Best Rechargeable Battery Kit?

Every time I buy a pack of disposable AAs I think this is the last time. Then I glance at the retail prices of rechargeable battery kits and cringe, thinking there must surely be a better option than paying the off-the-shelf prices. It’s time for my hypocrisy to be amended.

I could have sworn I’d asked this same question of you all before, but try as I might I can’t find it in the archives, so let’s go again: What’s the best place to buy a set of AA batteries and a charger? I’m happy to pay for quality, but cheap enough that I want to know I’m getting the best deal.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

32 Responses to Best Rechargeable Battery Kit?

  1. airship says:

    Buy a 6V lantern battery.
    Peel off the label.
    Pry off the top.
    Cut the terminal wires.
    Pour out the 32 standard AA batteries that live inside.
    AA batteries = $5 per 4-pack
    6V lantern battery = $5 for 32 AA batteries
    That’s 1/8 the cost for 5 minutes work.

  2. Anonymous says:

    1- Make sure you get NiMH batteries, no NiCd. This should be a no-brainer to most people who read this bbGadgets, but it bears repeating.

    2- Get the batteries with the highest mAh rating you can find. I currently buy Duracell rechargeables rated for 2650 mAh, and they’ve been great to me.

    3- Don’t try to skimp too much on the charger. Cheap ones will get very hot, or they won’t charge as fast, or (if they were made in China, for instance) could melt or burn or whatever. The first NiMH charger I bought would charge NiMH batteries in 1 hour, but it would get very hot, and it easily cost me more than 60$CAN (at Radio Shack, the only place I found that carried NiMH stuff then.) I recently picked up a really nice charger that plugs into a wall outlet or a car cigarette lighter, which can charge my regular NiMH batteries in 15 minutes. It has a fan to keep charger and batteries from getting too hot (the old Radio Shack one would make my batteries so hot that I could barely hold them if I tried right after a charge.) It also came with a pair of AA’s of a supposedly new type which this charger can fully charge up in 8 minutes flat.

    4- With the current quality of NiMH batteries, I haven’t noticed any difference in longevity between my 1h charger and my 15 minute one. Actually, my new 15-minute one might preserve my batteries longer by keeping them cooler while they charge.

    5- Digital cameras love NiMH cells, way more than regular Alkaline batteries. A couple of years ago, I made a trip to New York, and used up my two pairs of fully-charged NiMH AAs halfway through my weekend there. I bought a 4-pack of regular Duracells in the first place I could find, and I was only able to take 2-3 pictures before my camera complained of a low battery (and that was without using the flash.) Digital cameras need the new “for electronic devices” batteries, and in general, NiMH batteries fit that bill.

    6- I don’t know if they are still for sale anywhere, but stay away from “Pure Energy” rechargeables. They’re not good for electronics such as digital cameras or portable CD players (my own experiences.) They only last for a very limited number of recharges, rated for 25, in my experience that was closer to 15, as that’s when they would usually leak. Messy. Supposedly the only rechargeable Alkalines… That’s not a good enough reason to use them.

    7- I still don’t understand why so many cordless phones still use NiCd-based cells, what with the memory effect, and the low performance of NiCd. Anybody know why these are still so common in that particular area?

  3. GabeH says:

    Have you thought about the USBcell AA batteries with the built-in USB ports? They’re only 1300mAH, but the cool/convenience factor is off the charts.

  4. jefftang says:

    Standard NiMH batteries will pretty much die within a couple of months even with no usage. For some applications (digital camera), this is ok, but is a pain for others (remote control, clock). There are now low discharge NiMH which hold their charge much longer. The aforementioned Eneloop is the most prominent of the brands, but there are others.

  5. jolon says:

    Sanyo Eneloop batteries are the best I’ve found. (http://www.eneloop.info/) Their www is horrible, I didn’t do it! But their batteries r.u.l.e.

    And I would spend the extra money (the difference is about 3 slices of pizza in NYC) on a good charger that cares for your batteries. I have a 15 minute model myself, and have been using it for 3 years with no problems. no memory or burnout issues.

  6. chrisfrelin says:

    oh, brother… please don’t bother, at least for battery-gobbling items like digital cameras. until they make a reasonably priced rechargeable lithium aa/aaa battery you are better off just biting the bullet and buying premium alkalines or any lithium battery. I have been there and back trying out ni-cads and nimh rechargeables and they have so few worthwhile recharge cycles that the frustration is not worth the fleeting feelings of quasi-greenness that you get from buying them… energizer lithium aa’s give me 1000 or so shots on my camera, which is a lot. go know, right?

  7. Joel Johnson says:

    Okay, I pulled the trigger on a La Crosse Technology BC-900 and some Sanyo Eneloop batteries. Expensive, but it’ll pay for itself eventually, I’m sure!

