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Blinkie gets dim in the cold

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Blinkie gets dim in the cold

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Old 01-18-07, 11:19 AM
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Blinkie gets dim in the cold

Now that the cold days are here, I'm getting a curious problem. The cold makes my batteries less energetic. Even though the batteries are new; shortly after beginning my commute, my blinkie dims down to almost dark. After the bike has had a chance to warm up at home, the blinkies are bright again. Any ideas?
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Old 01-18-07, 11:28 AM
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What kind of battery, and how cold are we talking about? I use Energizer e2 batteries in my Superflash, and notice no dimming, even down to 16*F.
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Old 01-18-07, 11:36 AM
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I'm using NiMH rechargables for my entire lighting system; a 14.4V pack on the HID and strobe, and my TL-LD1000 and Nashbar secondary headlight both take 2xAA NiMH (2600 mAH). I've had no problems down to 0*F so far this winter, and I leave everything out in the garage all night.
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Old 01-18-07, 02:15 PM
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Yeah, most of my LED's when out on my blinkie. Got 2 of 8 working. My button is also hard to turn on/off. Not good.
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Old 01-18-07, 02:29 PM
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Cold temperatures can impact the chemical reaction within the battery. With a slower reaction you'll get less output.
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Old 01-18-07, 02:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Artkansas
Now that the cold days are here, I'm getting a curious problem. The cold makes my batteries less energetic. Even though the batteries are new; shortly after beginning my commute, my blinkie dims down to almost dark. After the bike has had a chance to warm up at home, the blinkies are bright again. Any ideas?
As others have pointed out, the battery chemistry is the main issue here... decent NiMH batteries should be quite resilient down to 10 F, with little change in voltage and internal resistance. I can't remember what alkaline batteries do at low temp... can anyone fill me in on this??

For the nitty-gritty details of battery performance, I always recommend that people visit Battery University, which is an excellent online resource written by one of the world's foremost experts on batteries. Here's a useful except from a page on high and low temperature performance:

At low temperatures, the performance of all battery chemistries drops drastically. While -20C (-4F) is threshold at which the nickel-metal-hydride, sealed lead-acid and lithium-ion battery cease to function, the nickel-cadmium can go down to -40C (-40F). At that frigid temperature, the nickel-cadmium is limited to a discharge rate of 0.2C (5 hour rate). There are new types of Li?ion batteries that are said to operate down to -40C.

Hope that helps.
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Old 01-18-07, 06:00 PM
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Originally Posted by moxfyre
As others have pointed out, the battery chemistry is the main issue here... decent NiMH batteries should be quite resilient down to 10 F, with little change in voltage and internal resistance. I can't remember what alkaline batteries do at low temp... can anyone fill me in on this??
They fade out. My blinkie is running on 2 AAA Duracells. Their small size is why they are less resistant to cold than the C batteries in my headlight.
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Old 01-18-07, 07:13 PM
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Lithium batteries work great in the cold. They cost about 3 times more the alkaline batters but will last 2-3 times longer and are lighter.
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Old 01-18-07, 07:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Artkansas
They fade out. My blinkie is running on 2 AAA Duracells. Their small size is why they are less resistant to cold than the C batteries in my headlight.
I'm not sure that the small size makes much of a difference. Batteries are good heat conductors so they should equilibrate to the ambient temperature quickly. The headlight may generate enough heat to keep the batteries out of the performance-hurting temperature range.

I'd suggest switching over to NiMH batteries. You can get a set of 6 AA, 2 AAA, and one fast charger for only $15 from Costco, a very good deal... and I know many other stores have good prices on the batteries too. They last longer when powering high-current devices, are better for the environment, and they'll definitely save you money in the long run.
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Old 01-18-07, 08:04 PM
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Originally Posted by moxfyre
I'd suggest switching over to NiMH batteries.
I thought NiMH were the most succeptible to the cold - at least that's what I was thinking when I chose to purchase a Li Ion battery for my headlight.
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Old 01-18-07, 08:19 PM
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One solution when dealing with battery packs (you know the deal, cords and all the trimmings) is to attach them to somewhere on your body, under the jacket. That way they won't get cold. But of course that won't work for AAs.
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Old 01-18-07, 08:35 PM
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Originally Posted by moxfyre
At low temperatures, the performance of all battery chemistries drops drastically. While -20C (-4F) is threshold at which the nickel-metal-hydride, sealed lead-acid and lithium-ion battery cease to function, the nickel-cadmium can go down to -40C (-40F). At that frigid temperature, the nickel-cadmium is limited to a discharge rate of 0.2C (5 hour rate). There are new types of Li?ion batteries that are said to operate down to -40C.

