Quality decline in off-brand alkaline batteries?

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nisiprius
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Quality decline in off-brand alkaline batteries?

Post by nisiprius » Mon May 15, 2017 4:57 pm

For years I've worked on the assumption that alkaline batteries were commodities, and that advertising claims like "no other battery is better" were clever wording. Because of the vagaries of when I need batteries, where I happen to be, and what the deals are I sometimes get name-brand batteries (Duracell, Energizer) and sometimes get off-brand and house brands (CVS). They always have dates far in the future.

Lately--for the last couple of years--it seems to me that something has changed. I haven't done systematic tests, but the name-brand batteries seem to be pretty much the same as always, but the off-brands don't last as long. I have a battery tester with a meter movement that tests them under load--whether it's "the right" load I don't know--and what I'm noticing is that they seem to start out well in the green, but not as far in the green as name-brand batteries. The "useful life" is a little hard to determine because it's a slow thing--I don't replace the batteries in my remote because it doesn't work, I replace them because I'm needing to aim more and more carefully to get them to work.

It's all pretty vague.

Any idea what's happening? Anyone else notice this, or is it just my imagination?
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mur44
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Re: Quality decline in off-brand alkaline batteries?

Post by mur44 » Mon May 15, 2017 5:02 pm

I agree with your assessment. My own experience
is similar to yours.

I buy Duracell and Energizer batteries - I use
AA, AAA, C and D batteries.

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HueyLD
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Re: Quality decline in off-brand alkaline batteries?

Post by HueyLD » Mon May 15, 2017 5:14 pm

For alkaline batteries, the chemical composition should be the same, but the quality of manufacturing may vary.

I have good experience with name brand ones as well as Kirkland brand batteries. I also store unused batteries in the freezer to slow down the process of discharging over time.

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Re: Quality decline in off-brand alkaline batteries?

Post by itstoomuch » Mon May 15, 2017 5:21 pm

I haven't noticed the decline.
The off brands have always given me poor longevity. However the value and purpose is very good for the cheaper batteries, ie Harbor Freight. :oops:
YMMV
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Re: Quality decline in off-brand alkaline batteries?

Post by bgrpph » Mon May 15, 2017 5:37 pm

never noticed decline in various brands- but have few expensive streamlight flashlights, one long thin one is just as wide as AA batteries- takes 3 AA- had to return light to factory as batteries were stuck in light- this happened twice using kirkland brand when batteries were in for awhile &light output was not as bright- tried to remove batteries but they had corridoded & expanded slightly making them impossible for me to remove- even after drilling into them & screwing screw into center- couldn't get them out- returned streamlight to factory- they fixed once & 2nd time gave me new bottom part where batteries sit. They advised to use energizer or panasonic brand batteries only- said they not expand. I still use kirkland or duracel brand around house with no issues, but in the streamlights i use energizer brand only.

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Re: Quality decline in off-brand alkaline batteries?

Post by warowits » Mon May 15, 2017 5:52 pm

I will occasionally use a non rechargeable battery in my camera flash (Canon 430 ex ii). I only bring it up because at a big event like a wedding you have a fairly consistent discharge of a set of batteries, and can easily compare it to other times you have done the same thing. Brand name batteries will trounce the very cheap batteries (I haven't tried kirkland, but I bet they perform more like a brand name battery). I have also permanently broken a flash because a cheap battery leaked. I do not use off brands for anything but tv remotes anymore.

I use Eneloop rechargeable batteries for the flashes now because they work significantly better than even 'brand name' rechargeable batteries. They are not great for slow over time minimal drain situations (like remotes or photography triggers), but they beat the pants off of everything I have found for powering a camera flash.
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Re: Quality decline in off-brand alkaline batteries?

Post by sport » Mon May 15, 2017 5:58 pm

It is probably not fair to lump all off-brand batteries together. One off-brand may the same as the brand name, while another off-brand gets the rejects that are not good enough for the brand label. I have used Kirkland brand (Costco) without any problems. However, Costco is very fussy about their merchandise. Other companies, perhaps less so.

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Re: Quality decline in off-brand alkaline batteries?

Post by TBillT » Mon May 15, 2017 6:02 pm

I use rechargables (ENELOOP) but Duracell if I am using regulars. I do feel some brands are not as good, I think there was a Consumer Reports article. One time we got some Amazon brand that I was not happy with at the time, so did get any more of those.

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Re: Quality decline in off-brand alkaline batteries?

Post by Geologist » Mon May 15, 2017 6:06 pm

I certainly have noticed that some store brand alkaline batteries were lower in (storage) quality. I don't think they have declined in quality recently; they have been this way all along.

