many things that require batteries (and except for 9v, I'm all Eneloop these days).

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Re: A battery tester

Post by yossarian » Sun Mar 22, 2015 2:45 pm

Evan the Diplomat wrote:Would I, should I, look for a multimeter at a RadioShack liquidation http://www.radioshack.com/search?q=multimeter or a place like Harbor Freight http://www.harborfreight.com/catalogsea ... Multimeter or are these thing Chinese junk?

Evan, if you have a Harbor Freight nearby I have a coupon for a free multimeter with any purchase. PM me your address and its yours.
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