By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
Physically, they may all look alike, but when it comes to choosing the right AA battery to power your clock, flashlight, computer mouse, smoke alarm, camera, toy or whatever gadget your need powering for, the brand and type of battery you choose can make a big difference.
Yes, we all have a tendency when a battery goes flat to simply swap it out for whatever energizing core we happen to have stashed in a kitchen drawer.
So whether you are persuaded to make a purchase by a little, pink, drum-beating bunny or a copper-topped image of an alkaline energy cell that claims to have made it to the moon and back on Apollo 11, the important thing is to gage your choice of the type of battery you need for a specific task.
While most modern name-brand batteries are capable of performing in just about every condition, some batteries are specifically made for long endurance, while others are designed to produce bursts of heavy power delivery.
These factors differentiate AA battery performance.
And the first factor to consider when choosing an AA battery is its chemistry.
Batteries can by alkaline, lithium or nickel metal hydride (NiMH).
Alkaline AA batteries have been around for over a century and have a proven track record as a low-cost option.
But while they are ideal for low-drain devices, alkaline batteries can sometimes leak, particularly if left in a device for long periods, and they don’t usually perform well in high-drain equipment.
In contrast, lithium batteries are most suitable for high-drain devices.
And they tend to be somewhat more expensive than their alkaline counterparts.
Lithium batteries can also be confusing because there are three main types: lithium; lithium-iron disulphide (LiFeS2); and lithium ion. The first two types are disposable, and the third type is rechargeable.
Simply put, alkaline batteries last longer but can break down over time, while lithium batteries usually have a shorter lifetime but are more stable.
NiMH batteries are usually rechargeable, and while they are less prone to leaking and explosion, they don’t always work with all devices. Also, they are generally more expensive, although they can make up for that by being reusable, which means that they can save you money in the long run.
Different devices use the power stored in AA batteries at different rates, so it is important to opt for a battery that is suited to your particular device and needs.
Generally speaking, AA lithium batteries are best for high-drain devices, like cameras, while alkaline batteries are better for low-drain gadgets, such as remote controls or digital clocks.
Another important issue to consider is branding, and in the case of batteries, if you buy cheap, you get cheap.
Always choose a reliable, internationally recognized brand, such as Energizer, Eveready or Duracell.
Trying to save money by purchasing an off brand will generally get you a gadget that wimps out in terms of both strength and longevity.
Currently, most battery specialists agree that the Energizer AA batteries are the best overall cells on the market today.
Recently awarded the top-dog in AA batteries award by Consumer Reports, these reliable, high-performance batteries are available in both lithium and alkaline forms, as well as rechargeables.
In the alkaline category, Energizer Max batteries are the clear market leader, have a 10-year shelf life and can last up to three times as long as batteries from other major brands.
Moreover, the Energizer Max battery has the ability to withstand extreme temperatures, so it is a great option for that snowy mountain trek or tropical adventure.
For heavy use, the Energize Max alkaline is unsurpassed in the battery market.
If you are looking for a strong power output, the Energizer Ultimate Lithium is your best bet.
It not only outlasts all alkaline alternatives (most lithium batteries do) but the Energizer Ultimate outperforms other lithium competitors as well.
In the long run, if you are desperate for a battery in the middle of the night and don’t have a lot of other options to choose from, that off-brand cell in the back of your kitchen drawer will probably get you through until you can make it to the nearest Walmart.
But if you want to protect your devices and get the most bang for your bucks, next time think about what kind of battery will best suit your needs and last, with a reliable, consistent output of energy.