Good, affordable NiMH charger

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Good, affordable NiMH charger

Postposted on Tue Jul 01, 2014 10:14 am

I find it rather annoying that nearly all inexpensive NiMH chargers will only charge batteries in pairs. Not only is it inconvenient when you have devices that use an odd number of cells, it can also result in uneven charging if the level of discharge of the two batteries in the pair is not the same; this can subsequently result in reverse polarity on the weaker cell(s) when used in a device which uses them in series, which can significantly shorten the life of the battery.

Yes, I know you can get nice "intelligent" chargers with individual charging channels, but they tend to be rather pricey ($40 and up).

Well, it turns out that Panasonic now has an affordable option for a charger with individual channels, the BQ-CC17. It comes in two flavors -- white or black (for about a buck more). I ordered a couple of these recently, and they do seem to work as advertised.

Pros -

- Individual charging channels.

- Can simultaneously charge any mix of up to 4 AA and AAA batteries.

- Visual indication of when each battery is fully charged.

Cons -

- Refuses to charge some of my old AAA Energizer and Rayovac NiMH batteries. When I insert them, the charging status light blinks continuously, which is apparently some sort of error indication. As a guess, the internal resistance of these older batteries has probably gotten high enough that the charger is unhappy with them.

- Charge time for fully discharged batteries is a little on the long side (7-9 hours). But I didn't really expect better than that from a cheap charger.
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Re: Good, affordable NiMH charger

Postposted on Tue Jul 01, 2014 10:30 am

I've been really happy with my Tenergy charger. Granted, I mostly use it with Tenergy cells, so I haven't really pushed it's boundaries.
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Re: Good, affordable NiMH charger

Postposted on Tue Jul 01, 2014 11:28 am

I bought a fairly decent charger off Amazon not too long ago, but I haven't used it much. With regular alkalines being so cheap and available in bulk these days, I hardly bother with NiMH anymore. I did recently change the battery that was hard-soldered into my favorite trimmer though (not designed to be user-replaceable). Saved me from spending $60 on the new version (which is identical aside from having a lithium battery). I'm fine with soldering in a new NiMH every 5 years.
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Re: Good, affordable NiMH charger

Postposted on Tue Jul 01, 2014 2:03 pm

You can get some really good chargers for $30 or less from Tenergy, Nitecore, and Xtar.
The Nitecore i4 goes for less than $20.
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Re: Good, affordable NiMH charger

Postposted on Tue Jul 01, 2014 7:06 pm

This is the one I use, and it's been a great charger. It charges AA, AAA, C and D cells, one at a time.

http://www.mahaenergy.com/mh-c808m/
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Re: Good, affordable NiMH charger

Postposted on Tue Jul 01, 2014 10:50 pm

The Swamp wrote:This is the one I use, and it's been a great charger. It charges AA, AAA, C and D cells, one at a time.

http://www.mahaenergy.com/mh-c808m/

I stand by my "rather pricey" comment in the first post. :wink:
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Re: Good, affordable NiMH charger

Postposted on Wed Jul 02, 2014 4:31 am

Hi,

I'm a long time lurker but your question is exactly the one I asked myself about 6 months ago, so I thought I'd share what I found.

As you say, many chargers only charge in pairs or can overcharge if the batteries are different.
I ended up buying this one:
Technoline BC-700 (from Amazon UK) (I can't post URLs but the manufacturer page is technoline dot eu)

I'm been extremely happy with it so far, it gives detailed info on the voltage/current/capacity for each individual battery (can mix AA and AAA of different makes/models no problem)
It can also restore dead batteries to their maximum available capacity by carrying out a few charge/discharge cycles until the charger detects the battery won't accept any more charge than the last charge cycle.
You can also vary the current used to charge/discharge for individual batteries if they're different.

Whilst it's around £23 (just under 40$), I use it so frequently (recharging batteries for bicycle lights) that for me, it's worth it.
[Edit] I've just seen it's 50$ on Amazon.com so a bit pricier over the pond :wink:

Anyway, I thought I'd share in case anyone else was looking for a charger like this :)
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Re: Good, affordable NiMH charger

Postposted on Wed Jul 02, 2014 6:25 am

just brew it! wrote:
The Swamp wrote:This is the one I use, and it's been a great charger. It charges AA, AAA, C and D cells, one at a time.

http://www.mahaenergy.com/mh-c808m/

I stand by my "rather pricey" comment in the first post. :wink:


Yeah, admittedly the one I use is a bit pricey. But it's a very good charger for the money. Down here, in Hurricane Alley, I really need something that can keep my fleet of rechargeable batteries in peak working order. If you can catch the charger on sale somewhere, it's really a good deal.
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Re: Good, affordable NiMH charger

