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How to buy batteries
A battery buying guide
Look around your house and you will see many things that require batteries to operate. There are several types of batteries which are used in devices throughout the home and office. When you think about how to buy batteries, there are a few things you will want to keep in mind.
>> Decide between single use and rechargeable batteries
Top rated batteries come in two varieties: single-use (disposable) and rechargeable. Both rechargeable and single use batteries are available in the full range of battery sizes. The answer to the question of which are the best batteries to buy depends on the device. There are some devices that will perform better with rechargeable batteries and others that are better served using alkaline batteries.
Single use - Household batteries can trace their roots back to the ancient world, but most of the single use types of batteries originated in the 1800's. There are many battery brands make single use batteries. Single use batteries are sold fully charged. Battery packs, such as 4-count D batteries packages, have a shelf life of up to five years and are best used in medium and low drain devices, such as toys, clocks and alarms.
Rechargeable - Rechargeable batteries are designed to be recharged hundreds of times before replacement is needed, making them ideal for heavy drain devices like digital cameras and cordless power tools. These batteries use a charger to restore their power. Available in all batteries sizes, a popular option is rechargeable 9-volt batteries which are great for use in things such as garage door openers and cordless microphones.
>> Consider types of batteries
When you visit the store to shop for batteries, you will quickly notice that there are many different types of batteries to choose from. How to buy batteries becomes clearer with an understanding of how different batteries function in a side-by-side batteries comparison.
- Alkaline - Alkaline batteries, including 9-volt alkaline batteries, are very popular. They can be either rechargeable or single use and can be used in both high and low drain devices. Single use alkaline batteries have a lower initial cost and an extended shelf life of more than five years, which makes these top rated batteries perfect to have available at home when needed.
- Lithium - When considering how to buy batteries that are lighter in weight, perform well at low temperatures and come from different batteries brands, lithium batteries are the ones to choose. With a shelf life of 10 years or more, lithium batteries, such as AA lithium batteries, are great to have on hand.
- Lithium ion - The lightest weight entry of the rechargeable battery category is the lithium ion. These batteries advantages include having a longer shelf life and higher energy capacity, making them ideal for things like digital cameras and camcorders. These batteries require a special charger and have a low self-discharge rate, which means your device will be ready to go even after it has been sitting around.
- NiCad - Nickel cadmium (NiCad) batteries have an excellent cycle life, which refers to the number of times that they can be recharged after being drained. This feature makes them the best batteries to buy for devices that use a lot of power quickly.
- NiCd - These batteries use nickel oxide hydroxide and metallic cadmium electrodes. While most batteries mentioned in this guide are 1.5 volts, NiCd batteries are 1.2 volts. They are very good, however, at being used in cold weather.
- NiMH - Nickel Metal Hydride or NiMH batteries are a very cost effective rechargeable battery that performs at similar level to single use batteries of the same size. They are a good choice for heavy drain devices that get used a great deal, such as remote control toys, digital cameras and cordless appliances.
- Carbon zinc - In researching how to buy batteries that have the lowest cost, carbon zinc batteries lead the field. These are single use disposable batteries that are best suited for low drain, low power devices, such as remote controls and smoke detectors.
>> Understand battery sizes
Even though batteries come in a wide range of physical dimensions, many used in the home are 1.5 volts. The difference between a D size (the largest) and AAA size (the smallest), aside from being physically different, is the current capacity. In other words, given the same usage, a D battery will last longer than a AAA.
|AAA ||1.75 inches ||.41 inches ||toys, cordless phones, computer mice, remote controls |
|AA ||1.97 inches ||.56 inches ||remote controls, clocks, game controllers, computer mice |
|C ||1.81 inches ||1.02 inches ||medium flashlights, toys, radios |
|D ||2.28 inches ||1.30 inches ||large flashlights, R/C cars, stereos |
|9-volt ||1.9 inches ||N/A ||smoke detectors, alarm clock back-ups |
>> Consider proper battery storage
Understanding the life-cycle of batteries is an important part of the decision making process. All batteries will experience some power drain over time and the way the batteries are stored can go a long way to increasing their shelf life. Batteries that are exposed to excessive heat, such as in a cabinet over an oven or in direct sunlight, will have a shorter shelf life than those stored at room temperature. Batteries stored in very cold environments such as the refrigerator or freezer will also see a more rapid power drain than those stored at room temperature. Some batteries can be stored longer and in a larger variety of conditions than others. When thinking about how to buy batteries, if you think you'll be using them a lot in the cold, try finding some Ni-Cd batteries, which were mentioned earlier.
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