When buying a package of batteries for our everyday items like remote controls or kids toys, its easy to think short-term about the cost. There's an 8-pack of AA's on the shelf for $5. Why pay more? The trouble is, you'll be back to spend another $5 in a matter of weeks. Maybe sooner, depending on how much your toddler loves his or her favorite musical teddy bear! $5 for an 8-pack is pretty cheap, too. You could easily spend $10 if you're getting a name brand from a convenience store if you're in a hurry to get Teddy Ruxpin powered back up.
The point is, if you're using disposable alkaline batteries like the ones found in most convenience stores or supermarkets, you might be spending a lot more on batteries in the long run than you need to. Of course we all go through batteries at different rates, but let us consider a hypothetical average american family with a couple of kids and a few TV remotes, Wii controllers and battery-powered toys, for a total of ten devices that run on 2 AA batteries each. They would need 20 batteries at any given time. TV remotes can run quite a long time on a set of batteries, but Wii controllers and anything with flashing lights, sounds, and motors will need replacement much more often. Lets say, conservatively, they go through an 8-pack of AA's a month. If they're buying the cheap ones every time, that's $5 a month, or $60 a year on 96 batteries. This doesn't sound so bad. But I know we go through a lot more batteries than this in my house, and we don't necessarily buy the bargain brand every single time. Sound familiar? Think of that $60 a year as a minimum cost.
Consider the Alternative
An 8-pack of rechargeable Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) AA's retails for around $30. A good Smart Charger may cost up to $50. Three 8-packs would get our hypothetical family their 20 batteries for all their devices, plus four spare to keep on the charger. That comes to $140 for a full set of batteries and the charger. The energy cost to charge a battery is negligible. Depending on the cost per kilowatt hour charged by the electric company, generally less than a tenth of a penny per charge cycle. Even charging up each battery a hundred times in a year (96 charges would replace all the AA's they would have gone through), our family would still pay less than a dollar a year in electricity to charge the batteries for all their devices.
Comparing the Choices
In the first year, disposable batteries cost $60, while the rechargeable batteries cost $141. But after the second year, disposable batteries cost another $60, bringing their total cost up to $120, while the rechargeable option only costs $1, bringing their cost up to $142. In the third year, the rechargeable batteries have paid for themselves, costing only $143 in three years, compared to $180 that would have been spent on disposable batteries in the same time. Some of the rechargeable batteries may stop holding a charge after the third year and need to be replaced, but most modern NiMH AA's can be charged at least 200 times, possibly up to a thousand, lasting anywhere from 3-5 years.
Keep in mind
This is comparing the most expensive rechargeable batteries and the least expensive disposable batteries. Households spending more than $60 a year on disposable batteries will find that rechargeable batteries pay for themselves much sooner.
The expense of upgrading to NiMH's doesn't need to come all at once. Consider buying a charger and 4 batteries at first, and replace the others as needed over time.
These numbers aren't conjured from thin air. One blogger did a real-world test in his household and came up with similar results: Read the article here.
Costs aside, switching to NiMH would keep thousands of batteries out of the landfill in your lifetime. Even if you weren't saving money, wouldn't it still be the right thing to do?