Americans buy 3 billion dry-cell batteries every year to power their favorite things. Rechargeable options are becoming more popular as people attempt to avoid running out of power.
There are several different types of rechargeable batteries, each with advantages and disadvantages.
Read our rechargeable battery guide to learn what your options are and how to choose the best one to power your device.
Types of Rechargeable Batteries
A battery comparison can help you make sure you get the best type for each device.
Primary vs. Secondary
Whether a battery is primary or secondary determines not only how it will run but whether it can be recharged.
A primary battery is a combination of at least two primary cells that turn chemical energy into electrical energy.
A secondary battery is also known as a storage cell. It's made up of a network of secondary cells that also convert energy.
The main difference between the two types is lifespan. Primary batteries die when they run out of power. Secondary batteries can have each secondary cell brought back to life with a current going in the opposite direction of the battery's discharge.
Primary batteries have lower initial but higher overall costs. They're best for portable, low-drain devices. Secondary batteries have a higher initial but lower lifespan cost and can be recharged over and over. They're also useful in a wider range of devices.
Nickel-Cadmium and Nickel-Metal Hydride
These are one of the most powerful and fastest-charging types of rechargeable batteries. They also have a long shelf life and can handle extreme temperatures.
Crystallization causes a "memory effect" that makes the battery recharge from the level it was at. This can eventually ruin your battery, so be sure to fully discharge it every so often.
Cadmium is toxic, so nickel-cadmium batteries must be recycled or disposed of properly.
Nickel-metal hydride batteries have an energy density that's twice what lead-acid batteries can deliver and 40% higher than nickel-cadmium batteries. They're also safer and have less of an environmental impact.
Nickel-metal hydride batteries have higher costs and aren't suited for low-drain devices. They can also get damaged if not used for more than a month, giving them a much lower shelf life than other types of rechargeable batteries.
Lead-acid was the first type of rechargeable battery on the market. It has an easy charging process but takes a long time to reach full capacity.
These batteries are small, affordable, long-lasting, and avoid the memory effect that nickel-cadmium batteries suffer from.
Lead-acid batteries contain toxic chemicals including heavy metals, sulphuric acid, and the lead itself. This makes them difficult to dispose of safely.
These batteries produce as much energy as nickel-metal hydride batteries but weigh 20-35% less and aren't impacted by the memory effect.
Lithium batteries can handle recharging better than most other types of rechargeable batteries. They're perfect for phones and other devices that need to be recharged repeatedly.
A lithium-ion battery's core components aren't toxic, but lithium itself is flammable. There also aren't any prescribed disposal methods, but most states require you to recycle them.
Where to Get Rechargeable Batteries
Knowing the different types of rechargeable batteries helps you get the best one for your needs and dispose of it properly when you're done.
Lithium-ion batteries are one of the longest-lasting and most portable options. You'll need something more powerful like a nickel-metal battery for high-drain devices.