Letter: Battery Comparison and Cost


Has there ever been a cost basis study comparing rechargeable batteries versus changeable taking into account original cost of batteries and charger, cost of purchased electricity at today’s average rate, or if solar charged the cost of that equipment. As my rechargeable batteries lose life and I see changeable batteries going for cheap, I am beginning to wonder if loading up on the cheap expendables isn’t cheaper in the long run. – R.T.

HJL’s Comment:

I’m sure there have been cost studies, but I am not aware of any. However, you can do a basic comparison on costs yourself. Just be aware that cost is not the only factor that has to be considered when making the decision.

Typical purchase costs:

Power contained in each

  • Alkaline batteries generally have 2,500 mAh of charge
  • NiMH batteries usually only have 1,500 or so of charge.
  • An Eneloop battery is usually good for nearly 2000 charge cycles.

The Choice

Given those criteria, the decision seems to be an easy one.

  • Alkaline batteries cost $.0001 per 1mAh delivered. ($.25 / 2500mAh)
  • Eneloops cost $.000001 per 1mAh delivered. ($3 / 1500mAh / 2000cycles)
  • The nice charger only costs $.04/charge cycle over the life of the battery (if you only charged one at a time). That equates to roughly $.00003 per 1mAh delivered from the battery.

The electricity used to run the charger is negligible unless you generate it yourself, but even then, distributed out over the life of the battery, it is still pretty negligible. You would just have a front loaded cost because you have to purchase the charger and solar charger right away in order to use them.

I’ve used very conservative numbers here and you can see that based solely upon “perfect” usage, an alkaline battery can’t even come close to the inexpensive cost of ownership (charger included) of a rechargeable.


  • I have never seen anyone get a full 2000 charge cycles out of the battery. They tend to lose them or treat them badly so they don’t get the full usage rating from them. Even so, if you only get 100 charge cycles, they’re still less expensive.
  • As good as Eneloop batteries are, they self discharge over time. If you need a battery that retains a charge under non-use conditions and is ready to go now, alkalines are your friend (unless you consider lithium rechargables).
  • If your device requires a high current from the battery, NiMh (or lithium) will generally perform better.


  1. We stock a mix of both alkyne and rechargeable. As Hugh pointed out they can be charge by solar however that doesn’t necessarily require an expensive elaborate system it could be as simple as a Goal Zero or other small portable solar panel system. My battery charger came with a DC plug so I can use it with running a power inverter any wasting power.

  2. Another factor to consider when comparing alkaline vs. Eneloop is that we often throw out the partially depleted alkaline and put in brand new ones when we are going away on travel, hiking, camping. You want to have a fully charged device, not a half run down one. Also, I have never had an eneloop battery leak during months long storage but alkalines often do and can destroy the device in the process. So I would probably say that in practice I rarely get all of the stored energy out of an alkaline battery, probably more like 50% each.

    Just a slight correction, I believe the Eneloops since 2012 or so are rated at 1800-1900mAh, not 1500mAh, and with a rated 2100 cycle life. Slightly improves your numbers. We have been using Eneloops for many years and they are fantastic. Powerful, takes many, many recharges, and they don’t leak.

  3. Another note about the rechargeable batteries, some chargers like the Xtar VP4 are powered via a USB cord. So you can plug it into your wall adaptor, laptop, or vehicle power port. If you recharge your Eneloops off your car then it is essentially free electricity (extremely small drain compared to other vehicle components such as the starter and headlights).

  4. [The hyperlinks did not paste; all products are available through Amazon.]
    This is not a cost comparison, but after some research and consideration for my needs, this is my system. The batteries are Panasonic Eneloop Ni-MH pre-charged AA and AAA rechargeable batteries, with D Spacers. I selected the Powerex MH-C9000 WizardOne charger-analyzer because it operates on 12 volts DC. I have proven the Antigravity XP-10 Microstart will jump start one’s vehicle, charge cell phones and other USB-charged devices, and most laptops—and the battery charger. The Instapark Mercury27 27 watts solar battery charger charges the microstart battery, but it is slow. I use calendar reminders to top off the AA and AAA batteries and the microstart jump battery every 3 months. The Eneloop batteries loose less than 10% charge during the three months on non-use. The AA batteries were used in conjunction with the D spacers to test-power the Streamlight Siege lantern on full power, and they lasted about 3 hours. The life of the AAs were longer in the Streamlight AA Siege lantern on full power, but I don’t recall the total time.