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Re: Quality decline in off-brand alkaline batteries?

Post by epictetus » Mon May 15, 2017 6:11 pm

with duracell alkaline batteries i notice they corrode in the object they are powering (clock, etc) a lot more than they used to
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Re: Quality decline in off-brand alkaline batteries?

Post by Dominic » Mon May 15, 2017 6:21 pm

The underlying chemistry is the same, and the voltage is the same, but the quality and quantity of the chemicals they're using varies, so the amount of energy they store varies.

[url="http://www.batteryshowdown.com"]This site built a test circuit[/url] to drain a variety of AAs (alkaline, zinc, and lithium of various brands) and found that the name brands do last longer, but they provide less energy per pound.

[url="https://www.wired.com/2012/01/are-expensive-batteries-worth-the-extra-cost/"]Wired also ran some tests[/url] which showed that the name brands are heavier, and have a slightly different discharge characteristic. The name brands lose voltage slowly for a while, then suddenly "die." The dollar store batteries started to shed voltage much earlier, and lose it steadily instead of suddenly. This is probably why you find yourself having to aim with off-brand batteries, instead of the remote just not working.

Whether there's a general quality decline, I can't say for sure, but I'm willing to bet the same few companies are manufacturing almost all of the generic batteries. If the quality is declining, it should be across the board.

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Re: Quality decline in off-brand alkaline batteries?

Post by GW208 » Mon May 15, 2017 6:57 pm

epictetus wrote:with duracell alkaline batteries i notice they corrode in the object they are powering (clock, etc) a lot more than they used to


I've been noticing the same thing. I remember battery leakage being common in the 50's and 60's but then the manufacturers seemed to get a handle on it and it was very rare to see any corrosion. In the last couple of years though, we have had probably 4 or 5 devices with Duracell's that I've found battery corrosion in.

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Re: Quality decline in off-brand alkaline batteries?

Post by Quickfoot » Mon May 15, 2017 7:03 pm

Consumer Reports tests and grades batteries, Duracell is generally best, but Kirkland is also very good and at a great price point.

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Re: Quality decline in off-brand alkaline batteries?

Post by CppCoder » Mon May 15, 2017 7:10 pm

Normally I love Costco and their in-house branded products (Kirkland). However, I've had serious problems with their batteries and have ceased purchasing them entirely. Maybe I got a bad few batches because everyone else in this thread seems to have had good luck with them. My problem is not with their effectiveness. My problem has been that after fairly short times (relative to Duracell, anyway), the Kirkland batteries have all corroded badly, in some cases ruining the piece of electronics they were powering. Again, I know all batteries can corrode, but I have never had a Duracell corrode on me in such a short time, and I had a string of Kirkland batteries where every single battery corroded. I figure if Costco can't get the generic right, I'm not willing to try a cheaper off-brand.

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Re: Quality decline in off-brand alkaline batteries?

Post by falconsfan » Mon May 15, 2017 8:35 pm

I too have become dissatisfied with kirkland batteries. Had a number of them leak in flashlights etc. I now look for price alone, rayovac, ac delco, and amazon batteries have all worked well for me. My price target is .22 per battery or lower which if you watch HD and lowes at christmas time is easy to score.

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Re: Quality decline in off-brand alkaline batteries?

Post by Watty » Mon May 15, 2017 8:47 pm

I have had several Kirkland batteries leak too.

I suspect that part of the issue is that the chemistry was changed five or so years ago to stop using any mercury in them.

According to this web site;

Manufacturers around the world use mercury in batteries to prevent the buildup of internal gases that can cause the battery to bulge and leak. In the United States, however, the use of mercury in consumer batteries has declined sharply.



https://www.epa.gov/mercury/mercury-batteries

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Re: Quality decline in off-brand alkaline batteries?

Post by BHUser27 » Tue May 16, 2017 9:13 am

Have not noticed a decline. I've *always* felt the off-brand batteries had worse capacity, and worse storage life. I mostly stopped buying off-brands because of problem with the batteries leaking acid - either while stored before usage, or while being used in a device. When it comes to standard alkaline batteries we buy Duracell, and every now and then Kirkland.

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Re: Quality decline in off-brand alkaline batteries?

Post by Jack FFR1846 » Tue May 16, 2017 9:18 am

Colleagues of mine have done battery testing over the years. We found that for *some* off brand cells, that smaller cells were used. What do I mean by this? Do I mean that some manufacturer took a AAA and put it into a AA package or took an AA and put it into a C or D cell. Yes. We found this. Disassembly of the battery package found a smaller cell surrounded by a simple, large package to make the cell fit in larger form factor equipment.
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Re: Quality decline in off-brand alkaline batteries?

