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I have essentially the same question as this. In that question, it seems lithium batteries are prohibited for use in the device because it wouldn't adequately warn the user that the batteries need to be changed. I'm finding the same anti-lithium-battery warning in a cheap multimeter (Gardner Bender GTD-311 if it matters). It seems to me it wouldn't matter much if thing thing suddenly ran out of battery power and needed a new one. It's not a device for alerting homeowners of imminent danger. So, do I really need to seek out alkaline batteries for this device?

These are the type of battery I'm talking about:

enter image description here

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  • \$\begingroup\$ So, do I really need to seek out alkaline batteries for this device? Actually the Alkaline 9 V batteries are much more common (at least here in Europe) than the Lithium based variant. In my country every supermarket etc. sells them. I'd really have to search for the Lithium based type. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 10, 2019 at 16:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PeterSmith Maybe they're referring to 9 V Lithium batteries which are designed for smoke alarms: amazon.com/Energizer-LA522SBP-Lithium-Battery-Detectors/dp/… But honestly I cannot see a reason why these would be an issue unless the multimeter has a really crappy design and cannot handle slightly more than 9 V. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 10, 2019 at 16:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ Not sure about the 9V batteries. But there are AA sized lithium chemistry primary cells available in the US. They have an open-circuit voltage quite a bit higher than alkaline AA batteries. If I remember correctly, they are around 1.8V as opposed to around 1.6V. Multiply that by 6 and you get to 10.8V for lithium vs 9.6V for alkaline. That may put some meters over their voltage limit. \$\endgroup\$
    – user57037
    Feb 10, 2019 at 17:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ @bubbleking Most devices can handle a wide range of inputs. I've never personally encountered anything that couldn't use lithium primary batteries, though I have seen one that required NiMH--that may be because it had built-in charging circuitry, though, and trying to charge an alkaline or lithium-iron battery will result in a bad day. \$\endgroup\$
    – Hearth
    Feb 10, 2019 at 18:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ I have seen devices that do not work well at all with NiMH rechargeables. This is generally because the cutoff voltage is relatively high, so you get very poor battery life with NiMH (because the device only uses a small percentage of the full charge before cutting off). I used to design kids toys that use alkaline batteries. When Lithium primary batteries became common, we DEFINTITELY modified our design practices to make sure the product would not fail with the higher voltage. Some older designs may be marginal (technically over-voltage with fresh cells), but most likely fine in practice. \$\endgroup\$
    – user57037
    Feb 14, 2019 at 20:48

2 Answers 2

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Let's look at the data sheets here.

Lithium: http://data.energizer.com/pdfs/l522.pdf

Lithium Curve

Standard: http://data.energizer.com/pdfs/522.pdf

Alk curve

My guess is we can probably use the 20-33 mA curves for each (the "toy" curve). They look roughly the same in terms of what voltages are outputted (lithium is just way more flat). Based off of this, you should be fine. The only thing of note is that your "low-batt" won't work quite right (it'll probably kick in at around 6.5V or so, which you'll see for 5 minutes before it keels over).

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    \$\begingroup\$ Your charts, which I know come from Energizer directly so should be trustworthy, show both batteries starting at 9.0V and declining from there. Yet my own experience with trying to use an Energizer Lithium battery in a multimeter - detailed in another answer to this question - was a disaster. There must be some quantitative or qualitative difference in the two batteries that these charts aren't revealing. \$\endgroup\$
    – Daniel
    Jan 17 at 21:44
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I just wanted to relate my personal experience here in case anyone else ran across this question in a Google search.

I can't answer the question why from a strictly electrical engineering perspective, but I can answer the question from a practical real-world use perspective:

I have an entry-level Klein-branded multimeter and it was time to replace the original generic 9-volt battery which it came with out of the package. I thought I might try one of those Energizer Ultimate Lithium 9-volt batteries (the very ones you pictured in your original post).

Klein multimeter

It just wouldn't work. The batteries were brought brand new (new stock) and I used one directly from the package. The multimeter would turn on, but it would sometimes flash random numbers. Sometimes it would turn off. Sometimes it wouldn't turn on. If I tried to test a circuit sometimes it would give me a voltage reading, sometimes it wouldn't. If it gave me a voltage reading, sometimes it looked correct (I was working with a "known" quantity of ~120V AC) and sometimes it looked untrustworthy (like 96V). Sometimes it looked like it was counting up to 120V but then would freeze at 96V or something. Speaking of freezing, if I got a voltage reading it would always freeze after the first reading. It wouldn't update the screen, even if I removed the probes from contact. I always had to restart the device just to hope to get a reading.

Bottomline: it was random and unreliable and basically useless. If I'm trying to test for a live wire and I don't know if the 0V I'm being shown is because the screen is frozen or not, it's a useless device. If I'm shown a reading but have no idea if it is a real, valid reading or not, it's useless.

Later I purchased a normal Rayovac 9-volt battery and the multimeter went back to working just fine.

So, from a real-world practical perspective, you can't use a Lithium 9-volt battery in at least some multimeters because they just won't work correctly, or reliably, or at all.

From an electrical engineering perspective, I assume some multimeters just weren't designed to handle the slightly different voltage output of a Lithium 9-volt battery. The internal circuitry is just too sensitive to voltage outside the design spec, which expects the voltage output and curve of a standard 9-volt alkaline battery.

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