Hope that helps.
My experience differs with this. I have the Night Sun Team Issue that uses a NiCAD and I had a lot of dimming last night about 15 minutes into my ride in 10F weather. It was dim again this morning (also 10F. Didn't need it though), but totally fine tonight at about 20F. I don't recall it dimming this badly ever before.

It is probably about 4 years old and I've respliced the wires together where they frayed previously (I have that area of the cord covered with duct tape). Could the susceptibility to cold increase as the battery ages or because of my connecting the wires together?
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Old 01-18-07, 08:42 PM
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Get a few disposable lithium AA or AAA batteries. They're 2-3x more expensive but they maintain their voltage all the way to the end so they end up producing about 2x more useful light. Plus with a blinker, a set lasts a month anyway.
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Old 01-18-07, 08:55 PM
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Originally Posted by newbojeff
My experience differs with this. I have the Night Sun Team Issue that uses a NiCAD and I had a lot of dimming last night about 15 minutes into my ride in 10F weather. It was dim again this morning (also 10F. Didn't need it though), but totally fine tonight at about 20F. I don't recall it dimming this badly ever before.

It is probably about 4 years old and I've respliced the wires together where they frayed previously (I have that area of the cord covered with duct tape). Could the susceptibility to cold increase as the battery ages or because of my connecting the wires together?
That is a bit surprising... NiCd are supposed to be the most low-temperature-resistant type of rechargeable. Are you sure they aren't NiMH?

I dunno about the spliced wires. Did you solder them back together, or just twist them around each other and wrap with electrical tape? If the latter, I would suggest soldering them (can be done with a $10 radio shack kit). It is *possible* that the thermal cycling could be causing the strands of wire to creep away from each other, thus creating a high junction resistance and limiting the current to the lamp... but I'm not going to bet on it either

Other than that, I can't think of any reason why the wires would be an issue. The resistance of copper wire junctions is certainly temperature-dependent, but it doesn't vary too much over the range of human-habitable temperatures.

Chances are the problem is with the batteries... as Buchwald's article says that NiMH fail completely at -4 F, it could be that their performance is quite degraded at +10 F. It may have something to do with age of the batteries too. But this is just me speculating. Rechargeable batteries are unfortunately just really darned complicated and unintuitive... a bewildering mix of chemistry, materials engineering, and industrial design. You can understand how a computer's microprocessor works (I think I do ) and not have the foggiest clue why the big hunkin' LiIon battery gets worn out
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Old 01-18-07, 08:58 PM
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Originally Posted by JeffS
I thought NiMH were the most succeptible to the cold - at least that's what I was thinking when I chose to purchase a Li Ion battery for my headlight.
Well... I believe that alkaline batteries are worse than NiMH. And according to Buchwald, Lithium Ion batteries conk out at a similar temperature to NiMH. As he says, only NiCd are better.

Li Ion batteries do have some surprising temperature-dependent properties though: when fully charged they will wear out quicker at higher temperatures. It's one of the reasons why laptop batteries wear out so darn fast: most people leave their laptop plugged in and on for most of the time, which means the battery is always hot, and always fully charged.