Post by Vanguard Fan 1367 » Tue May 16, 2017 9:33 am

falconsfan wrote:I too have become dissatisfied with kirkland batteries. Had a number of them leak in flashlights etc. I now look for price alone, rayovac, ac delco, and amazon batteries have all worked well for me. My price target is .22 per battery or lower which if you watch HD and lowes at christmas time is easy to score.


You are my twin. I also like the low price per battery of the Ray O Vacs I find at Lowes and the per battery price when I bought something like 50 AAs not too long ago was probably in the 22 cents each range. The Ray O Vacs seem to to work.

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Re: Quality decline in off-brand alkaline batteries?

Post by Youngblood » Tue May 16, 2017 9:47 am

epictetus wrote:with duracell alkaline batteries i notice they corrode in the object they are powering (clock, etc) a lot more than they used to


I have had this happen too. Not yet with Kirkland batteries.
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Re: Quality decline in off-brand alkaline batteries?

Post by Youngblood » Tue May 16, 2017 9:54 am

Watty wrote:I have had several Kirkland batteries leak too.

I suspect that part of the issue is that the chemistry was changed five or so years ago to stop using any mercury in them.

According to this web site;

Manufacturers around the world use mercury in batteries to prevent the buildup of internal gases that can cause the battery to bulge and leak. In the United States, however, the use of mercury in consumer batteries has declined sharply.



https://www.epa.gov/mercury/mercury-batteries


Uh oh, another negative report on Kirkland batteries. I just bought a pack of 72.

After reading, I just checked my digital camera that I never use because of my cell phone camera. Kirkland batteries lying around in it for more than a year. Whew, no leakage.
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Re: Quality decline in off-brand alkaline batteries?

Post by dratkinson » Tue May 16, 2017 10:27 am

If runtime is your primary goal, then assume as lithium seem to last longer in my flashlights, they'd also work longer in remotes too.

I worry more about battery corrosion than runtime.

I have noticed one thing about batteries in TV remotes. What? When they seem to be getting weak, if you open the battery compartment and rub your fingers across them to make them spin in-place, they work better afterwards. I think what is happening is any oxidation* formed between the contacts is broken. (* I found a reference saying, "... [battery's nickel steel terminal contacting remote's] tin plated battery terminal can cause galvanic corrosion." So maybe that's what I'm experiencing.)



For the most part, I've been switching from alkaline to lithium batteries. Why? Lithium are reported to not leak/corrode, to have more energy, and a longer shelf life (~90% capacity remains after 10yrs; all important traits for infrequently used vehicle flashlights).

After several devices ruined by duracell alkaline batteries, switched to lithium (Energizer L92) after buying a keychain multi-mode LED AAA flashlight that only opened on one end. With no easy way to remove corroded battery, didn't want to chance alkaline.

Generally, my favorite flashlights that open from one end get lithium. The others that open from both ends get whatever is cheap as I don't worry about losing them.

I haven't yet switched my TV remotes to lithium because it's so easy to check batteries for corrosion. I change batteries when spinning them in-place no longer seems to make the remote work better. I generally use duracell, but recall the no-name batteries that came in the remotes seemed to last for a while too.



I don't use enough batteries to make it worth my while to try to find a source of cheap bulk batteries, or buy rechargeables/charger. So I buy lithium at HD (longer drive), and cheap no-name alkaline from the grocery store (shorter drive).

I do save old batteries and take them to HD for recycling when I need new lithium. Two birds, one stone.



Good to know some no-name brands put smaller cell into larger shell. Will be wary of this in future.



Edit: Wrongly used "Li-Ion" when I should have used "lithium". See another's clarification, below.
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Re: Quality decline in off-brand alkaline batteries?

Post by heartwood » Tue May 16, 2017 10:28 am

We've used Kirkland for years. We had several, half dozen?, leak in the past year. I chalked it up to storage conditions.

We switched to Amazon batteries in the last year or two. They've been cheaper than Costco, perform well, and are available in smaller lots than Costco.

As an aside, if I were king, there'd only be one battery size, especially in buttons. Why do I have to buy/stock so many different sizes?

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Re: Quality decline in off-brand alkaline batteries?

Post by DaftInvestor » Tue May 16, 2017 10:32 am

At one point (going back a number of years now) I remember reading in Consumer Reports that Duracell rated best in some categories (maybe C and D) while Energizer in the others (maybe AA and AAA) while most of the off-brands all performed poorly. This was based upon far more testing than we individual consumers experience. For this reason - I have always bought Energizer or Duracell - the cost isn't that much higher and replacing batteries has a cost in-of-itself so its never seemed worthwhile to buy an off-brand battery.

