Best rechargeable batteries and best practices?

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Best rechargeable batteries and best practices?

Postposted on Fri Dec 20, 2013 10:59 am

I'm kind of tired of buying AA batteries for things like Wii and Xbox controllers, my daughter's Leapster, and so on. I've tried rechargeable batteries in the past but find that it's not too many charges before they give diminished returns. I'd like to buy 12-16 of the best rechargeables I can and an appropriate charger so that we're not going through batteries all the time.

Also, what do you find to be the battery charging "best practices"? I've tried taking them off the charger when they're supposedly done, and I've tied leaving them on all the time. Life seems shorter than just plain old Duracells and Energizers, though. Meh. I'm open to suggestions.
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Re: Best rechargeable batteries and best practices?

Postposted on Fri Dec 20, 2013 11:01 am

I was going to send you to Thomas Distributing (www.thomasdistributing.com) but they've closed for the holidays, including the website. They reopen 1/6/14.
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Re: Best rechargeable batteries and best practices?

Postposted on Fri Dec 20, 2013 11:19 am

Make sure you pick up low self discharge NiMH AA's for controllers rather than standard NiMH AA's... unless you use the controllers a lot, you don't want to find them dead due to self-discharge.

FWIW, Amazon, Costco, and quite a few other retailers carry the Sanyo Eneloop's and whatnot now. As much as I love Thomas Distributing, if they're closed, no need to wait on them. :)
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Re: Best rechargeable batteries and best practices?

Postposted on Fri Dec 20, 2013 11:46 am

The current crop of NiMH seem to be much more reliable than the old school NiCd, and tend to not suffer from "memory effect".

I've found that the ones with the highest capacities also tend to be the ones that have high self-discharge rates, so there's a tradeoff. For high-drain devices (e.g. point-and-shoot cameras) it may be worth getting the high-capacity ones, but make sure you charge them right before you plan to use them because they will have noticeably less charge after sitting for just a few weeks. In general, you want the ones with low self-discharge, like continuum says. These are frequently marketed as "pre-charged" since they can be charged at the factory and still have a reasonable percentage of the original charge left after sitting on the shelf for a few months; it is still a good idea to charge them before first use though, since they may be down ~50% if they've been sitting around for a year.

For chargers, be aware that many of the consumer 4-cell chargers on the market cut corners on the charge control circuits, and consequently require that batteries always be charged in multiples of 2. If any of your devices use an odd number of batteries this can be a PITA. Better chargers have a separate control circuit for each battery position.

Adapters are available to allow AA rechargeables to be used in devices that take C and D cells. For devices where you don't care about reduced run-time per charge (since AAs have less capacity than C or D cells), this can be an attractive option since it means you only need to buy AA and AAA cells, and don't need a charger that can handle the larger sizes.
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Re: Best rechargeable batteries and best practices?

Postposted on Fri Dec 20, 2013 11:49 am

just brew it! wrote:For chargers, be aware that many of the consumer 4-cell chargers on the market cut corners on the charge control circuits, and consequently require that batteries always be charged in multiples of 2. If any of your devices use an odd number of batteries this can be a PITA. Better chargers have a separate control circuit for each battery position.

I've always had good luck with the prosumer grade Maha chargers. The digital camera review sites love them.
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Re: Best rechargeable batteries and best practices?

Postposted on Fri Dec 20, 2013 12:02 pm

+10 for the Made in Japan Eneloop rechargables. I usually buy mine from dell when they go on sale.
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Re: Best rechargeable batteries and best practices?

Postposted on Fri Dec 20, 2013 12:50 pm

MAKE SURE YOU PAY ATTENTION TO VOLTAGE on the rechargables. I got a Rayovac kit (2-AA & 2-AAA with charger) and they're 1.2V. I stuck the AAAs in my remote and it wouldn't work. I was stumped for a while until I inserted some "regular" AAA's and it worked fine. The "regular" AAA's are 1.5V. I haven't tested the rechargables on a ton of things since then. Threw them in the junk drawer as a wasted purchase.
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Re: Best rechargeable batteries and best practices?

