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Best Bets For Batteries

Does this ever happen at your house? A big storm swoops in, the power goes out, you fish around for the flashlight—and, once again, the batteries are dead. Yeah, happens at my house, too. So what are some tips for preserving battery life, and making sure your batteries will be alive when you need them?

First, pay attention to the expiration date on the package when purchasing disposable batteries. Some may still be good after that date, but try not to stock up on batteries that will expire before you can use them.

TECH TIP

Use your settings to battery performance
How to prolong a battery’s life is a key question, and one that’s particularly important for heavy-use devices such as cell phones and laptops.  With cell phones, pay attention to what apps you’ve installed and the settings you’ve selected—some may be drawing down power while running in the background. Select power-saving settings, such as reducing the screen brightness, whenever possible.

 Most cell phones use rechargeable lithium ion batteries. Tech experts say that although it’s not necessary to fully drain those batteries before recharging, some suggest it’s a good practice to drain the battery fully down at least once a month.

Tech experts say that using a laptop computer only while it’s plugged in to household electricity can still deplete the battery over time. To prolong the battery life and keep its recharging abilities fully functioning, they suggest unplugging from time to time, switching to battery power to partially discharge it, then reconnecting to a power outlet to recharge it.

SMART SHOPPER

Choosing between cheaper and longer-lasting
Consumer testing, while not definitive, suggests that in many cases less-expensive generics are a good alternative to name-brand batteries in terms of performance, particularly when comparing batteries of the same types, for example a name-brand alkaline battery vs. a generic alkaline.

But the big question for many consumers is whether to use disposable or rechargeable batteries.

Some experts suggest using disposables for low-drain devices that only use a little bit of power over a long time, such as an alarm clock or a television remote.

 Typically, although rechargeable batteries run out of power faster than disposables, they can be the better choice for high-draw uses, such as portable video games or digital cameras. In general, use alkaline batteries for low-drain settings, then lithium or other rechargeable batteries in high-drain devices.

Although rechargeables may cost more to purchase, they can save money in the long run, especially if your household tends to run through a lot of batteries. Using rechargeables also means fewer dead batteries are dumped in the landfill. Before disposing of dead batteries of any kind, be sure to check to see if your community offers recycling.  

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