Why I'll Never Skimp On AA Batteries Again

Image: iStock

Back in 2012 I wrote about the return of battery leakage and the situation was summed up by the editor of a tech magazine who told me; “If it’s not an Energizer or a Duracell throw it out and replace it with an Energizer or a Duracell.” My experience suggests I should now exclude Duracell.

We’ve become very used to leakproof batteries. If you’re under 40 you may not even know that batteries can leak. When they do the leaking acid can do irreparable damage to whatever the battery is in.

This used to be common before leakproof batteries, but over the last decade or so leaking batteries have returned. They usually come from China and frequently wear brands you’ve never heard of. Mostly they’re sold in markets and super cheap discount shops, or online. You’ll also often find them in battery-powered devices that highlight ‘batteries included’ on the box. These batteries may also have very short lives.

Recently I received an expensive pair of Bluetooth speakers for test with ‘King Kong’ brand batteries included for the remote. I got ‘Daily Max’ brand in another, and the battery with a pair of $700 noise cancelling headphones stopped powering them after five hours. With a good battery these headphones cancel noise for up to 50 hours. One expects better when paying $700.

Not what you want to see when you open up your remote. (Image: Rod Easdown)

I use lots of batteries so I buy the bulk packs either at office-supply or hardware stores, or supermarkets. I’ve always been happy with Duracells, so I pay the not insubstantial premium. Hence a few years ago when I found one had leaked into an audio remote control I raised the matter with the company through its website.

I was told the battery was not defective, it had just passed its ‘freshness’ date. That was March 2016 and this was 2017. How Duracell, of all brands, could say a leaking battery is not defective is beyond me.

The extent of the company’s concern ran to offering me a $10 voucher and an ‘enclosed’ pamphlet on battery care of which there was no trace. I was annoyed but, okay, the batteries were a year beyond their best before date.

More recently a little-used remote stopped working and when I opened the battery compartment I discovered what you see in the picture. The best before date was March 2024. So I lodged another complaint with Duracell by filling out the online form and then discovered there was no ‘submit’ button.

I rang customer service (Just try finding that number. Oh okay, I’ll save you the trouble: 1800-239901) and was advised to submit it by email.

The reply said Duracell appreciated my message and was concerned, but seemed to figure it was all my fault anyway “as you will see from the enclosed pamphlet” which was not enclosed or even attached. Apparently I should remove batteries from any device not being used for a few months, and I should remove worn-out batteries to “prevent possible over-discharge and damage from battery leakage”. No $10 voucher this time.

Once again it appears to me that Duracell gives not a toss that its batteries are leaking to the point of falling apart. Incidentally, Duracell says the best before date indicates only how long the batteries remain useful if “stored under normal conditions.”

That’s in the original packaging in a dry place at room temperature. I guess even when you pay for premium batteries these days you need to keep an eye on them; lumps and bumps are the initial danger sign.

Now I’m buying Energizers and… so far so good.


This article originally appeared in Digital Life, The Sydney Morning Herald's home for everything technology. Follow Digital Life on Facebook and Twitter.


Comments

    How ironic.

    The pamphlet was not included in the correspondence.

    In the article, there was no corresponding picture; "when I opened the battery compartment I discovered what you see in the picture"

      Thanks for the heads up! There was an upload issue in our CMS - this has now been fixed.

    Most of the well advertised brands leak. Mainly because trying to cram the most capacity in to a cell requires thinning the metal that seals the cell to free up room for it. Resulting in cells that are more likely to leak.

    Duracell is a particularly horrible one when it comes to there AA's and AAA's. Varta the name brand that you see at Jaycar and some supermarkets so far on the EEVBlog forum have near zero reported leak incidents. You just loose about 15% capacity compared to duracell.

    Energiser is not without incident either. Just less so than duracell. Panasonic industrial batteries are close to the gold standard if you want top capacity without the leaking risk. They are generally cheaper than energiser or duracell. Its just harder to find in store. Instead requiring online with RS components (free shipping) or similar most of the time.

      This might be a good experiment for Lifehacker to try. Do you loose 15% capacity with Varta compared with Energizer or any other brands?

      This is good info.
      The article was told from the point of view "there should be no excuse for leaking batteries these days" but I know from experience that is far from true. I didn't even realize "leak-proof" was a thing.
      I'll remember to keep an eye out of the Panasonic ones.

      Ironically I've had less problems with cheap batteries leaking than expensive ones. Possibly this is because the cheap batteries go flat faster and as a result get thrown away before they get a chance to leak.

      The last set of batteries I've had leak are Energizer, a set of D batteries that came in an Energizer branded LED torch. They wrecked the torch at the same time.

    With you on the Duracell leaking. Been experiencing a high volume of battery leaks and they were coming from Duracells. Coming from someone who said to people don't buy cheap batteries, go Duracell because they last longer and won't leak. Now they do. Using cheap batteries still concerns me but ain't leaking and going to move onto Panasonic or Energizer after hearing it's not just me who thinks this. Do think they know there's an issue but don't think they see it as a small issue but hearing more and more people say they shocked as they use Duracell based on recommendation and they leak really easily.

    Can confirm. Duracell batteries have leaked and destroyed a few expensive items for me. Even though the batteries were still in date and went straight from the store to my device and I stored and used that device well within recommended conditions, contacting Duracell about their warranty resulted in basically "tough luck; we're not going to help even though it's our fault, so there."

    Having just packed up a whole household of stuff, I can confirm that both Duracell and Energizers leak. I too had never thought batteries were 'leak-proof'.
    I'd had a couple of devices fully destroyed by leaking batteries, and even had batteries leak that weren't stored actually in the device, just in the same box.

    I've been using Varta batteries for the past three or four years. They are a German brand, and are made in Germany, not China. I've had absolutely no problems with them despite the fact that they're substantially cheaper than Duracell and Energizer and seem to last just as long.
    I use a lot of batteries! Camping and photography mainly, including radios as well. I take an ice cream container load of AA, AAA, C and D batteries down to the shopping centre for disposal every 18 to 24 months. I've just checked my latest load so far of spent Varta batteries (4xD, 6xC, 49xAA, 8xAAA) and not one has leaked. I did however find 1x Sony AA out of 8, and 1x Duracell AA out of 2 that had leaked.
    I think I'll stick with Varta.

    I have had the same happen to me on three different devices and they were all in date.

    I finally got the sh**s and took a photo of it because this time it ruined my device being a descent torch

    I took photos of it and just like yours in the photo.

    I still have the photos but didn’t go through with complaining.

    I will never buy Duracell batteries again.

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