Postposted on Fri Dec 20, 2013 1:15 pm

Panasonic Eneloops (used to be Sanyo, since dissolved under Panasonic) still get the most recognition for reliability when it comes to rechargeable NiMH AAs. They have an extended capacity version that's probably the best rechargeable AA you can buy. But at the $25 for 4 AA MSRP, they are overpriced. If you can find them for around $15 or less, then they might be worth it.

Any NiMH charger should work (though you might want to double check the output voltage). Anywhere between a 200mAH and 1AH charge rate should be OK, but the slower the charge rate, the less taxing on the battery.
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Re: Best rechargeable batteries and best practices?

Postposted on Fri Dec 20, 2013 1:20 pm

Eneloops is the answer.

Have two sets. One in your electronics, the other set pre-charged and sitting in your drawer. When the one in your controller dies, swap it out and recharge the set.

Don't have to worry about memory effect and they're called "low-discharge" because they can sit in your drawer and not lose their useful charge. The current generation can recharge 2100 times (even the originals can do 1000 cycles) so charge away!
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Re: Best rechargeable batteries and best practices?

Postposted on Fri Dec 20, 2013 1:28 pm

Eneloops it is, then. Didn't realize that self-discharging batteries was a "feature" - totally annoyed to find dead controllers in the past, so I quit using rechargeables in them. Will look for low-self-discharge. An 8-pack can be hand on Amazon for $20 and seems cheap enough to me (or 8 with a charger for $35, free shipping thanks to Prime), compared to Walgreens has 4-packs of Duracell for $14 when I was there this morning and passed on them.

I really love it when everyone has a consensus. Lots of data points all pointing the same way.
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Re: Best rechargeable batteries and best practices?

Postposted on Fri Dec 20, 2013 2:22 pm

Just in case you needed more consensus, another +1 for eneloop.

Been using them since they first came out in costco, and still using them without overt noticeable levels self discharge. I've had a few batteries that I charged 6 months ago, and it still seemed to have more than 70% of it's power. It's a HUGE difference compared to the NiMH Energizer batteries that I was using since they went from fully charged to dead in a few weeks with brand new batteries, and at the end of it's life... dead in a few days.

If they can somehow figure out how to do rechargeable lithium ions in a AA, AAA format @ 1.5V and include a controller circuit inside the battery all for a decent price then that would be the best... but, yeah :/ The only AA sized lithiums available are 3.6V cells that are meant to be assembled into a battery pack with a controller circuit.
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Re: Best rechargeable batteries and best practices?

Postposted on Fri Dec 20, 2013 2:24 pm

The $35 package also includes 2 AAA batteries, which is also a nice addition. I went ahead and ordered it plus 4 more AAs for a total of 12 for $47.
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Re: Best rechargeable batteries and best practices?

Postposted on Fri Dec 20, 2013 3:25 pm

Do avoid the super-low-end chargers (usually ~$15 or less). They will over or under charge the cells in many situations.

Most advertized as 'smart' or 'peak detecting' will charge the cells to the proper level. $25 or so should buy something decent.
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Re: Best rechargeable batteries and best practices?

Postposted on Fri Dec 20, 2013 3:47 pm

anotherengineer wrote:+10 for the Made in Japan Eneloop rechargables. I usually buy mine from dell when they go on sale.

Ditto. I meant to mention that in my previous post. Also, if you're a Costco member, they frequently have them on sale with a charger. (Unfortunately the bundled charger has the "must charge in pairs" mis-feature, but they're still a good deal on some of the best NiMH cells around.)

DPete27 wrote:MAKE SURE YOU PAY ATTENTION TO VOLTAGE on the rechargables. I got a Rayovac kit (2-AA & 2-AAA with charger) and they're 1.2V. I stuck the AAAs in my remote and it wouldn't work. I was stumped for a while until I inserted some "regular" AAA's and it worked fine. The "regular" AAA's are 1.5V. I haven't tested the rechargables on a ton of things since then. Threw them in the junk drawer as a wasted purchase.

