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Rechargeable vs Alkaline Batteries

By February 23, 2009March 22nd, 201713 Comments

Tech geeks and renewable energy minded folks, read on.

I have been doing some supplemental reading for work this morning. I try to keep my renewable energy preaching under wraps, but in this day and age, it is starting to no longer become optional, so bear with me.

This is something very simple. So what’s the deal? You go to Target and you see two types of AA batteries on the shelf. You need some for your remote control or you old ass CD walkman that you still use. You see Duracell Alkaline batteries, and you see Energizer Nimh batteries. The alkaline are cheaper at first glance for instant gratification at about $2.85 for a 4 pack. But then you look at the Nimh batteries. 12 bucks for a 4 pack plus 30 bucks for a charger. Man, that seems like a lot of cost up front. The guy who is in a hurry would grab the batteries for 2.85. We have all done it, I am guilty as well. Which is a better deal?

Well… I don’t use a lot of batteries, so the payback period takes longer for me for Nimh batteries, but it’s less trips to Target when my remote stops working. Say you use 4000 Amp-hours over several years. That is 2000 alkaline batteries or a whopping $1,425. Buy your Nimh batteries once, and cycle them 2,000 times to achieve the same 4,0000 A-h. That’s about 61 bucks including the price of electricity to recharge. 61 bucks or 1425 bones. Hmmm. Tough decision. Not to mention that alkaline batteries are toxic and create a lot of waste. (Data courtesy of Gaiam Real Goods Solar Living Sourcebook)

Good. These run at ~ 1.25 volts.

Bad. These run at ~ 1.5 volts.

Just some food for thought next time you’re about to buy some batteries.


  • Dave Harris says:

    A few years back I ordered 60 rechargeable AAs from Super cheap and still going strong.

    For racing though, you can’t beat disposable AA Lion batteries. The power/weight ratio is off the charts – IIRC they are something like 1/3 the weight of a rechargeable Lion battery of similar capacity.

    Do you know why rechargeable Lion batteries are so much heavier than disposables?

    Glad to hear you are following coaches orders and feeling better!

  • Steve says:

    Couple of other things to keep in mind. Nimh batteries suffer from the “memory” effect. Meaning if you don’t fully deplete and fully charge them they will eventually hold less and less of a charge. Li Ion don’t suffer from this. Also, most typical rechargeable batteries are only good for about 500 charges before the amount of charge they hold is negligable.

  • -p says:

    Ok, I’m going to ask why you say it’s good that the first set of batteries runs at 1.25 volts. AA is supposed to supply 1.5.

  • Nick says:

    Nimh and Li ion batteries have a life span of 1,000 cycles, therefore the cost would be off. However they are both good choices as opposed to alakline or lead acid.

    The cost of renewable energy continues to be restrictive for most. The best bet is abatement, IMO.

  • sonya says:

    Yah… batteries aren’t my expertise so I could be wrong. I guess it depends on where your sources lie.

    Dave – yeah! Lithium batteries rock, they are just pricey! They may be heavier just from a material standpoint, but I am not sure.

    Steve- memory was more a problem with the nicad batteries. I don’t believe this is the case with nimh batteries, at least not according to the source I read. It could be wrong though. The book said this is no longer a problem due to “improved chemistry.” This is also a prob with rechargable alkalines.

    P – the 1.25 voltage is actually considered a weakness b/c some older electronic devices have a cutoff that will not tolerate 1.25V. However, newer devices are configured to accept the 1.25V.

    Nick – I have seen different data on cycles depending on where you look. You could be right with the 1000 number. I have seen as low as 500 and as high as 2500 from different sources. Even so, it’s still way cheaper! I agree that RE is still pretty expensive and puts it out of reach for a lot of us. Simple things like using better small batteries and using CFLs instead of Incandescents make a huge difference and are not expensive upgrades. Things like solar and wind power…that’s another story. Hopefully it will become more affordable as time goes on. The cost of solar has come down from $40,000/watt(they were handmade) to like $6/watt since 1950. Slowly we are improving….

  • Mathematically Challenged says:

    This is good stuff. LOL. 🙂

    Hope this made you laugh.

  • fan of blog says:

    So do you think the battery companies are keeping the price of rechargeable batteries high to stay in business?

  • sonya says:

    Could be. 🙂 I think it’s probably cost of materials… but you bring up an EXCELLENT point! 😀

  • Nick says:

    FOB: The price of batteries, expeciialy rechargable are high due to the production process. If it is not done in a clean enviroment using high quality materials you have a similiar situation that happened with the Dell laptop batteries.

    Unfortunately there is no conspiracy to elevate prices.

  • Don says:

    Awesome data! Now if we could only combat the biggest barrier to people making the “right” decision more often…”convenience”.

    I’d like to know…how many people will actually pay more to not have to deal with recharging batteries? With new one’s in the package, they get instant gratification…and we are an instant gratification society right now.

  • sonya says:

    Nick- Thanks, you’re absolutely right. Deerrr. 😉

    Don- I think a lot of us will admit we do things for convenience. We are the country of fast food and drive throughs. (although most countries where McDonalds goes oversees loves it. haha) I think a lot of people don’t eat as healthy as they could b/c it’s more convenient not to. (i.e. just look at processed foods!) Some people don’t eat healthy though, just b/c they are unaware that their eating habits are even unhealthy. And unhealthy is a relative term. 🙂

  • rick says:

    I don’t know about anybody else but I can’t stand buying regular batteries anymore. I use rechargable in everything from my point and shoot camera to my bike tail lights. I’d be going through scads of disposables if it wasn’t for the 10-ish (can’t always find them all) rechargables.

  • ohh…nice submit but genuinely?/? 😛

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