Explainer: Why your phone and other devices can lose up to half of their battery life in cold weather

Things have slowed down as Ireland experiences its longest cold spell in more than four and a half years.

It’s not just pedestrians who tiptoe down glittering footpaths or cars that cautiously cruise down icy streets, the technology itself is also skidding.

A host of tech gadgets and electronics suffer when temperatures drop in winter, and Independent.ie is here to explain why.

phones, tablets and laptops

While there have been overwhelming advances in handheld technology over the past decade or more, advances in battery capacity have not been as rapid.

Your phone uses much the same lithium-ion battery today as it did 10 years ago, and unfortunately, it doesn’t like the cold. The same applies to the battery of your tablet or laptop.

Lithium-ion batteries like to work at an “ambient temperature” between about five and 40 degrees. When a device is exposed to extreme temperatures beyond either of the two thresholds, it begins to struggle and the temperatures negatively impact the chemical reaction that powers your phone’s battery.

Another downside is that cold affects battery life more detrimentally than we might think.

Smartphones can lose up to 50 percent of their battery life when exposed to very cold temperatures, like the ones we’re experiencing in Ireland this week.

That’s according to Colin Baker, Gadget Guy at Ireland AM and owner of Back from the Future Tech Repair Stores, who says it’s wise to protect your gadgets from the cold this week.

“People who may have been skiing and brought their cell phones would have noticed this phenomenon of getting half a day off their cell phone when they would normally get twice as much.

“In colder temperatures, batteries have a shorter service life and often have a significantly reduced performance of up to 50 percent.

“Keep your phone in your pocket. Taking it out while going for a walk in the cold will significantly decrease battery life.

“Wait until you’re on the bus or train or at home to answer calls or text. Or use your headphones to take a call if you really have to,” Colin said.

Not only is the battery life draining faster than regular phone users have to worry about, the phone may also be dead despite saying it has great battery life.

“There are also cases where someone’s phone says they have 30 pack batteries left and then suddenly it’s dead. This is due to the fact that the device’s ability to detect remaining energy is thwarted by temperature,” said Colin.

Electric cars and other e-vehicles

For the Tesla lovers and Nissan Leaf enthusiasts among us, the cold snap is also bad news. The same problem applies. The battery technology in newer electric cars needs energy to keep the temperature at ambient levels, so it often runs at night to warm up the battery. This further drains the battery and is known as “ghost discharge”.

The older EVs don’t have this technology, but their batteries suffer and can have reduced range overall when exposed to prolonged cold snaps over time.

“I have a Tesla Model 3 and I can drive 450 km in the summer. But in deep winter I look at about 300 km. I would experience so much [of a drop-off]but I don’t know if she [manufacturers] I’d tell you it’s a lot,” Colin said.

petrol and diesel vehicles

In advice for motorists this winter, Chill.ie warned that batteries are much more prone to failure in colder weather. Chill is advising motorists to invest in car covers or park their car in more sheltered locations during the cold spell if possible. Tire pressure is also affected in sub-zero temperatures and motorists are advised to ensure their tires are not under-inflated.

“Frequent washing of your car, especially in the winter, can help remove the salt that may have coated your car from driving on gritted roads.

You should also regularly check your tire pressures, always fill up your windscreen washer to keep it clean and check for cracks or chips, and park your car in a garage or sheltered place if possible,” says Ian O’Reilly of Chill.ie said.

Smart solar panels, CCTV and other smart devices

These devices also experienced reduced battery life during a cold snap and commercial premises use CCTV cameras with micro heaters installed to ensure they keep running on cold nights.

Smart cameras and doorbells that may be connected to a homeowner’s phone or other devices are at increased risk of failure, as are smart solar panels. It is important to check the battery of these devices more regularly during the winter.

indoor and outdoor units

Items such as washing machines, dryers, fridges and other appliances stored indoors and out can be affected by cold – particularly if stored in a powered shed or cold garage – but it is highly unusual for Ireland to experience temperatures that are cold enough for that.

Unfortunately, however, pipes to these devices can sometimes freeze, especially in cases where there is a lack of insulation.

In the government’s ‘Be Winter Ready’ campaign, she is advising people concerned about freezing pipes to open the attic trapdoor to leave the heating warm, or leave the heating on lower settings longer than usual , in order to keep a certain temperature in the house at all times, if necessary

It’s also a good idea to wrap a towel around the taps to keep them from freezing.

https://www.independent.ie/business/technology/explainer-why-your-phone-and-other-gadgets-can-lose-up-to-half-their-battery-life-in-cold-weather-42293365.html Explainer: Why your phone and other devices can lose up to half of their battery life in cold weather

Fry Electronics Team

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