Batteries: Name-brand vs. generic

Do brand-name batteries give you more power than their generic equivalents? Here's what the experts found.

By Stacy Johnson Jul 30, 2012 11:29AM

This post comes from Angela Colley at partner site Money Talks News.

 

Money Talks News on MSN MoneyMy father and I have been debating batteries since I was a kid. I'd quickly run through every battery in the house playing my Discman (remember those?) and then blame my dad for buying the cheaper generic batteries.

 

When I moved out of the house, I started buying brand-name batteries (much to my dad's dismay). He still buys the generic ones from dollar stores and drugstores. For years, I've sworn that my brand-name batteries outlast generics. But I've never actually tested them. So, am I right?   In the video below, Stacy Johnson talked with some people who did test battery performance. Check out the video, then read on for more.

Comparing nonalkaline dollar store batteries with brand-name alkalines

Rhett Allain, a physics professor from Southeastern Louisiana University, compared dollar store nonalkaline (zinc chloride) batteries with Duracell and Energizer alkalines. He then published the results, along with lots of formulas and graphs in this article on Wired. He told Stacy:

If you buy the cheaper batteries, you're paying a little bit now and then you'll pay a little bit later. It's thinking more short term. If you buy the more expensive batteries, you pay more upfront but they last longer. In the end, there's not that big a difference. It's the same amount of energy per price.

© Jorg Greuel/Getty Images 
Batteries standing on end
He compared three batteries: a 20-cent Dollar General zinc chloride battery, a 68-cent Duracell alkaline battery and a 65-cent alkaline Energizer. The Duracell and Energizer cost three times more and lasted three times longer. So the cost per amount of energy purchased was roughly the same.

 

Allain pointed out, however, that along with the added convenience of not having to change batteries as often, the more expensive batteries offer another advantage. From his Wired article:

There is a bit more to batteries than just the energy stored in it. It depends on what you are using it for. Suppose that I was using these batteries for a flashlight. In this case, it wouldn't matter too much which battery I used. If I used the cheaper (Dollar General battery), I would just have to replace the batteries more often. However, suppose that I am using the batteries for my Wii remote. For this electronic device, if the voltage drops too low it might not work properly. Yes, the battery will still have energy in it, but if it won't run the device correctly, who cares?

In other words, when the voltage drops off with a flashlight, the bulb dims, but the flashlight still works. But when the voltage drops on more sensitive devices, such as a camera or Wii remote, they stop working.

The professor's conclusion? If you can get alkalines cheaper by buying in bulk or stocking up when they're on sale, do it. But if you're running out to the store for batteries for a kid's toy or flashlight, dollar store batteries will do the trick.

 

Alkaline batteries: Name-brand vs. generic

The website Dealnews sent a collection of alkaline AA batteries -- including Duracell, Energizer and generics -- to the Worcester Polytechnic Institute for testing. Here's what Lindsay Sakraida of Dealnews had to say about the results:

Our exclusive test results gathered by the Worcester Polytechnic Institute show that in terms of power over time, there's no discernible difference between expensive, name-brand batteries and cheaper generic ones.

Dealnews didn't compare every generic, so it's possible some might not work as well as name brands. But the bottom line is that when it comes to alkaline batteries, as with so many other things we buy, paying for a name is not money well spent.

 

More on Money Talks News and MSN Money:


VIDEO ON MSN MONEY

21Comments
Jul 30, 2012 4:40PM
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Another issue to consider is the garbage that is created by non-rechargeable batts.  I do not know if the zinc chloride batts are more or less harmful to the environment than alks.  All things being equal, the cheap ones would produce 3 times more trash....

Jul 30, 2012 3:42PM
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If I were unable to buy AAA, AA and my 9-volt smoke alarm batts at Costco or Sam's Club, I'd probably go back to generics. But the price per batt in those warehouse-store packs isn't that bad.

 

However - - 

* I want reliable, longer-lasting batteries in my smoke alarms, for convenience and security.

* I want a longer shelf life in all my batts - and one thing that's consistently much shorter is the shelf life of the generics I've bought.