Postposted on Wed Jul 02, 2014 6:49 am

I have a nice Maha charger but my problem with NiMHs is their self discharging... I know some claim to be better about that than others but it just seems to me that even brand new cells are worthless after doing very little work despite their advertised capacity. For most of my battery needs I tend to go for Lithium AAs and AAAs since remotes, other wireless peripherals/controllers and most other things I use are all pretty low drain devices.
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Re: Good, affordable NiMH charger

Postposted on Wed Jul 02, 2014 6:56 am

drfish wrote:I have a nice Maha charger but my problem with NiMHs is their self discharging... I know some claim to be better about that than others but it just seems to me that even brand new cells are worthless after doing very little work despite their advertised capacity. For most of my battery needs I tend to go for Lithium AAs and AAAs since remotes, other wireless peripherals/controllers and most other things I use are all pretty low drain devices.


Indeed, even the NiMHs that claim to hold 80% of their charge after a year, in my experience, are nowhere near this figure.
For constant use and/or high-drain use they're great, but don't expect that remote to be working in 18 months with NiMH :(

"Someone" needs to make a 1.5v AA/AAA battery that has minimal self discharge, decent capacity and is rechargeable.
Though I'm sure if it was easily possible it would have been done by now...
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Re: Good, affordable NiMH charger

Postposted on Wed Jul 02, 2014 6:58 am

drfish wrote:I have a nice Maha charger but my problem with NiMHs is their self discharging...

In a word: Eneloop. They've consistently held their charge well for me; in contrast, the high capacity Energizer NiMH batteries are useless after a few months - great when you first get them, but they lose their charge faster than a chair leaving Steve Ballmer's hands after they've been in use for a short time. In comparison, I grabbed some Eneloops that I hadn't touched in well over a year, and they still had more than enough charge to get me through a reasonable photo shoot (in the flash.)

Granted, I haven't tried any other brands than those two, but then, given that the Eneloops have worked so well for me, I haven't felt the need.
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Re: Good, affordable NiMH charger

Postposted on Wed Jul 02, 2014 7:03 am

sjl wrote: In a word: Eneloop. They've consistently held their charge well for me; in contrast, the high capacity Energizer NiMH batteries are useless after a few months - great when you first get them, but they lose their charge faster than a chair leaving Steve Ballmer's hands after they've been in use for a short time. In comparison, I grabbed some Eneloops that I hadn't touched in well over a year, and they still had more than enough charge to get me through a reasonable photo shoot (in the flash.)

Granted, I haven't tried any other brands than those two, but then, given that the Eneloops have worked so well for me, I haven't felt the need.


Thanks for the info, I haven't come across them before.
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Re: Good, affordable NiMH charger

Postposted on Wed Jul 02, 2014 7:57 am

sjl wrote:
drfish wrote:I have a nice Maha charger but my problem with NiMHs is their self discharging...

In a word: Eneloop


Hmmm, I've heard that at least once before somewhere else, maybe I'll pick some up (and trash the rest of my collection of Energizers and Duracells). Thanks!
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Re: Good, affordable NiMH charger

Postposted on Wed Jul 02, 2014 8:01 am

drfish wrote:I have a nice Maha charger but my problem with NiMHs is their self discharging... I know some claim to be better about that than others but it just seems to me that even brand new cells are worthless after doing very little work despite their advertised capacity. For most of my battery needs I tend to go for Lithium AAs and AAAs since remotes, other wireless peripherals/controllers and most other things I use are all pretty low drain devices.

Another vote for the Sanyo Panasonic Eneloop ones. They are very good at holding a charge. Still a good idea to charge them before first use (in case they have been stitting in a warehouse somewhere for a couple of years), but I think they come the closest to actually delivering on the "low self-discharge" claim. (Makes sense, they invented the low self-discharge tech.)

Edit: And yeah, the high-capacity Energizer ones from a few years back sucked quite badly. Just a week or two after charging they would be almost completely flat already. All of mine got pitched in the trash. Been avoiding Energizer rechargeables ever since so I have no idea if they've gotten better.
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Re: Good, affordable NiMH charger

Postposted on Wed Jul 02, 2014 10:54 am

If you have not heard of and used the Eneloops before, then your claims of "no NiMH batteries hold their charges close to advertised" are moot. :P They are that good, at least during the Sanyo days. Not sure how they are faring under Panasonic now.
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Re: Good, affordable NiMH charger

Postposted on Wed Jul 02, 2014 11:28 am

Some info on Eneloop NiMH cells at Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eneloop
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Re: Good, affordable NiMH charger

Postposted on Wed Jul 02, 2014 1:12 pm

http://www.stefanv.com/electronics/low_ ... harge.html

Eneloop or other low-self-discharge NiMH FTW... I run Maha Imedeons myself, but next time I'll probably just run over to Costco to pick up Eneloop's since it's convenient. My Maha Imedeons are now something like 6 years old and still holding up fairly well, although I'm quite certain they've run down more than a bit in capacity over six years of use in my Speedlite.
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Re: Good, affordable NiMH charger

Postposted on Wed Jul 02, 2014 5:27 pm

drfish wrote:Hmmm, I've heard that at least once before somewhere else, maybe I'll pick some up (and trash the rest of my collection of Energizers and Duracells). Thanks!

