Rechargeable batteries not worth it?

While queuing at Radio Shack the other day, I noticed a customer in front of me had a cart full of battery chargers and rechargeable AA batteries. It turns out that he had decided to replace all the AA batteries in his house with rechargeable ones. Sounds like a great idea, but I was spending over a hundred bucks!

Acting all proud of himself, he was telling the cashier all the money he was going to save.

I realize that a lot of people want to switch to rechargeable batteries for environmental reasons, which is fair enough. But the truth is, when cost is the primary factor, low-power devices simply don’t guarantee the added expense of rechargeable batteries. This is because batteries in low-current devices are generally changed infrequently, the payback period for rechargeable batteries would take too long to justify the investment.

An example where it makes much more sense to use traditional alkaline batteries for typical household devices like wall clocks, smoke detectors, radios, programmable thermostats, and remote controls because they lose power at a much slower rate than much more expensive rechargeable batteries.

Because normal alkaline batteries can hold a charge for many years when not in use, they are the best choice for items that can remain unused for long periods of time, such as your wall clock and emergency flashlights.

It all comes down to these low-current or low-usage devices making up the vast majority of battery-powered devices in a typical home. It is much better to go to Costco or Sam’s club and buy a large pack of AA alkaline batteries than its rechargeable counterpart.

An example of where the rechargeable battery would make much more sense is something that is used a lot on a daily basis, such as a remote control for a Nintendo Wii console. The higher initial cost of rechargeable batteries would be recouped in a matter of weeks.

In summary, rechargeable batteries are ideal for moderate to high usage devices that drain batteries quickly, but are not cost effective for low current draw and / or low usage devices. These low-current devices tend to make up the vast majority of battery-powered products in the typical home.

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