Green Up Your Gear This Spring

Spring has finally arrived and we know what you are thinking, it's time to get outside, get some warm sun on your face and... play with all your electronic gizmos. After a long (global-warming-fueled-turbulent) winter, you can't wait to finally get those remote controls, Christmas toys, flashlights, and other light up doodads out in the sun and play with them. No you say? Well it's probably because all the one-time use batteries in your electronics are dead and they don't work anymore. Cheer up! We are facing the same problem too and so we put together a couple of great resources to help you understand and select the best rechargeable battery technology so you can stop spending cash just to fill landfills with double A batteries... and to save another type of green as well.

Choosing the brand and type of battery can be a little confusing at first. Disposable batteries have familiar and simple size choices to be made; do I need an AA, AAA, or 9 volt battery? With rechargebles there are a lot more options, and it's not obvious what they mean. What is a milliamp hour and/or what are cycles? What are the advantages of either or both? What brands are worth looking at? What should I look for in a charger? To help answer your questions, we've put together a short list of places to get yourself up to speed and grab the batteries you need.

So why should you use rechargeable batteries at all? First and foremost is that for most applications they function identically to their non-rechargeable brethren; you can pop them in and go just like a "normal" battery. But unlike a regular battery, they can simply be recharged when depleted... anywhere from 500-1500 times. Many people feel the increased initial cost of a rechargeable battery makes them cost prohibitive, but considering you are essentially buying 500-1500 batteries for a few dollars more than a set of batteries that are used once then thrown away should be a no brainer.

Five hundred to a thousand uses for one set of batteries? Sold you say? All right where do you begin. For a basic but in depth overview of batteries, check out the excellent article put out by CalRecycle.gov. Covering the capacities of NiMH (Nickel Metal Hydride) batteries as well as what to look for in a battery charger, this resource is a good place to start when learning about rechargeable batteries. Useful tips include looking for a charger that can fill up a single battery if necessary, and has a refresh or condition setting to keep your batteries in tip-top shape.

Once you've got the basics, you can look for batteries that meet your needs. The current front runner among rechargeable battery enthusiasts is Sanyo's Eneloop brand battery. The Wire Cutter poured over articles reviewing rechargeable batteries and Sanyo currently comes out on top. Chargers are a little more complicated, but with a little careful research and examination of reviews you can find one that meets your needs and your budget. Even if you buy a more expensive charger, you'll easily make up the cost over the life of the battery. Looking online, a 20 pack of AA batteries costs around $12, or about .60 cents a battery. A pack of 8 Eneloop AA costs about $18 dollars, but with the equvilency through recharging to over 8000 normal batteries, they come out to be about .0025 cents apiece. That's right, less than a quarter of a penny per battery. No matter which rechargeable batteries or charger you choose, you clearly can't lose compared to buying normal use and toss batteries.

When it comes down to it, in the end, you don't have to do any research to get on board with rechargeables, it's just interesting to learn how far this technology has come and how superior rechargeables are to standard batteries. Once you realize what an immense value they are to both your wallet and the environment, you'll make the switch and never look back.

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