When I purchase a quartz table/wall clock, most of the time it has a sticker saying not to use alkaline battery and from this quora question. There is also mixed thought about this but in theory (I think) both alkaline and zinc-carbon battery should not have any differences because both of them have $1.5\,\text{V}$ so if there really differences, I would love to understand the physics behind them.

  • $\begingroup$ Why a manufacturer says do not use one type of battery over another is an engineering issue for the design team at the company that made the gadget. $\endgroup$ Nov 16, 2020 at 9:00
  • $\begingroup$ I have been using alkaline batteries for these kind of clocks for a very long time. Never had a problem. Unless the battery is so dead that it starts to leak. In this case it does not matter what type you use, it's bad anyway. Before asking for reasons it should be reasonable if there is ny truth in the claim. $\endgroup$
    – nasu
    Nov 16, 2020 at 13:43
  • $\begingroup$ It has been my experience that an alkaline battery is less likely to leak. $\endgroup$
    – R.W. Bird
    Nov 16, 2020 at 13:52
  • $\begingroup$ @R.W.Bird - well pretty much any battery is better these days then they used to be. I remember having to take batteries out of the flashlight if you weren't going to use it for even a few days. Those old batteries were terrible. $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Nov 16, 2020 at 14:32

1 Answer 1


Alkaline zinc cells use different electrochemical system than ordinary acidic zinc-carbon cells.

The 1.5 V voltage is just a nominal value. The actual open voltage largely depends on the cell type, long and short term discharging and aging history. A new cell can have up to 1.6 V, an old used cell can have down to 1.2 V.

Another case is the voltage on load. Alkaline cells have generally much lower internal resistance, so the voltage drop during providing the current is smaller.

As the practical consequence, the effective voltage can be higher for alkaline cells.

Personally, I am not sure if I have ever noticed at such long time running devices a warning against alkaline battery usage, unless they were designed for NiCd/NiMH rechargeables. As such devices are ideal for alkaline batteries.


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