Rechargeable vs. Non-Rechargeable Batteries: The Pros and Cons

Posted July 25th, 2014 at 4:28 am by Loraine   |  14 Comments ››
Share this Post: Facebook Twitter Google Plus

rechargeable-vs-nonOver the past fifty years, many of the products we use have increasingly become powered by rechargeable batteries—from the lead acid batteries in our cars and other motorized vehicles, to the variety of Ni-MH and lithium-ion rechargeable batteries powering our digital cameras, laptops, and other electronic devices. Choosing between rechargeable and disposable batteries can be frustrating. – Both types share many of the same properties and functions. Often the frustration stems from not knowing which will work better.

The most common debate about these two battery types surrounds alkaline AA, AAA, C, and D consumer batteries. With different kinds of more efficient batteries appearing on the scene, such as the lithium-ion rechargeable battery, choosing can be a bit of a headache.

But in reality, there are only two main factors to consider.

Battery Price
Rechargeable batteries are usually more expensive, at least initially.

Since rechargeable batteries can be charged many times over after the initial purchase, it is reasonable that rechargeable batteries comes with a much higher price tag than disposable non-rechargeable batteries. Having a lower initial cash outlay makes it one of the reasons that some consumers choose to purchase disposable batteries. But in the long run, the batteries that you can recharge are significantly more cost effective, often providing you with a hundreds or more hours of use than their disposable counterparts. The lithium-ion rechargeable battery for example, has proven to be efficient, especially in consumer electronics.

Battery Life
Disposable batteries last longer than rechargeable batteries, but only initially.

The initial charge of a disposable battery tends to make it last significantly longer than its counterpart in most applications, making it the better buy at first glance. But remember, they are called “disposable” for good reason; they simply cannot be recharged. Once they die, they’re dead and gone. When it comes to rechargeable batteries, they last much longer as you can recharge them. While it is true that rechargeable batteries lose drain more quickly over time and successive charges, there’s never a need to re-purchase batteries for quite some time as long as they satisfactorily hold the charge needed for their application.

Rechargeable Batteries Then?
Not Always. Consider the application first.

While the verdict may seem to be a no-brainer inclination in favor of the rechargeable battery, a case can be made for the usefulness of disposable batteries. It really depends on application.

For example, non-rechargeable batteries can be the perfect choice for low-drain products. Low-drain devices use only occasional power or very low power over a longer period of time. Smoke detectors, remote controls, and wall clocks are just few of devices that could benefit from disposable alkaline batteries.

Rechargeable batteries can be the ideal choice for high-drain gadgets and electronics that quickly drain a lot of energy. Since these batteries can be easily recharged, you will be ridden of the hassle of constantly purchasing new batteries. Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries, which are commonly used to power portable consumer electronics, are a better choice for such devices, and will give you more bang for your buck.

There are always pros and cons with the variety of batteries available. The first consideration in purchasing the most suitable battery for any device is its application.

Share this Post: Facebook Twitter Google Plus
Tags: > > > >


  1. Hi! I was so surprised reading your comments about the pro’s & con’s of re-chargeable & disposable batteries since you did not mention the difference in open circuit terminal voltage! Disposables surely are 1.5 v & re-chargeables are 1.2 v are they not?
    Kind regards,

    John (Spain)

    • Hello John: The nominal voltages are 1.4 to 1.45V for zinc air disposables and 1.2V for NiMH rechargeables. The open voltage circuits are lower, but sufficiently high enough to operate the devices. I believe the open voltages required are between 0.9 to 1.0 and 0.12V Regards, Elliott

    • ELLIOTT ALEXANDER December 31, 2017 at 9:53 am · - Reply

      Hello, Yes this is correct. Open voltage matters less than, operating voltage and generally the operating voltages of most applications run at a lower number than the open voltage rating of the battery

  2. do all hearing devices run on some kind of battery.
    is there any battery which has low radiation? ,for use in hearing device?

    • All hearing aid devices need some kind of power source. I am not aware of any safety issues with radiation from batteries. If you have any scientific sources about this issue, please post the information. Regards, Elliott

  3. I’m really having a hard time getting an answer to my #1 question. Which battery type (rechargeable vs.disposable) has the best power performance?

    • Yes..Can anyone reply on this???

    • Hello DMD, the disposable zinc air batteries will likely have better power performance. Their running voltage may be higher, at least at the outset. Also they have higher capacities. The zinc air batteries have about 5 times the capacity over a NiMH cell and for this reason the NiMH should be recharged nightly. Regards, Elliott

  4. thats niceeeeeeeeeee

  5. Rawiri(David) Stirling Bowie May 23, 2017 at 12:58 am · - Reply

    where can I get repllacement batteries as mine have not expired but were flat on opening

    • Hello Rawiri: NiMH batteries will often be without charge when new from the package (expired date or not). You need to charge the batteries and then discharge them several times (through use) before the batteries reach their maximum charging capacities. Regards, Elliott

  6. Hello , my laser instrument requires ‘C’ batteries, 1.5 volt. I would like to use rechargeables which I can only get in 1.2 volt. Does it make a difference if the mAh is higher ?

  7. The article does not mention the difference between the two types regarding safety issues. We have heard horror stories about rechargeable catching fire. Have these issues been resolved? Are they inherent in rechargeables (if so, which chemistry is more prone to safety issues)?

    BTW, I’m specifically interested in learning more about the safety hazards of rechargeable coin batteries.

  8. Horror stories about rechargeable batteries catching fire or exploding are with Litihium Ion and Lithium Polymer battery Packs. Rechargeable hearing aid batteries that we sell as direct replacement for hearing aid batteries are NiMH. NiMH are much safer to use than Lithium rechargeable chemistries. NiMH cells and packs do not generally cause fires or explode.

Leave a Comment