Which AA Battery Should You Be Using?
How to decide whether alkaline, lithium, or rechargeable batteries are the best choice for your devices.
Look around you and chances are there’s one or more AA batteries powering something nearby. From clocks and remote controls to blood pressure monitors and smoke alarms, AA batteries provide energy for devices both convenient and crucial.
There are three basic types of AA battery to choose from: alkaline, lithium, and rechargeable. Each has specific advantages and disadvantages. Choosing the best one comes to down to three factors: Power, cost, and convenience. Here’s a guide to choosing AA batteries that are right for you.
Lithium batteries are more expensive than alkaline and rechargeable batteries, but they provide power for a much longer time before needing replacement. That makes them ideal for devices in places where batteries are difficult to change or are critical, such as home alarms and medical devices. Lithium batteries also perform better in extreme hot and cold temperatures compared to alkaline batteries, making them a good choice for outdoor surveillance systems. All that power also makes lithium batteries a good choice for high-drain devices, such as digital cameras—and because they’re lighter in weight than alkaline batteries, are ideal for any device that you carry around often. Finally, lithium batteries can be stored for a long time without losing power—up to 20 years, according to some manufacturers—making them ideal for use in an emergency supply kit.
Alkaline batteries are the most common battery type, and for good reason: They’re not as expensive as lithium, they deliver power for a good amount of time so changing them doesn’t become an inconvenience, and they discharge power as needed. They also have a shelf life of about 10 years, so you can buy them in bulk to save money. Toys, flashlights, clocks, radios, game controllers—such devices are ideal candidates for alkaline batteries.
Rechargeable batteries have one great advantage: low cost over the long haul. While you’ll need to invest in a battery charger (and extra rechargeable batteries so you can easily rotate fresh batteries into a device while you charge the depleted ones), the overall cost over time is much, much lower than if you had used alkaline batteries instead. Rechargeable batteries do have some drawbacks: they self-discharge faster than alkaline batteries, and they hold a very slightly decreasing amount of power each time they are recharged. However, these batteries can be recharged a lot—up to 1,000 times, according to some manufacturers—and recharge time can be measured in minutes. All you need is a wall socket to plug in the recharger. These batteries are ideal for low-drain devices that are at hand, used often, and in which replacing batteries is easy, such as remote controls, electric toothbrushes, and wireless computer mice and trackballs.