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When Can I Use Rechargeable Batteries Instead of Alkaline?

Batteries Plus Blog - Power - by Bryan Veldboom - updated on 5/18/2021

Top of an AA battery

Alkaline batteries are the most common type of replaceable battery, used to power a wide range of household applications. In fact, there's a good chance you'll use something with an alkaline battery in it before the day is done. Their greatest disadvantage is that they need to be replaced. If you're someone who goes through a lot of batteries, you may want to upgrade to rechargeable batteries. Learn the differences between alkaline and rechargeable batteries and which applications each type works best in.

What are the Types of Rechargeable Batteries?

At Batteries Plus, we carry two different types of common rechargeable batteries: nickel cadmium (NiCd) and nickel metal hydride (NiMH). NiCd and NiMH rechargeable batteries are available in the same sizes as alkaline batteries (AA, AAA, C, etc) and can be used to power the same things as alkaline types.

What are the Advantages of Rechargeable Batteries?

Rechargeable batteries typically last between two and five years and can be recharged hundreds of times. While they cost more than alkaline batteries, they last longer per use than alkaline batteries and end up saving you money in the long run. They also help to reduce the number of batteries that end up in landfills, making them much better for the environment.

Are Rechargeable Batteries Better Than Alkaline?

While rechargeable batteries have a number of advantages over alkalines, they're not necessarily the best choice for every application. Rechargeable batteries work best in applications with long run times that operate at a constant discharge. Examples include toys, remotes and video game controllers.

Alkaline batteries are a much better choice for low drain devices that draw small amounts of power over a longer period of time. This is because alkalines start with a slightly higher voltage that decreases faster than rechargeable batteries. An alkaline battery will die much faster at the end of its life, while a rechargeable battery will hang on at a lower voltage for longer, resulting in performance issues such as dimming lights or a clock that can't keep time. Examples of low drain applications include clocks, smoke alarms, portable lights and thermometers.

Alkaline batteries are also a much better fit for a home emergency kit. There are a couple of reasons for this. First off, if the power goes out, it's impossible to charge a rechargeable battery. Second, alkaline batteries tend to have much longer shelf lives than rechargeable options, with top brands guaranteed to hold a charge for as long as ten years.

How do I Maintain Rechargeable Batteries?

The most important thing you can do to maintain your rechargeable batteries is to pick up a quality charger. When selecting a charger, make sure that the model you choose is compatible with the chemistry and voltage of your rechargeable batteries. For instance, don't try charging a NiMH battery with a charger built for NiCd batteries. If you do, you'll end up harming your batteries and shortening their overall lifespan. You'll also want to avoid leaving your batteries in the charger for more than 24 hours at a time. When your rechargeable batteries are not in use, be sure to store them flat in a cool, clean place.

As you can see, alkaline and rechargeable batteries have their own unique strengths, with each type working better in different situations. Still have questions? No problem. The associates at your local Batteries Plus can help. While you're there, why not bring in your old batteries and bulbs to be recycled? Please note there is some variation from store to store due to state and local regulations. There may also be a cost for recycling. For the most accurate info, contact your nearest store directly.

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