The Dangers of Lithium Batteries

Posted by: Lucy Dawe | Post date: 23.02.18

The demand for smaller and smaller devices with batteries that last a long time has not only increased the use of lithium batteries but has also forced manufacturers to push the limits of their design past the safety point.  Most rechargeable electronic devices, such as mobile phones and laptops, have lithium batteries and there have been a number of cases where they have exploded and caused damage or started fires.  Here is some information to help prevent you becoming a victim of the problems sometimes caused by these batteries.

Why they are Dangerous

Although incredibly good at storing huge amounts of energy in tiny spaces, lithium-ion batteries are dangerous.  Every one of these batteries contains a flammable electrolyte which can catch fire if it gets too hot.  The situation can become very serious once it comes into contact with oxygen as well.  Most of these batteries also use a very thin porous layer of polypropylene (the stuff they make synthetic carpets out of) to separate the electrodes.  When these electrodes come into contact with each other, they short circuit the device and often catch fire.  All together, lithium-ion batteries contain lots of elements that can potentially cause fires or even explosions.

What to Look Out for

Sadly, some of these batteries give little or no warning before they explode but a damaged battery is much more likely to be a problem so there are some things you can look out for that might indicate your battery is damaged.  If your device or the battery part of it looks swollen or unnaturally bulging anywhere, that could be a sign that gas is escaping and you should seek advice immediately if you notice this happening.  As excessive heat is a factor in causing these batteries to catch fire, you should take your device to a repair shop if you notice it feeling particularly warm in any part of it.

How to Avoid Dangerous Batteries

In the well known case of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 having exploding tendencies, it was purely down to a design flaw which no consumer could have predicted.  However, in lots of other cases, batteries have become dangerous due to either being very cheap and badly made or because they’ve been misused in some way.  Dropping devices can damage the batteries and older devices which have been subject to a lot of hard wear are more likely to have problems with their batteries.  Lots of problems have occurred with very cheap non-branded chargers too.

The important things to remember about lithium-ion batteries are:

  1. Don’t panic. Considering how widely used they are, problems are very rare.
  2. Keep your eye out for bulges or abnormally warm spots on your devices.
  3. Avoid very cheap imported devices and chargers.
  4. Replace older devices particularly ones which are subject to a lot of wear and tear.
  5. Take any devices you are concerned about into a reputable repair shop for them to check.
  6. Make sure you have a working smoke or fire alarm fitted in your property.
  7. Take out appropriate home contents insurance.
  8. Find out who you need to contact in the event of fire (other than the fire service, obviously) if you are living in a rented property.

Following all of these precautions should make it less likely that you will suffer from the effects of a lithium battery fire but if you are living in a property let out through Lawton and Dawe, please call us on 01273 917791 if you are unsure who to contact in the event of a fire or any other significant damage to the property.