  5. Working over my bug out bags last month. The flash light with the non-rechargeable batts was corroded beyond repair. The other bag had a flash light with Enloops. They were weak but usable. The absence of any leakage whatever is a huge advantage. A day of hiking with the Goal Zero on my back would have brought that second flash light back to full utility.

  6. If one is looking to keep the disposables as their only option, for instance, due to extremely tight fiscal restraints, what we have done is simply to add a package of 4 AA’s to our shopping cart at the dollar store every trip. Also, Harbor Freight, for those that have one nearby, sells their package of 24 AA’s or AAA’s, 4-pack of 9V, and 6-pack of D’s & C’s for less than 5 bucks with a coupon (currently at $4.79). The HF price makes it less than $.20/AA unit.

    1. Keep in mind that dollar store and harbor freight batteries are likely to be inferior to and have much shorter shelf life than brand name batteries. On the other hand, I have seen more leaking duracell batteries in recent years, including some AAA’s leaking in an unopened pack from Costco.

  7. I hear no mention of Werker batteries, from Batteries Plus, in the friendly industrial waste yellow wrapper. They are great alkaline batts, with a long life, and I supplement my recharge batts with plenty of these in reserve. I’ve switched over to the eneloops, finding them to be as advertised. I’ve got a Rescue Battery that is 12 volt and it has two regular plug in’s for using AC power from it, and it’s great for charging other batteries, via their chargers. But if you have the Werkers (German made) in your area, give them a go, they’re top notch. Batteries Plus is kind of deaf when you talk to them about rechargeables other than the ones they carry, so try Amazon when you want Eneloops.

  8. For flashlights and other battery powered equipment stored in a bugout bag, consider high grade lithium metal (non-rechargeable) cells. I am partial to Energizer Ultimate Lithium AA and AAA cells. They have a 20+ year shelf life and never leak, and are rated for full output from -40 to 140 degrees F. Yes, they are a lot more expensive, but will be ready when you need them most (and your equipment won’t be corroded from leakage).

  9. Has anyone ever experimented with recharging alkaline batteries? Yes, I know that they can explode if recharged. Just looking to see what others experiences have been.

  10. In our local market, “Energizer” NiMH are the ones to get. Things to consider include self-discharge rate for things that don’t get very intensively used. “Duracell”, the leading competitor will hold their charge in the order of a few weeks, compared to months for the former.

    Also to be considered, some appliances do not work well at the lower voltages of the recharge cells, 1.24 VDC vs. 1.54 VDC of alkaline.

    Cost may become a key factor for appliances that get used heavily and constantly, but the main criteria for some of us is availability of power. Off grid, my 12 volt solar can replenish the charge of the NiMH cells using my 12 VDC operated charger, but it would require a lengthy trip into town to acquire fresh alkaline cells. In WROL, I would not bet that would even be an option.

  11. I bought a solar charger from CH Kadel’s catalog last month. Some off brand with no clear maker, just some random letter/logo. Its the 12,000 nmh version. I gave it to my wife who deploys for the Air Force. She plugged her cell phone into it and claims it charged her iphone faster than the wall plug charger. It has a built in flashlight and two USP ports. It seems solidly constructed and padded but it came without instructions so we are guessing how long it takes to charge in direct sun, and does leaving it under a light in the kitchen do any good. I would like to see a dedicated solar battery charger set up for sale. Should/when the shtf point arrives, cost per unit arguments become null and void at that point. All that would matter is does it work and how long will it work before it needs recharging? Depending on the way shtf arrives will determine much. The ability to find items after dark will go a long way towards alleviating stress in a stressful environment. People adapt quickly to changing circumstances so being able to set up in preparation for nightfall could help reduce the mental workload a lot: locate Food, tools, weapons, toilet paper, etc. for when it gets dark. While some things will be found to work best in particular area’s, one should not habitually leave stuff laying around for convenience sake. Prying eye’s and emergency bugging out are still something to keep in mind; housefire, wildfires, invasion by marauders. Off topic but not. We have a cheap solar flashlight I use when taking the dog out. I’d like to find more, and save the ‘real’ flashlights for more serious uses.

  12. Energy expert Steven Harris says that Rayovac alkalines are the best value for the money. They don’t hold their charge as well as Duracell or Energizers. But if used within a few years, they are great. Walmart regularly sells AA and AAA 36 packs for 14.97. I have seen 70 packs at Lowe’s for about $20.00. And no shipping charge if you get them while doing other shopping there.

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