Best AA battery

Posted by: comms

Best AA battery - 08/11/08 05:20 AM

A few threads have gone this direction lately and to much debate on the use of AA batteries.

I have not jumped into the world of rechargeable batteries or designer types, specifically in AA. A brick of coppertop Energizers are just to darn cheap at Costco. I now obviously see a need for something better so would like feedback on what works and what doesn't. For comparative purposes lets use flashlights, digital cameras and radios as our power draw.

In your opinions what are the best rechargeables, lithium, NiMh(?) or whatever this battery neophyte is missing to list. Also if discussing rechargeable batteries what unit works best, if any to do so, solar, wall outlet, etc.

I have a solar panel that recharges AA's but not used it yet. And a 'survival' radio that uses rechargeable batteries and a hand crank. I have avoided the "charge your cell phone with AA's" so far, hoping the solar charger would do that better but, I haven't soldered the USB connection yet.

What 'designer AA batteries' should I avoid as well.

Posted by: Tjin

Re: Best AA battery - 08/11/08 06:12 AM

depends on your usage. i use enough batteries to warrant NiMH, but i don't use them fast enough to warrant normal NiMH. After years of messing with normal NiMH, i went for the low self discharge (LSD) NiMH and i never looked back.

LSD NiMH are very usefull in equipment, which won't use up the batteries in a few days. I also love to use them in mine camera, because i don't charge mine batteries all the time. I love the fact that mine camera will have enough power, even though i have not chargerd the batteries for weeks.

get a proper charger like the MAHA or LaCross to squeeze the most out of the batteries. Don't cheap out on the chargers, even if you can't afford a MAHA or Lacross, find one which has independ charging bays.

Batteries to avoid are those who are to good to be true. Some cheap AA NiMH batteries have wrappers with "3200 Mah" on them, they are not. Impossible high battery ratings, usually means they are junk.

Also avoid 2700Mah if you don't want high self discharge rates.

NiCa batteries are also a bad choice as rechargable AA's. (although they can be usefull in some applications)

Don't mix in Li-ion's in to the mix, unless you have great knowlegde about them. Uncarefull use of Li-ion can be dangerous and due to the much higher voltage, they can fry your equipment.
Posted by: Eugene

Re: Best AA battery - 08/11/08 11:12 AM

Second the decent charger recommendation, for years I used walmart quality chargers and was disapointed when my batterus would die when I needed them most. For the $30 wasted on a low quaility charger you can get a maha c401fs for $40.

Low self discharge NiMH is the way to go, Sanyo eneloop are some of the best out there but there are many others.
with the low self discharge batteries on the market there really isn't much need for non rechargeable batteries any more.

WRT rechargeable and lithium, lithium are not rechargeable, lithium ion are and they are not in standard sizes like AA and such. Be careful buying devices which use lithium ion (gps, camera, etc) when there are aa powered available, you then have to have a charger dedicated to that device and plan to replace the batteries ever few years since lithium ion have a shprt lifespan compared to other technologies.

Nicad has their place, if you have a simple trickle charger like in those little solar powered yard lights or cordless phones a nicad will last longer since none of the other technolies are as tolerant of the constant charge.
Posted by: Fitzoid

Re: Best AA battery - 08/11/08 02:46 PM

This is what I use:
  • PowerEx 2700 mAH AAs I have not formally measured their self-discharge rate, which would be easy to do with a good charger that displays info, but I'll try to remember to set aside a pair for a month and do so. I have no self-discharge problems with them.
  • LaCrosse BC-900 : Superb charger which can now be found online for $40. Don't get the upgraded model which requires something like 100 button presses every time you use it. The BC900 does everything you would likely need.
  • Maha MH-C401FS: Great tiny charger. Not as capable as the La Crosse but portable and easy to travel with.

Finally, I don't have these but you can check out Maha's new 2100 mAh Immedion AA. They claim 85% capacity after one year, but my batteries never sit around that long. I have alkalines and lithiums for storage, which do a lot better than 85%. (Main reason to get something like this might be if you want rechargeables for emergency storage, the cells may die if you let them completely discharge; this seems like it might avoid that problem.)

One last note: Good chargers will let you set the charging current. Lower current = less heat = longer battery life. I usually use 200-400mA, which takes a few hours to charge however many I have in the charger. You can set a much larger current, but the batteries will overheat and suffer in the long run.
Posted by: Rodion

Re: Best AA battery - 08/11/08 03:10 PM

Now this is a useful thread!