  8. Extrema says:

    I’ve been recharging batteries for years, mainly for high-draw incandescent bicycle lighting. I’ve owned two “intelligent” chargers, which are supposed to recharge any type of battery. One was a fast charger that would regularly explode batteries; now I use another called “Battery Tender” that seems very competent.

    1) Be aware that NiMH batteries charge to 1.2v vs. 1.5v for alkaline. Some electronics care about this voltage difference and others do not. For lights however, I find NiMH unacceptably dim. Instead I use alkalines, running them from 1.5v down to 1.2v before recharging.

    2) The special rechargeable alkalines don’t seem to charge better or last more charges than regular alkalines. In fact, two brands of rechargeable alkalines, Ray-o-vac and Golden Power, lasted through fewer charges than vanilla alkalines: 10 vs. 25.

    3) YMMV, but the best alkalines I have found for rechargeability are the cheapest and heaviest. I had a set of Chinese noname AAs, the cheapest you can imagine, that held their capacity through dozens of cycles.

  9. Muppet says:

    Extrema, are you saying you are recharging normal, “non-recharegeable” alkalines?

  10. Extrema says:

    Yes, cheap disposable alkalines recharge 20+ times if you don’t discharge them below about 1.2v. Here’s the gadget I use:

    http://the-gadgeteer.com/review/battery_xtender_alkaline_battery_recharger

    It also charges CZn, Ni-Cd, and NiMH batteries.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I recommend that you NOT buy the highest capacity NiMH you can find. As the manufacturers pack more capacity into them, they’re squeezing cycle life (the number of times they can be recharged) out. Around 2000 – 2100 mAh for AA cells is as high as you probably want to go for good life expectancy.

    Actually, the longest-lived and most reliable types are industrial-grade NiCd, not NiMH. Capacity is lower, of course. They are NOT cheap, but with their longer life, the total amount of energy (kWh) delivered per dollar invested may actually be better than NiMH. I’ve never computed it, however.

  12. BetterLivingThroughScience says:

    I use the RayoVac IC-3 kit. It recharges their IC-3 batteries in 15 minutes (it takes standard NiMH as well, but they take much longer). I can’t say it’s the best or cheapest, since I haven’t used any other ones (this was the only 15 min charger when I got it, but I think there’s a couple now, and it had the highest mAh rating out of everything I looked at, which really helps with a lot of electronics like cameras and rc cars), but I’m very happy with it. It’s quite nice not to have to wait very long for a fully charged battery. The only bad thing I can say about it is that it can be kind of loud when recharging their IC-3 batteries. It uses some kind of fan or turbine or something to get the juice in there that fast. sounds like a little jet plane

  13. Anonymous says:

    Thomas Distributing, the MAHA Powerex MH-C9000 “Wizard One” charger, and some Sanyo Eneloops. I have also had good luck with the Rayovac Hybrid low self-discharge batteries.

    Low self-discharge batteries are they key here; the high capacity batteries are only useful if you intend to use them in a high drain application hot off the charger.

    There are excellent performance analyses and discussions on http://www.candlepowerforums.com

  14. madeofmeat says:

    I love my NiMHs (I won’t detail what I use because it’s cheap and lame), but there are some things that still want alkalines. Flashlights, remotes, anything that sits for a long time wouldn’t do well with charge-bleeding NiMHs.

    On a cost-per-mAH basis, generic alkalines beat the crap out of name brands, and life is actually pretty comparable. I watch sales at drugstores and Fry’s until the price drops to 30-35 cents a cell, then stock up. I just recently noticed that Ikea’s batteries are about that cheap all the damned time.

    Lantern battery hack? Even if you find the right one and make it work, they’re still carbon-zinc and have crap for life.

  15. Mauronic says:

    Photo geeks overwhelmingly use MAHA chargers with Maha PowerEx 2700mAh NiMH Rechargeable AA Batteries. Spend the money and buy a POWEREX MH-C800S 8-Cell Smart Charger. I love mine:

    http://tinyurl.com/2y3ovg

  16. hazelwoodfarm says:

    Although I use rechargeable batteries whenever I can, I still find a need for AA and AAA batteries.
    At batteries.com you can usually get deal on them. I recently purchased 500 batteries (400 AA and 100 AAA) for less than $60.00 plus shipping. A deal that is hard to beat. The batteries have also worked just fine, in case you’re wondering. I have also purchased assorted extra rechargeable batteries for my cameras for excellent prices, at batteries.com, too.

  17. coweater says:

    A lot of people are saying to go with the eneloop batteries. They do have excellent idle life, but only 2000 mAh capacity.
    If you don’t mind charging more regularly then the higher capacity cells might be the ticket. Then again nothing to stop you from getting a quality charger with a handful of each.