* I want a pack of batts to not have any dead and dying ones right out of the gate - and well over half of all generic packs I've ever bought included at least one cell with much-reduced voltage.

 

Summary: With the pricing of a Sam's Club or Costco available, generic batteries just aren't priced cheaply enough to justify their longevity, shelf life, and unit-quality-consistency issues.

Jul 30, 2012 4:28PM
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My wife says Worchester Polytechnic has no clue--She started out using the cheap dollar store batteries for her vibrator when she was a kid and they did'nt go past about her first or second orgasm. Now that she's a  married woman with money to burn she buys Duracells and they last so long that she's always got a smile on her face and she's always calm when there's at least 2 Duracells in the kitchen drawer. Everyone in the house knows that those are Mom's batteries -- so, hands off ! My poor daughter is forever trying to sneak the batteries out of my flashlights and cameras.

Jul 30, 2012 6:51PM
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I worked in a very popular branded battery factory.  We make batteries for everyone. Consumer reoprts once bought some batteries to do a test and included our branded battery as a test.  Our battery beat the big brand names and for a little while it was a big joke because we also made the other batteries.  Well our customers were not laughing and wanted to know why we beat their named batteries.  Our answer was that's why you came to us because we were such a good battery.  Besides we weren't really any competition because of the snob appeal that Americans have with their purchases.   The difference between many batteries is just the label that they have on them (sometimes we changed the caps).  How many battery factories could there possibly be?

Jul 30, 2012 4:49PM
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Thats not the experience I've had with batteries, you get what you pay for and I've seen real life tests prove other wise.  Duracell or Eveready are the best and I prefer Duracell.  But if you use batteries a lot I suggest you check into Sanyo Eneloop slow discharge rechargable batteries.  Best thing on the market IMO.
Jul 30, 2012 6:13PM
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I don't know if the generic batteries last as long as the name brand ones. They always seem to leak after a week. I've had several flashlights ruined by them. Name brand from now on.

Jul 30, 2012 4:18PM
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For some reason my electric toothbrush wears out Kirkland (Costco) alkaline batteries in a week or two. When I put in Energizers, it lasts 1 to 2 months. Oh, and rechargeable batteries don't work worth a darn in my toothbrush or in my automatic drip system for the garden.
Jul 30, 2012 5:08PM
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Yuck, ill stick to my 2700 mah batts that i can recharge....
Jul 30, 2012 5:59PM
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I just get the 100 pack Fry's brand alkaline when they go on sale for 15 bucks. They seem to last almost as long as the big name ones.
Jul 30, 2012 4:05PM
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Buy rechargeables, especially for anything that chews through batteries like a GPS or wireless mouse.
Jul 30, 2012 8:25PM
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I work on safes and if you put in any batteries other than Duracell or Energizers the digital locks will act up.  I have put an electric meter on otherwise brand new, off brand batteries and have read full new voltage but the locks still didn't act reliably.  One manufacturer even specifies Duracells specifically in their paperwork.
Jul 30, 2012 4:46PM
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My problem is the initial outlay of cash.  Most days I'm lucky if I have a dollar!  Do use the 10 year in my smoke detector though.
Jul 30, 2012 6:48PM
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Somebody please let these people on the video know how to pronounce 'Worcester'. 
Jul 30, 2012 7:31PM
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I can't remember the last time i bought name brand batteries. One big reason is they come in such big packages.... I am not spending $10 on them, only to loose them before I need them again. I buy the dollar store brand.
Jul 30, 2012 5:10PM
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after you read the research its pretty obvious.  did the tax payers have to pay this university to do the research?
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@AVD 7 (VINNYAVD)

 

typical MSN commenter Extreme Left Air headed Infant Slaying homosexual Heathens

 

A kid shouldn't be using a vibrator Pervert.

 

Keep it in the strip clubs, Smut magazines, and porn videos. Quit trying to force your hedonistic life style choice on society and trying to pass it off as normal. Perhaps some one should be watching you to make sure you aren't messing around with children.

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