Batteries are like account passwords – you rely on them all day long without even thinking about it, but when something goes wrong, they can be a hassle to change. And just as computer security experts recommend that people take certain precautions to create secure new passwords, LED flashlight experts advise consumers to carefully research battery options when purchasing new LED flashlights. Battery specs are certainly not as sexy as lumen output or other flashlight stats, but they definitely impact how you use an LED flashlight over its lifetime.
Although batteries may seem simple, there are actually quite a few things to keep in mind when it comes to the batteries that may be required for LED flashlights.
Rechargeable vs. Battery Powered
The first thing to keep in mind about flashlight battery options is that some flashlights don’t require you to change batteries at all – they simply plug into electrical outlets to recharge their power. As in a laptop, the batteries in these rechargeable flashlights will eventually require replacement, so if you choose to buy a rechargeable LED flashlight, ensure that the rechargeable battery inside can be replaced. (Sometimes, manufacturers expect you to simply throw out the dead flashlight and run out to buy a new LED flashlight – a wasteful approach.)
Rechargeable flashlights are excellent to have at the ready for home emergency situations. Many people keep a rechargeable LED flashlight plugged into a central outlet at all times – that way, they’re certain to have a torch at the hilt when the power goes out.
The biggest downside to rechargeable LED flashlights is that you need a source of electricity to charge them (unless you have a solar charger). So if you’re out in the wilderness, or in a home emergency that lasts longer than a couple of hours, your flashlight could end up leaving you in the dark.
Another disadvantage to rechargeable LED flashlights is that they often don’t have as high of a run time as battery-powered models. Additionally, battery-powered LED flashlights may have more capabilities and may be able to emit stronger, more focused light. Flashlights that are used frequently, for professional purposes or by sporting enthusiasts should be battery powered, since they will be more powerful and versatile than their rechargeable counterparts.
Disposable vs. Rechargeable Batteries
One thing many consumers fail to take into account when buying LED flashlights is how much they will spend over the long run on replacement batteries. If you’re the kind of person who goes through batteries like there’s no tomorrow, it’s wise to use rechargeable batteries in your LED flashlight. Most flashlights that use regular AAA-D batteries can run on rechargeable batteries. For instance, if you regularly use a penlight at work, you can probably substitute rechargeable AAA batteries without noticing a major downgrade in LED flashlight performance.
Many major brands of batteries now offer a rechargeable option. Energizer, for instance, sells both rechargeable batteries and the rechargers needed to replenish spent batteries. Of course, shifting from disposable to rechargeable batteries will require a small upfront investment, in both the charger and the more expensive batteries. However, using rechargeable batteries can ultimately save you money since you can reuse the same batteries many times. Earth lovers would also point out that rechargeable batteries are the more sustainable option.
The negative part of using rechargeable batteries is that they sometimes fail to hold a charge as well as disposable batteries. If you need reliable, powerful, long-lasting light and you don’t mind buying new batteries regularly, disposable LED flashlight batteries are probably right for you – particularly if you’re heading out into the middle of nowhere and need your torch functioning at max capacity.
Alkaline vs. Lithium Batteries
Those who value flexibility often choose LED flashlights that can run on alkaline batteries. Alkaline batteries are the most common type of battery in the world – over 350 million alkalines are purchased every year in the U.S. alone – so they are easy to find in nearly any grocery store or gas station. Travelers appreciate this characteristic, since it means they can find batteries for their LED flashlights no matter where they are in the world. The downside is that regular alkaline batteries cannot be reused before disposal. Furthermore, alkaline batteries can cause serious environmental damage if they are not disposed of properly.
Although lithium batteries are more expensive, many people feel they are worth the extra cost, for several reasons. First, lithium batteries perform better than other batteries in cold weather. For this reason, ice fisherman and wintertime hunters often prefer lithium batteries for their LED flashlights. Another advantage of lithium batteries is that they hold their charge for a long time, so they can be stored for as long as ten years without losing power.
How Bulb Type Impacts Battery Use
One final thing to keep in mind is that the type of flashlight you buy will also affect how many batteries you have to buy. LED flashlights, for instance, are inherently more efficient than flashlights with incandescent bulbs; look for highly efficient flashlight models if you hope to minimize your battery use.
[Photo by: Scalespeeder]