The 1.2V is due to the NiMH chemistry used in pretty much all consumer rechargeables; there's really no getting around it. Maybe someone will eventually come up with another rechargeable battery chemistry that is closer to 1.5V.

Nearly all devices that nominally require 1.5V batteries will work fine with 1.2V. This is because normal (non-rechargeable) 1.5V batteries slowly drop in voltage over their service life, so most battery powered electronic devices are designed to work acceptably down to around 1V or so. There are occasional exceptions; I've got a cheap point-and-shoot camera that complains about the battery being low when using NiMH rechargeables, but other than the low battery warning randomly coming on the camera still works fine. NiMH also maintain a very constant 1.2V until they are completely discharged, and have lower internal resistance than most non-rechargeable batteries; this can actually give them an advantage in some applications (especially devices where high current may be required).

derFunkenstein wrote:Eneloops it is, then. Didn't realize that self-discharging batteries was a "feature" - totally annoyed to find dead controllers in the past, so I quit using rechargeables in them.

It was a general shortcoming of NiMH tech until Sanyo figured out how to deal with it. They've been doing the low self-discharge NiMH batteries the longest, and have the most experience. All the rest are basically copying the Eneloop design.

As another testament to the reliability of the Eneloops, the set I bought when they first came out years ago is still in service.

CB5000 wrote:If they can somehow figure out how to do rechargeable lithium ions in a AA, AAA format @ 1.5V and include a controller circuit inside the battery all for a decent price then that would be the best... but, yeah :/ The only AA sized lithiums available are 3.6V cells that are meant to be assembled into a battery pack with a controller circuit.

Yup, the chemistry of lithium ion is all wrong for 1.5V. There would have to be some electronics (switching regulator) in each cell to down-convert to 1.5V. The tech to do this exists, but the extra electronics would add to the cost of an already somewhat pricey cell. Best way to keep cost down would probably be to have most of the intelligence in the charger, and just put a simple buck regulator in each individual cell. Unfortunately you will lose some efficiency with a regulator, but energy density of lithium ion is high enough that you should still come out ahead (and you'd be able to have "true" 1.5V rechargeables).
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Re: Best rechargeable batteries and best practices?

Postposted on Fri Dec 20, 2013 3:52 pm

cynan wrote:Panasonic Eneloops (used to be Sanyo, since dissolved under Panasonic) still get the most recognition for reliability when it comes to rechargeable NiMH AAs. They have an extended capacity version that's probably the best rechargeable AA you can buy. But at the $25 for 4 AA MSRP, they are overpriced. If you can find them for around $15 or less, then they might be worth it.

Any NiMH charger should work (though you might want to double check the output voltage). Anywhere between a 200mAH and 1AH charge rate should be OK, but the slower the charge rate, the less taxing on the battery.



Since switching to these I have not been happier, probably have 4 chargers now and 20 or so batteries, will never go back to regular batteries.

Got all of ours on sale at different times, should be a good time to pick some up.
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Re: Best rechargeable batteries and best practices?

Postposted on Fri Dec 20, 2013 4:29 pm

just brew it! wrote:Yup, the chemistry of lithium ion is all wrong for 1.5V. There would have to be some electronics (switching regulator) in each cell to down-convert to 1.5V. The tech to do this exists, but the extra electronics would add to the cost of an already somewhat pricey cell. Best way to keep cost down would probably be to have most of the intelligence in the charger, and just put a simple buck regulator in each individual cell. Unfortunately you will lose some efficiency with a regulator, but energy density of lithium ion is high enough that you should still come out ahead (and you'd be able to have "true" 1.5V rechargeables).


Lithium Ions are superior in energy density but not durability. After three years the capacity of lithium ions drop significantly (can be half the original capacity). The number of charge cycles are lower too; maybe 500 compared to 2100 for the latest Eneloops.

NiMH only has half the energy density by mass and maybe 2/3rds by volume but they're stable and never dangerous.
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Re: Best rechargeable batteries and best practices?

