Are Regular (Alkaline) Batteries Ok For Solar Lights?

4 Duracell Batteries

Have you ever imagined a life without the battery? Batteries are essential devices that serve as the primary source of power for any electronics wireless device, ranging from smartphones, laptops, to remote control devices cameras, and toys, among others. Though not all batteries are the same. Hence the question, are regular batteries ok for solar light battery replacements?

The short answer is no. Regular batteries and solar light batteries both provide power but they’re not to be used interchangeably. There are instances when you can briefly swap them out, but it must be under the correct circumstances.

Even though there are numerous types of batteries out there, batteries basically fall into two main categories, including regular or alkaline batteries and solar or rechargeable batteries. But what is the primary reason why manufacturers often advertise regular or alkaline as the superior battery type? And are they really better than their solar or rechargeable counterparts?

If you have very little knowledge regarding batteries, you are in the perfect place. As experts in the world of batteries, we are going to provide you with all the information you need to know about these two types of batteries. So, peruse the article and enhance your knowledge.

So, what are regular or alkaline batteries?

A chemical classification that distinctively differentiates dry cell batteries is whether it is alkaline or non-alkaline, or more precisely, whether the electrolyte is an acid or a base. It is imperative to note that alkaline batteries boast different performance and power characteristics to their solar or non-alkaline counterparts.

But first, what is a battery?

A battery refers to an electrochemical cell that changes chemical energy into electrical energy. A standard dry cell battery features a positively charged anode, a negatively charged cathode as well as an electrolyte that reacts with both the cathode and the anode during an electrochemical reaction known as oxidation-reduction. In regards to this reaction, the anode is oxidized and lose electrodes whereas the cathode is reduced and gain electrons.

A deficit of electrons at the positive anode and a surplus of electrons at the negative cathode results in an electrical pressure known as voltage. When you place a battery in a circuit, electrons will flow in the form of current between the anode and the cathode in any useful electron work. The battery then recharges itself through oxidation-reduction reactions until the terminals (anode and cathode) are entirely chemically depleted, leading to a dead battery.

An electrolyte is a chemical substance that features free ions that are conductive electrically. A typical example of an electrolyte is the common table salt that consists of positively-charged sodium and negatively-charged chloride ions.

Alkaline Battery

Based on our explanation above, an alkaline battery is a disposable battery that features zinc and manganese dioxide as electrodes. The alkaline electrolyte used can either be sodium or potassium hydroxide. Alkaline batteries are highly revered for their relatively high voltage, offering better energy density and leakage resistance compared to their non-alkaline counterparts.

It is worth noting that alkaline batteries are the most popular type of disposable batteries currently ruling the market. Common applications of these types of batteries include clocks, flashlights as well as portable electronic devices such as radios.

Advantages of alkaline batteries

  • Increased energy density: Alkaline batteries boast more energy compared to other battery types. For instance, a typical alkaline battery contains double the energy density of a zinc-carbon battery.
  • Safety: As compared to their lead-based and acid-based cousins, the compounds in regular or alkaline batteries don’t pose significant health risks or to the environment. At worst, they may only cause mild irritations. And because they have a much less environmental impact, there are no special disposal regulations.
  • Increased battery life: Alkaline batteries also boast excellent longevity as well as a relatively longer shelf life compared to their non-alkaline counterparts. Unused alkaline batteries can last up to nine years, and losing just five percent of their energy annually.
  • Low-temperature operation: Regular batteries can function at a relatively lower temperature. This gives them an advantage in harsh, cold weather conditions.
  • Reduced leakage risk: Also, alkaline batteries are fairly less susceptible to leakage.

Disadvantages of alkaline batteries

Despite their numerous benefits, alkaline batteries have their fair share of disadvantages. First and foremost, compared to lithium-ion batteries, they are somewhat heavier and bulkier. What’s more, alkaline batteries have a relatively higher internal resistance, and this significantly minimizes the power of their output.

Also, compared to other battery types, alkaline batteries will leak, especially if left in appliances unused for an extended period. And this is the primary reason why you should remove alkaline batteries from devices or appliances if you don’t intend to use those devices.

Solar Batteries vs Rechargeable Batteries

Today, solar panel systems are one of the fastest-growing sources of energy in many parts of the world. And the popularity of solar energy has, in turn, resulted in the rise of another renewable technology; solar batteries. These are special batteries that can store extra energy for future applications.

Solar batteries function by storing power generated by your solar panels for later application. And in certain instances, solar batteries come equipped with their own inverter and provide integrated energy conversion. The larger the capacity of the battery, the more solar energy it can practically store.

The most popular batteries currently used in solar energy include NiMH and NiCd rechargeable batteries. Solar lights or products need somewhere to store the energy they acquire from the sun, which is the reason why they need rechargeable batteries. Alkaline or regular batteries are not able to store energy the way NiCd and NiMH batterie do, causing damage to your solar lights or panels.