  18. andyduncan says:

    I have the Sony “smart” charger from amazon which comes with four 2500mah AA batteries for just under $20.

    http://tinyurl.com/2sz94g

    Be careful to get the one that has the automatic cutoff, there’s several identical-looking models that have different specs, and the price difference is only a couple dollars.

    Doesn’t appear to be as sophisticated as the MAHA chargers people are recommending, but it has worked well enough for me (I use it for my wii-mote batteries.)

  19. urza9814 says:

    Um, K-Mart? I got a 4-pack of 2650Mah Duracell’s for $10, not even on sale. Not bad considering they’ll last a year even in high-drain devices like my digital camera. And when they get too weak for that they’ll still last weeks in a cordless mouse, or would be great for a remote control. You should be able to find a charger for no more than $10 too.

    Personally, I only have two pairs of rechargeables. One for my camera, one for my mouse. But other than remote controls, that’s all I really have that takes batteries anymore. Surely you can afford $20 for batteries for a year!

  20. Krisjohn says:

    nthing #19. I bought a couple of packs of the USBcell batteries and they’re great. They’re not exactly cheap though.

  21. mcj says:

    I got this charger and some Eneloop batteries from Thomas Distributing – I have been extremely pleased with both.

  22. kostia says:

    That lantern battery thing isn’t true.
    http://www.snopes.com/photos/humor/batteryhack.asp

    The one where you can get button cells out of an A32 is true, but lantern batteries are all different inside and aren’t made of AAs.

  23. baribob says:

    I’m highly aggravated with rechargables, and I recently bought into the low discharge improvements, investing a couple of bills on Enelop AA’s and AAA’s.

    NONE of my rechargeables get or hold a good charge. I covet, I long, I dream, of having fresh copper-topped alkalines again!!!

  24. A New Challenger says:

    Betterlivingthroughscience mentioned the batteries I use. I can’t find the IC-3s in stores any more, though. Use them in my Wiimote and camera, they work just dandily. The short recharge is sweet.

  25. Beschizza says:

    Ah, the existential panic lit by comparing cheap disposables vs. expensive rechargeables.

    I eventually just throught “screw it” and bought a $15 charger (Duracell’s) that does AA and AAA. I also bought about 12 of each size to go with it. The end cost was maybe $50, but I haven’t bought a battery in 2 years, so there.

    Would I change anything? I’d get a “slow charger” instead of the “1 hour” model I got, because fast-charging supposedly kills the batteries faster. None of mine have died yet, though.

  26. Philip Fibiger says:

    Back when my first digital camera took AA’s, there was a ton of research out there and people were pretty clear about which set to get. There aren’t as many AA-powered cameras, but that’s a good place to start looking. This is where my batteries and charger came from:

    http://www.thomas-distributing.com/index.htm

    I believe the Maha stuff was what I had. Looks like you can pick up a charger for $10-15 and then a 4 pack of AA’s is around $10.

  27. Muppet says:

    Thanks , Extrema, that’s great.

  28. meerkat says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with Philip on Thomas Distributing and MAHA chargers. I bought this kit from them a couple years ago – http://tinyurl.com/yp87x4 and have been very happy with it. Not very sexy design but very functional.

    I also buy new batteries from them every now & again, again, they cost a little more than in a store but they are powerful & reliable little creatures.

  29. unfocused says:

    Be warned: Duracell 2650 mAh AAs are slightly larger in diameter than standard AA batteries, and therefore may become stuck inside some devices. They can be extremely difficult to get out without damage.

  30. Pekar says:

    2003 performance comparison-
    http://www.crypto.com/chargers/

    What I use-
    http://www.steves-digicams.com/lightning4000.html
    There used to be a better deal on this charger through amondotech.com, but they’ve been bought out.

    http://www.batteryspace.com/
    Inexpensive Powerizer AA’s

  31. nex says:

    I’m not sure if buying the cheapest charger is such a good idea. Rechargeables pay for themselves in no time if you use them all the time, but you might find that a basic charger is a disincentive. The cheap ones don’t shut off when the batteries are charged, so you need to guesstimate how long it will take and make sure that you take them out before they melt and burn down your house while you’re somewhere else entirely. A smarter charging circuit might also give you more useful charge cycles in addition to being safer. Just a thought, I’m no expert on this.

  32. flipdon says:

    I did some research to find some rechargables to satisfy the beast known as the Wiimote, and I ended up buying a LaCrosse charger and a few packs of Eneloop batteries. Those two are usually highly recommended. I got them both through Amazon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

 

More BB

Boing Boing Video

Flickr Pool

Digg

Wikipedia

Advertise

Displays ads via FM Tech

RSS and Email

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution. Boing Boing is a trademark of Happy Mutants LLC in the United States and other countries.

FM Tech