Don't freak out about lithium-ion batteries in your home

Assaulted by worrisome battery news concerning the Boeing 787? Rest assured that the lithium-ion batteries in your home won't go up in smoke.

First, the disposable AA and AAA lithium cells are not the same as those in your laptop or Boeing's airplane. Unless you abuse them by trying to recharge them or exposing them to excessive heat, the non-rechargeable flashlight batteries won't explode.

Laptop, cellphone, iPad/iPod/iPhone batteries, while similar but not identical to the batteries in the airplane, were re-engineered about six years ago to reduce the chance of meltdown and/or fire. Again, unless you abuse these batteries by consistently, improperly overcharging or exposing them to temperatures hotter than the interior of a car on a summer day, they remain safe.

Nearly all products/chargers using lithium-ion rechargeable batteries contain protection circuits to prevent dangerously overcharging.

The closest relatives to the batteries on the 787 are used in hybrid and electric cars. These batteries are not identical and their function is not as critical as those found on the aircraft.

Some people worry about lithium-ion batteries in the event of a car crash. These batteries are nowhere nearly as volatile as gasoline. If Mr. Benz and Mr. Daimler announced they invented a vehicle powered by gasoline today, people would be terrified to drive above a tank of something so dangerously explosive. (Incidentally, Toyota still prefers somewhat less problematic nickel metal hydride batteries for its hybrid cars.)

Since many products now incorporate nonuser-replaceable rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, follow this simple guideline to extend the life of your batteries. Never let them run down below 20 percent of their charge, and try to charge to 80-90 percent rather than 100 percent of their charge. While some products won't allow the batteries to fall below 20 percent, most still permit full charging to 100 percent. Don't leave batteries charging for an extended period when you're not using the product.

One machine to handle all music?

A reader saw an advertisement for the following product and asked whether it was worthwhile:

"Innovative Technology Aviator Music Center — This Innovative Technology Aviator Music Center (ITVS-750N ) fuses classic style with modern technology for a truly timeless listening experience. Product Features: Transfer music from records/cassettes to CDs and MP3s / Three-speed turntable lets you play and record / Built-in AM/FM radio offers additional listening options / Full-range speakers and headphone jack / Motorized CD drawer lends convenience / Handsome wooden cabinet lends retro style / Remote control. Sale $179.99, regular $249.99."

Products such as these that promise so many features do few, if any, of them, well. A decent turntable with a built-in preamplifier for recording straight to a computer costs $180 by itself (although there are some on the market for less).

The kind of turntable built into this product might prematurely wear your LPs while playing them with distortion. The full-range speakers can cause feedback when playing your LPs. The ad doesn't say much about the CD burner, but it will require more expensive blank consumer music disks rather than blank computer data disks.

While I have no hands-on experience with this product, I've seen many like it. Expect questionable performance and a short life.

If you want to transfer your LPs to CD, any computer with a CD burner (and all computers come with CD/DVD burners these days) will accomplish the task. Nearly all computers, whether Mac or Windows, come with software that burns CDs. All you need is a decent turntable with built-in preamplifier to plug into the computer.

Many turntables now come with USB outputs that easily connect to your computer. If you want to get fancy and manipulate and edit your transfers, download Audacity, a terrific free audio editing and enhancement program from: http://www.audacity.sourceforge.net.

A Swiss Army Knife works great if you're camping without access to more sophisticated, specialized tools. Otherwise, separate tools best accomplish the task.

Rich Warren, who lives in the Champaign area, is a longtime reviewer of consumer electronics. He can be emailed at hifiguy@mchsi.com.

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vnp wrote on February 21, 2013 at 12:02 pm

chamPAIN is well known to freak out over anything and everything