Lithium-Ion battery safety tips – Preventing fires

Lithium-Ion battery safety tips – Preventing fires

Lithium-ion battery fires are happening more frequently, due to overheating or damaged batteries. When they catch fire, they burn intensely and cannot be put out quickly or easily. 

As they have become part of our daily lives, powering everything from smartphones vacuum cleaners, laptops to scoters and electric vehicles, what’s the best way to handle these safely?

The Hazards of Lithium-Ion Batteries

Lithium-ion batteries are long life rechargeable batteries that hold their full voltage almost to when the battery runs out, so very useful.

Batteries are generally safe and incidents are rare in comparison to the number of batteries in use every day. Yet, when they do occur, the consequences can be severe, leading to fires, explosions, and even loss of life. 

What causes batteries to catch fire

Physical damage to the battery pack, for example when a vacuum cleaner falls over or a  power tool is dropped or even throwing it in the back of the ute at the end of the day. Manufacturing defects, improper usage, or leaving the battery plugged in overnight and it overheats. 

Recognising the Signs before a fire starts

Understanding the early signs of battery failure can reduce the risk of fire. These include:

  • Overheating: Batteries becoming unusually hot during use or charging.
  • Swelling or bulging: The battery case may deform due to gas buildup.
  • Leaking: Any sign of leakage from the battery should be a red flag.
  • Odd smells: A strange smell may indicate a chemical leak from the battery.
  • Physical damage: Cracks, dents, or punctures in a battery can compromise its safety.

Safety tips

The following tips are really just commonsense:

  1. Use Appropriate Chargers: Always use the charger that comes with the device. If you need a replacement, buy one from a reputable source that is compatible with your device, some fires are caused by sub-standard charges. 
  2. Avoid Thermal runaway: Don’t leave the battery charging for more than an hour or so, definitively don't leave charges on overnight as they can over heat, causing a thermal runaway.
  3. Store Properly: When your not using the item or battery, store it in a cool safe and dry place where it cannot fall over or overheat. 
  4. Handle with Care: Protect batteries from impacts, punctures, or pressure. Even a small amount of damages can cause a fire.
  5. Dispose Responsibly: Batteries should never be thrown in with the household rubbish. Look for battery recycling facilities in your area that can handle lithium-ion batteries.

Lithium-ion batteries are really useful and power a lot of our devices. Understanding the potential fire risks and best way to avoid a fire is important. 

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