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Being a survivalist is about being prepared for any eventuality and that means making the most of what you have.
While it is possible to get by without any electronics, it isn’t easy which is why many survivalists invest in generators and stockpiles of rechargeable batteries.
But what if I told you that there was a way to reuse your drained alkaline batteries as well?
Yes if you are a firm believer in the principle of “waste not, want not,” then there are ways for you to recharge batteries that would traditionally be single use. There are some risks involved, but provided you buy the right equipment many of them can be mitigated.
If your house is anything like mine, then you may already have a small bucket of used batteries that will be delighted to hear this news.
It is important to note that this process won’t always be successful, but with the right charger and a little caution, you will be able to keep your devices powered for longer and cut back on waste at the same time.
This guide is here to give you the ins and outs of recharging alkaline batteries, including the risks and potential problems that may occur. We will also look at some specialized chargers that are designed to help you to get the most out of every power cell.
So with that said, let’s have a look at what alkaline batteries are and why people don’t normally bother with trying to use them again once they are dead.
What is an Alkaline Battery?
Alkaline batteries are a conventionally disposable form of power cell where the electrodes are made from zinc and manganese dioxide.
The alkaline part refers to the electrolyte between these electrodes which is often comprised of potassium or sodium hydroxide.
Their composition makes them able to hold more power and last for much longer than many other types of batteries. As well as their higher electricity density, these cells have a longer shelf life which makes them better for stockpiling than the alternatives.
Should These Batteries be recharged?
Alkaline batteries can be recharged, but that doesn’t mean that it is efficient or worthwhile to do so. Unlike lithium or zinc, rechargeable batteries, which can be drained and reused hundreds of times, alkalines will only last for about 12 uses before they are irreversibly flat.
They will also lose capacity with every charge, meaning the cell’s run time will gradually decline the more you top it up. Since the process required to recharge alkaline batteries generates a lot of heat, there is also the risk that the cell becomes damaged and leaks.
However, you can buy chargers designed to handle alkaline batteries. The chargers earn their money back in the long run by helping you get more power from each cell. For sustainably-minded people, this is a much better alternative than throwing the batteries away after one use.
Top 5 Alkaline Battery Chargers
The next few sections will cover some of the best alkaline battery chargers on the market.
Popular Mechanics Battery Recharger
- Charges Disposable Or Rechargeable Batteries :...
- CAN CHARGE 5 DIFFERENT TYPES OF BATTERIES: This...
- AUTOMATIC SHUT OFF FOR SAFE CHARGING: With its...
This is a charger and battery testing device created by Popular Mechanics for use with all types of power cells, including disposable alkaline ones. It has the capacity to hold 4 different sizes of battery at once, although it is recommended to charge 6V and 9V cells by themselves.
In order to prevent overcharging and overheating, all the necessary safety features are included. The device will automatically stop supplying power to the battery once it is fully charged and there are separate systems in place to protect the device from short circuits.
As well as disposable alkaline batteries you can recharge, RAM, Titanium, Ni-Cd, and Ni-Mh batteries as well.
There are cables with crocodile clips in the base compartment for handling 6V batteries. With this device, you can get up to 15 more uses from your old disposable power cells.
The first slot is the testing port, where you can find out how much power your cells have and if they have successfully taken a charge or not.
- Easy to read LEDs let you know when your batteries are ready.
- Can charge up to four different batteries at once
- Cables in the bottom compartment for recharging 6V cells.
- 6V and 9V batteries have to be charged on their own.
MaximalPower FC999 Universal Rapid Charger
- Universal Charging: Give your household batteries...
- Compatible With: Sliding spring-loaded negative...
- Charge Protection: Built-in protection circuit...
If an alkaline battery has been sitting in one of your cupboards for a long time, it may no longer be able to take a charge. This is something you want to know as soon as possible so you don’t spend hours leaving them in the charger only to discover it hasn’t worked.
The LCD display on this MaximalPower universal charger will inform you what percentage power your batteries are at, as well as if they are able to be recharged at all.
This charger is compatible with Li-ion, RAM, Ni-Cd, Ni-Mh, as well as non-rechargeable alkaline batteries. It can handle, AA/AAA/ C/ D and 9V cells, and you can mix and match the different sizes as long as they are all the same type.
There is a switch for swapping between the different charging modes right above the display.
