The Complete Guide to Buying Rechargeable Batteries

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The Complete Guide to Buying Rechargeable Batteries

Rechargeable batteries are used in a wide range of devices and accessories, from alarm clocks to portable media players and digital cameras. Although rechargeable batteries contain chemicals and components that are harmful to the environment, they are considered environmentally friendly as their use decreases the number of single use batteries that are disposed of each year. Rechargeable and non-rechargeable batteries work in the same way: current is produced through an electrothermal process involving a cathode, an anode, and an electrolyte. The only difference is that the reaction can be reversed in rechargeable batteries, allowing these batteries to take and hold a charge. 

Before buying rechargeable batteries, learn about the different types available and which are better suited to particular uses. In addition, rechargeable batteries are distinguished by their charging capacity and voltage levels. Rechargeable batteries can be charged numerous times, so learn how to do that the right way in order to prolong their lifespan. Also understand how to dispose of batteries safely and responsibly when they can no longer be recharged. To spread the cost of changing to rechargeable batteries, those in high use devices can be replaced right away, but wait for batteries in low use devices to run flat before replacing them. Rechargeable batteries are available from a range of sellers, including electronics shops and supermarkets, and online sources like eBay.

Types of Rechargeable Batteries

Three main types of batteries are used for popular devices: nickel-cadmium (NiCd), nickel-metal hydride (NiMH), and lithium-ion (Li-Ion). While these are not the only rechargeable batteries available, they are the most commonly used.

Nickel-Cadmium Rechargeable Batteries

Nickel-cadmium (NiCd) rechargeable batteries are the forerunners of rechargeable batteries for consumer use. They charge relatively quickly, are durable, have a fairly long shelf life, and perform well in cold conditions. However, these batteries are made less efficient by the memory effect, which is where they lose charging capacity if they are not drained before being charged. One way to overcome this is to allow them to run flat before recharging them: some battery chargers perform this function automatically. It is important to note that the batteries should not be drained completely as this could damage them, but should be used until the device they are powering stops working. A further problem with NiCd batteries lies in the composition of the cells. They contain cadmium, a highly toxic heavy metal that is poisonous to all life forms.

NiCds are available only for use in medical applications and portable power tools following the European Union’s Batteries Directive. Although they tend to self drain at a slower rate than NiMH batteries, NiCd batteries should not be used in equipment like smoke alarms. However, their ability to perform in cold conditions make them perfect for use in outdoor lighting, and they can be used in devices that draw a high amount of current. 

Nickel-Metal Hydride Rechargeable Batteries

Nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) rechargeable batteries are the most popular choice for household use as they do not contain toxins and are cheaper to manufacture than NiCd batteries. While they are affected by the memory effect, this problem is not as pronounced as in NiCd batteries. Standard NiMH batteries tend to self drain fairly quickly, which makes them unsuitable for use in low power or occasional use devices, but low self discharge (LSD) NiMH batteries are designed to overcome this problem. Standard NiMH batteries are suitable for most uses, except where a long shelf life is required, in which case LSD NiMH batteries should be used.

NiMH batteries should be used by those who go through a lot of batteries. They perform well in digital cameras, but are not the best choice for torches with bright lights. NiMH batteries are not prone to leaking and their voltage is slightly lower than that of standard batteries, which means they do not cause devices to burn out.

Lithium-Ion Rechargeable Batteries

Lithium-ion (Li-ion) rechargeable batteries are seldom seen in standard sizes as they produce more than 2 to 3 volts per cell, making them impractical for most consumer devices, which often require 1.5 volt batteries. Li-ion batteries are commonly found in laptops, mobile phones, and digital cameras with integrated battery packs. Li-ion batteries are not affected by the memory effect, have a low self discharge rate, and are considerably lighter and more compact than standard rechargeable batteries. Li-ion batteries cost more than NiMH batteries, but have a higher capacity.

Charging Capacity of Rechargeable Batteries

The charging capacity of a rechargeable battery refers to the amount of charge that can hold when the battery is fully charged, and indicates how long it should be able to power a device. Charging capacity is measured in milliAmpere hours (mAh). The higher the number, the higher the battery’s capacity. As high capacity batteries hold more charge, they take longer to recharge. In other words, a 2700 mAh battery can power a device for ten times as long as a battery with 270 mAh capacity, but the smaller battery is able to recharge faster. Some manufacturers include a discharge rate in the battery’s description. A lower discharge rate makes the battery capacity look higher, so take this into account to avoid disappointment in the battery’s performance.