What do you guys think of Recyko batteries and chargers? I have their "quick" charger, four 2050 Mah AAs and four more 820 Mah AAAs.



The AAs never went out on me; even after being "drained" by a cellphone, they powered the aforementioned Stone Age flashlight just fine. Maybe it just means the voltage was down, but I haven't noticed a reduction in brightness. Never gave them a chance to hold charge for over a month, so I wouldn't know about that.

AAAs in my player go out all the time, but I suspect it's prone to turning itself on.

One important issue is the size: not all are the same size. Two of my pack literally get stuck in smaller devices, rendering them effectively useless and requiring repairs. Very nasty surprise if you're in the field.


Um, so again, what do you think about them?
Posted by: Eugene

Re: Best AA battery - 08/11/08 03:24 PM

Looking at http://www.gprecyko.com/en/charger_pack.html all the 4 bay chargers like your picture say 2-4 batteries so they appear to only charge in pairs. I wouldn't use one for that reason.

Yes, some higher capacity batteries get more capacity by makeing them slightly large.
Posted by: Fitzoid

Re: Best AA battery - 08/11/08 03:38 PM

Two quick notes.

1) You didn't really drain the AAs if they were powering a cell phone. Most devices require a minimum voltage and turn off when you drop below it. As AA NiHMs start off at 1.2V, you're already at something of a minor disadvantage, and when your cell phone stopped working, the batteries weren't empty; they just couldn't power it anymore. The only real ways to fully drain a battery are to let it completely self-discharge over time or as part of reconditioning phase in a good charger. An unregulated flashlight will speed the process along, but I don't think even that will do it.

2) Yes, battery widths (and heights) can vary slightly. You think there would be an ANSI standard to prevent this, as it can be a problem in devices with very tight tolerances.
Posted by: Am_Fear_Liath_Mor

Re: Best AA battery - 08/11/08 03:58 PM

Best Primary AA Cell - Energiser Lithium

Best Rechargeable AA Cell - Sanyo Eneloop or Panasonic Infinium

Best Alkaline AA Cell - Duracell Procell

Posted by: Tjin

Re: Best AA battery - 08/11/08 04:08 PM

GP recyko's are good LSD NiMH, i have stacks of them. But the cheaper GP chargers, are just that good. I think GP does make a good charger, with independbays, but at a much higher price.
Posted by: Eugene

Re: Best AA battery - 08/11/08 04:09 PM

There is a standard battery width, but some of the high capacity are actually slightly bigger than that standard.
Posted by: Fitzoid

Re: Best AA battery - 08/11/08 04:12 PM

Yeah, figured there must be. But with so many junk batteries on the market, I doubt all manufacturers pay close attention to it. I wonder how strictly govt contractors adhere to it.
Posted by: SolidVFR

Re: Best AA battery - 08/12/08 12:52 AM

Definitely spend the extra money and use Energizer Lithium primary cells in critical equipment. The last thing you want is leaky alkaline cells. It is a matter of "when" they leak, not "if".
Posted by: adam2

Re: Best AA battery - 08/12/08 11:41 AM

For long term storeage or safety critical equipment I would recomend the Energiser L91 litium AA cells, AFAIK the makers hold a watertight patent on this type of cell and no one can make a generic equivalent.

If you use a fair number of AA cells normally, then I suggest any reputable brand of alkaline cell, the lithiums are too costly for everyday use.
Here in the UK lithium AA cells are at least 4 times the price of alkalines, and in a typical flashlight or radio they dont give 4 times the service (they would probably give 4 times the service in very high drain applications such as digital cameras, or in extreme cold)

In a prolonged blackout, would you rather have 20 lithium cells, or 100 alkalines? the cost in or $ would be similar.
The 100 alkalines would give more hours light or radio listening.

If you use lots of batteries frequently, then any of the better brands of rechargeables are worth it, but remember to keep a stash of disposable cells in case grid or other power is not available for recharging.
Posted by: Fitzoid

Re: Best AA battery - 08/12/08 11:43 AM

I agree with L91 AA recommendation, and those are what I use. It used to be close to impossible to find lithium AAs in the UK. Glad to hear that's changed!
Posted by: Rodion

Re: Best AA battery - 08/12/08 12:25 PM

Originally Posted By: adam2
If you use lots of batteries frequently, then any of the better brands of rechargeables are worth it, but remember to keep a stash of disposable cells in case grid or other power is not available for recharging.