Postposted on Fri Dec 20, 2013 4:53 pm

derFunkenstein wrote:Eneloops it is, then... An 8-pack can be hand on Amazon for $20 and seems cheap enough to me (or 8 with a charger for $35, free shipping thanks to Prime), compared to Walgreens has 4-packs of Duracell for $14 when I was there this morning and passed on them.


I'm not sure about the NiMH Duracells now, but when Duracell fist started selling them, they were simply rebadged Eneloops. On some you peel off the Duracell sticker and find the white Eneloop surface underneath...

I'm not certain, but I'm pretty sure some of the more expensive NiMH AAs they sell at places like DealExtreme are rebadged eneloops too. Panasonic or not, places like DealExtreme sell some pretty highly regarded NiMH batteries that would give Eneloops a run for their money (these, for example). You just need to wait for shipping. What ever you do, don't take a chance on the really cheap stuff.
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Re: Best rechargeable batteries and best practices?

Postposted on Fri Dec 20, 2013 5:58 pm

ChronoReverse wrote:Lithium Ions are superior in energy density but not durability. After three years the capacity of lithium ions drop significantly (can be half the original capacity). The number of charge cycles are lower too; maybe 500 compared to 2100 for the latest Eneloops.

NiMH only has half the energy density by mass and maybe 2/3rds by volume but they're stable and never dangerous.

I suppose there may not be enough demand for such a thing given that most contemporary devices are OK with the 1.2V that the NiMH cells produce. Lithium-ion also has higher self-discharge rates than the newer NiMH designs, so they would be inferior to Eneloop-type rechargeables in that regard as well.
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Re: Best rechargeable batteries and best practices?

Postposted on Fri Dec 20, 2013 6:35 pm

derFunk, if you checked the "FAQ" in one of the reviews on Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/review/R9VPVQ0UO2 ... lectronics

It mentioned that the charger is "semi smart" where you need to charge 2 at a time. If that is not a deal breaker for you (I used to need 2 or 4 AAs anyway so I tolerated a charge-2-at-a-time unit myself). In addition, fancier chargers that do "reconditioning" (full discharge then charge), temperature/voltage adjusted charging current, and top-up trickle charging, etc. may be what you need so it may be better to buy a smarter charger. I would say for general use like your Wii controllers, the Eneloop charger is fine. I used non LSD NiMH units for those and I just top them up when I need to play anyway. I also used them for an electric shaver and those drain fast enough that I have to charge often anyways.
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Re: Best rechargeable batteries and best practices?

Postposted on Fri Dec 20, 2013 6:46 pm

derFunkenstein wrote:The $35 package also includes 2 AAA batteries, which is also a nice addition. I went ahead and ordered it plus 4 more AAs for a total of 12 for $47.

FWIW that same package (Eneloop 8 AA + 2 AAA + charger) is frequently available at Costco for under $25.
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Re: Best rechargeable batteries and best practices?

Postposted on Fri Dec 20, 2013 6:57 pm

This is what I've been using for the past several (3?) years. I've checked into this thoroughly, so look no further. Here are the reviews you need to read:

$69.95 Maha PowerEx MH-C9000 Wizard One

$12.95 Imedion 2400mAh NiMH AA x4
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Re: Best rechargeable batteries and best practices?

Postposted on Fri Dec 20, 2013 8:43 pm

no Duracells! My mom's blood pressure monitor just doesn't like them. It always complain about low battery, but never had any problem with Energizer rechargeables. Duracell NiMH are fine in kiddy remote controlled cars tho.

thumbs up for Eneloops too.
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Re: Best rechargeable batteries and best practices?

Postposted on Fri Dec 20, 2013 9:56 pm

ChronoReverse wrote:Eneloops is the answer!
I completely agree, and have had good results with AA and AAA sizes. The very latest generation are rated for 1800 recharge cycles. I use LaCross BC-700 for charging. A couple years ago, there was some discussion on Amazon about counterfeit Eneloops, so try to find a reputable seller.

I have also had good success with Apple's rechargeable batteries that come with a charger. I think the kits are a bit over priced, but they work nearly as well as the Eneloops. Unconfirmed, but I've heard Apple OEMs earlier generation Eneloops.
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