Buy, organize, and store household batteries wisely

Modern life is jam-packed with two things: cables and batteries. So many things must be plugged in or charged up regularly that it’s hard to keep up. Rechargeable batteries are especially burdensome because you’ve got to keep track of which are charged, which aren’t, where the charger is, and so on. Isn’t technology supposed to make life easier?

Last year I wrote about organizing, storing and buying cables wisely, and today I’m going to look at batteries. Let’s begin by looking at the different types and the best use for each, as outlined by Michael Bluejay.

Battery types and their best uses

Two are two main categories of household batteries: rechargeable and disposable. Each category has four main types. Let’s begin with rechargeable batteries, as they’re becoming more prevalent, both as a source of power and clutter.

Rechargeable Batteries

  1. Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH). These are good for most applications, but don’t have the longest shelf life.
  2. LSD (low self discharge) NiMH. Again, good for general use, with the added benefit of longer shelf life than non-LSD NiMH. Meaning that, once out of the charger and sitting on a shelf, they hold their charge longer.
  3. Nickel-Zinc (NiZn). Use these with devices that will benefit from extra voltage like a digital camera. Note that with devices that don’t need the extra juice (say a Bluetooth computer mouse or keyboard), you should stay away from NiZn. Also, this group of batteries has a short shelf life.
  4. Rechargeable Alkaline. Now we’re talking about the longest shelf life of any rechargeable battery, including LSD NiMH. Use with devices whose batteries aren’t replaced often, like radios or clocks.

If rechargeables aren’t your thing, good old disposables are still around.

Disposable Batteries

  1. Alkaline. These are the inexpensive batteries that you see everywhere. Reserve for low-drain devices like remote controls.
  2. High-Drain Alkaline. These are disposables meant for high-drain devices like a digital camera. Seriously though, it’s much more economical to use a rechargeable battery in this situation.
  3. Lithium. These are powerful little batteries but, of course, you can’t recharge them. However, they are good for smoke detectors as the small amount of drain the detectors put on them means they’ll last a long time (but change your smoke detectors batteries twice a year, okay?).
  4. Carbon Zinc, Zinc Chloride. Often the least expensive, these are good for low-drain devices. That tiny night light in Jr.’s bedroom? Here you go.

At this point, you’ve identified the type(s) of battery you need and now it’s time to store them. Perhaps you know how much fun it is to go on a hunting expedition for a working battery, or take batteries out of one device just so you can add them to another. My personal favorite is picking up a rechargeable and thinking, “Hm, is this charged? I don’t know.” Let’s eliminate all of that nonsense.

Super battery storage solutions

The Range Kleen organizer is pretty nice. I like this because it accommodates all sizes of household batteries and presents them so you can see instantly what is available. It also comes with a built-in tester, so you can know how “good” a battery is before installing it. It’s a little big, which is its only real downside.

Arts and crafts bins also work well and often have the benefit of a lid, are semi-opaque, and stackable. A few minutes with your label maker helps a lot, too.

If you’d rather save a few bucks and go DIY, consider those disposable deli containers. They don’t hold as many batteries as the larger cases, but cost a lot less. You can even get crafty and use vintage coin purses and labels, if you’d prefer not to see a big, ugly plastic bin of batteries. Chunky diner mugs work well, too.

Ninja level battery management

When you’re ready for world-class battery organization, read insights from Quentin Stafford-Fraser. Quentin recommends you do five things:

  1. Spend some money on an initial cache of batteries. You’ll eliminate that last-second hunt that keeps everybody waiting.
  2. Dedicate space for battery storage. Quentin uses a series of hardware bins with labels like “AAA Flat” and “AAA Charged” for easy reference. When the “flat” bins get full, he begins recharging.
  3. Invest in good batteries. Quentin recommends the Sanyo Eneloop. Incidentally, that’s the same brand of battery that Apple ships with its own charger. I can attest to the fact that they last a long time. Erin uses the Amazon Basics rechargeables, which many users believe to be rebranded second-generation Eneloops.
  4. Buy a decent charger. I’ve fiddled with chargers from brands you’d recognize that failed to perform to my expectations. Get yourself a good one. Again, Erin has a personal recommendation here, and suggests the La Crosse Technology recharger for AAs and AAAs.
  5. Get a good tester. The Range Kleen I mentioned above ships with a tester. A stand-alone model like the ZTS MBT–1 Pulse Load Multi Battery Tester will set you back a few bucks but last a good, long time.

