The invention of the battery changed the way we use technology. It allowed us to get rid of the power cord and take our gadgets wherever we want. Think about how less useful your smartphone or tablet would be if you had to plug it in whenever you wanted to use it.
With the gift giving season right around the corner, we thought we'd take a look at some batteries you might need and tell you which ones are the best performing. There are all kinds of brands from Duracell to Kirkland and even Amazon is selling their own branded batteries.
First, let's look at the most common disposable AA battery types.
Alkaline batteries became a popular replacement for zinc-carbon batteries in the 1970s. The alkaline battery was built to last two to 11 times longer than older batteries.
- Positives - One great feature of alkaline batteries is they have a really long shelf life. They can sit around between five and 10 years and still have plenty of energy. They are also relatively inexpensive.
- Negatives - Some downsides to alkaline batteries are they are prone to leaking and they're not great for high-drain devices. If the battery leaks while in use, it could damage your gadget.
Standard alkaline batteries do not work well in high-drain devices like digital cameras. The reason is they are not capable of pumping juice out fast enough.
There are special high-drain versions of alkaline batteries but your best bet, and most cost-effective choice, is to use a rechargeable battery for high-draining devices.
Next, we'll take a look at lithium batteries.
- Positives - Lithium batteries are great for high-drain devices. They are also really lightweight, weighing about one-third of alkaline batteries. Lithium batteries work really well in smoke detectors because they will last up to seven years in use. They have a shelf life of between 10 and 15 years.
- Negatives - Lithium batteries are more expensive than alkaline batteries. Also, it's very rare but lithium batteries have a small possibility of exploding.
Lithium batteries are very lightweight. They are also great for cold weather conditions and are rated for lower temperatures than any other type of battery.
Plus, when stored at cool temperatures, lithium batteries can retain about 90 percent of their charge for nearly 15 years.
Finally, we will look at zinc-carbon batteries.
- Positives - Zinc-carbon batteries have a long shelf life. They are also very inexpensive and are good for low-drain devices like remote controls and clocks.
- Negatives - Zinc-carbon batteries have the lowest capacity of any of the disposables.
Zinc-carbon batteries date back to the 1800s and it's the original chemistry for household batteries. Alkaline batteries have pretty much replaced zinc-carbon batteries in use these days because they last up to 11 times longer.
Consumer Reports (CR) recently did a study on AA batteries. They tested a total of 15 different lithium and alkaline batteries, including several brands. Here is what they found:
- Energizer Ultimate Lithium AA - CR only tested two lithium style batteries and this one came out on top. It received an overall score of 89.
- Energizer Advanced Lithium AA - This one came in second with an overall score of 82.
- Duracell Quantum AA Alkaline - CR tested a total of 13 alkaline batteries and this one is the best. It received an overall score of 89.
- Rayovac Fusion Advanced AA Alkaline - Overall score of 85.
- CVS Max AA Alkaline - Overall score of 82.
- Duracell Coppertop Duralock AA Alkaline - Overall score of 80.
- Kirkland Signature (Costco) AA Alkaline - Overall score of 80.
- Rite Aid Home AA Alkaline - Overall score of 79.
- AmazonBasics Performance AA Alkaline - Overall score of 71.
- Walgreens W Alkaline Supercell AA - Overall score of 71.
- Energizer ecoAdvanced AA Alkaline - Overall score of 68.
- Energizer MAX +PowerSeal AA Alkaline - Overall score of 67.
- CVS AA Alkaline - Overall score of 62.
- Dynex (Best Buy) High Capacity AA Alkaline - Overall score of 60.
- EcoAlkalines AA Alkaline - Overall score of 59.
As you can see by their scores, the higher rated alkaline batteries perform as well as lithium batteries.
The alkaline batteries are nearly half the price of lithium, so if you're using them for low-drain devices they're your best bet. Some examples of low-drain devices are remote controls, toys, LED flashlights, clocks and radios.
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Bonus tip: How to make your batteries last longer, safely
Once you have decided which battery to stock up on, you'll want to make them last as long as possible. Here are a few rules to follow that will make your batteries last longer in the safest way:
- Keeping unused batteries stored in a cool, dry place will help them last longer.
- If you know you're not going to use a gadget for a few months, take the batteries out and store them in a cool, dry place.
- Before putting new batteries in your gadget, clean the contact surfaces and battery compartments with a cloth.
- Don't mix and match batteries in the same device. If the device calls for multiple batteries use the same brand, type and age. This is a safety precaution.
- Once a battery dies, dispose of it immediately and keep it out of the reach of young children. You can even recycle batteries if you so choose.
- If a battery feels like it's overheating, stop using it. If it gets too hot it could damage your device.