In a 21st century festive season, it's natural to expect cool tech gifts and the like which need batteries, including lithium-ion (or li-ion) versions. Commonly found in products within our homes, these batteries are often used to power smartphones, laptops, e-bikes and power tools.
Despite their prevalence li-ion batteries pose a significant risk, due to the presence of a flammable and volatile liquid electrolyte solution.
In October this year, the ACCC urged consumers to use and store these batteries safely. "We are concerned by increasing reports of lithium-ion battery fires resulting in property damage and serious injuries, including burns, chemical exposure and smoke inhalation," ACCC deputy chair Catriona Lowe said.
Australian fire protection company Wormald has provided five steps you can take to keep your home safe from li-ion-related fire hazards:
Proper storage and management: the storage environment of li-ion batteries greatly influences their safety and longevity. Optimal storage temperature ranges from 5 - 20°, as excessive heat can shorten battery life and escalate fire risks, while cold conditions affect device efficiency and can require more frequent charging.
Avoid overcharging: overcharging can cause unstable conditions within li-ion batteries, leading to thermal runaway. This involves an uncontrollable increase in temperature, which presents a significant fire hazard. To prevent overcharging-related risks, limit charging time, avoid leaving devices to charge overnight and maintain battery charge levels between 50 - 100 per cent.
Handle batteries with care: a punctured battery can lead to short-circuits and electrolyte leakage, which can trigger chemical reactions that generate heat, damaging the battery and surrounding areas. Proper handling ensures the safety of the user and extends the battery's lifespan.
Keen them clean: li-ion batteries attract dust and grime, which can be a fire hazard. Regular cleaning is essential, especially around vents and ports. A simple cloth can be used to clean these areas for mobile devices, optimising battery performance and reducing fire risks.
Buy from reputable suppliers: the market is flooded with counterfeit products that appear genuine but may be made with inferior materials and lack adherence to safety standards, which can lead to short circuits or power surges.
Users should check credentials and compliance with safety standards, such as those outlined in the Australian government's Electrical Equipment Safety Scheme.