Buyer’s Guide: Rechargeable Batteries
If you find yourself frequently replacing batteries in all of your favorite gadgets, make this sustainable switch now.
One of the best ways to save money and protect the environment is to buy reusable products—and batteries are one of the easiest places to start. While reusable batteries cost more than disposable varieties, the initial investment (which might be $34.99 for a four-pack and charger) still usually costs less than pack after pack of disposable batteries (say, $3.99 for four from the same brand) that they replace. Factoring in the one-time cost of a charger, each rechargeable battery costs between $4 and $8.75. However, each battery can be recharged up to 500 times, and it only takes about 10 times to recoup the costs. This means you can potentially save hundreds of dollars over the lifespan of your rechargeable batteries.
Does this mean you should replace every battery in your home with a rechargeable version? Not necessarily. Focus on replacing the batteries in the gadgets you use most, like electronics that drain their charge within one to two months: cordless computer mouses, video game controls, beloved electronic toys, and so on. Replacing just a handful of batteries with high-quality rechargeables can still make a big difference over the years. Get to know what sets apart the best rechargeable batteries and which make the cut.
Choosing the Best Rechargeable Batteries
You’re likely familiar with the range of battery sizes available just from the number of gadgets that list “batteries not included” on the box and require you to pick up a specific set. Battery nomenclature—how they are named and organized—is complex, but the letters on batteries indicate their size. (For example, AA means 50.5 mm by 14.5 mm.) But these aren’t the only labels to look for when you’re ready to purchase. Before switching to rechargeable batteries, pay attention to these additional four features.
- Chemistry: There are four main types of rechargeable batteries for home use that differ in terms of the chemicals that produce their charge: nickel cadmium (NiCD), alkaline, lithium, and nickel metal hydride (NiMH). Each has its strengths and is useful for different purposes. If you pick up a couple of different varieties for different uses around the house, be careful not to confuse them; you should never mix batteries of different chemistries in the same device.
- NiCD batteries are often used in power tools.
- Alkaline batteries are the best batteries for regularly used, low- to mid-drain electronics, like digital clocks and remote controls.
- Lithium batteries are designed for smart technologies (phones and laptops) and solar panels as they can withstand extreme temperatures.
- NiMH rechargeable batteries are the most common variety for household uses. They have a high energy capacity (see below) and are excellent for high-energy electronics like flashlights, toys, and digital cameras.
- Capacity: A battery’s energy capacity (electric power over time) is measured in milliamp hours or mAh. The higher the mAh, the longer a battery will last. Disposable NiMH AA batteries have an mAh range between 1200 to 1900. In comparison, rechargeable NiMH AA batteries have an mAh range between 1700 and 2500. Here, too, do not to mix batteries of different capacities within the same device, or else one will drain faster than another, negatively impacting performance.
- Charge Time: The amount of time it takes for a battery to charge depends on its capacity (mAh). Fast-charging NiMH AA batteries can take three to four hours to charge fully. When you purchase new rechargeable batteries, they should come pre-charged. In addition, note the length of time a battery can hold a charge. Rechargeable batteries should hold 75 to 90 percent of their total charge for up to a year in storage.
- Lifespan: Rechargeable batteries’ lifespan is measured in the number of recharges it can cycle through. The best rechargeables on the market boast between 500 and 2,000 recharges per battery. Be aware that NiMH batteries offer fewer recharges than some of the other types of batteries, but you also need to recharge them less often, so they still typically last longer.
This guide will focus on the best rechargeable NiMH AA batteries, because they are the most popular and widely used for a variety of electronics. The brands we recommend for NiMH AA rechargeable batteries also offer excellent options for AAA sizes. We’ve reviewed research findings by experts and consumer testers. Here are the highest-quality and best-priced rechargeable batteries on the market today.
Panasonic’s latest Eneloop Pro technology has received top marks from experts at The Wirecutter, Reviewed, and Digital Trends, as well as from Amazon consumers (an average of 4.5 stars from almost 3,000 customer reviews, to be exact). The “low self-discharge” technology provides a long-lasting charge when stored. They offer a 2550 mAh capacity, 500 recharges over their lifespans, and no deterioration in extreme temperatures.
Available on Amazon, including four AA batteries and a charger, for $26.30.
Energizer is The Wirecutter’s #1 pick for rechargeable AA batteries, and the brand also makes the top 10 list at Reviewed, based on hours of comparison testing. Yes, experts love Energizer’s performance—a capacity that averages around 2000 mAh during tests—paired by a lower price than many NiMH rechargeable batteries. Amazon customers agree, rating this product with a respectable 3.7 stars. You can expect your batteries to last about five years. Even after months of disuse, they should hold most of their charge.
Available on Amazon, including four AA batteries and a charger, for $13.91.
Amazon’s own high-capacity rechargeable NiMH batteries are not ones to be snubbed for being generic. With a 1900 to 2000 mAh capacity and a lifespan of 1,000 recharges, these batteries can compete with higher-priced brands. Indeed, testers at The Wirecutter claim that this brand should perform as well as Eneloop, Energizer, and Duracell. More than 5,000 customers have given this battery a solid 4.2-star rating.
Available on Amazon, including eight AA batteries and a charger, for $33.98.
Digital Trends recommends EBL for its high capacity—2800 mAh—and a low-drain, three-year shelf life. While the company claims to have “low self-discharge” technology, some customers have noted that batteries do not keep their charge as reliably as top brands like Eneloop. That said, EBL receives four stars from over 1,000 customer reviews. Its main selling points are price and ProCyco technology, which provides up to 1,200 recharges.
Available on Amazon, including eight AA batteries and charger, for $24.99.
Powerex is a lesser-known brand that receives a stellar 4.3 stars on Amazon. This Amazon Choice product has a 2,700 mAh capacity and can be recharged hundreds of times, preserving up to 75 percent of battery charge after a year in storage. These NiMH batteries are designed for high-drain electronics. Photographers take note: Customers are particularly happy with its performance in digital cameras. The charger (sold separately) costs more than most brands, but it’s also deluxe, offering smart sensors, rapid charge, and soft mode (to preserve and extend your batteries’ lifespans).