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Everyday Cheapskate: The Inside Buzz on Batteries

Mary Hunt on

Little things mean a lot -- like the two words "batteries included." Just knowing they're in there somewhere means less hassle and one less thing to buy. But face it. The initial powering-up of a battery-operated device is a minor concern. It's the cost of keeping it going for years to come that should be considered.

The commercials are compelling, but can they be trusted? Does a copper top really make a difference? Is Energizer the heavy artillery of battery power? Is heavy-duty superior to alkaline? Are el-cheapo, generic batteries evidence that you get what you pay for? Is heavy-duty superior to alkaline?

ALKALINE VERSUS HEAVY-DUTY

Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports Magazine, concluded that when it comes to single-use batteries, the alkaline and lithium varieties are by far the best performers. Even the most expensive heavy-duty battery cannot compete with the cheapest alkaline or lithium.

So, the conclusion is clear: Buy alkaline, which is cheaper than lithium, and buy according to price, not by brand. Go for the store or generic brands, and when you find them on sale, stock up.

Retailers such as Costco, Target and Walmart don't own their own battery factories. They contract with the biggies such as Rayovac, Eveready and Duracell. Private-label batteries are typically the exact same product as the national brands; only the label and the price are different.

 

EXPIRATION DATES

Alkaline batteries have a life of about five years. However, they lose power slightly when not in use. That is why you should always look for the latest "best if used by" date code.

STORING BATTERIES

It's not exactly a myth that storing batteries in the refrigerator will preserve their energy, but it's close. Tests indicate chilled batteries have only a slight, if any, increase in life expectancy over batteries stored at room temperature -- no more than 10%.

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