Rechargeable vs. Disposable
Which is cheaper? Which lasts longest?
All batteries can be broken down into one of two basic categories: primary or secondary. Primary batteries are disposable. Once the chemical reaction taking place inside a primary cell has completed, the battery can no longer release electricity. On the other hand, secondary batteries (sometimes called accumulators) can be recharged. A similar chemical reaction takes place inside rechargeable batteries, but once the reaction has reached its conclusion, it is possible to reverse it.
Are rechargeable batteries better than disposable batteries?
The biggest question surrounding batteries is probably this one: Are disposable or rechargeable batteries better? Disposable batteries are made to be used almost exclusively with devices that drain energy at a slow, steady rate. In general, disposable batteries will last longer than rechargeable batteries (taking into account only one life cycle per battery). Because of this, disposable batteries can be considered preferable to rechargeable batteries in some cases. For example, watch batteries and pacemaker batteries are disposable, but they can last for years.
Consumer electronics like cell phones and laptops require a large amount of energy per second. For these items, rechargeable batteries are the way to go. First, you will save a lot of money by not having to constantly buy new batteries for your electronic device. In the long run, regardless of the fact that disposable batteries have a longer life cycle than rechargeable batteries, they will end up costing a lot more money because you will constantly have to throw your batteries out after only one life cycle and purchase new ones.
Common uses of primary (disposable) batteries
- Alkaline - portable CD players, small appliances, radios
- Lithium - cameras, watches, calculators, computer clocks
- Carbon-Zinc - toys, flashlights
- Mercury-Oxide - digital watche, pacemakers
- Silver-Oxide - hearing aids, watches
Common uses of secondary (rechargeable) batteries
- Nickel-Cadmium - power tools, digital cameras, small appliances
- Lead-Acid - vehicles, alarm systems
- Lithium-Ion - laptop computers, cell phones, iPods and other MP3 players, PDAs, digital cameras
Though disposable batteries may seem more convenient at times, the "hassle" of having to buy a battery charger and to recharge your batteries every time they die is a small price to pay compared to all the money you will spend buying disposable batteries. Try keeping a few sets of rechargeable batteries always charged so that you are never without batteries when you need them. When one set dies, place them in a charger before you go to bed and they will be full of power and ready to go by the morning.
Note: Never attempt to recharge a non-rechargeable, primary cell battery. When placed in the charger, a disposable battery creates hydrogen and can cause an explosion.