You can only reuse your disposable batteries up to 5 times but even this will help you to significantly reduce waste. There are measures in place to prevent over-charging, over-discharging, short circuits, overcurrent, and overheating so you know your device is fully protected.
- Switch for alternating between different charging modes.
- Can charge different sizes of battery at the same time.
- All necessary safety features are included.
- The display is easy to read and tells you how much charge a battery has, as well as if it is capable of receiving one.
- Can’t charge titanium or 6V batteries.
- Alkaline batteries can only be recharged 5 times.
Koshore Universal Smart Battery Charger
- Compatible for Household batteries:Universal rapid...
- Smart Led Display: LCD Display shows a clear and...
- Electrical Protection: Built-in protection circuit...
This UL and FCC-certified charger offers a cheap way to reuse your old disposable batteries. There is a switch on the front for alternating between different charging modes for Ni-Cd, Ni-Mh, and alkaline power cells.
Although it doesn’t work with some of the other varieties such as titanium or lithium-ion cells, it can hold all sizes of batteries, excluding 6V ones.
You can charge up to 4 AA/AAA/ C or D batteries at the same time as 1 9V. The helpful display will keep you informed about how much charge each battery has, as well as letting you know when one is damaged or unable to accept a charge.
There are protections against voltage and current spikes, as well as systems to automatically turn the device off when the batteries get too hot. The sliding, negative poles are spring-loaded and durable so you can push them back to accommodate any size of battery without them breaking after a few uses.
- All the necessary safety features are included.
- Can charge 4 cylindrical batteries and one 9V at the same time.
- LCD display allows you to easily monitor the condition and progress of your batteries.
- Sliding negative poles are spring-loaded so the device can accommodate any size of battery except 6V ones.
- The lights are reversed so green means charging while red means fully charged.
OBA-HORSE Universal Battery Charger
As well as all the standard battery sizes, this universal charger made by OBA-HORSE can accept Lithium 18650, 26650, and RCR123 batteries and well.
Designed in a very similar way to the other models we’ve looked at the sliding negative poles can be adjusted to accept any size of cell except the 6V variety. There are also two USB ports on the front for charging phones or other mobile devices.
The built-in 8-bit microprocessor, allows the device to offer perfect protection against any situation.
Not only will it turn off a port to prevent overcharging or over-discharging, but it can also detect when your batteries are getting too hot. This is especially useful for reusing alkaline batteries, as they tend to get much warmer while being recharged.
With the helpful LCD display, you can instantly tell the charging status of each cell as well as if any are damaged. This charger actually allows you to mix different types of batteries as well as different sizes.
This is very convenient as it allows you to avoid having to sort all your used batteries into their different types so they can be recharged in separate batches.
- An 8-bit microprocessor monitors battery temperature as well as prevents current and voltage spikes.
- Can charge 4 cylindrical batteries as well as one 9V at the same time.
- LCD display provides clear information on charging status.
- The 9V charging port can be unreliable.
Tinyfish Alkaline Battery Charger
- Universal charger Charge alkaline battery, NiCd...
- Alkaline battery charger, it can charge 1.5V...
- NiCd battery charger can discharge NiCd battery...
You can recharge your disposable alkaline batteries up to 10 times with this universal charger made by Tinyfish.
Each recharge will reduce your battery’s capacity but this is inevitable when trying to reuse alkaline cells. It has space for 4 AA/AAA/C and D sized batteries, although 9Vs can only be charged one at a time.
The display is easy to read and will inform you if a cell is defective and not able to be recharged. There is also a switch for swapping between different charging modes which means you should only use this device with one type of battery at a time.
This device is compatible with Ni-Mh, Ni-Cd, RAM, and disposable alkaline batteries. Charging time varies depending on the type of cell and its capacity, but AA and AAA alkaline cells should be done in 1-2 hours.
There are numerous safety measures in place including an 8-bit microprocessor and a separate timing system to doubly protect against overcharging. If you have a lot of Nickel-Cadmium (Ni-Cd) batteries then this charger has the ability to prolong their lifetime by reconditioning them.
- Charge up to four batteries at once.
- Can recondition Ni-Cd cells.
- The microprocessor individually monitors each battery so they can be charged in groups or alone.
- Automatically turns off when done to prevent overcharging.
