by Staff Writer
Batteries make our modern lives portable. From camera batteries to laptop batteries, all of your electronics need some type of battery pack so you can take them with you. This batteries buying guide includes basic information about batteries and how they work with your personal electronics.
Battery compatibility: Because your electronic devices are designed with specific batteries in mind, it's usually not hard to choose. The biggest choice you'll have is between cell phone or camera batteries made by the original manufacturer or a compatible battery pack made by a third party. The real choice comes when you buy the device itself. Check the specifications for your camera, laptop or MP3 player to see which kind of batteries it uses and the specifications, which are covered in more detail below.
Rechargeable batteries: Many of today's personal electronics, from shavers to portable DVD players, use rechargeable batteries, like lithium batteries and nickel-cadmium cells. Rechargeable technology has been adapted to the familiar AAA, AA, C, D and 9-volt standard sizes. You should be able to use rechargeable batteries even in older devices that accept those sizes. You can than then slip the batteries back into a desktop charger. Rechargeable batteries initially cost more than single-use batteries, but they are economical in the long term because you can use them repeatedly.
The "memory" effect: Nickel-cadmium rechargeable batteries can suffer from a "memory" effect in which battery life decreases when the battery is charged before being fully depleted. If you have a device with a Ni-Cd battery, it is a good idea to let these batteries fully run down before recharging them. However, Li-ion batteries do not have this problem, making them excellent for many devices.
Battery life: The length of time a battery operates depends on how much power the device draws. High-energy electronics, such as digital cameras or camcorders, drain battery power faster than low-energy devices, such as flashlights. In general, single-use batteries are great for low-energy products and can be stored for up to seven years. Rechargeable batteries are a better choice for high-energy electronics. You can make comparisons of battery life between similar batteries by looking at the milliamp hour (mAh) rating. The higher the rating, the longer the battery pack will last for the same device. As a battery ages, its life shortens until it no longer holds a charge.
Battery precautions and care: Batteries, and your electronics, can be damage by high temperatures, so avoid leaving your batteries in a hot vehicle or in direct sunlight. Most batteries fair well in cold temperatures, especially Li-ion batteries, although exposure to extreme cold should be limited. Also, avoid exposing batteries to magnets, which can damage them. Don't try to recharge non-rechargeable batteries; this can cause them to explode.
Battery disposal and recycling: Batteries contain minerals and chemicals which can be harmful to the environment. Luckily, most batteries can be processed and recycled. You can find local drop-off sites or donate your old batteries and electronics to charities that recycle them.
If your cell phone power just doesn't seem to last as long these days, think about looking at replacement cell phone batteries for your handset. Replacement rechargeable batteries are cheaper than a new phone, and you'll probably notice a significant difference in battery life. Don't forget to have adapters and chargers on hand to keep your phone or MP3 player charged wherever you are.