How Many Batteries Should You Keep in an Emergency Kit?

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Disaster relief groups like the Red Cross promote advance preparedness for emergencies, including the recommendation homeowners and apartment dwellers keep an extra cache of batteries and portable power sources in their emergency kit. But how many batteries does that mean? And which types should be stockpiled?

After delving online, I discovered there's really no definitive answer. Each homeowner's perfect battery stockpile requirements will be different, depending upon their personal usage/needs. It's important to consider battery powered requirements during an emergency power outage (e.g. radio, lantern, and flashlights), making sure each device has a compatible spare battery. As a rule of thumb, plan for at least 72 hours without power.

For anyone who needs a place to start, here's a breakdown of different types of batteries and the recommended amounts of each to keep around, based upon average household use (and a little personal experience).

AA & AAA - As the most common battery types, AA and AAA batteries should make up the majority of the battery stockpile. A 24-pack of brand name batteries costs around $22 at brick & mortar stores; there are more affordable 24-pack eco-friendly AAA batteries available online for $15.

C - Unless you have a critical emergency device operating on C batteries, this size is usually a non-essential. Still, it can't hurt to stash away a small pack of 4 (around $8) for anything that may come up.

D - D-cell batteries are common for powering heavy duty flashlights and some other emergency devices, so keep a stash of these around. A 12 pack can be had for around $12 online.

9-Volt - It's highly recommended to keep as many 9-volt batteries for smoke detectors in the house—a two-pack covers my small apartment for $10. Murphy's Law: assume the batteries in smoke alarms will all burn out at once during an emergency power outage, leaving less-prepared homeowners with an endless cacophony of beeping.

Twice is nice: Remember to check on emergency stockpiles twice a year, once when the clock leaps forward in Spring and later when the clock falls back in Autumn. Refresh and replace battery stockpiles as they're used, and if any batteries are expired, leaking, or damaged, replace them immediately. Some battery storage solutions are equipped with built-in testers, like this one from the Improvements catalog ($19.99).

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Don't rely on rechargeable batteries: While rechargeable batteries are great for everyday use, they can lose their charge if left unused for long periods in storage. Traditional alkaline batteries offers an estimated shelf life of 5 to 7 years, making these types of batteries the most recommended for emergency kits.

(Images: Gregory Han, Improvements)

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