Three best rechargeable batteries
Efficient, convenient, and economical, rechargeable batteries are a popular power source at a time when our living and workspaces are filled with more and more electronics.
All of these compact, cylindrical power packs are pretty much the same, right? Not exactly. It's not enough to just grab any old rechargeable AA batteries. Are they going to have enough power to run your digital camera? How long will they hold a charge? How much time does it take to recharge them?
At BestReviews, we answer these questions and more so you can compare different rechargeable battery brands as you shop.
Considerations when choosing rechargeable batteries
Economy: Rechargeable batteries can be incredibly economical, able to be recharged 150 to 300 times before needing replacement. Consider that regular alkaline AA batteries cost around a dollar apiece, and it's clear that using rechargeable batteries could save you hundreds of dollars in replacement batteries.
Convenience: Cylindrical NiMH batteries in AAA, AAA, C, and D sizes can be purchased online, as well as at any hardware store, home improvement store, household goods store, and most grocery stores.
Power: Many of today's rechargeable batteries are designed with high-power-demand devices in mind, such as an external camera flash, digital camera, or handheld GPS unit. Those rated for high capacity often outperform alkaline batteries.
Drawbacks: These rechargeable dynamos come with a much higher price tag than disposable batteries. And they don't hold their charge indefinitely; some maintenance is required. Discarded rechargeable batteries also pose just as many environmental concerns as any other type of battery.
Rechargeable battery features
Type: Nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) is the primary type of cylindrical rechargeable battery, constructed of nickel, an alloy of other metals, and potassium hydroxide. NiMH batteries have replaced nickel-cadmium (NiCd) as the rechargeable battery of choice for cylindrical batteries. NiMH batteries have almost twice the capacity of NiCd batteries. (Why no lithium-ion rechargeable batteries in this guide? Sold mainly in "block" form to power laptops, tablets, and smartphones, lithium-ion batteries are not yet available in AAA, AA, C, or D sizes.)
Capacity: NiMH rechargeable batteries deliver at or close to the milliampere-hour (mAh) rating needed by high-demand devices like digital cameras. They enable a device to work at its proper power capacity and are designed to last longer than alkaline batteries in these situations.
Size: These are the most commonly used sizes of rechargeable battery.
AAA: The smallest cylindrical battery size available in rechargeable batteries.
Prices: High-capacity AAA batteries range from $15 to $25 a piece; standard capacity batteries range from $5 to $15.
AA: Perhaps the most commonly used cylindrical battery size in electronic devices.
Prices: High-capacity AA rechargeable batteries cost $9 to $25 apiece; standard cost $4 to $8 apiece.
C: Another popular battery size used in flashlights, toys, and musical instruments.
Prices: High-capacity C rechargeable batteries cost $5 to $12 apiece.
D: These are often used in larger flashlights, radio receivers, and other technology equipment that demands plenty of electricity for an extended running time.
Prices: High-capacity D rechargeable batteries cost $6 to $13 apiece.
Other important details
Battery life: Remove batteries from devices that aren't being used for weeks or months at a time. This will slow down the rate of discharge.
Charger: You'll need to purchase a battery charger to charge your batteries. You'll often be able to purchase a charger for the type and size of battery you need that includes "starter" batteries, so you have everything you need right away. Some rechargeable batteries come "precharged" and ready to use. Check the packaging to determine if the batteries need to be charged before their first use.
Charging: Don't recharge batteries of different sizes or voltages together. Avoid recharging batteries of different brands together, too.
Temperature: Temperature extremes can drastically shorten a battery's existing charge and its charging life. Avoid prolonged exposure to very hot or very cold temperatures.
Q. How do I dispose of rechargeable batteries once they no longer charge fully?
A. Do not discard rechargeable batteries in household trash. Dispose of them at a recycling center that accepts batteries, or check with your municipal or county public works department to find out how to properly dispose of batteries.
Q. Should I wait until a battery drains entirely before recharging it?
A. After the very first full charge, you don't have to wait for the battery to drain all the way. The battery can be recharged when it reaches 30% to 50% capacity.
Q. How much energy does a battery hold, and how well will it perform?
A. Take labels like "heavy-duty" or "fast charger" with a grain of salt. Instead, check the milliampere-hour rating (mAh) of the battery. If a device lists a preferred mAh rating (1,800 mAh, for example), purchase rechargeable batteries with a rating at or just above that amount.
Rechargeable batteries we recommend
Best of the best: Panasonic eneloop AA NiMH Pre-Charged Rechargeable Batteries
Our take: With good charge retention and thousands of recharge cycles, these fourth-generation eneloop technology batteries may outlast the devices they're powering.
What we like: Low self-discharge rate, so batteries maintain close to their full charge for several weeks. An impressively high number of recharge cycles.
What we dislike: Slow to charge (a necessary evil to ensure its massive 2,100 recharge lifespan), though not as slow as older generations of rechargeables.
Best bang for your buck: AmazonBasics Pre-Charged Rechargeable AA Batteries
Our take: Offers reliable, out-of-the-box power and plenty of recharge cycles at a very attractive price.
What we like: The 2,000 mAh capacity is perfectly adequate for devices with high power demand, such as digital cameras, and have a comparable or better lifespan than alkaline batteries used the same way. Reliably ready to use right out of the package thanks to the precharge.
What we dislike: Tend to discharge quickly, especially when used with lower-capacity, long-running tech like flashlights. Number of recharge cycles may be fewer than the 1,000 cycles advertised.
Choice 3: Energizer AA NiMH Rechargeable Batteries
Our take: A very good, all-purpose rechargeable battery for both short-term and long-duration use.
What we like: Excellent battery life when used in high-demand tech like an external flash. Also performs well in extended duration uses, such as handheld radios and solar garden lights.
What we dislike: Tend to self-discharge within several days, so they're not optimal for devices that are stored for weeks at a time.
Samantha Bookman is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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