Green for Less: Save over $80 a year with rechargeable batteries

Every year, Americans buy 3 billion batteries to power their electronics. Batteries are full of heavy metals that produce their powerful charge. With normal use, we're protected from the dangers of these metals. But once they enter landfills, their casings may be crushed or eventually the batteries deteriorate. Those harmful metals, including mercury, lead, cadmium, and nickel contaminate the environment when they end up in landfills, leaching chemicals into our soil and surface water. When trash is incinerated, these chemicals release into the air, causing even more damage to our environment.

One way to cut down on the amount of batteries that end up in our landfills is to use rechargeable batteries. And if you aren't listening to your green conscience, listen to your wallet. By using rechargeable batteries instead of regular batteries, you can save on average over $80 a year! Instead of going through dozens of sets of batteries a year for one home electronic, you'll only use one set, and it will last you many more years to come.

Fortunately technology over the years has evolved the rechargeable battery. They used to drain their energy quickly. And while they would last for about 100 charges, they came with a high initial investment.

In our experience, the best battery out there is Sanyo's Eneloop series. The new battery is a hybrid, meaning that it's fully charged out of the box, like alkalines. It's slow draining, meaning it is suitable for long term electronics such as remote controls and alarm clocks. And it will charge in any NiMH charger, meaning you don't have to throw out your old charger. They're best charged overnight.

And the best part is, it's highly cost effective. One battery will last you about 1,000 charges. A four-pack of AAs will run you $14.95. A four pack of Duracell alkaline AA batteries at $3.90 would cost $3,900 for the same amount of power. That's a savings of $3,885.05 over the years!

If you're looking for a battery set that charges quickly, Rayovac's IC3 Ni-MH batteries charge in 15 minutes. We've found that they tend to drain very quickly, however. And if you're looking for something with higher power capacity, over cost efficiency, your best bet would be Energizer e2 Lithium batteries which will keep your camera powered for a longer period of time.

Ince you've completely switched to rechargeable batteries, don't forget to recycle your other household rechargeable batteries, such as those in cell phones and those in cordless electronics, all of which are harmful when they end up in a landfill. The Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation is a nonprofit that makes it easy to find a recycling center near you to drop off old batteries. Enter your zip code here, and you'll find a variety of local businesses which will accept the used batteries.

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