Disposing of old batteries properly

Even the best batteries will eventually give up the ghost. Unfortunately, there’s no single solution for getting rid of them. The process depends on the type.

According to Duracell, common alkaline batteries can be tossed into your household trash. The company notes that it hasn’t used mercury in its batteries since 1993, which is a good thing. Check with your preferred manufacturer to see how the’ve addressed concerns over their products’ chemistry.

Rechargeable, lithium, and zinc batteries should be recycled. You can find a compatible recycling center in your area via the Battery Recycling Corporation’s Call2Recycle program. You can also check the website for your local county and/or municipality’s hazardous waste program. These governmental jurisdictions almost always have a program just for battery collection.

With some planning, proper storage, and knowledge of what you need, you can eliminate a lot of battery hassles and reduce the clutter they produce at the same time.

8 Comments for “Buy, organize, and store household batteries wisely”

  1. posted by Mackenzie on

    That battery organizer looks like it would be very awkward to fit into the fridge or freezer.

  2. posted by liz on

    Don’t forget that you should have a crank radio & flashlight for emergencies. I have a radio that also has a flashlight attachment as well as a latern that can be “recharged” with a bit of cranking or outside in the sunlight since it has a solar recharger on its top.

    Another neat product is the Biolite stove which is an efficient little camp stove that uses twigs to generate energy. Their system includes a charger with a USB port so you can recharge cells, ipods, etc while camping or during an icestorm.

    Here is a link to the Biolite website…

  3. posted by Kellen Jahn on

    Thank you so much for including our program in your post! We just wanted to clarify that the Call2Recycle program, operated by Call2Recycle, Inc., accepts a variety of rechargeable batteries for recycling. You can see everything we accept here:

  4. posted by ChrisD on

    In the UK, you generally can’t put your batteries in normal recycling, but take them along to Boots, and probably other shops, as well as, perhaps, a box at your work.

    I’ve heard that keeping a car battery in the fridge is a good way to preserve it, but that putting it in the freezer is too large a change in temperature/size for the tolerance of the materials and will ruin the battery.

  5. posted by Sarah on

    Sorry, but that “battery organizer” you feature is a prime candidate for a “Unitasker”!

    You say it accommodates all types of batteries (which is technically true) BUT it only allows you to store a certain pre-determined number of each type of battery – the hard plastic layout does not provide any flexibility. And it takes up a lot of space.

    We do very well at our house by putting each type of battery into a clear plastic ziploc bag – we can see how many & what kind of battery is in each bag, and as we use them up, each bag takes up less space.

  6. posted by J_Moss on

    I have a system to rotate my Eneloop batteries, of which I have many. I use 3 containers marked Good AA, Good AAA, and FreshCharged. Batteries go from the charger to the Fresh bin.
    I use batteries from the Good bins only, and when the Good bin is empty I add batteries from the Fresh bin. This way I know that no battery is over-used or under-used.
    I made a tester from an old charger base, and I soldered in 4 little 1.5 volt bulbs. It is fast and does a good load test just by leaving the batteries for a minute.

  7. posted by Alison on

    I use AA rechargeable batteries (Eneloop) for my camera. I took a sharpie and numbered them in pairs. When I’m done with battery set 1 I move on to battery set 2 and put 1 in the charger.

  8. posted by Cara Riggles on

    PLEASE watch this important safety video from a man who had a battery-related house fire. This is not an affiliate link or attempt to promote something. Since you wrote an article about batteries, it makes sense to point out how to SAFELY store them.

Comments are closed.