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What are the Differences Between Lithium and Alkaline Batteries?

Batteries Plus Blog - Power - by Bryan Veldboom - updated on 9/3/2020

Child playing a video game with wireless headphones and controller

As a consumer, you rely on batteries to power a wide range of everyday devices ranging from thermostats to activity trackers, wireless game controllers and more. Finding the best replacement battery for each of these applications can sometimes get a bit confusing, especially when you factor in the many different types of batteries available. Today we'll take a closer look at two of the most commonly used batteries, alkaline and lithium, and break down their differences in performance, cost and which applications each is best suited to.

Performance Comparison

Lithium batteries have a superior chemistry to alkaline batteries, enabling them to deliver more power with a longer shelf life. How much more? Your standard lithium battery can hold power in storage for an impressive 20 years versus 10 years with an equivalent alkaline battery.

Lithium batteries also weigh approximately 33% less than alkalines and perform much better in extreme temperatures ranging from -40° to 140° F. By contrast, alkaline batteries perform best between 30-70° F. Temperatures over 85° F can shorten their life cycle, while conditions below freezing have the effect of decreasing an alkaline battery's power.

Pros and Cons

While lithium and alkaline batteries differ significantly in terms of performance, each has their own unique strengths and weaknesses. As noted above, lithium batteries hold the edge in performance and shelf life, however, they do cost more. The upfront cost of a lithium battery can be up to three times more than an equivalent alkaline battery, making alkaline far more affordable. However, lithium’s longer battery life means they will not need to be replaced as often as alkaline batteries, meaning that lithium batteries will offer a better return on investment in the long term.

The Best Battery For Common Applications

Due to their superior chemistry, lithium batteries are your best choice for high drain devices like digital cameras and wireless video game controllers which go through power at a rapid rate. Alkaline batteries are well suited to low and moderate drain devices like clocks, toys and radios. Here is a brief breakdown of some of the uses each battery is best suited to.

Devices that use alkaline: toys, clocks, portable lights, thermometers, remotes, smoke detectors and fire alarms.

Devices that use lithium: wireless video game controllers, trail cameras, connected programmable thermostats, keyless door locks, connected camera/home securitydigital camerasGPS devices, activity/fitness trackers and other wearable technology.

Devices that can use alkaline or lithium: flashlights, microphones, two-way radiosbaby monitors and touchless applications like hand sanitizers/air fresheners, sinks, toilets and paper towel dispensers.

Now that you understand the differences between alkaline and lithium batteries, it’s time to start shopping. Browse our selection of alkaline and lithium batteries online. Or, visit our store locator for help finding your nearest Batteries Plus Bulbs location. In addition, each of our stores serves as a battery recycling drop-off to help you dispose of your spent batteries responsibly.

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