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Money Leaks: Batteries

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Rechargeable BatteriesDespite all the advances in technology in the last fifty years (your phone has more technology than the first computers that filled entire rooms), one area that we haven’t had quantum leaps in is battery technology. While it’s less of a torrential leak as it is a slow drip drip, we spend a lot of money on these little things.

So, this week, the target of our Money Leaks spotlight will fall squarely on batteries.

This is the latest edition of our new series called Money Leaks.

Disposable vs. Rechargeable

One of the common ways to try to trim the cost of batteries is by going rechargeable. The problem with rechargeable batteries is that they’re expensive. Instead of buying a million for $10, you can usually get four. We use rechargeable batteries because it’s a lot less waste. While I’m skeptical of Eneloop’s claims of 1500 charges, I really only need it to charge about ten times for me not to feel wasteful and a hundred times for it to be economical. The real risk isn’t that the battery loses charge, it’s that I lose the battery!

If you do go the route of rechargeable, and I recommend it, be sure to look for chargers that will disengage (stop charging) once it detects the battery is fully juiced. And please recycle your batteries.

Storing Batteries

You should keep them in a cool dark place and, to prevent moisture from condensing on the batteries, in a sealed plastic bag and, preferably, separately. Do not freeze them! I’ve heard of some people storing them in the fridge but that’s probably a little overkill unless you have plenty of space, just make sure to but them in a container separate from your food.

Also, when you’re not using the appliance, take the batteries out. Phantom electricity isn’t just for plugged in appliances.

Buy a Tester

One protip first mentioned by my friend Dave – buy a battery tester. I picked up a no-name battery tester made in China off one of those clearance sites (like a or something) for $4-5. First, it can find the charge of a battery when you don’t know what it may be. The real value came over this past weekend when we found a cache of D batteries in the closet. Normally, without the tester, we’d have probably stuck them in something that took D batteries (my lovely wife’s old stereo) as a test. Some of them were good (as fully charged as you can be sitting in a closet for several years) and some were bad (we had a few from IKEA that were goners). Without the tester, it’s possible that we would’ve recycled the lot of them if we were unlucky in which ones we tested. 🙂

Second, sometimes appliances will draw down batteries at different rates. If something uses four AA batteries in a long strip, it might draw down the outside two batteries faster than the inside two. With a tester, you can find out if there are any gems left in the batch.

Second Life

Finally, as we run down our supply of disposable batteries, after you use them in something that’s fickle about power (ie. there’s still a smidge of charge left), be sure to try them out in remotes. Remotes just need a little juice to operate so “dead” batteries can find a few more months of life left as a remote battery.

What are you best tips for making batteries last?

(Photo: jamiemc)

{ 13 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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13 Responses to “Money Leaks: Batteries”

  1. Shirley says:

    LOL… presently my best tip for making batteries last is to hide them from the teens. And then not forgetting where you put them makes them much more useful. 😉

  2. Dave says:

    Great Article! 🙂

  3. billsnider says:

    I use NiMH batteries. They last and last.

    Bill Snider

  4. STRONGside says:

    Batteries and disposable razor blades are two things I absolutely hate paying money for! They are expensive and do not last.

  5. Odie says:

    I bought a couple dozen AA Sanyo eneloop 3 years ago with a charger and I haven’t spent one cent on new AA batteries ever since. The price electricity of recharging a pair of AA batteries is a just few cents. The Duracell Precharged NIMH are also as good as the Eneloops. I have yet to have one battery not hold a charge. Also buy products that use the AA cell if you have a choice. It’s all about lowering the total cost of ownership of your stuff.
    I think I probably saved over a hundred bucks over the past 3 years with the Eneloops. Best investment you can make.

    • Strebkr says:

      I bought the Flip that takes AA sized batteries over the one with the built in rechargeable. It still comes with a pack that fits in the same space as two AAs, but when it runs out and you can’t charge it right away you just pop in normal batteries. This helps keep cost down because overtime the battery will go bad and it will be expensive to replace a special battery.

  6. Kenny says:

    Fantastic article……I started with the NiCd Panasonic batteries in the early 90’s and since then I have migrated to the Energizer batteries and chargers.

    I even have USB battery chargers, and I use these in everything.

    I have ‘cheap’ NiMH batteries available at Walmart for the low power devices, and the Energizer for the high powered devices.

    My Teens are VERY used to these batteries.

    I use the battery tester for the regular Alkaline batteries which I buy when they come on the ridiculous sales like $1.99 for 60 batteries. Those serve as emergencies for low powered devices such as headphone devices, fan-remotes etc. But, I recycle them with a ‘system’ regularly.

    Key is to have everyone in the household get used to your own system so that everyone obeys it and does not say oops after throwing the expensive Energizer batteries.

    I have never found cheaper batteries than at Menards (like a HD in the mid-west) for Energizer and then Walmart for the low end rechargables for the remotes.

    They last approx 800-1200 charges for me since I discharge them completely in two flash lights that I keep next to the battery chargers so that the low-memory effect of NiMH does not come in my way.


  7. skylog says:

    good post jim. i made the switch to rechargeable batteries a few years ago and have not looked back. i do not have great battery needs and the rechargeable batteries have served me very well. as you mentioned, i do love the reduced waste as well.

  8. Sean says:

    One type of rechargeable isn’t better than another for all uses, it depends entirely on what they’re going into.

    NiCd batteries do suffer from the ‘memory’ affect, but they hold their charge for a much longer time NiMH do, and they’re much cheaper than Eneloops (which do hold their charge very weel). NiCd’s are good for things that use a little charge over a long time, like remotes, clocks, some kids toys, etc.

    NiMH batteries don’t suffer the dreaded ‘memory’ affect, but lose their charge when they are sitting there doing nothing. NiMH are good for digital cameras, gadgets that suck alot of charge, camera flashes, etc.

    Sanyo Eneloops (and other LSD, or low self discharge, NiMHs) are great in all respects, except for cost. You can buy LSD NiMHs cheaper if you get the non-Sanyo one’s, but they are still more expensive than regular NiMHs.

    Personally, I keep a few NiCd’s around for the little stuff, a few regular NiMH’s for things that suck down charge quickly, but which I can handle waiting for the batteries to charge first, and LSD NiMH’s for things that I like to know will always be ready to go (like my digital camera).

  9. Strebkr says:

    I’ve found success in buying a new pack of rechargable NiMH batteries every year and labeling them with the date. I can then keep the batteries together by year meaning I don’t mix a 2011 with a 2007 battery. I use the newest ones for digital cameras, etc. The next tier down get used in flash lights, clocks, etc. Then the real old ones get used as remote batteries. I probably have 6 years at either 4 or 8 batteries a year. It seems to do the trick. AND…I have kids who use them.

  10. David says:

    For batteries, I recommend the La Cross BC-700 or 9009 charger (latter comes with batteries and higher/faster charge rate, though this can also shorten battery life). I won’t shill all of its features here but it’s a relatively sophisticated battery charger that can help further extend the life of your batteries.

  11. Christian says:

    Before buying a specific battery checker just make sure that you or your spouse don’t already have a general voltage/current meter in the tool box already. Many people who fix stuff around the house will already have one and they can test batteries just as well as an outlet or other circuit.

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