Disposable Batteries vs. Rechargeable Batteries: Which Should You Choose?

Making a choice between disposable batteries and rechargeable batteries can be a tough choice. Should I stick with disposables and their low cost? Should I spend a little more up-front and go with rechargeable? What are all my different options?


Disposable Batteries

AA Alkaline Disposable BatteriesDisposable batteries commonly power low voltage devices, such as clocks, flashlights, and toys. Life and endurance of disposable batteries vary, depending on the device and drain on the battery.

Disposable battery sizes include AA, AAA, C, D, and 9-volt. There are also disposable 6 and 12 volt lantern batteries. Chemistry types include Alkaline, Super Alkaline, Air Alkaline, Silver Oxide, and Zinc Air.

These batteries are not rechargeable and should be disposed of once dead. Since they are non-hazardous, these batteries can be disposed of with your normal household trash. The normal shelf life of alkaline batteries is 3 to 5 years (when stored at room temperature). You can gain longer shelf life by putting the batteries in a zip lock/air tight bag and storing them in your refrigerator. This can help if you live in a very hot location.

Disposable batteries work great for low-drain devices like smoke detectors, alarm clocks, and remote controls.


Rechargeable Batteries

9 Volt Rechargeable BatteryThe two most common rechargeable batteries are nickel cadmium (Ni-Cads) and nickel metal hydride (NIMH). The energy provided by these batteries is adequate, when compared to regular disposable batteries. Disposing of rechargeable batteries, however, is more hazardous to the environment because of toxic metals and should always be recycled.

Rechargeable batteries are accessible in quite a few sizes and voltages. Your choices of rechargeable battery sizes are similar to disposable batteries. You can find rechargeable AA, AAA, C, D, and 9-volt batteries. Two way radios and cordless phones commonly use NiCad and NiMH batteries, too.

The biggest advantage is the rechargeable feature. However, depending on the application, the run time of rechargeable batteries may be less than Alkaline batteries. Most rechargeable batteries are rechargeable between 200 and 300 times. Towards the end of the life cycle, you will notice the run time start to diminish.

In many cases, rechargeable batteries will ultimately save you money. This is especially true with items that you use frequently. Changing batteries frequently can quickly add up overall costs. At times like these, it’s best to invest in some rechargeable batteries and a charger to charge.

If rechargeable batteries make sense for you, consider keeping some extra batteries and keep them charged. If your power runs out, just quickly swap the batteries (and remember to charge the old ones when you can!). This makes it extremely easy to have a consistent power source for all your favorite devices.


Lithium Batteries

AA Lithium BatteriesLithium Batteries tend to stand apart from other batteries. This generation of batteries includes lithium, lithium-ion, and lithium-polymer technologies. Lithium-ion and lithium-polymer are rechargeable batteries, while lithium batteries are not. All forms of lithium batteries are hazardous and should always be disposed of properly.

These batteries almost always out perform and offer a much longer battery life than disposable or rechargeable batteries. Always make sure your application can use lithium-based batteries as they have higher voltages and will cause damage if used improperly. Also, you must always make sure your charging system or chargers can charge lithium-ion and lithium-polymer batteries.

Lithium-based batteries are especially common in electronics like cell phones, laptops, and GPS receivers.


Is it possible to upgrade the device’s battery to a newer chemistry?

NiCad, NiMH and Li-Ion are all fundamentally different technologies and cannot be substituted for one another unless the device has been pre-configured from the factory to accept more than one type of rechargeable battery. The difference between them stems from the fact that each technology requires a different charging pattern to be properly recharged. Therefore, the portable device’s charger must be properly configured to handle a given type of rechargeable battery.

Refer to the owners manual to find out which rechargeable battery types the particular device supports or use our QuickFind search engine to find the device in our database. The database will automatically list all of the battery types supported by the machine.

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