Best batteries for toys and baby gear

Consumer Reports News: December 14, 2007 12:17 PM

You may not go through as many batteries as diapers during your baby’s first couple of years, but sometimes it will seem pretty close. Batteries usually aren’t 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. Because not every battery is right for every job, here’s a rundown of what to consider before your next visit to the battery aisle.

Buy rechargeable batteries for high-use items. For gear with a high power drain, such as an infant swing, or for toys and devices you use often, rechargeable batteries are much more economical than disposables, even after you factor in the cost of a recharger, because the batteries can be recharged many times.

Have disposable batteries on hand. Even if you plan to use rechargeables, it’s a good idea to keep disposable batteries on hand as a backup. Among disposables, lithium batteries are best for high-powered devices, such as an activity center; the least expensive high-scoring alkalines are fine for everything else.

Calculate savings. Disposable batteries are supposed to last a long time in storage--more than 10 years for lithium cells and alkalines for roughly seven--so you can buy in bulk and not worry when you need emergency juice. But scrutinize unit-price labels to be sure the bulk savings are real.

Follow manufacturer recommendations and safety precautions. No disposable battery is a deal when the toy or baby products manufacturer recommends another type. Here are other precautions to take with disposables. Don't recharge them, expose them to high heat, subject them to strong impact, or get them wet because they could explode. Don't mix types, brands, or ages. Don't install batteries backward. Remove batteries if the device is powered by household current. Dispose of a battery that feels hot, changes color or shape, or emits an odor.

Recycle. Find a local drop-off site to recycle your rechargeable batteries through the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation (RBRC) website. It's OK to throw used alkalines in the trash if your community won't recycle them. But don't put them in metal-filled containers because they could overheat.

See our latest report on disposable AA batteries for ratings and how to match the batteries to your gear.

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