- Needs to be unplugged and plugged back in to charge a fresh batch of batteries.
How To Identify Best Alkaline Battery Charger
A universal charger is a great investment if you want to get more use out of your disposable batteries before you throw them away.
Many of them can be used with normal rechargeable cells as well, making them great all-purpose devices for all of your battery needs.
Here are some features to look out for while shopping for a universal charger.
How many batteries can it hold and what type?
The first thing you should look at when looking for a universal battery charger is its capacity and what type of batteries it is compatible with.
Many of them are capable of dealing with all the standard rechargeable batteries such as Li-ion, Ni-Cd, Ni-Mh, and RAM, as well as disposable alkaline cells.
Many of these types need to be charged differently to alkaline batteries, so look out for switches that offer different charging modes to avoid current and voltage spikes that may cause damage.
Many chargers will have sliding negative ports that can be adjusted to accommodate any length of battery, but the tracks will also need to be large enough to support wider cells.
Very few chargers can handle 6V batteries, and for those, you may need a device with special cables for connecting to these particularly large cells. Just because a charger can hold lots of different sizes at once, doesn’t mean it can charge them all at the same time.
Always check what a given device can do in one load to prevent breaking either the charger or your batteries.
One of the most important features of any battery charger is the display. Some of them will be more informative than others, ranging from LED lights that blink between red and green to miniature LCD displays that let you monitor charging status more precisely.
The best displays will also tell you whether or not a battery is still capable of taking a charge. Many cells that have been left unused for long periods of time may degrade, making them incapable of receiving a charge, so it always helps to know if this is the case before you leave them in your device for an hour or two.
What safety features are there?
Recharging alkaline batteries generates a lot of heat, and when done improperly it can often cause the battery to leak once it cools down. As such, any good universal battery charger will have built-in safety features to keep both your device and your batteries safe.
Most chargers should automatically turn off once a cell has reached full charge. 8-bit processors are great for this as they can monitor the batteries and stop providing them power once they have reached 100%. They are also capable of preventing voltage or current sparks which can be very harmful to power cells.
Once Nickel Cadmium batteries have reached full charge, there is a tendency for them to immediately start losing charge again. Features such as negative delta V cut-offs, are designed to stop this from happening so make sure your preferred charger has this feature if you use lots of Ni-Cd cells.
As well as monitoring their charging status, a good alkaline battery charger should also keep track of the temperature. Alkaline batteries can get very hot as they take a charge, so always make sure there are measures in place to prevent overheating as well as overcharging.
You want the power outlet to have its own fuse as this minimizes the chance of your device being damaged in the eventuality of a short circuit.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are RAM batteries?
You will see that many universal chargers are capable of handling RAM batteries as well as disposable alkaline ones. RAM stands for rechargeable alkaline manganese. Simply put they’re a different variety of alkaline cells that are designed to be recharged.
These cells have many of the benefits of regular alkaline batteries such as longer shelf life and greater electrical density. They also have a high recharge efficiency which means their capacity will remain more constant with each charge enabling them to be reused for longer.
How many times can I recharge an alkaline battery?
The number of times you can reuse a disposable alkaline cell will depend both on how old the battery is and what kind of charger you have.
Some chargers claim to be able to recharge these batteries up to 15 times while others can only manage 5. This is assuming it is a brand new battery that has only just run dry.
Older cells that have remained dormant for a long time may be less able to take a charge. Charging alkaline batteries reduces their capacity, meaning you will get less run time from them after every charge.
Over time, your batteries will become permanently flat, but you will have gotten considerably more use out of them than if you had only used them once.
How do I dispose of a leaking battery?
One risk with recharging alkaline batteries is that they may become damaged in the process and leak. After you remove them from the charger, you should place your batteries on a flat surface to cool down and check them to see if they leak before inserting them into anything.
If they start leaking inside a device then they can cause lots of damage to the electrodes and circuitry.
If an alkaline cell has crystals developing on its terminals then it is corroded and it is safe to touch with your hands. Place corroded batteries straight in the bin before they degrade any further.
Potassium hydroxide in alkaline cells is highly corrosive so if your cell is properly leaking you should never touch it with bare skin. Use rubber gloves to place the damaged cell in a cardboard or plastic container, never use metal.
Once you have done this it can be taken to your nearest battery recycling facility to be disposed of properly.