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Save money and the environment with rechargeable batteries

Updated on November 19, 2012

Rechargeable NiMH Batteries - A green alternative that saves money too

Did you know that about three billion batteries are sold annually in the U.S. averaging about 32 per family, or ten per person? With all those batteries comes the potential to have a significant negative effect on our environment.

Batteries have the potential to pollute lakes and streams as the the heavy metals (such as cadmium) they contain vaporize into the air when burned, and can leach out of solid waste landfills.

In landfills, heavy metals have the potential to leach slowly into soil, groundwater or surface water. Dry cell batteries contribute about 88 percent of the total mercury and 50 percent of the cadmium in the municipal solid waste stream.

How about using rechargeable batteries to power your family's Christmas gifts this year?

photo credit: used via a Creative Commons license

The Lowdown on Alkaline Batteries

How cheap are they? Are there situations where alkalines are better than NiMH rechargeables?

Ok, so buying a year's worth of Alkaline AA batteries is pretty cheap. (See the section below) And, if you don't use many batteries or the majority of your batteries are in items that sit unused for long periods of time but are needed in an emergency, alkaline batteries are the way to go. Why? NiMH batteries have a high self-discharge rate (they go dead after a few months even if you don't use them) so they're not good for things like emergency flashlights or smoke detectors. While it's great to go green whenever you can, you need to be able to depend on devices like these when it counts.

photo credit: used via a creative commons license

AA Alkaline Battery Costs Per Year for a Family (Average of 32 Batteries Per Year)

Some Samples:

16 pack of Duracell Batteries -- $10.39 -- Cost per battery: $.64

24 pack of Eveready Batteries -- $11.84 -- Cost per battery: $.54

24 pack of Rayovac Batteries -- $8.99 -- Cost per battery: $.37

Cost per year -- between $17.98 and $23.68 (buying two packs of batteries)

How Can I Make Rechargeable Batteries a Cost-Effective Option?

Long-term savings with rechargeable batteries, spreading out the cost

If you look at the cost of using rechargeable batteries as simply buying a charger and purchasing one NiMH battery for every Alkaline battery that you would buy in a year, it would take you 4-5 years to break even with the cost of purchasing just replacing your Alkalines. Over a lifetime of battery usage, the savings add up since you are just making the initial purchase and recharging the same batteries hundreds of times.

However, the only reason you'd need to buy 32 rechargeable batteries for your first year of use is if you have enough cameras, electronic devices and toys in your household to use 32 batteries at the same time. More likely, your household doesn't use 32 batteries simultaneously, but rather you have fewer devices that run through multiple batteries in a year. For example, AA battery-powered digital cameras under average use can go through several sets of 4 batteries in a year.

So maybe you only need 20 batteries to be in use at the same time. No need to have more than 20 rechargeables on hand unless you want to always have a charged set on hand to pop right in when another set depletes its charge. And, you could just purchase NiMHs bit by bit as your Alkalines go dead to spread the cost out over a longer period of time.

photo credit:> used via a creative commons license

Below are examples of 'worst case scenario' costs of purchasing a charger and 32 rechargeable batteries all at once. Remember, there's still a long term savings; you'd recoup your costs in 4-5 years and save 96 - 128 batteries from going into landfills while doing it!

Rechargeable AA Battery Costs Per Year for a Family (Average 32 Batteries Per Year)

Some Samples:

Duracell charger/4 batteries ($18.49) + 7 4-packs of batteries ($11.99 ea.) -- Total = $102.42

Energizer charger/4 batteries ($19.88) + 7 4-packs of batteries ($10.88 ea.) -- Total = $96.04

Rayovac charger/4 batteries ($9.99) + 7 4-packs of batteries ($9.99 ea.) -- Total = $79.92

Pre-charged or Ready-to-Use Rechargeable Batteries

An alternative to 'Regular' AA Alkaline Batteries and Rechargeable AA NiMH batteries that combines the positives of both.

Alkaline batteries can be used immediately out of the package and could be stored for months or even years without having to consider their self discharge. They were easy to use and convenient, but have to be disposed of, contributing to environmental waste.

While rechargeable batteries could be used repeatedly, causing less environmental impact and no replacement cost. This clear advantage was associated with some less appealing aspects. Before usage they had to be charged, and once charged they lost their energy rather quickly (self-discharge), so frequent re-charging or charging just before usage was necessary.

Pre-charged or Ready-to-Use batteries combine the advantages of Alkaline and 'regular' NiMH rechargeable batteries:

- Can be used immediately

- Can be stored for long periods of time

- Can be used many times

- Environmentally friendly

- Low long-term cost

Brands like eneloop (made by Sanyo), Hybrio and Duracell pre-charged batteries are examples of this type of 'hybrid' battery.

image credit: used via creative commons license

Rechargeable NiMH batteries - Arm yourself with rechargeable batteries for all your electronic devices and childrens' toys

Parents, just think of the money you will save and the waste you can prevent by replacing all the alkaline batteries in your children's toys with rechargeable NiMH batteries.

NiMH battery chargers - Get started with saving money and going green with a charger to power up your rechargeable batteries

Environmental and Money-Saving Feedback

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    • SquidooMBA profile image


      6 years ago

      I think every home should have these. We have been using them for years and they are a huge money saver and much better for the environment. Great lens.

    • GeekGirl1 profile image


      6 years ago

      Awesome lens. We always have to think of how to conserve earth's limited resources.

    • greenerme profile image


      9 years ago

      Excellent job! I'm lensrolling this to my easy green tips lens. I still have old batteries I'm using up, but next time around I'm buying rechargeable. They just don't last long enough to make sense buying disposal ones, not to mention they aren't exactly good for the environment.


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