Rechargeable Batteries: A Better Choice?

There are many specialized types of batteries – for watches, cameras, computers, and even cars. But for now, let’s focus on the types and sizes most commonly purchased and used around the house and workplace.

The most popular and readily available batteries that come in often-needed sizes like A, AA, AAA, C, D, and 9-volt are Nickel Metal Hydride, or NiMH. NiMH batteries are a good choice for most battery needs because they have virtually no “memory loss” effect (i.e. they do not need to be fully discharged with each use to preserve capacity).

Rechargeables seem like a great idea…but are they really a better choice?

Benefits of Rechargeable Batteries

  • Save Money: When used properly, rechargeable batteries can be used hundreds or even thousands of times! They do cost more initially, but can definitely pay for themselves over time.
  • Conserve Resources: Because rechargeables can be used over and over, fewer batteries need to be manufactured (and transported) than with single use varieties. In fact, rechargeable batteries consume up to 23 times less non-renewable natural resources than disposable batteries.
  • Protect the Environment: Most people don’t realize the extent of single use batteries’ environmental impacts. Heavy metals, corrosive materials, and other nasty chemicals combined with (all-too-common) improper disposal spells bad news for the environment. But rechargeables have 28 times less impact on global warming, 30 times less impact on air pollution, 9 times less impact on air acidification, and 12 times less impact on water pollution! Check out this study for more details about environmental impacts and savings.
  • Performance: Many of today’s rechargeables actually last longer on a single charge than their disposable counterparts, especially in high-drain devices.

Disadvantages of Rechargeable Batteries

  • Recharging: Obviously, rechargeable batteries will need to be recharged. If you’re used to just grabbing single use batteries and popping them in, recharging can initially seem like a bit of a hassle. Having backups helps ensure you won’t be left powerless waiting for your batteries to juice up.
  • Self-Discharge: Some self-discharge can be expected, meaning you may need to charge batteries before their initial use and after storing for any length of time. Opt for pre-charged versions and again, be sure to keep those backups charged.

Product Suggestions

Once a fringe item, rechargeable batteries are now widely available at supermarkets, convenience stores, wholesalers, and from many online retailers. Increasing brand competition and availability means it’s now easier and more affordable than ever to make environmentally-friendly choices! Although there are dozens of brand options, here are a few of the most popular and widely available:

  1. Ever-popular battery brand Duracell manufactures most popular battery sizes in rechargeable versions. They also sell chargers. Need it now? The brand now makes pre-charged versions of several sizes…but you’ll pay more for it.
  2. Another long-time favorite, Energizer also sells a range of common battery sizes in rechargeable versions. They, too sell chargers and pre-charged versions.
  3. Relative newcomer eneloop (from Sanyo/Panasonic) boasts newly improved specs: the batteries are rechargeable up to 1,500 times, reliable in low temperatures, and most versions come pre-charged.
  4. Sony’s line of rechargeable batteries come either standard or pre-charged, and many of the brand’s options are formulated for use in cameras and other hand-held electronics.


Ready to make the switch? Be sure to dispose of those single-use batteries (and rechargeables, after they wear out) properly.

  • Many retail stores accept used batteries. Look for recycling stations at Batteries Plus, Home Depot, Staples, and Best Buy, among others.
  • Use Earth911 or Call2Recycle’s search functions to find a recycling center near you.

Did we forget your favorite brand? Share YOUR product suggestions in the comments section below!

Image Credit: tomblois/Flickr