You’re probably in the same predicament I found myself in: on the fence about your sticking with the batteries that you know work or shelling out a little money to buy some rechargeables that you are unsure about.
Maybe you’ve been scarred for life by your poor rechargeable alkaline battery stint back in the 90’s.
You feel there has to be a better way, but the convenience of just opening a new pack and getting on with life versus dealing with a different technology and charger weighs on your mind a bit.
The power outage prep that I use on a daily basis and have gotten more use out of than any other preparedness item in my life has been my AA and AAA rechargeable batteries. Combined with a solidly performing charger, these things keep everything in my house reliably running — from the remote controls to the kids’ books that talk. After having used them for years now, I don’t even notice a difference between quality or duration when compared to an alkaline.
The thing I can’t come to terms with is why it took me so long to invest in the rechargeable battery movement!
For over 3 years I have not bought a single, one-time use, typical alkaline battery and I hope to never really have to again unless necessary.
So are Eneloop batteries worth it? Yes, and I will go over the reasons why! I am going to focus only on AA and AAA batteries, and my comparisons are with my own experience between normal alkaline batteries and Eneloop precharged nickel-metal hydride rechargeable batteries.
Cost (long term!) and the number of charges
Yes, there is an initial cost hurdle when getting your first rechargeables since you need to not only buy the batteries but the charger as well. As with many things in life that have an inconvenient hurdle as a barrier — the prize on the other side for the long-term benefit is worth it!
When you consider the cost of an alkaline from a top leading brand, you can find that the price per AA battery is anywhere from $0.75 to $1 depending on how many you purchase at one time. That might seem cheap in the short-term but in the long-term, you’re actually spending a heck of a lot more money since alkaline batteries are a one and done deal. Once an alkaline battery is fully discharged — that’s it and that’s all. They now need to be disposed of properly and we all know that everybody disposes of alkaline batteries properly don’t we?
Now if we take a look at Eneloop precharged nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries which are my personal favorite on the market they might cost $2.25 to $3 per battery but you get 2,100 charges out of them. That’s $0.001 per cycle! The math is actually very clear on what the best choice is.
Battery Leaks in Gadgets
Surprisingly, the cost of having to constantly buy alkalines wasn’t what pushed me over the edge into rechargeables — it was the constant leaks and damages to my items. The ever-popular alkaline battery is notorious for leaking and spilling its guts inside your favorite flashlight or your child’s favorite toy.
- Quick tip: Use a q-tip and dip it in white distilled vinegar to clean up the crusty leakage. It will save you a lot of gadgets if the leak didn’t go too far.
With a NiMH battery, you really don’t have to worry about this. You’re hard-pressed to find anything on Google when it comes to NiMH batteries leaking. Usually, any sort of battery failure is due to a faulty charger, reverse polarity, or a shorting out within the gadget itself.
Of course, like all batteries, you don’t want to keep them stored in a gadget when the batteries are fully discharged.
During a power outage, reliance on AA and AAA batteries to keep small things powered is the norm, especially for lighting! Again, once an alkaline battery is discharged, it is worthy of the special facility that disposes of them. Rechargeables, on the other hand, can keep your flashlights going in the blackout with only an extra tool — a DC/AC Power Inverter. Simply hook it up to your car battery (or dedicated battery bank), plug the battery charger into the inverter, and place your batteries inside the charger. Problem solved!
Landfills and the Environment
We touched on the topic in the above paragraphs. just how many alkaline batteries actually end up in landfills. We know that not everybody takes them to the proper facilities to be disposed of. It’s sad but over the course of my lifetime, I’m sure I’m guilty of throwing dozens if not hundreds away as a kid in the trash before I even knew better.
I’m not an expert on the manufacturing of the different types of batteries but if we were to assign the same environmental impact to create each of these batteries, wouldn’t it be best to know that yes I may have hurt the environment making this battery but I get 2,100 uses out of it versus a single-use?
