NICD vs NIMH for Solar Lights: What’s the Difference? - Backyard Boss
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NICD vs NIMH for Solar Lights: What’s the Difference?

Solar lights are wonderful inventions. They are lights that have tiny solar panels. When placed in direct sunlight, these panels have solar cells that soak up the sun’s UV rays and store that energy into batteries. As night approaches and the lights are turned on, they can light up the surrounding using the energy stored in the batteries, which means that good batteries are required to provide light from dusk until dawn. In this article, we’re going to go over NICD vs NIMH for solar lights and determine what are the pros and cons of each type of battery.

NICD VS NIMH Comparisons

AA Ni-Cd element. Energy supply equipment. Isolated on white background
Generic no Brand AA Battery with Text NiMH Battery isolated on white
  • Has a shorter charging time
  • Requires maintenance every 30 - 60 days
  • Operates at temperatures between -40 to 60°C
  • Takes longer to charge
  • Requires maintenance every 60 - 90 days
  • Operates at temperatures between -20 to 60°C

A Closer Look at These Batteries

Because they are made from different materials, these batteries also provide different performance. Your solar lights typically come equipped with a series of batteries and their number varies from one light model to another.

There will be a time when your solar lights require new batteries, regardless of whether the ones originally used. Experts recommend changing the batteries in your solar lights every couple of years. When you purchase replacement batteries, you will have to take into account the capacity and voltage of the old ones, so pay attention to the specifications of the batteries you’re about to discard.

Here is what you should know about the two main types of rechargeable batteries that are compatible with solar lights.

NICD Batteries

Rechargeable AA size accumulators isolated over white background.


NiCD is the abbreviation for “nickel-cadmium”, and it’s a type of rechargeable battery that uses metallic cadmium and nickel oxide hydroxide. Invented in 1899 by Waldemar Junger, NiCD batteries are typically used to power small devices, such as camcorders, drills, or even solar lights.


There are plenty of advantages to using this type of battery:

  • It performs well even in lower temperatures (which is a plus for outdoor solar lights).
  • It has a very low cost per cycle.
  • It can recharge pretty fast at low temperatures.
  • When cared for, it can last for about 1000 charge/discharge cycles.
  • It is one of the most rugged types of batteries out there, which is ideal when used on something you place outdoors, like solar lights.


Cropped view of man holding batteries among can, glass bottles, plastic bags, paper strips, paper and plastic tubes

Even if the advantages outweigh the drawbacks, it is important to know the downs of using NiCD batteries:

  • Because they are made with different toxic metals, NiCD batteries are not environmentally friendly. That means that when you dispose of them, you’re causing damage to the environment. In fact, some countries only allow limited use of this type of battery.
  • It has a certain level of self-discharge, which translates into the battery draining even when it’s not being actively used. This means that if you store these cells for longer, you will have to recharge them in order to use them.

NIMH Batteries

Four rechargable batteries isolated on white background


NiMH batteries are similar to NiCD batteries in certain aspects, only they use hydrogen instead of cadmium as an active element. This type of battery was patented in 1986 by Stanford Ovshinsky, and because it uses newer technologies, it is often considered a better alternative to NiMH. When it comes to solar lighting, however, that might not always be the case, but we’ll analyze the advantages and drawbacks of these batteries and allow you to be the judge.


NiMH batteries have gained a number of fans, mostly because of advantages like:

  • They are less prone to memory when compared to NiCD batteries. Battery memory translates into reduced longevity of the battery because it wasn’t fully discharged after being charged. For example, if you use solar lights with NiMH cells, they are less likely to end up with a memory effect because the battery wasn’t completely drained until the next day when UV light will recharge it.
  • These batteries are eco-friendly because they have a high content of materials that can be recycled. However, they still do contain mild toxins, they just aren’t as toxic as NiCD batteries.
  • They have an increased capacity, which can be up to 40 percent higher compared to that of NiCD batteries.


AA / AAA battery charger with four Nickel Metal Hydride batteries

NiMH batteries have quite the balance between the advantages they provide and the drawbacks they bring to the table:

  • They are considerably more expensive compared to NiCD batteries, especially if you buy those with a high current draw (which you won’t be needed considering these kind of lights aren’t all that powerful and energy-draining).
  • Their performance decreases when you use them in high temperatures (this is important because solar lights will stay outside during the summer, and if the summers are particularly hot in the area where you live, this can alter the performance of the batteries).
  • They take longer to charge because of their more complex charging algorithm.


Solar photovoltaic powered lamp posts on the blue skies with sun

At first glance, these types of energy cells might seem similar to the untrained eye, but there are some key differences that consumers should know about. NiMH is a newer battery compared to NiCD, with higher energy density and a higher capacity. Because they are made without the use of any heavy metals, NiMH cells are more eco-friendly.

Something that you’ll have to keep in mind is that the principle of higher battery capacity isn’t always applicable when it comes to solar lights. These have quite a low charge current, which means that lower capacity batteries should suffice.

However, it’s very important to know which type of battery is compatible with your device. When it comes to solar lights, you have to assess the pros and cons of each and determine which would perform best in your current landscape and setup. So, if you’re ready to move forward and purchase some, check our list of awesome batteries for solar lights.