I've never tried to stop and count how many batteries are in all my children's toys, but I do know that there are an awful lots of them and that it's always the way that they seem to all run out at the same time. Good batteries are not cheap and it always seems so wasteful when you have to throw away the dead ones. When I was asked if I wanted to review some rechargeable batteries and a charger from rechargeablebatteries.co.uk I jumped at the chance.
I'm constantly trying to make our household more green and getting through single use batteries so quickly was really beginning to annoy me – and hurt my purse. So much so that just a couple of days before the review request came in Mr C ordered a et of rechargeable batteries online!
One of the first things to know about rechargeable batteries is that battery technology has moved on since the rechargeable batteries of my youth. There are several different battery chemistry combinations available now and these result in different voltages. One of the most common is NiMH – Nickle Metal Hydride – and many AA size batteries with this composition are 1.2V, yet standard non-rechargeable AAs are 1.5V. Depending on what you're planning to use the batteries for, you might need to consider this.
If your brain is already starting to melt at all this talk of chemistry and voltages then don't panic. Those lovely people at rechargeablebatteries.co.uk have a team there who can help you to choose the right rechargeable batteries for you and what you need them for.
I'm afraid I'm not going to stop with all the geeky battery information here though.
Another thing to consider is the capacity of the batteries – in other words how long they will power something for. For example some rechargeable batteries go up to 2700 mAh and most are around the 2300 mAh mark, yet the ones that came inside our baby monitor are only 1300 mAh. No wonder they run out so quickly!
It's also important to understand how many recharge cycles they can handle. This means the number of times you can recharge them without there being a drop in performance. The eneloop ones that we were sent to review say that they are good for 500 cycles, but you can get others which can be recharged 2000 times.
Another thing that makes the eneloop batteries particularly environmentally friendly is that they come pre-charged and that initial charge is done in Japan using solar power. The fact that eneloop can do this is due to a technology breakthrough for the company as their batteries retain charge far better than other brands. Before that if a rechargeable battery just left in a drawer for instance it would self-discharge. These batteries retain up to 85% of their charge after 1 year and it is this which makes it possible to sell pre-charged batteries. It also means that these batteries are most useful in a device where you don't expect to use all the charge for a long time e.g. a TV remote.
When people talk about the memory effect in batteries what they mean is that if you don't discharge completely before recharging then battery remembers where you bottomed out before and it held less charge in future. This is why people always said you had to run a battery right down before recharging and it was a problem for people when using older rechargeable batteries. Some of the new batteries claim to be free of memory effect, so you can charge them when you like, how you like with no detrimental effect.
When it comes to charging rechargeable batteries it's now that case that many support fast recharging meaning that they can go from flat to fully charged in about an hour. Some batteries don't support fast charging so if you have a mix of battery types you may want to look for a charger that can do both fast charge and slow charge. Many chargers, including the one we were sent to review have a built in fan to prevent over-heating.
The best chargers charge each battery individually and stops charging each one when they are full. This means you don't end up with a situation where it stops charging all 4 because one of them is full. Instead it ensure all are charged to capacity. It is also possible to get chargers that do both AAA and AA sized batteries – particularly useful if you have lots of toys that take both sizes in your household.
From the C Family's experience with rechargeable batteries so far I would definitely recommend swapping over to them if you have children with lots of battery powered toys. Whilst the batteries themselves do cost more than single use batteries, you soon make back that difference in cost in terms of not having to buy new ones all the time. By doing so you're also making a huge difference environmentally. The fact that since this review we've gone and bought even more hopefully shows you how happy we are to move completely over to rechargeable batteries.
Disclaimer: I was sent the batteries and charger pictured by rechargeablebatteries.co.uk for the purpose of this review.