Your Guide to Different Types of Batteries

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Unfortunately, there’s no single battery technology that can answer all our problems.  There are different battery types designed for different uses and devices.

With all sorts of batteries sold in the market, I did my own research to know the cost, uses, advantages and disadvantages of each.  If you are like me (before I did my research) who finds “batteries” confusing, here’s a guide to which kind is best for different types of purposes.

Carbon-Zinc

It’s the original chemistry for household batteries dating back to the 1800’s.  It’s the cheapest but least powerful – good for low-drain devices like remote controls.  If you want a battery that is still cheap but with longer shelf life and longer life in use, pick Alkaline for a better value.

Sample brands:  Sony, Kodak

Alkaline

This is the most common type of battery used in household nowadays – toys, radios, etc.  It’s suitable for devices that don’t require a lot of power during use such as the ones I mentioned above.  It has a higher energy density and longer shelf-life than Carbon-zinc and other secondary batteries.  The disadvantage is that it can leak if the device that contains the battery is not used for a long time.  Actually, it’s the most leak-prone among all the other types of batteries.  The leaked material has a corrosive nature and it can ruin your device.

Sample brands:  Energizer, AmazonBasics

Lithium

The type of battery that offers a really long shelf-life (can be well above 10 years) and can work well in sub-freezing temperatures, hence it being more expensive.  Lithium batteries are commonly used in cameras, security systems, smoke detectors, portable electronics and medical devices (pacemakers, hearing aids, etc.).   Although it’s rare for this type of battery to explode, it still has a small possibility of explosion.  That’s why you can’t fly with these batteries checked in your luggage.

Sample brands:  Energizer

Nickel-Cadmium (NiCd/NiCad)

It’s a rechargeable battery with older technology.  You can find this in older electronic devices such as laptops, cell phones, cordless phones, video cameras, power tools, etc.  However it’s not found in many applications today.  Cadmium is a known carcinogen and NiCad batteries contain 15% of this toxic and carcinogenic Cadmium.

Sample brands:  PowerDriver

Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH)

NiMH is an technology newer than NiCD batteries.  They provide same voltage but offer 30% more capacity; also used in some mobile phones and laptop computers.  Unlike NiCad, NiMH batteries don’t contain toxic metals but it still has a large amount of nickel oxides and some cobalt that are known human carcinogens.

Sample brands:  Energizer, Panasonic

Lithium Ion (LiON)

Lithium Ion is the newest battery technology and the fastest growing battery system today.  This is the type of battery that you have on your smartphones, iPhones, iPods, laptops, and tablets.  It’s considered safe, powerful and with a small risk of explosion, provided certain precautions are met when used.   Proper charging and discharging is important because LiONs are fragile and overheating could cause fire. Note that LiON cells have over twice the voltage of alkaline batteries, so you can’t just replace a set of AA alkalines with the same size LiON, unless the device is specifically rated for the higher voltage.

Sample brands:  Panasonic  

Batteries contain various hazardous metals and acids that can pose serious risks if not discarded properly.  Learn how and where to dispose old batteries safely by knowing your local laws.  Some areas allow disposing batteries in the trash while in some states, that’s considered illegal.  So check your local municipality or research online to know the proper procedures.