Where Better Batteries Meet Bargain Power -- Savings Experiment

How to Save Money on Batteries
How to Save Money on Batteries

Sometime around 250 B.C. the Parthians who ruled Baghdad stuck an iron rod into a copper tube suspended in a clay jar; they mixed in some vinegar, an electrolyte solution, and what did they get? Salad dressing? An odd parting gift for contestants on "Parthian Idol"?

Nope: Historians tell us this "Baghdad Battery" may have been one of the first primitive power cells, a 1.1-volt unit probably used to electroplate silver. And in the years since, scientists and consumers alike have struggled to unlock the secrets inside these portable packs of power. Do batteries keep better in a fridge? Is there a difference between alkaline and zinc-carbon? What about department-store brands versus name brands? And which ones give you the best charge for your change?

As a guy who depends on batteries to make his musical gizmos go, I'm eager to know the answers, too -- and we'll charge into the fray in today's Savings Experiment.

Battery basics: Cost, life, shelft life and more
First, a few battery basics. Old-school zinc-carbon "general purpose" batteries -- especially those made overseas by no-name companies -- are worth avoiding. For starters (or non-starters, if you like), they could do your appliances more harm than good. They run out of power faster than you can say "Ben Franklin's kite," and once that happens, they're in danger of leaking acid inside your prized gadgets.