Be Battery Smart - Battery Identification

Batteries are broadly classified into primary and secondary batteries. Primary batteries are for one-time use whereas secondary batteries are rechargeable.

Both types of batteries are further classified depending on the chemicals they contain. The result – sometimes confusing – is that batteries come in various chemistries, types, and sizes to fit different uses.

Different battery types have different advantages and disadvantages. Ultimately, the type that is best for a particular use depends on a number of factors including cost, weight, size, and shelf life. The table below identifies batteries found in households and includes uses, sizes, and more information.

Each of the batteries listed below can be recycled. For more information on how and where, click here.

Battery Type                                                                            Uses, Sizes, FYI
Alkaline and Carbon-Zinc
  • Single-use
  • Used in alarm clocks, calculators, flashlights, remote controls, radios, and children's toys
  • Include 9-volt, AA, AAA, C, D, and some button cells
  • FYI: What’s the difference? Different chemical systems. In general, alkaline batteries are more powerful and last longer in high drain devices. Carbon-Zinc batteries are better for low drain applications and are less expensive.
Button and Coin
  • Button batteries - single-use; coin batteries - rechargeable
  • Used in watches, calculators, keyless entry systems, hearing aids, laser pointers, glucometers, and LED accessories
  • Tiny, shiny, round, silver-colored
  • Button batteries - varying chemistries including silver oxide, alkaline, lithium, and zinc air; coin batteries - alkaline or lithium
  • FYI: These small batteries can cause serious injuries if swallowed. Learn more here.
Lithium (Li) Metal
  • Single-use
  • Used in cameras, watches, remote controls, and handheld games
  • Include AA, AAA, and  9-volt
  • FYI: Lithium metal batteries are difficult to distinguish from common alkaline batteries but may have specialized shapes (e.g., button, coin). To identify, look for the word “lithium” on the battery.
  • Rechargeable
  • Used in cell phones, power tools, cameras, laptops, toys, e-cigarettes, appliances, tablets, and e-readers
  • FYI: Storing a large amount of energy in a small space, li-ion batteries are more easily damaged and volatile than other batteries. If improperly charged, stored, disposed of, or damaged, li-ion batteries can catch fire or explode. Learn more here.
Lithium Polymer (LiPo)
  • Rechargeable
  • Used in remote control devices (e.g., airplanes, cars, drones) where weight is a factor
Nickel Cadmium (Ni-Cd)
  • Rechargeable
  • Used in cordless power tools, remote control airplanes, cars and boats, photographic equipment, flashlights, and toys
  • Include AAA, C, D, and several multi-cell sizes equivalent to 9-volt

Nickel Metal Hydride

  • Rechargeable
  • Used in cell phones, power tools, cameras, and two-way radios
  • Include AA, AAA, C, D, 9-volt, and specialty sizes
  • Rechargeable
  • Used in cameras, wireless keyboards, and other small electronics
  • Include AA and C
Small Sealed Lead Acid (Pb)
  • Rechargeable
  • Used in mobility scooters, children’s toy cars, emergency lighting, and hospital equipment
  • Most commonly 12-volt