In today’s fast-paced environment, portable electronic devices like smartphones, tablets, and laptops are essential for staying connected, informed, and entertained.
But keeping them charged all day and night is a challenge.
If you’ve been comparing devices to find the one with the best battery life, you’ve probably seen the abbreviations mAh and Ah. Understanding these battery ratings can help you choose a device with suitable battery life to fit your needs.
Buy a smartphone with a high enough mAh, and you’ll never have to worry about running out of juice when you need it again.
Keep reading to discover what mAh is, how to calculate a battery’s storage capacity, and what it all means to stay charged in the real world.
What Is mAH?
mAh stands for milliampere hour and measures the amount of electricity stored inside a battery. Specifically, it measures how much charge a battery can deliver in an hour. The more milliampere-hours comparable devices have, the longer the runtime between charges.
While many people shop for devices by looking at the specs for estimated battery life hours, mAh is a more precise measurement of how long a device will last on one charge.
It’s one of the most crucial factors when buying any electronic device since it’s directly tied to its run time. Checking the milliampere-hour spec before purchasing helps you understand how long the device will work between charges and how much power the device can store.
mAh is also a standard unit of measurement for portable power stations and solar generators. Like any other device, it measures the battery’s energy storage capacity.
For example, if you want to use a solar generator for larger appliances like a washing machine, you’ll need to find one with a higher mAh that can run high-wattage appliances for hours.
If you intend to use your solar generator or battery backup system during a blackout or for extensive periods off-grid, mAh is a crucial metric to consider. The lower the mAh, the shorter the time you’ll be able to operate essential devices without recharging with AC electricity or solar power.
What Is the Difference Between Mah and Ah?
mAh and Ah are measurements describing a battery’s energy storage capacity. The difference is Ah is a larger unit of measure than mAh. 1000 mAh equates to a 1 Ah rating.
Typically, smaller batteries use the mAh rating, while larger batteries show Ah ratings. If a 12V car battery has 50 Ah with an hourly consumption of 5 amps, it’ll run for about 10 hours.
A smartphone with a 3000mAh battery, which consumes 500mA per hour, would last 6 hours between charges.
How Is mAh Calculated?
Often, battery specs use watt-hours (Wh) or kilowatt hours (kWh) and volts instead of milli-ampere hours to measure storage capacity. You can calculate mAh by multiplying the watt-hours by 1000 and dividing that figure by the voltage to determine how long the battery can sustain that output level before recharging.
(watt-hours (Wh) x 1000) / voltage (V) = mAh
For example, if a battery can deliver a current of 1.5 watt-hours at 5V, it would have a 300mAh rating:
(1.5Wh x 1000) / 5V = 300mAh
Does a Higher Mah Mean a Longer Battery Life?
While many people assume a higher mAh automatically means a longer battery life, that isn’t necessarily the case. The device, type of battery, and how it’s used all factor into how long a battery will last between charges. Battery life also depends on how well you maintain it, battery chemistry, and quality of manufacture.
For example, let’s say two portable power stations (PPS) have the same milliampere-hours rating. One of the batteries powers large appliances like a refrigerator, while the other powers less demanding electronics such as lights and smartphones.
The PPS used for appliances will have a shorter runtime because it supplies more electricity at a faster rate. Understanding mAh is just one crucial piece of the puzzle when choosing the right battery for your electricity consumption needs.
Additionally, Lithium-ion batteries — particularly LiFePO4 batteries — for solar generators will typically have a longer runtime than other battery types. Lithium-ion batteries have a higher energy density and a lower self-discharge rate than lead-acid batteries.
How Does mAh Affect Battery Life?
The mAh rating determines the storage capacity of the battery. A battery with a 2000 mAh rating delivers a current of 2000 mA per hour. Generally, higher mAh ratings mean longer runtimes; however, other factors also play a role.
For instance, homeowners buying a solar generator or portable power station for backup electricity should consider the mAh rating. A large PPS like the DELTA Pro can charge your devices and operate large appliances for hours before needing to recharge. With a 1600W solar charge capacity, you can connect up to four 400W rigid or portable solar panels to recharge the DELTA Pro off-grid.
The DELTA Pro has a 3600Wh electricity storage capacity and a voltage of 48V. Using the formula above, you can calculate that it has a rating of 75,000mAh or 75Ah (3600Wh*1000 / 48V = 75,000mAh). It also has a lifespan of 6,500 cycles, meaning the DELTA Pro can be charged and discharged 6,500 times before diminishing to 50% efficiency.
More life cycles mean the battery will support more use before diminishing in efficiency or needing replacement. By comparison, lead acid batteries typically last for only a few hundred cycles — 10% or less the lifespan of a LiFePO4 battery.
Relationship Between mAh and Battery Charging Time
In addition to battery life, the mAh rating also impacts the charging time. A battery that holds more electricity will typically take longer to charge. Batteries with a high mAh rating usually take longer to charge than those with lower ratings.
Battery chemistry also plays a significant role in recharge times. For example, the RIVER 2 series of portable power stations can recharge in 60 minutes or less using household electricity or in 2-6 hours using solar panels.
The mAh rating of a battery indicates how long you can go between charges and how much electricity the battery can hold. All things being equal, higher mAh ratings of batteries mean larger storage capacities and longer run times.
However, you’ll still want to account for other factors, like the device’s power consumption and battery chemistry, before making a purchase decision.
Now that you understand what milliampere-hours mean, you can confidently select devices with the appropriate run time between charges for your needs.
For home backup and whole home generator solutions, sufficient electricity storage capacity can mean the difference between running out of power at the most crucial times or weathering extended power outages.
Check out EcoFlow today for a wide range of high mAh battery-powered off-grid and backup power solutions.
Frequently Asked Questions
mAh or milliampere hour is a measurement for charge capacity, while Wh or watt-hour is a unit of energy. mAh measures the capacity of a battery to store electrical charge, while Wh measures the amount of energy that a battery can provide over time.
Yes, generally, a higher mAh is better. That’s because it’ll have a greater capacity to store electricity and provide power to devices, resulting in longer run times. Furthermore, higher mAh batteries tend to have a longer life span and hold their charge for more extended periods.
The answer varies significantly depending on the device’s energy consumption requirements and how long you want it to run between charges. For instance, a 3000mAh battery ensures a smartphone can last all day. However, laptops need closer to 5000mAh-8000mAh for regular daily use.
The cycle duration between charges depends on the device’s power consumption. Standard smartphones with a 5000mAh battery can last up to two days on a single charge when performing basic tasks like surfing the web and checking email. If you’re listening to music or watching videos on your phone all day, you’ll need to recharge more frequently.