Better Batteries, Both Regular and Rechargeable

January 14, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
If your holiday electronics and toys are running out of juice, this next report is just in time. Hillary Samuels doesn't have to buy new batteries for her digital camera because it uses rechargeable ones. But it's different with her kids' toys. She said, "I'm constantly replacing batteries. I buy huge packs of them. They go in all their toys."

Consumer Reports tested 17 AA batteries, both standard and pre-charged rechargeables. Prices range from a dollar-fifty for two standard batteries all the way up to nine dollars for two rechargeables.

Testers evaluate battery performance using digital cameras - the most common use of AA batteries. Testers zoom in and out ... take five pictures with the flash on. Then five pictures with the flash off. After a 10-minute rest, the test is repeated until the batteries die.

The lowest-scoring standard AA's - the CVS Alkaline Batteries - only had enough juice for 92 snapshots. The best - the Panasonic Evolta - took nearly 240 pictures.

Consumer reports Jim Langehennig said, "Alkaline batteries have a long shelf life and they're less expensive than other types, but they don't perform as well. They're best used in devices that don't use a lot of power or aren't used that often."

But for things like toys that use bursts of energy or digital cameras, Consumer Reports says re-chargeable batteries are more cost effective - even though you do have to pay more initially.

The highest-performing AA rechargeables took nearly 400 pictures. They're the Sanyo Eneloop. A charger with four batteries costs about $25:00.

When it comes to storing your batteries, you want to keep them in a cool, dry place, separate from one another and away from metal objects. And while some people think batteries will last longer if you store them in your refrigerator, Consumer Reports said that's not the case.