Even if the environmental impact of creating a NiMH battery was 3 or even 10 times greater than that to create a single alkaline battery, a single NiMH battery will last me well over 10 years, whereas I will need a new alkaline battery every month to 6 months depending on how often I use an item. I would much rather get a single solid cut on my finger than the get 2,100 repeated paper cuts. That’s just me though.
Kids Murder Batteries
In the sportsman’s world there’s a thing called a negligent discharge and this can be a very bad thing. When it comes to batteries a negligent discharge is only a costly thing and an inconvenience. Kids are the primary perpetrators of negligent discharges when it comes to batteries.
My daughter is a prime example of this. Whenever she finds Daddy’s flashlight or an LED lantern that has the batteries left in it she loves to hide in a closet, turn the light on, leave it there, and forget about it. Daddy finds it days later with batteries dead. This is a weekly occurrence it seems.
Now if I had alkaline batteries this would be $0.75 to a dollar every time she ran my flashlight dead or it would be about $2.25 to $2.50 every time she ran the lantern dead.
Let me tell you, having those rechargeable batteries that I can use 2100 times makes those little frustrations mean absolutely nothing and I can simply smile, throw the batteries in a charger and 2 hours later they’re ready to rock again.
If you get a quality type of rechargeable battery the self-discharge rate on them is not of much concern. Over the course of a full year, it is true that at room temperatures an alkaline battery will only lose around 2% of its charge sitting idle and a nickel metal hydride battery might lose 10%, the fact that I can simply throw the NiMH battery in the charger for a few minutes and have it topped off again is all I need to know that this is a better investment for normal day-to-day use.
High Drain Electronic Items
With today’s nickel-metal hydride batteries, they can be used almost anywhere an alkaline battery can be used. they are virtually interchangeable. for high drain electronic items like digital cameras, we see that the output curves for the NiMH batteries are a clear winner over and alkaline batteries.
A nickel metal hydride battery is designed to give off a higher output for a longer period of time and then fall off drastically at the end of its cycle whereas an alkaline battery is designed to give out an initial high output and then gradually decrease until the battery is dead. That’s why if you have two flashlights that are powered on side-by-side, one with an alkaline battery and one with a NiMH battery, the flashlight with the alkaline battery will slowly dim over time until the battery is dead. The flashlight with a NiMH battery will perform at the desired rate and then suddenly the light will cease to work when the battery is fully discharged. The dimming effect is not very noticeable.
Low Drain Electronic Items
For items like wall clocks, you will probably get more life out of an alkaline battery. The difference in time won’t be enough though to justify having to buy a new one when it dies when you could just swap in a new rechargeable and recharge the one that has fully discharged.
Overall I don’t think you can go wrong with investing in some rechargeable batteries, like some 4th Generation Eneloops that are good for 2,100 cycles. If you want to see what the current price is for these, here’s a link to a 16-pack of AA batteries on Amazon.
For me, alkaline batteries still have their place for instances like when I am traveling or at a relative’s house and I don’t want to risk leaving my expensive rechargeable batteries there.
Even though it might be new technology to you don’t let it hold you back from the long-term cost savings and convenience that you’ll experience with rechargeable batteries.
But if you are going to make the investment you owe it to yourself to get a good quality charger. It can make or break the experience.
In my opinion, a quality charger is one that can charge both AA and AAA batteries in any combination or quantity simultaneously. It is a charger that will cease charging when the battery is at its capacity and will not continue to give it a trickle charge current which kills the battery. The quality charger should also have a feature where you can do a quick charge, a normal charge, or a reconditioning charge for your batteries to restore them back as close to the factory state as possible. This is the one from Amazon I’ve used for 3 years that meets all of my requirements and it has never disappointed me.
Try to make it a practice to have your rechargeables topped off before you put them on a critical job. It won’t take long with a good charger, and you’ll get the best performance out of them.
So get out there and start saving yourself a lot of money in the long-term by getting a couple dozen AA and AAA rechargeables and a quality charger. You won’t be disappointed!