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The answers for power-hungry toys and gadgets.

Rechargeable batteries cost less now and hold a charge longer

FROM AA TO 9-VOLT, the right batteries can be made as powerful as new in a couple of hours by using the rechargers shown above. And they can be recharged hundreds of times.

'Tis the season when thoughts turn to all those new gift gadgets stashed under the tree: the ones that move, make noise, think, flash--and devour batteries. So thoughts will also turn to the five most common batteries--AA, AAA, C, D, and 9-volt--that feed them.

This year, stuff those toys with a renewable feast of rechargeable batteries (but charge them first). Rechargeables are a lot better than they used to be--prices and recharge times are down, and the cells hold a charge longer. It's no trick getting used to rechargeables; cordless phones, plug-in flashlights, laptop computers, and camcorders all use the same kind of nickel-cadmium (ni-cad) power packs.

Ni-cads are great for devices that use a lot of juice--music players, flash units, toys. They're generally not as well suited for remote controls, garage door openers, or other devices that don't draw much power or are infrequently used. Products that should not be powered by rechargeables, like smoke detectors, usually say so on their packaging or instruction sheets.

Look for ni-cads and rechargers at drug, discount, or department stores. Prices vary widely: battery chargers cost from $10 to $30; batteries cost from $5 to $10 or more per pair--about twice what disposable alkaline cells cost. But after the fifth or sixth recharge, ni-cad cells are practically free, except for the few pennies or so of electricity used to recharge a pair.

Recharging used to take a day. Now, typically, AAs, AAAs, Cs, and Ds can be recharged in 2 to 5 hours; 9-volts can take longer, depending on the charger you're using. The most popular battery size, AA, can be bought with small quick chargers that will recharge a pair in an hour.

Larger chargers hold up to eight batteries; most can re-energize different-size batteries at the same time. Some chargers have a light that tells you when a charge is complete. With most new units, it doesn't harm the batteries to keep them in the charger. It's natural for the batteries to get a little warm as they charge.

Rechargeable batteries don't last as long per charge as disposable cells (figure about a third as long), but their life spans are, conservatively, a hundred times longer. And rechargeable cells don't fade; they maintain peak power, then give out.

Try not to mix new and old batteries; charging old and new together can reduce the life of the new ones. It's best to keep like-aged sets together. And never use ni-cads with disposables: you'll not only destroy the rechargeable but also risk an explosion.

Ideally, match battery brands to their chargers and don't mix brands. Chargers are calibrated to their batteries at different rates and levels. Quick chargers can reduce the lifespan of batteries not designed to be so charged.

Some ni-cad battery manufacturers offer replacement warranties, so you can send the spent cells back and get fresh ones in return.

Because ni-cad batteries contain cadmium, a heavy metal, they do raise questions about proper disposal. Some communities want cadmium-bearing batteries disposed of separately from other waste. Check with your waste hauler to see if such batteries should be handled differently.
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:rechargeable batteries
Author:Crosby, Bill
Date:Dec 1, 1992
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