GREEN SPACE: Rechargeable Batteries: Are They Worth It?

Battery-operated flashlights, lanterns, book lights, radios, and handheld games helped many a local family get through Hurricane Sandy.

Published November 16, 2012 5:00 AM
2 min read

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Battery-operated flashlights, lanterns, book lights, radios, and handheld games helped many a local family get through Hurricane Sandy.

 

By The Rye Garden Club Conservation Committee

 

Battery-operated flashlights, lanterns, book lights, radios, and handheld games helped many a local family get through Hurricane Sandy. With the upcoming holidays, batteries will be in further demand to power all those new toys and gadgets under the tree. Is it worth it to invest in rechargeable batteries for these items? Do rechargeable batteries really last or will they spend more time in the charger than powering the devices we need them for?

 

The answer is that rechargeable batteries ARE worth it. They will save you money and are kinder to the environment. There are, however, types of rechargeables to avoid and there are items they don’t work well for.

 

Types of Rechargeable Batteries

 

The nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) variety is the best. They come in standard consumer sizes and can be used in any devices that use alkaline batteries. When NiMHs were first developed, they had issues with too-rapid discharge. These issues have been solved and NiMHs perform very well now. They are also free of toxic heavy metals.

 

Avoid rechargeable alkaline and nickel-cadmium batteries. The former have very poor performance. Additionally, any device you see in a store that says it can recharge normal alkaline batteries is a rip-off. Nickel-cadmium (Nicad) batteries should be avoided because cadmium is toxic.

 

Lithium-ion batteries are the rechargeable batteries in your laptop, cell phone, and digital camera. They have excellent shelf life — their charge does not dissipate when they are sitting idle — but they are expensive.

 

When to Use Them

 

Rechargeable batteries work best in devices that get heavy to moderate use and have a high to medium current draw. These are the devices you find yourself changing batteries for at least once a month, or every couple of months at a minimum, such as in remotes and handheld games. Rechargeables are not recommended for low-draw devices such as wall clocks and smoke detectors or for items that have may go for months without use, such as emergency flashlights, unless you are willing to buy the more expensive lithium-ion batteries.

 

Economic and Environmental Sense

 

The initial cost of buying the charger and a selection of rechargeable batteries may seem daunting, but will make economic sense in a short amount of time. To buy an 8-pack of disposable batteries once a month, you will spend at least $60 a year, and most people buy more batteries than that. A good charger and batteries cost about $75, so you will recoup your costs in just a little over a year, and your rechargeable batteries will be going strong.

 

Rechargeable batteries can be charged hundreds of times, instead of going to a landfill after one use like their alkaline cousins. After a few hundred charges — when your rechargeables have reached the end of their lifespan — they can be easily recycled. Drop boxes are located at CVS, Rye Camera, Home Depot, and RadioShack.

 

 

 

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