What Are NiMH Batteries?

As one of the most popular solar batteries, nickel-metal hydride batteries are rechargeable batteries where the chemical reaction at the positive electrode is strikingly similar to that of the NiCd (nickel-cadmium) cell, with both using nickel oxide hydroxide. However, the negative terminals use a hydrogen-absorbing alloy as opposed to cadmium. It is imperative to note that nickel-metal hydride batteries boast between two and three times the capacity of their nickel-metal hydride counterparts, with a relatively higher density as well.

Advantages of nickel-metal hydride batteries

  • Have relatively higher capacity.
  • They have at least twice the amount of storage space for energy compared to a standard NiCd battery. They also have fairly longer output times.
  • They don’t experience memory effects.
  • They have the ability to store new energy while there is still energy in their storage, without impacting the life of the battery.
  • They are somehow environmentally friendly.
  • Simple storage and transportation.
  • Nickel metal hydride batteries don’t contain traces of cadmium, making them a better alternative in situations where environmental health is a priority.

Disadvantages of nickel-metal hydride batteries

  • Reduced service life: Nickel-metal hydride batteries are rated for five hundred charge/discharge cycles only. It is worth noting that a battery’s longevity is directly proportional to the depth of discharge.
  • High self-discharge: Compared to its NiCd counterpart, the nickel-metal hydride battery has nearly fifty percent higher self-discharge.
  • Complex charge technology needed: Nickel-metal hydride batteries generate more heat during charge and requires a fairly longer charge time than nickel-cadmium batteries.
  • Performance reduces if stored at higher temperatures.
  • Needs routine full discharge to prevent crystalline formation.
  • They are relatively costly.

Nickel-Cadmium Batteries:

These are batteries that are rechargeable that utilizes nickel oxide hydroxide and metallic cadmium as electrodes.

Advantage of nickel-cadmium batteries include:

  • Delivers high current output.
  • Somewhat tolerant of overcharging.
  • Can withstand more than five hundred charging cycles.
  • Can do well in storage, though can often self-discharge.


  • Highly expensive to dispose of because cadmium is regarded to be very hazardous.
  • Has low efficiency.
  • Noticeable memory charging effect.

How Long Do Rechargeable Batteries Last In Solar Products?

This depends on the type of rechargeable battery. If you’re looking at home batteries, research shows that the average lifespan of a solar battery is anywhere between five and fifteen years. Also, if you purchase and install a solar battery today, you’ll have to replace it at least once to match the twenty or thirty-year lifespan of your solar device.

But if you’re looking at solar batteries for small products like solar lights, the average lifespan is closer to 3 years give or take.

Most importantly, it is worth noting that proper adequate serving and maintenance is key to extending the life of your solar battery. Solar batteries can be impacted by temperature, so you’ll have to protect yours from sweltering or freezing temperatures to help boost its lifespan. Rechargeable solar batteries will discharge with time until they can no longer function. It is essential that you charge them at least every three months to preserve their lifespan.

Tips On How To Replace Solar Batteries

First and foremost, it is imperative to note that you should replace the batteries you remove from your solar device with the same voltage as well as similar capacity. For instance, if your solar lights were using NiMH or NiCd 1.2V 600mAh AA solar batteries, then it is highly recommended that you replace them with the same battery. If you didn’t know, the capacity of your old batteries is always written on the batteries in a mAh rating.

You may also replace your battery with a slightly different mAh capacity, provided it has the same voltage as the previous one. Also, it is not advisable to replace your solar batteries with a relatively higher mAh capacity.

How To Charge New Rechargeable Batteries

Before you use any rechargeable battery for the first time, it is important that you charge it properly and fully. Kindly note that for new NiMH batteries, it is usually essential to cycle them at least five times or more to ensure they attain their peak capacity as well as performance.

Also, make sure you use a well-designed battery charger to help prevent instances of overcharging. This is arguably the most common cause of premature failure of rechargeable batteries, particularly NiMH batteries.

Depending on which solar product you have, it might have an on/off switch that will allow you to fully charge the batteries before putting them to use. This will help extend the life of the solar battery and will prevent an initial discharge.

Wrapping up Regular Batteries vs Solar Light Batteries

There are a ton of batteries on the market and we know that we need them, and deciding which ones are interchangeable can be difficult. Regular batteries and solar light batteries are similar but you shouldn’t be putting regular batteries into a product designed for solar batteries. If it’s a simple check to make sure everything is working, it’s not going to hurt anything, but don’t leave regular batteries in there. Only use solar light batteries in solar light products. If you’re looking at how to save money and refurbish batteries, check out my post on refurbishing batteries at home.

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