Q: I want be sure I'm getting the best value from the batteries I'm buying. Which are best for what devices?
A: The simple answer is that the more technologically advanced a product is, the more likely it is to use more energy. So, youre better off sticking with cheaper, simpler batteries for items such as toys or baby monitors, while you may consider spending more for higher-performing batteries to use in your MP3 players, cameras or even complicated TV remote controls.
Batteries generate energy through chemical reactions that produce electrons. The most commonly used basic batteries are alkaline batteries that contain zinc and manganese-oxide. Higher-performing lithium-ion batteries, which are rechargeable, are commonly found in laptops and cell phones. They contain lithium and carbon, which allow for a lighter weight but more power that can be retained over a longer time, but are more expensive.
More advanced batteries contain a greater number of chemical ingredients and have a more complicated construction.
Its a good idea for consumers to consider higher-end batteries for digital cameras, CD players or other such devices, said Kelvin Belle, senior product manager for global marketing at St. Louis, Mo.-based Energizer Holdings Inc.
The more expensive batteries pack more punch, since the chemical mix and shape make the battery more efficient and give more total usage time over the lifetime of the battery.
Energizers e2 titanium battery costs about $4.99 for a four-pack of AAs while four non-rechargeable lithium manganese dioxide batteries cost roughly double that.
A device with more complicated functions like a digital camera - that sometimes gets put aside for long periods - could work better with lithium batteries, according to a November review by Consumer Reports, while high-grade alkalines are best for CD players and everything else.
Consumer Reports says rechargeable batteries are usually a better value, but if you must buy disposable, then high-grade alkalines are a good value for everything but digital cameras.
Duracell breaks down its recommendations based on the frequency of use for digital cameras. It promotes its rechargeable batteries for frequent users, like those who take more than 80 photos a month. For moderate users, the companys Web site advises using its Duracell PowerPix batteries and for occasional users, it says its Ultra Digital batteries are best.
Rechargeable batteries account for a smaller portion of the overall market, but sales have been growing at a rate between 10 percent to 20 percent a year, Belle said. Energizers rechargeable battery four-pack costs $10.99.
That extra cost is justified as the batteries are reused over time, according to Responsible Energy Corp. chief executive Curtis Randolph, whose company operates the Greenbatteries.com Web site. The convenience of non-rechargeable batteries, though, still appeals to most consumers, who dont want to have to plan ahead and recharge in time.
Lithium AA batteries - the most common size - are great for emergency planning, Randolph said. You can put them on a shelf, and theyll still have power literally eight or nine years later, he explained. They also do best in extreme temperatures.
As the population of cell phone-toting, iPod-listening consumers grows, so too does their awareness about battery performance, Belle said. Consumers are more conscious that the type of battery they use can affect their gadgets, he said.
Energizer has even come up with an Energi To Go line, devices that convert the power in regular batteries to power a cell phone or iPod. Theyre designed for people on the go who forget to charge, or who find themselves away from an electricity source.
Battery makers, Randolph said, have made real progress in developing products that maximize power.
All kinds of exciting things are happening in the battery world, Randolph said. Theyre not commercial yet but theyre really close.
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