Do it. I haven't used Duracells enough to comment on their reliability, but to be blunt, I wouldn't touch Energizer NiMH with a forty foot barge pole - not unless you paid me (and even then, I'd turf them at the first opportunity.)

I don't know how many AA Eneloops I have floating around - at least 20 - and I have absolutely no qualms about grabbing a random set of four and using them if I'm in a hurry. I'd prefer to charge them first, of course, but if I don't have time, I don't stress over it (unlike when I discovered that with the Energizers, I'd charge them on day 1, and find them all but completely dead on day 2, no matter how much or little I'd actually used them - I don't know how old they were, but they certainly hadn't been used particularly hard.)

I wasn't aware that Panasonic had bought out Sanyo, and hence now own the brand, but I'd be very surprised if it weren't the same team working on them - if you're on a winning formula, you're not likely to change it on a whim.
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Re: Good, affordable NiMH charger

Postposted on Wed Jul 02, 2014 10:27 pm

I've been using a Maha 8 cell AA/AAA charger for the better part of a decade. It was pricier than your target. Only problem with it is it likes to cook (overcharge) cheap AAA batteries. The moral of that story is don't buy cheap AAA batteries, of course.

Around here batteries are "food for toys". We can go through disposable batteries at an alarming rate; so, I've been pushing the rechargeables wherever possible. If you want to stress test and abuse rechargeable batteries, bring them to my house; I'm currently down to a handful that have survived over-discharge, being mixed with batteries of different capacities and different charge levels, and high charge cycle count. I have used Tenergy, Rayovac, Duracell, Enerloop and Powerizer batteries. The Powerizer were a bulk battery buy and are the "cheap AAA batteries" that the Maha charger would cook. You have to be careful with the Rayovac because they've taken lessons from Energizer and started selling a cheaper model of the battery with a lower mAh rating. Both Duracell and Rayovac have incorporated technologies to emulate the Enerloop batteries. Enerloop probably had the best characteristics (before they died) All of my survivors are currently Rayovacs; but, that's just a numbers game -- I had more of that brand since I had a habit of grabbing them whenever I found them on sale.

That reminds me, I need to go buy more batteries.
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Re: Good, affordable NiMH charger

Postposted on Thu Jul 03, 2014 3:43 am

http://www.mahaenergy.com/mh-c401fs/
Charges 1-4 AA or AAA NiMH or NiCD batteries while keeping them cool
Choose rapid charge method, approximately 100 (AA) or 60 (AAA) minutes, or slower gentle charge of 5 hr to keep batteries extra-cool when charging time is not critical. Gentle charge also extends overall life
Both methods are driven by a microprocessor termination control, in order to prevent overcharging
Unique FLEX negative pulse charging algorithm enables the battery to accept a more complete charge, significantly enhancing battery life. The pulse eliminates memory effects, making conventional battery conditioning and cycling obsolete
Four independently-controlled channels charge and monitor each battery individually, charging it to its full potential without risking overcharging
Backed by a limited lifetime warranty

I bought this when it was ~ $30. Might be cheaper elsewhere.
As for batteries, I swear by Rayovac. They have more power than eneloop, and last just as long. Energizer is overrated, but better than duracell. Duracell nimhs are compete junk, or at least they were the last time I tried them.
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Re: Good, affordable NiMH charger

Postposted on Sun Oct 05, 2014 8:54 am

just brew it! wrote:Cons -
- Refuses to charge some of my old AAA Energizer and Rayovac NiMH batteries. When I insert them, the charging status light blinks continuously, which is apparently some sort of error indication. As a guess, the internal resistance of these older batteries has probably gotten high enough that the charger is unhappy with them.


I just picked up a BQ-CC17. JBI! listed a pretty big Con here. About 20 of my older high capacity NiMH are incompatible with this charger :( my Energizers seem to be ok, tho

I was using an Engergizer Universal Charger (not the value charger). This thing has 8 independent channels. works up to 8 x AAA, 8 x AA, 4 x C, 4 x D, or 2 x 9V. Alas, it died last weekend when I was charging 6 AAA/AA with it. Now, even with no cells in it, 3 main channels flashes partially charged cells, then just stops. Seems charging many empty cells fried something inside :evil:

I'll keep an eye out for the baby MAHA (MH-C401FS), and grab one when there's a good deal.
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Re: Good, affordable NiMH charger

Postposted on Sun Oct 05, 2014 9:29 am

LocalCitizen wrote:I just picked up a BQ-CC17. JBI! listed a pretty big Con here. About 20 of my older high capacity NiMH are incompatible with this charger :( my Energizers seem to be ok, tho

Yes, it seems that the BQ-CC17 may be a little picky about the electrical characteristics of the batteries it charges. I don't see it as a big problem since most of my older ones had gotten bad enough in terms of charge retention that it was getting to be time to toss those anyway.

