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Battery Basics: Rechargeable vs disposable



Battery type is a major factor that should be examined when choosing a flashlight. Gun Trade World explains how its intended use should dictate the correct battery type.


WHERE DO I START?

An immediate dilemma for many people choosing a flashlight is whether they should fork out a little more for one that comes with rechargeable batteries or save some money by opting for the disposable battery option.

But, hold fire – before you base your decision upon the initial outlay, there are important questions you should ask, such as “what is this flashlight going to be used for?”

When buying a new car, you weigh up key factors like daily activity versus distances you drive, initial outlay versus longer term economy. Environmental impact is also considered but, more importantly, you will look at convenience, practicality and reliability.

This analogy is really quite appropriate because the battery industry uses terms

including run time, performance, charge-rate, operating costs, the environment and durability.


NICE TO HAVE OR CRITICAL?

For some people a flashlight is deemed as “nice to have” while, for others, it’s a critical tool for the job. A firefighter, snatching a more expensive flashlight from its charger en route to a crisis, is likely to consider the initial premium price as worth every penny.

Nobody would consider running a mobile phone with disposable batteries. Allowing it to run completely flat every time, then taking it to bits to replace the batteries – it’s an absurd thought because this would be inconvenient, costly and bad for the environment.

So why would people accept that flashlights would operate in this same way? In this day and age, it’s bizarre that a head of procurement for the police force will battle with the dilemma of balancing short -erm versus longer-term savings when it comes to flashlights.

As a halfway house, the option of disposable lithium batteries offers much greater runtime than alkaline batteries but, with increasing convenience options for recharging batteries on the market, it seems inevitable that recharge-ability is set to be the preferred choice for the majority of people going forwards.


DISPOSABLE BATTERIES


Benefits

• Alkaline batteries store for up to seven to 10 years.

• Lithium batteries store for up to 10 years.

• Can offer longer run times for a given bulb power.

• Typically, lower in initial purchase price, easier to keep spares on hand.

• Easy to obtain in store.

• Lithium disposables perform better in high and low temperatures than alkaline.

• Lithium batteries have flatter discharge curve maintaining high light output, longer than alkaline.


Disadvantages:

• Performance is affected by and drops off very quickly in extreme cold or heat.

• Operating costs considerably higher than rechargeables.

• Lithium cells have high energy density but are costlier per hour of operation.

• Lithium is hazardous. Possible shipping issues.

• Brightness at first use and declines thereafter.

• Durability: if dropped alkalines can lose up to half their output due to internal damage.


NOTE: Lithium and lithium ion disposable batteries use a flammable electrolyte inside the battery. No other batteries can catch fire due to the chemicals that are used inside of them. A lithium ion fire can be put out by any normal means.



RE-CHARGEABLE BATTERIES

(Nickel cadmium, NiMH & lithium ion)


Benefits

• Can be stored in a charger/holder when not in use allowing them to always be fully charged.

• Well-suited for frequent use.

• Very low operating expenses.

• Good low temperature performance.

• Rechargeable up to 1,000 times.

• Can support a brighter bulb or LED.

• Most rugged rechargeable technology.

• 1.2v available in AA, AAA, C, D, 9v and sub-C sizes.

• Capacities range from 1000mAh to 5000mAh.

• Provides highest performance/cost ratio.


Disadvantages

• Initial purchase price is higher than disposable batteries.

• Self-discharges at one per cent per day when not charging.

• Must be periodically recharged or stored in charger.

• Should be recycled or disposed of properly.

• Contains cadmium, a toxic heavy metal and requires special care during disposal.

• Memory effect at low end of battery cycle.


Technical insight courtesy of Streamlight.


W: www.streamlight.com

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