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The Plusses & Minuses of Rechargeable & Single-Use Batteries

It can be a dilemma, should you opt for a multi-pack of single-use batteries, or invest in rechargeable ones?  Both have plus and minus points, and to help you make up your mind, read on and discover the low down on both types.

Before we start though, let’s cover the basics. Very simply, a battery is a portable energy storage device, and both sorts of battery create energy via an electrochemical reaction. 

To cut a long story short, the two types of batteries have the same basic components, namely a cathode, anode, and electrolyte. The small cross, positive (+) on one end is the cathode and the minus symbol (-) signifies the negative or anode.

When you insert these into an appliance, the connection is complete, and the flow of energy begins. This cycle is due to the third element, which sits between them, a chemical compound called the electrolyte. The electrolyte converts chemical energy into electric energy. 

Good to Go

In a single-use battery (also known as a primary or alkaline battery) it comes  100% charged and ready to use.  The energy is stored via the internal chemical and discharges its power on a sloping curve.

This curve means that it carries an initial higher charge than the rechargeable version and releases its energy slowly over a sustained period. The Single-Use battery is also not prone to losing its charge when stored. What's more, it's cheaper to manufacture, so the good news is it will cost you a lot less.

Due to the Single-Use battery's ability to discharge its energy over a sustained period, these are best for low drain applications such as TV remote, Alarm Clocks, flashlights...

The primary type of battery also has the convenience of being sold in retail outlets worldwide, making them easily accessible.

As for recycling, while modern manufacturing techniques and the metals/chemicals used have over the years become more environmentally friendly, you should still dispose of any battery responsibly. 

Rechargeable Batteries

A rechargeable battery (or secondary cell) has the same internals as a single-use battery but uses them in a different way.

Instead of discharging all of its energy in a single sustained faze when electrical energy from an external source (i.e., a charger) is applied to a rechargeable battery, the reaction reverses.

Go with the Flow

When in use, if you imagine the flow of electric current from the battery, comes from the negative or anode. Being able to reverse this process means that during the charging period, the charge feeds into the anode.

This reversal of current allows the electrolyte to be once again activated to produce chemical energy, ready to convert to electrical energy when needed.

As the name suggests, it's possible to recharge the battery thousands of times, so the advantages over single-use are obvious.

However, they do have a higher initial outlay cost, and you will need a charging device. This type of battery doesn't last forever, but most manufacturers quote between 700–1000 charges. The rechargeable battery also requires specialized disposal, although their components are easy to recycle.

Which Type of Battery is Best for Me?

If your battery usage is light, for example for your TV remote or a smoke detector, then single-use batteries are for you. They are not only inexpensive but also you can buy them in a number of places.  Also, with a shelf life of up to 10 years, you can throw a multi-pack in the kitchen drawer for whenever you need them. 

On the other hand, you may rely on battery-operated items for your job or hobby, and have equipment that quickly drains your batteries. In which case, being able to re-charge your batteries to full power whenever needed is the answer.

So whatever your requirements, the right battery for the job is out there and waiting! 

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