You may not go through as many batteries as diapers during your baby’s first couple of years, but it will seem pretty close. Batteries aren’t usually included when you buy toys and baby gear with music, lights, vibration, or sound effects, and some toys or baby products may require more than one size battery. Not every battery is right for every job, either.
Here’s a rundown of what to consider before your next visit to the battery section of the store, based on our recent tests of AA batteries—the most common type used in toys.
Buy rechargeables for high-use items. For often-used toys, digital cameras, and other devices drawing bursts of power, make the greener choice: rechargeables. Another option is a single-use lithium battery. The downside of rechargeables? They discharge when they’re not in use, so they’re not the best choice for battery-powered toys that sit idle. You also may have to charge the battery before the first use. Don’t mix rechargeable and disposable batteries, however. And use a suitable recharger. For flashlights, remote controls, and other devices drawing little power, consider single-use alkaline batteries, which should have a shelf life of several years.
Keep disposable batteries around as a backup, even if you plan to use rechargeables. Among disposables, lithium batteries, which are expensive, are the best for getting the most shots from your digital camera.
Follow manufacturer recommendations. No disposable battery is a deal if the toy or baby product’s manufacturer recommends another type. Be wary of knockoff brands that seem like a great value. Some have been defective.
Store and dispose of batteries properly. You should store batteries separate from one another and from other metal objects in a cool, dry place (no need to store in the refrigerator). Don't mix battery types, sizes, or ages. Rechargeable batteries should be recycled to keep their heavy metals out of landfills. To find out where to recycle, go to the Web site of the nonprofit Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corp.
Learn more in the full AA batteries Ratings report in the December 2009 issue of Consumer Reports.