Voltage of Rechargeable Batteries

NiCd and NiMH batteries are 1.2 volt, while standard batteries are 1.5 volt. As a result, some devices may not work with rechargeable batteries and the lower voltage could, in extreme cases, result in damage to the device. Always read the device’s instructions before using rechargeable batteries. Standard batteries tend to lose their voltage with their charge, so the lower voltage of rechargeable batteries is seldom a real problem. Li-ion batteries have a significantly higher voltage than standard batteries; in some cases more than double. This makes them unsuitable for use with most consumer devices.

Rechargeable Battery Sizes

Rechargeable batteries are available in most standard sizes, such as AA, AAA, C, and D. Larger NiMH batteries tend to be expensive and may not be readily available in LSD NiMH variants. Although the use of standard sized Li-ion batteries is not recommended for household and portable electronic devices due to the difference in voltage, these batteries are available in standard sizes, but are expensive in comparison to other rechargeable batteries.

Battery Chargers

Different battery types work in different ways and require specific chargers. Universal chargers can be used for any type of battery, but it is important to confirm that the type of battery to be charged is compatible with the charger before using it. Features to look for in a battery charger include a discharge cycle that can be used to condition batteries in order to extend their useful life cycle; an automatic off switch or change to trickle feature when batteries are full to prevent damage from overcharging; and the ability to charge a single cell at a time. Although it is normal for batteries to become warm while charging or in use they should be allowed to cool before recharging.

How Many Times Can Rechargeable Batteries be Recharged?

Rechargeable batteries can be charged between 50 and 1,000 times, depending on what they have been used for. Factors that affect this include allowing the batteries to run down before recharging them on a fairly regular basis, not allowing them to run down completely, and how they are charged. Overcharging can damage batteries and never allowing them to run down to at least 80 percent of their capacity before charging could affect their ability to hold a charge.

Is it Safe to Recharge Non-Rechargeable Batteries?

Standard batteries are not designed to be recharged and attempting to do this could make the battery explode, rupture, or leak. At best the battery might retain a little charge, which drains in a very short time.

Disposing of Batteries Safely

Neither standard nor rechargeable batteries should be thrown in the household bin when they are no longer useful. Aside from adding to the amount of rubbish in landfills, the chemicals and components contained in these batteries may be toxic and harm the environment. Every UK shop that sells more than four AA batteries a day or more than 32 kilograms of batteries a year is obliged to accept batteries from customers for recycling. Keep an eye out for battery bins in shops to deposit used batteries.

Buying Rechargeable Batteries on eBay

To search for rechargeable batteries on eBay, type a search phrase, for example "AA NiMH rechargeable batteries", into the search field, which is accessible from every page, to see the items that are listed for sale. Click on the most appropriate category and choose the required item features to narrow your search.

Before Buying on eBay

Before buying on eBay, evaluate the item and the seller by clicking on an individual listing to access the item listing page.. Check this page for details about the item, postage and packaging costs, and the seller’s feedback.. eBay allows buyers to leave feedback about specific sellers’ products and customer service at the conclusion of each transaction. Detailed seller ratings contain additional information about aspects such as the seller’s communication and the amount of time that elapsed before the item was dispatched. Click on the number next to the seller’s username to view this information.


Using rechargeable batteries is a great way to save money in the long term, reducing landfill mass in the process. Three types of rechargeable batteries are commonly used in electronic devices: nickel cadmium (NiCd), nickel metal hydride (NiMH), and lithium-ion (Li-ion). However, NiCd batteries are no longer available for general use in the European Union. NiMH batteries are the most common and perform well in a variety of applications, including digital cameras. As rechargeable batteries tend to self discharge faster than standard batteries they should never be used in emergency equipment, such as smoke detectors. Low self discharge NiMH batteries have a slower self discharge rate and can be used in low power, occasional use devices.

Taking care when recharging batteries makes them last longer and choosing a high quality battery charger simplifies this process. Standard non-rechargeable batteries are not suitable for recharging and may explode if used with a charger. Batteries contain chemicals and toxins and should not be disposed of in household waste. Instead, place used rechargeable batteries in bins that can be found in many shops. eBay sellers offer a wide variety of rechargeable batteries for a range of devices and applications.

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