Looking for the best value AA battery available (or "Let's Have Some Truth in Battery Advertising")
May 13, 2007 12:08 AM   Subscribe

So Energizer or Duracell? Or some other brand? I'm confused. Apparently they are both 5 times more powerful than the other. I'm looking for the best value-for-money AA battery on the market (i.e. battery hours per dollar). I understand it depends to some extent on the device. Let's say two devices - the TV remote control - and a digital camerra. Anyone have a link to the definitive report?

(Oh and I heard of an excellent report on Which.co.uk but cannot purchase it because my credit card doesn't have a UK address. Anyone want to buy it and have me reimburse them by PayPal, and get to use the whole site for nothing for a few days?)
posted by zaebiz to Technology (28 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Costco alkalines.
posted by Etaoin Shrdlu at 12:16 AM on May 13, 2007

This page has a lot of (fairly detailed) anecdotal data.
posted by jacalata at 12:29 AM on May 13, 2007

For the digital camera, Ni-MH rechargeables. For the TV-remote, cheap alkalines are probably better bang for buck, but since the remote batteries will not need replacing for a long time, you might as well splash out on Energizer or Duracell, so you don't need to replace the batteries for years. It won't make much difference which one.

A measure you may find useful to search for is mAH (or AH), ie milliamp-hours (or amp-hours), which are almost universally listed on Ni-MH batteries, but alkaline manufacturers seem reluctant to list theirs. The measure is not precise, because the same battery chemistry will obtain different mAH ratings depending on how you load it, and the duty cycle. For example, in a high-load application, like a digital camera, an alkaline will cease being able to supply sufficient current to run the device long before the battery is actually flat, whereas a Ni-MH can supply massive current right up to the point where it goes flat (hence, you're generally wasting money using alkalines in a digital camera. For this reason, higher performance alkalines are advertised for cameras, but you're still better just using rechargeables).

But, if you do want to use alkalines in your camera, when they go flat, don't throw them out - even though they can't run the camera any more, they should still be able to operate the TV remote for a few months. :)
posted by -harlequin- at 12:32 AM on May 13, 2007

(Also, you'll notice that alkalines typically have about 150 to 200% the mAh of Ni-MH, but you'll get a few hundred recharge cycles out of Ni-MH)
posted by -harlequin- at 12:35 AM on May 13, 2007

tv remote - alkaline - they last forever with a low draw, but the recharchables lose their charge even without any drain and since a remote barely taxes the batteries the alkalines will last longer and you won't have to bother with recharging

camera - drains the hell out of the batteries, go with a rechargable nimh, it is cheap to recharge and lasts longer under this high drain service
posted by caddis at 12:52 AM on May 13, 2007

For the devices you listed, it's not so much a matter of branding, as it is chemistry and current draw. In your TV remote, you have infinistisimal current draw, and a desire for long device life. In your digital camera, you have huge current draw, and a desire for reliable operation. The TV remote is generally well served by alkaline batteries, but even zinc carbon cells will work well because of the low power draw, and you'll see little improvement in life from using alkalines because the current draw is so low. Conversely, many digital cameras will consume alkaline batteries like candy, having been engineered for onthe current profile of rechargable NiCad or NiMH cells. Lithium cells in digital cameras that don't get used frequently look like they'll work, but crap out pretty quickly if you try taking several flash pictures in a row. A nedium, steady discharge device like a portable CD player is the ideal candidate for alkaline batteries, where you'll see real run time improvements over zinc carbon chemistry, and where NiCAD or NiMH or LiIon chemistries may not be warranted for cost and recharge complexity reasons.

You've really got to match battery chemistry to device requirements to get the best bang for the buck. Reading device user manuals, and sticking with recommendations is a big step in the right direction. After that, in the case of disposables, understanding the variations in disposable chemistries that are available is a big help.
posted by paulsc at 12:57 AM on May 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

As far as battery-hours-per-dollar goes, the answer would definitely be "whatever's on sale." I haven't ever found any difference between Energizer and Duracell. Sometimes I buy the one that comes with a free Matchbox car, or a free collectible Energizer Bunny figurine with wind-up motion.

But for the digicam, NiMH is the only choice. Alkalines are a joke in Digicams.
posted by mmoncur at 1:07 AM on May 13, 2007

I haven't run the numbers, but I spent like $2 on radio shack AAs and ended up getting like 30+ batteries. They're serious about sales.
posted by cowbellemoo at 1:43 AM on May 13, 2007

In terms of cost efficiency, don't rechargeables outdo drain-once batteries by far?
posted by Firas at 2:40 AM on May 13, 2007

Desciption says having been engineered for onthe current profile of rechargable NiCad or NiMH cells but link goes to an article headed "How to Perform a Windows XP Repair Install". I assume that link was for your answer in the previous thread. Could we please have battery one? That sounded intresting. :)
posted by adamt at 3:18 AM on May 13, 2007

Sanyo Eneloop or Uniross Hybrios for anything. They're rechargeable NiMH batteries that don't lose their charge like "normal" ones do.

The only downside relative to a normal NiMH rechargeable is that they don't have quite as high a full charge capacity, but they'll last a lot longer in a remote than a regular one, due to the internal loss from just sitting. The Eneloop and Hybrio batteries do much better in that respect, although they are more expensive than a 4 pack of alkalines. Of course, you can recharge them many times, thus ameliorating the cost significantly.
posted by wierdo at 3:29 AM on May 13, 2007

"Desciption says having been engineered for onthe current profile of rechargable NiCad or NiMH cells..."

Oops. Male Answer Syndrome bites again. :-)

Try this.
posted by paulsc at 3:55 AM on May 13, 2007

You mention brands and battery branding is going to be at least as influential on your value for money as battery type is. The Duracell brand is owned by the Gillette company and Gillette is often sited by marketers as an example of a company that uses a combination of extensive promotion and dubious (but patent protected) R&D "innovations" to give what ought to be commodity items a premium value.

