Advice on purchasing Long Life AA Batteries
August 30, 2014 5:19 AM   Subscribe

Most cheap non-rechargeable AA Batteries (typically from China) go flat very quickly. About 15 years ago, typical batteries seemed to last about 4 times longer (my subjective opinion). I want long lasting batteries, what is a good type, what should I look for, what terminology "alkaline?". Thank you.
posted by happy_sausage to Technology (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Energizer Ultimate Lithium are the best deluxe batteries you can buy.

I have read that Ikea batteries are very very good for a budget battery option.

Personally, I have so few things that need batteries that I just buy a gigantic pack of Duracells at Costco every five years or so. I don't even know my per-battery expense because I bought them so long ago but still have plenty, and always have a battery when I need one.
posted by phunniemee at 5:41 AM on August 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Years of empirical evidence in professional settings (like wireless mics for television broadcast etc, NFL rec) has taught me that good old dutacrll coppertops are the best battery out there.
posted by chasles at 6:02 AM on August 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

And if you can find them varta professional.
posted by chasles at 6:04 AM on August 30, 2014

Varta rechargeables are very good. Based on my experience with them, I wouldn't hesitate to buy their non-rechargables. One thing that occurs to me is this: are you talking about battery life while the battery is being used, or are you talking about putting them in a drawer and using them in a year's time? I think it's the former and if it is, then look for the mAh value. It stands for milli-amp hours, and is the size of the tank, figuratively speaking. A higher value is better.

Some fancy charts.
posted by Solomon at 6:13 AM on August 30, 2014 [5 favorites]

Concur, Duracell coppertops. Best of a bad lot.

I hate all batteries, though.
posted by Chitownfats at 6:13 AM on August 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

For rechargeables, I've done very well with the Eneloop batteries and a La Crosse charger. The charger technology matters and most chargers included with batteries are garbage. The La Crosse can be configured to discharge batteries before recharging them. Also has a selectable charging current; slow charging is better if you can wait overnight.

In general with rechargeables you have three choices: Ni-Cd, Ni-MH, and Lithium. You don't want Ni-Cd, they're the ones that really suck. Ni-MH are generally the right choice. The Eneloop are a special "low self-discharge" Ni-MH, which means they stay charged longer when you're not using them. Lithium is best, but last I looked there wasn't a good consumer option for AA and AAA Lithium rechargeables.
posted by Nelson at 7:05 AM on August 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

And now rereading I see you specified non-rechargeable. My apologies. Agreed Duracell is the best option for disposable batteries. Energizer's Lithium AA batteries are an alternative, expensive but better suited for some kinds of loads. I find the Eneloops work so well I don't buy disposable batteries any more.
posted by Nelson at 7:07 AM on August 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Are you using the batteries in the same devices that you used them in 15 years ago? That could be the real difference.

A lot more devices today are solid-state, which require a certain minimum voltage to do anything at all. I used to take batteries from high-drain devices (CD and tape players) and then put them in flashlights until they were really, really dead ... but modern LED flashlights don't much like almost-dead batteries. So they end up going in the trash sooner, in terms of the battery's actual capacity. (Of course, LED flashlights last a lot longer on a set of batteries.) Same with, say, a tape deck vs. a modern set of Bluetooth speakers; the latter don't deal with low batteries gracefully, they just stop working.

Anyway, if you have an old flashlight around that uses AAs, you may find that some of your "dead" batteries are anything but, when put into an old-school device that uses a simple incandescent bulb or DC motor or similar non-digital electronics.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:49 AM on August 30, 2014

The properties of lithium batteries are:
They are expensive
They last a long time (with low load)
They are usually used for very low load applications, like maintaining a RAM memory. In this application they can last for 10-20 years.
For most normal applications, the cost vs benefit goes to alkaline or rechargeable.
posted by H21 at 12:10 PM on August 30, 2014

Alkaline household batteries can be disposed of in the trash. Lithium and any rechargeable batteries are full of heavy metals and should be recycled. For flashlights, LEDs have a way lower draw for more light, well worth your while to replace flashlights. I buy batteries at big-box stores, where there's usually a deal, and where the batteries are fresh. Energizer or duracell alkaline, usually.
posted by theora55 at 12:55 PM on August 30, 2014

I also must recommend rechargeable batteries. I have Energizers, which come in a four-pack (probably like most) with a charger so if you have a device that only uses two (like most devices), as soon as they run out you can use the other two while the empty ones charge. I've been using them for close to four years and they work great, and even if they all decide to die one day it's still more cost-effective than buying regular batteries for things like cameras that use batteries quick (as tv remote batteries seem to last forever in my experience).

The last time I bought non-rechargeable regular batteries, simple because I have too many devices that use batteries, they all died within days/weeks. Maybe it was a bad batch but I remember using regular batteries in my cd player years ago and they would all die within weeks. So rechargeable is the way to go. And since all I've used is Energizer and they work great, I'd recommend that.
posted by atinna at 8:12 PM on August 30, 2014

Do you have equipment that cannot use rechargeable batteries? I would suggest looking at good rechargeable batteries like Sanyo Eneloops. Some models have high capacities, and they can keep their charge really well.
posted by TrinsicWS at 6:40 PM on August 31, 2014

If the Chinese batteries you're buying don't say "alkaline", then they're carbon-zinc batteries, which are terrible for pretty much any modern device. I think this is your problem.
posted by neckro23 at 2:10 PM on September 2, 2014

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