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Re: Quality decline in off-brand alkaline batteries?

Post by badger42 » Tue May 16, 2017 10:32 am

We've had leakage issues with Kirkland, switched to only Duracell for the few things we don't use Eneloops in. (We also keep the Duracells around in case of extended power outages - run flashlights, radio, AA cell phone charger, etc)

Also, Ikea brand batteries leaked while still in-date and in their packaging.

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Re: Quality decline in off-brand alkaline batteries?

Post by SleepKing » Tue May 16, 2017 10:45 am

We use Amazon Basic Alkaline for all our home needs: AA, AAA, C, D. No problems or outrageous failures I've noticed.

FYI, a leading home product reporting agency review ranked the following AA Alkaline batteries:

(above hash line recommended)
- Duracell Quantum
- Rayovac Fusion
-CVS Max
- Duracell Coppertop
- Kirkland
-Rite Aid home
-Amazon Basics
-Wallgreens Basic
-----------------------------
(not recommended)
Enegizer EcoAdvanced
Enegizer MAX and powerseal
CVS regular
Dynex-best buy's brand
EcoAlkalines

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Re: Quality decline in off-brand alkaline batteries?

Post by nisiprius » Tue May 16, 2017 10:48 am

Yes, I've noticed more problems with leakage. It's mostly in things like remotes for gear I rarely use... things I'd forgotten had batteries in them... so I'd sort of written it off to too-long storage. But my recollection was that in The Good Old Days, alkaline batteries didn't leak until they were actually exhausted. Of course all memories of The Gold Old days are suspect.

Twice in the past five or six years, I've ordered replacement remotes on eBay because the remote was the only way to operate a device and the original remote was destroyed by battery leakage.

I don't quite understand why battery leakage is so fatal to devices, but it is. Even if the contacts seem physically intact, even if I clean all visible corrosion out, polish the contacts with a pencil eraser, and perhaps swab out the battery compartment with a swab dipped in baking soda solution... there's never any luck.
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Re: Quality decline in off-brand alkaline batteries?

Post by whomever » Tue May 16, 2017 10:50 am

switched to Li-Ion (Energizer L92)


I claim no great expertise, but the usage I'm familiar with is that 'lithium ion' means rechargeable Li-ion batteries.

Energizer L92 batteries use a lithium based chemistry, but they aren't rechargeable - it's a different chemistry than rechargeable Li-ion batteries. I usually hear the non-rechargeable ones referred to as 'lithium primaries'.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithium_battery


(in general, for rechargeable AA and AAA batteries, the low self discharge nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries (eneloop type) make a lot of sense. They are available (unlike AA or AAA sized Li-ion batteries, which are pretty scarce) and don't have the safety issues that Li-ion do. And, in contrast to alkaline batteries, they don't leak and ruin whatever you put them in.

Rechargeable NiMH are only slightly more expensive than non-rechargeable lithium primaries; I personally don't have a lot of use cases that justify LI primaries)

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Re: Quality decline in off-brand alkaline batteries?

Post by jharkin » Tue May 16, 2017 2:24 pm

Whomever is correct. "lithium" throwaway AA batteries and Lithium Ions are very different things.

The Lithium AA are Lithium Iron Disulfide and they have a discharge profile and voltage range similar to NiMH.

Lithium Ion are typically Lithium Cobalt or Lithium Manganese Cobalt - this is what is in your laptop and cellphone or in the loose 18650 cells used in high end flashlights and vaping.. These absolutely cannot be substituted for an alkaline or NiMH/NiCD AAA/AA/C/D format battery - the voltages are very different. Lithium Ions are 3.7 volts, AAA~D cells are all 1.2v(rechargeable)~ 1.5v (alkaline).


In technical battery lingo a "primary" cell is a throwaway. This includes Alkaline, Carbon-Zinc (the format used in the 50s/60s before alkaline), litium primaries, button batteries, etc.

A "secondary" cell is rechargable: NiCD, NiMH, Lithium Ion, Lithium Iron (A123), Lead Acid, and so on....


For consumer electronics that use AAA and AA format cells in many cases NiMH actually outperform throwaways. Alkalines have a higher absolute capacity under very low discharge rates (think TV remote), but at high discharge current (cameras, phones, etc) their usable capacity and voltage falls off much steeper than the NiMH.

Everything you ever wanted to know about batteries:
http://batteryuniversity.com/learn/

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