What is the word for things that take lots of time to prepare (or charge) and then you are able to use them for a short time until you have to prepare (or charge) them again?

For example, Drones take 2 hours to charge batteries and you can use them for only 15 minutes.

Is there a word describing this?

  • The time it takes to turn a sortie around is called the recycle time. After it has been turned around, it is available. Its flight time is called its endurance Most gadgets with long turnarounds and short endurance spend a lot of time just sitting there being available. There isn't any engineering term that is the ratio of those two numbers.
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented May 17, 2016 at 16:45
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    Cooking food takes hours, but eating the cooked food takes minutes. :)
    – NVZ
    Commented May 18, 2016 at 15:37
  • Something that has a poor cost benefit ratio. Inefficient? Unsatisfying? Disappointing?
    – JonLarby
    Commented May 18, 2016 at 22:34
  • 1
    Cherry blossoms, cicadas, pulled pork, fine whisky. Commented May 21, 2016 at 20:26
  • 5
    Old tools had a 'duty cycle.' The 'duty cycle' described how long a tool could be used before it overheated. Once overheated, a tool would need to cool before it could go back into use. A 25% duty cycle meant a tool can be used for 15min, but would require 45min to cool before it could be reused. A low "duty cycle" or perhaps a low "service cycle" may be used to describe the trait of the object. Commented May 27, 2016 at 14:51

4 Answers 4


"High-maintenance", depending on how strict you are about what constitutes a single word, signals the amount of work you're going to have to put in.


I believe the most direct answer to Mihai is: no, there is no generally accepted single-word term for what you describe (though it would be useful).

As a native American English speaker, I find the comment from Agriculturist to be the closest and best alternative. I believe "low duty cycle" would be pretty well understood by an audience that was too non-technical.


I think a good choice of word here would be ephemeral, as it usually implies something valued that is fleeting, though you may also want to qualify a particular attribute that is short-lived.

e.g. "Halley's Comet is a beautiful if not ephemeral sight."

  • 1
    I don't think this fits the description/example
    – 0xFEE1DEAD
    Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 17:38

I'd keep it simple and describe the "return on investment" as it relates to time spent in preparation compared to period of operation.

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