Likewise with Energizer - owned by Energizer Holdings who also make Schick razors.

If you want alkalines I would consider brands other than these which should be more cost effective.
posted by rongorongo at 4:37 AM on May 13, 2007

NiMh rechargeables are much, much cheaper to use than anything else.

Here's a site where somebody actually tested a whole bunch of rechargeables and three name-brand alkalines for capacity. The alkalines were dead last.

This page has a table of battery life (per charge) in different high-drain applications.

I have heard claims that alkalines last better than NiMh in low-drain applications, but there was no supporting data.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:28 AM on May 13, 2007

Cowbellmoo, as a wise user here once said, "Radio Shack: You've got questions. We've got batteries."

Back on the topic, I've changed the batteries in my Comcast remote once since receiving it in 2001. Can't remember how long ago, though.
posted by emelenjr at 6:40 AM on May 13, 2007

> Sanyo Eneloop or Uniross Hybrios for anything. They're rechargeable NiMH batteries that don't lose their charge like "normal" ones do.

This would be great! It's so disappointing to grab your digital camera to capture something fleeting, only to discover that the batteries are dead (and will take hours to recharge). But alkaline batteries will only take one, maybe two photos in our camera. I'm definitely going to look for these.
posted by amtho at 7:20 AM on May 13, 2007

Back in elementary school, for my science fair project, I did an experiment that was "Which Brand of battery lasts the longest."

The setup: I bought different brands of batteries, and put them into flashlights. I turned the flashlights on, and checked them every 15 minutes until they burnt out.

The results?

Duracell and Energizer were consistently amongst the WORST performers (I think I ran this experiment like 5-10 times). The batteries that did the best were the off-brands. I think the best battery was actually Walgreens.
posted by unexpected at 8:26 AM on May 13, 2007

I can't find an article I read several years ago that rated Rite-Aid drugstore branded batteries above both Duracell and Energizer, but in searching I ran accross this battery comparison from CandlepowerForums.com.
posted by reeddavid at 9:14 AM on May 13, 2007

Consumer Reports has rated batteries. You can subscribe online, or check it out at your local library.
posted by Neiltupper at 9:19 AM on May 13, 2007

There was a great thread on AskMe about rechargreable vs. non-rechargeable batteries, some time ago. It was one of the first posts I read on AskMe, and I found it amazingly useful. Check it out, particularly this specific response I'm linking to. I bought that LaCrosse charger, and it's been worth every penny. Non-rechargeable batteries are for suckers.
posted by autojack at 10:14 AM on May 13, 2007

We've had bad luck with house-brand alkalines leaking. For remotes and clocks and emergency flashlights we use RayOVac batteries. For cameras and frequent use flashlights we use NiMH rechargeables.
posted by jlkr at 10:35 AM on May 13, 2007

I ordered 30 batteries.com AA for $10. The batteries last like 2 weeks in either remote controls, wii remotes, clocks, or flash lights. It still might work out as savings but it generates so much waste that I'll probably splurge for the name brands next time.
posted by dendrite at 10:42 AM on May 13, 2007

I've never heard about the Uniross Hybrios, but the Eneloops are serious stuff. Can never go back to "normal" NiMh again.
posted by jmd82 at 10:52 AM on May 13, 2007

reeddavid, your link is a comparison of lithium batteries only, not including alkalines or NiMhs, and it's only Cr123s, not the AAs that the question asked about.

Consumer Reports periodically tests batteries also. Their last report said that overall, NiMh were the most cost-effective, but for alkalines, store brands were.

The absolute worst choice for batteries are the ones they sell at Dollar stores, made in China. I had a terrific combination LED/Halogen flashlight that came with them. The batteries leaked all over the inside, and I had to throw it away.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:54 AM on May 13, 2007

I would never use anything besides rechargable NiMH in a digital camera or high-drain digital device (where what matters is the battery's ability to supply a fairly high voltage for as long as possible, and what it does once it's below that voltage threshold doesn't matter). Just be sure to get a decent microprocessor-controlled "smart" charger if you are serious about rechargeable batteries. I have seen the life of my batteries go up significantly (if I had to give a W.A.G. I'd say 5-10% at least) as a result of getting a good charger versus one of the freebie "Duracell" plug-into-the-wall ones. As a bonus, most smart chargers will also discharge-and-recharge older NiCd cells.

For stuff like TV remotes and flashlights, I generally just buy cheap alkalines; I don't spring for the name brands. Back a while ago, CompUSA (I think) was selling bricks of 40 or 50 "Red Cell" AAs, made in some Eastern Bloc country, for $9.99. They worked fairly well and I still have them in a lot of low-drain stuff around the house.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:09 AM on May 13, 2007

Sorry, I didn't realize that link was useless.
posted by reeddavid at 2:06 PM on May 13, 2007

Okay, so I guess I'm not crazy after all.

I too, have skeptically observed that the cheapo store brand (in my case, Longs Drugs) of alkaline AA's seem to last significantly longer than Energizer or Duracells. Not sure why that is, but it's interesting to see that others have observed the same thing.
posted by melorama at 5:03 PM on May 13, 2007

There's also a rechargeable alkaline chemistry available. In Australia, they're called Grandcell. You need a special charger (standard NiMH chargers will blow them up) and you only get fifty to a hundred recharge cycles out of them, but their self-discharge rates are about the same as single-use alkaline i.e. very low. They're ideal for low-draw, infrequent-use things like TV remotes. I've seen them used successfully in cordless computer mice, too.
posted by flabdablet at 8:46 PM on May 13, 2007

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