If you're not gonna be using a LiIon battery for a while, it's actually a good idea to drain it 2/3 and then store it in the fridge. Sounds crazy, and it's annoying, but it will make that laptop battery last longer...
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Old 01-18-07, 09:07 PM
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I've got a NiMH Cygolite and a Cateye LD-1000 that I use lithiums in and neither have problems down to single digits for about a 35-40 minute ride. I don't know much about batteries. I just thought I'd relay my experience.
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Old 01-18-07, 09:07 PM
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Originally Posted by moxfyre
I dunno about the spliced wires. Did you solder them back together, or just twist them around each other and wrap with electrical tape? If the latter, I would suggest soldering them (can be done with a $10 radio shack kit). It is *possible* that the thermal cycling could be causing the strands of wire to creep away from each other, thus creating a high junction resistance and limiting the current to the lamp... but I'm not going to bet on it either
It took all of my electrical and mechanical skills just to figure out how to twist the wires around each other securely. I probably should solder them together. On the other hand, I'm sort of waiting for this battery to die. I'll have one miserable, slow, dark ride home, them tell my wife that I'm ordering their HID with the 40 Watt-hour battery. I'm waiting for that day, but someone around here (JohnBrooking, was it you?) said they've had their Team Issue for 15 years!!
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Old 01-18-07, 09:28 PM
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Originally Posted by newbojeff
It took all of my electrical and mechanical skills just to figure out how to twist the wires around each other securely. I probably should solder them together.
Hehehe Well it's worth a shot at least to solder them.

Originally Posted by newbojeff
On the other hand, I'm sort of waiting for this battery to die. I'll have one miserable, slow, dark ride home, them tell my wife that I'm ordering their HID with the 40 Watt-hour battery. I'm waiting for that day, but someone around here (JohnBrooking, was it you?) said they've had their Team Issue for 15 years!!
If you want the new light, then go for it. But don't just throw out a perfectly good light because the battery is dead. Every few weeks I find a perfectly good UPS tossed out in the halls of the physics building, just because its batteries are dead. Though I don't mind having a stack of $200 UPS that only cost me $40
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Old 01-18-07, 09:40 PM
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Originally Posted by moxfyre
If you want the new light, then go for it. But don't just throw out a perfectly good light because the battery is dead. Every few weeks I find a perfectly good UPS tossed out in the halls of the physics building, just because its batteries are dead. Though I don't mind having a stack of $200 UPS that only cost me $40
No idea what UPS is (other than United Postal Service).

I didn't mean that I'd toss the light. My rationale to my wife would be that I need a new battery for the old light and I've got 2 bikes that I need to have lights and as long as I'm getting a better battery I really should get a better, brighter light because it comes bundled with the better battery.

It's really all about safety.
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Old 01-18-07, 09:45 PM
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Originally Posted by newbojeff
No idea what UPS is (other than United Postal Service).
UPS = Uninterruptible Power Supply. Basically, a big hunkin' metal box with a couple 12V lead-acid batteries and an inverter in it: you connect it to the AC line, and then plug all your important appliances into the UPS. If there's a power outage, a decent UPS has enough juice in it to power a computer for a few hours.

Originally Posted by newbojeff
I didn't mean that I'd toss the light. My rationale to my wife would be that I need a new battery for the old light and I've got 2 bikes that I need to have lights and as long as I'm getting a better battery I really should get a better, brighter light because it comes bundled with the better battery.

It's really all about safety.
"It's really all about safety." I have GOT to start using this line to justify my bike purchases to my own guilty, frugal conscience
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Old 01-18-07, 10:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Artkansas
Now that the cold days are here, I'm getting a curious problem. The cold makes my batteries less energetic. Even though the batteries are new; shortly after beginning my commute, my blinkie dims down to almost dark. After the bike has had a chance to warm up at home, the blinkies are bright again. Any ideas?
You are using alkaline batteries, right ? Cold always makes batteries less energetic.

That's normal if it's cold enough, as slvoid says get the didposable lithium batteries. Or a recharger and some NimH rechargeables.
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Old 01-18-07, 11:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Artkansas
Now that the cold days are here, I'm getting a curious problem. The cold makes my batteries less energetic. Even though the batteries are new; shortly after beginning my commute, my blinkie dims down to almost dark. After the bike has had a chance to warm up at home, the blinkies are bright again. Any ideas?

http://www.nimhbattery.com/sanyo-ene...tteries-aa.php New technology out right now.

http://www.stevesforums.com/forums/v...77&forum_id=51

BTW I like your avatar. It's very cute. I thought it was a Carebear character called BraveHeart before.



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