Alkaline Batteries: Advantages and Disadvantages

A large grouping of AA batteries stood on end.
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What You'll Need
Alkaline batteries
Alkaline battery charger
What You'll Need
Alkaline batteries
Alkaline battery charger

The phrase “alkaline battery” is one you may hear often without really understanding what it is. These batteries are made with an alkaline electrolyte of potassium oxide instead of ammonium chloride or zinc chloride, both of which are acidic components. They have a higher energy density, and therefore a longer shelf life, without compromising on voltage. Alkaline batteries can be disposable or rechargeable and are generally 1.5 volts per cell and are available in various sizes. It’s no secret that they are used commonly in many everyday electronics, but there are a few advantages and disadvantages to know about.

Advantages of Alkaline Batteries

Alkaline batteries are the most suitable for applications where the current being used is normally low, such as in devices that do not require a lot of power during their use or are used periodically, like remote controls or radios. As mentioned previously, alkaline batteries have longer shelf life than other batteries of the chloride-type electrolyte, so there is little worry these batteries going bad because of age rather than just running out of power over a long period.

Besides shelf life, these batteries also have a longer life span than their counterparts, so you won’t need to replace them nearly as often. Alkaline batteries function even at very low temperatures as well.

The rechargeable alkaline battery can be used hundreds of times if recharging is done after the battery has been used to 25 percent of its capacity or less. Batteries that have gone through a deep discharge situation can be brought up to an optimum performance by letting the battery go through a cycle of charge and discharge if the discharge is kept limited.

Costs of an alkaline battery are also much lower than the other more sophisticated ones containing nickel and cadmium, and alkaline batteries can be disposed of as normal waste rather than requiring special disposal techniques.

Disadvantages of Alkaline Batteries

Alkaline batteries have a high internal resistance which reduces their run time and produces an early ‘low battery’ warning in most devices. They will not last long in applications that have high start-up current requirements or even require a lot of power while in use. Rechargeable alkaline batteries are said to give a much lower performance than standard alkaline batteries though that gap has narrowed nowadays due to better technology and using purer products for basic manufacturing.

Recharging batteries can be a hassle and can catch you unawares. Keeping track of their usage and recharging at regular intervals when they are not yet fully discharged can help overcome this problem. The high cost of the battery charger initially can also be a disadvantage, and a defective battery charger can cause alkaline batteries to explode.

Batteries shouldn’t be kept in devices that are not used for a long time because they can leak and thus completely ruin the device itself because of the corrosive nature of the leaked material. Alkaline types are also bulkier than other lithium batteries, which can give much higher energy.