I do keep a bunch of Duracells around (you never know), but wouldn't a solar charger solve, or at least mediate this problem?
Posted by: KenK

Re: Best AA battery - 08/12/08 12:33 PM

Originally Posted By: SolidVFR
Definitely spend the extra money and use Energizer Lithium primary cells in critical equipment. The last thing you want is leaky alkaline cells. It is a matter of "when" they leak, not "if".


Be sure to do a little research (owner's manual or home page) to make sure that the device can use lithium batteries. Garmin GPSMAP GPS's and several headlamp/flashlight manufacturers (Streamlight, Petzl) specifically state that lithium batteries should not be used in their products.

On the other hand, I use lithium AA's in my small Nikon point-and-shoot camera, and will never mess with alkalines for that use again. Sooo much longer usage time between battery changes.

I agree that alkaline battery leakage is a major problem. I make sure to take batteries out of flashlights and other devices that are not in immediate use. I just store the batteries near them. I've lost several flashlights and at least one radio (FRS) to battery leakage.
Posted by: Eugene

Re: Best AA battery - 08/12/08 12:37 PM

I used to buy the sams club packs of lithium but when since testing eneloops I've stopped buying them. I've put lithiums in a battery pack for a radio and eneloops in that sat for a year and had the same run time and I top off my eneloops ever 6 months now. I also have 10 year old traditional NiMH batteries (sanyo 1600mAH) so I'm confident that the enloops can match the 10year shelf life of lithiums. I'm testing my gear every 6 months if it doesn't get used (sring and fall) so my rechargeables get topped off then so if anything happens I get the same run time as lithiums but can recharge. I use chargers that can be powered by 12v so hook them to the truck or solar or whatever and I can re-charge and keep going.
Even if you only use lithiums or alkalines or hand crank whatever you should check/test/rotate supplies at regular intervals, medications, bandages, etc all need roatated too. So its a simple matter to top off the rechargeables or every couple years do a refresh cycle on the maha c9000 to check them for capacity. If you do keep alkailin backups buy a bulk pack every 6 months or so and rotate them out as well, thats how I minimize chances for leaks.
Posted by: adam2

Re: Best AA battery - 08/13/08 06:57 AM

Originally Posted By: Rodion
Originally Posted By: adam2
If you use lots of batteries frequently, then any of the better brands of rechargeables are worth it, but remember to keep a stash of disposable cells in case grid or other power is not available for recharging.


I do keep a bunch of Duracells around (you never know), but wouldn't a solar charger solve, or at least mediate this problem?


Cheap solar chargers for AA cells are in my experience of very limited use, especialy in winter which in the UK at least, is when they are most needed.

The PV module in such units often only puts about 80ma into the cells and would require 30 hours or more to fully charge high capacity cells, and remember thats 30 hours of bright sun, which might be a month in the winter.
I suspect that the cheaper chargers would never fully charge high capacity cells in winter, the losses and the input are probably about equal!

One could of course use a large PV module, charge controller and a 12 volt deep cycle battery, to power an "in car" type charger, this should give results just as good as grid power.
The investment however would be several hundred pounds or dollars.
Posted by: Art_in_FL

Re: Best AA battery - 08/13/08 10:44 AM

Alkaline Duracells, primary batteries, are my usual AA batteries. The are very cost effective and more reliable than most other brands in my experience.

For critical applications or where weight and bulk are an issue lithium cells are the way to go. They are so reliable and have so much capacity, even in extreme cold, that in some cases I have eliminated the backup set.

I never got into the rechargeable batteries but I may have to look into them. The ability to recharge off a small solar panel or vehicle charging system could be an advantage.
Posted by: Eugene

Re: Best AA battery - 08/13/08 10:49 AM

Originally Posted By: adam2

The investment however would be several hundred pounds or dollars.


It wouldn;t be several hundred dollars, you can get a 12v SLA battery for $50, charge controller for $50 and panel for $100 that will give enough power to run a small 12v in charger.
Posted by: Eugene

Re: Best AA battery - 08/13/08 10:51 AM

Originally Posted By: Art_in_FL


I never got into the rechargeable batteries but I may have to look into them. The ability to recharge off a small solar panel or vehicle charging system could be an advantage.


If done right they work well. I started out with rechargeables in 2001, started having problems a couple years later with them not holding a charge and started buying lithiums. I started reseraching and found out that I had a bad charger and then low self discharge batteries came on the market. So in early 2006 I went back to rechargeables with a real charger and low self discharge batteries and they work as well as or better than lithiums. The biggest problem with rechargeables are the batteries and chargers sold in most stores are crap, your lowes and home depot, radio shack, walmart and other stores are all poor chargers and the batteries are usually too high capacity.