I could see it being pretty annoying if you have a large stash of older high capacity cells though...
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Re: Good, affordable NiMH charger

Postposted on Sun Oct 05, 2014 11:17 am

I too have a Maha charger; the same one. It's nice to be able to charge them in non-homogenous groups, and no pairing needed.

Another vote for Eneloops or other "pre-charged" brands that are designed to hold their charges. I've not tried the Eneloops specifically, but I do have the Duracel and Rayovac equivalents and have had good luck with them.
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Re: Good, affordable NiMH charger

Postposted on Mon Oct 13, 2014 4:29 pm

FYI Costco currently has the charger mentioned in the first post bundled with 10 AA and 4 AAA Eneloops, for $29.99. That's roughly equivalent to getting the charger for free.
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Re: Good, affordable NiMH charger

Postposted on Mon Oct 13, 2014 10:06 pm

Years ago after realizing I have about 15+ remotes in the house, I decided rechargeables would make sense. At the time, everyone recommended the La Crosse chargers on Amazon, so that's what I got. I think I paid somewhere between $45-$55. Not cheap, but I believe they have features most chargers lack, like being able to select different charging modes, and being able to "recondition" batteries.

Anyway, I have often regretted going rechargeable. Any batteries I had fully recharged are too low by the time I need them. I have always heard great things about the Eneloops, and had some for years still in there package I had bought on sale. A few days ago I had to swap some remote batteries(generic), and sure enough the ones I had waiting were dead. So I opened the package of Eneloops that I had purchased several years prior. I put them in the remote and they have been working fine since.

I'm not sure I would recommend rechargeable to anyone anymore. I suspect you don't really save any money, though maybe keep less crap going into landfills or electronic recycling. But if you do get rechargables, I would recommend Eneloops, or some other brand that keeps their charge. I do have some Rayovacs that are also supposed to hold their charge "3x longer", but they don't.

Now that I think about it, I may donate or recycle all my non-Eneloop batteries, as they are not worth the hassle.

Edit: I believe the Amazon branded batteries are supposed to be very similar to Eneloops for cheaper.
Last edited by clocks on Mon Oct 13, 2014 10:56 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Good, affordable NiMH charger

Postposted on Mon Oct 13, 2014 10:11 pm

just brew it! wrote:FYI Costco currently has the charger mentioned in the first post bundled with 10 AA and 4 AAA Eneloops, for $29.99. That's roughly equivalent to getting the charger for free.



I could be wrong, but I thought I read a while back that the charger included in the Costco set is not the same and the "Advanced" charger sold on Amazon, etc... Maybe someone can verify.
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Re: Good, affordable NiMH charger

Postposted on Mon Oct 13, 2014 10:53 pm

I don't have much to add, as I'm using the chargers that come in the eneloop kits and charge two pairs at a time, other than to say that they've been rock solid. But I could see the utility in a larger single-channel charger.
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Re: Good, affordable NiMH charger

Postposted on Mon Oct 13, 2014 10:58 pm

"batteries going into landfills"

Sorry. Hot-button item for me. We're NOT filling up landfills with batteries. We're just not.

But if you are throwing batteries away and not recycling them, then you're just not trying in the least. :( There are dozens of places in most major US metropolitan locations to recycle batteries of all kinds, including lead-acid and NiMH types. Many workplaces even offer recycling of batteries; my workplace has done this for at least the last 10+ years.

Try harder. :roll:
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Re: Good, affordable NiMH charger

Postposted on Mon Oct 13, 2014 11:04 pm

Airmantharp wrote:I don't have much to add, as I'm using the chargers that come in the eneloop kits and charge two pairs at a time, other than to say that they've been rock solid. But I could see the utility in a larger single-channel charger.


That Maha cost me over $100 at a "Batteries +" store, but for the last 3 years it has been the best charger I've ever had. It has a "refresh" cycle too and charges all types (AAA, AA, C, and D cells). One drawback: It can't charge 9-volt batteries. Occasionally I need to charge some for my electric guitars, tuners, metronomes, and other oddball 9-volt devices. I wish the Maha had room for two 9-volt bays, even if the whole charger were longer as a result.
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Re: Good, affordable NiMH charger

Postposted on Mon Oct 13, 2014 11:07 pm

Local recycling station is 2 miles up the road and they'll take every lead-acid or laptop battery you can give them and all for free. Never asked them about small batteries, which means my old ones are fractionally elevating the ground surface of a big hole in the ground in Coventry, VT.
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