The weather’s getting cooler, but battery season is heating up—we need them for tech toys, digital cameras, remote controls, and other electronic devices we'll be giving and receiving as gifts. But not all batteries are created equal, and they're certainly not priced that way. So which brand should you buy?
To help you decide, we worked with a lab to evaluate the performance of 15 brands of AA batteries—the most popular size—including 2 lithium and 13 alkaline. The tests mimic the main uses of AA batteries: to power digital cameras and flashlights.
The two brands of lithium AAs we tested scored higher overall than any of the alkalines. So while they are more expensive, you'll get better performance. All of the alkalines earned a score of only fair in the camera tests, but they ranged between fair and very good for the less taxing flashlight test.
Used batteries should be stored and/or disposed of carefully, away from the reach of children.
Do not carry or store loose batteries with metal objects such as in a change-filled packet. Discontinue using a battery that feels excessively hot, changes color or shape, emits an unusual smell, or seems abnormal in any way while in use or during storage.
In the event that battery fluids leak and get into your eye or make contact with your skin, rinse well with plenty of cold water and seek medical attention. If left untreated, battery fluids can cause serious damage.
Always use identical batteries of the same chemistry, brand, and age.
Nonrechargeable batteries may explode if: you try to recharge them, they get wet, they are exposed to high temperature or fire, they are pierced or subject to strong impact, they are disassembled, or they are installed backward.
Disposal and recycling
There is no regulation that requires the recycling of primary AA batteries. So it's OK to dispose of reasonable quantities of primary AA batteries, of any composition, with regular trash. But consider these caveats.
Batteries can explode when they are put into fire or are short-circuited.
Batteries should not be discarded with other batteries or in metal-filled containers.
A battery that is not fully discharged could pose a hazard when in contact with other batteries or short-circuited by metal or even water.
Any type of battery can potentially be recycled, depending on local recycling ordinances or programs. Some retailers also offer battery take-back programs to recycle used batteries.
Disposing of rechargeable batteries (or secondary cells) can be trickier. Some states have laws governing the proper disposal of these types of batteries, and some states dispense considerable punishments if you break the laws.
These websites have useful information about how to dispose of rechargeable batteries: Call2Recycle and Earth911.