Are Rechargeable Batteries Actually Cheaper?

More than 33 million pounds of batteries are thrown away each year.  As more and more things become electrified, more batteries are needed to keep these devices running when not plugged into the wall.  But instead of tossing single-use batteries when they are empty, is it better to invest in rechargeable batteries?

Alkaline batteries are cheap and widely available.  A quick search online returns the average cost of AA batteries at about $15 for a pack of 24, which comes out to about $.63 per AA battery.  Lithium ion batteries are significantly more expensive, and slightly harder to find. A four pack of rechargeable batteries costs about $10 per pack, which comes out to about $2.50 per battery.  That means rechargeable batteries are about four times as expensive as single-use batteries. On top of the cost per battery, you must also purchase a charger for your rechargeable batteries, which can cost anywhere from $10 to $100, depending on how many batteries you wish to charge simultaneously and how quickly you’d like to charge them.

But of course, the math does not end there.  Rechargeable batteries typically have greater available capacity than single-use batteries, so they can last up to four times longer than its Alkaline counterparts.  This is especially true for devices that use a lot of energy like digital cameras.

If we assume rechargeable batteries last three times longer than single-use batteries, it’s better to compare the costs of the batteries by multiplying the cost of single-use batteries by three.  Using this math, three single use batteries cost $1.88 and last as long as one charge from a rechargeable battery. That means that rechargeable batteries still cost about 33 percent more than single-use batteries.

But we still haven’t factored in the most important fact – you can use rechargeable batteries more than once.  All you need to do is charge them by plugging them into a charger that is plugged into the wall. At approximately $.25 per recharge, the cost of a second utilization of the rechargeable battery’s full capacity is 87 percent less than using three single-use batteries.

The short and sweet answer, based on the math above, is that you should switch nearly every single-use battery you have out with a rechargeable battery.  There may be rare cases where a device uses a very small amount of energy and the device itself doesn’t last long, so a single-use battery is sufficient, but for almost every other device, it’s best to use a rechargeable battery.

Along with the cost savings, you avoid sending the excess packaging and batteries to a landfill.  Using rechargeable batteries is a great way to save you money in the long run and help the environment at the same time.


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