From time to time, we hear about cases of exploding e-cigarettes*. This is further amplified and sensationalised by media coverage. Ah, the frenzy these kinds of incidences seem to spark (pardon the pun). Other non-electronic cigarette devices using Li-Ion (Lithium-Ion) batteries have been known to catch fire as well, but I guess it isn’t just as sexy.
So, before we rush into making conclusions, let’s have a few reads on the subject and then I shall attempt to summarise the findings in a few key points, in the best possible layman terms, which truly defines me.
As I may have hinted above, I am no expert on batteries. So, what I did was do some reading off what I can find on Google. One of the most comprehensive report I could find was issued by FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) in the United States. Click on the link below to read the full report on incidences from 2009 to 2014:
To summarise, according to the report, the break-down of “when” the occurrences happened is as follows:
- 80% of cases happen during charging
- 8% while device is in use
- 4% during transport
- 8% was unspecified
In cases where it happened during use, there has not been any reported death from such “explosions” but there are some serious injuries. So, beware. In cases that happened during charging, the fires were mostly contained to the device itself while a small number of incidences resulted in damage to a small fire, damaging surrounding items.
As to “why”, the causes of fire can be broadly grouped into two. Man. Machine (I had wanted to be asexual, e.g. “User” instead of “Man”, but the alliteration sounded so much better, so deal with it Femen). Anyway, before some of you get sidetracked and start to google-image ‘Femen’ here they are:
- Overcharging – which causes the batteries to overheat and catch fire.
- Faulty batteries – caused by inferior and defective batteries.
- Inferior products – manufactured by companies that do not have proper standards and processes.
- Negligent Use – Li-Ion batteries should be treated with care. For example, you shouldn’t leave it on your dashboard of your car in the sun.
- Using the improper charger.
Ok, “how” do we prevent it from happening? Starting with the number one cause of battery fire:
- Exercise care while charging batteries. First, of all, never leave charging unattended. Be in charge of your charging. Most importantly, do not charge overnight, while you are sleeping. As for replaceable batteries such as 18650 & 18350, get an intelligent charger and a branded one at that too. You can find some really ridiculously dirt cheap chargers on EBay (with ‘free’ shipping) but do not be tempted! You may have to spend a bit more on your chargers, but these babies take will take care of not only your batteries but of you too. Personally, I use Nitecore I4. Beaut. Never gets warm at all and cuts off charging when it is completed. Lastly, r.e.a.d. t.h.e. m.a.n.u.a.l, and if your device comes with a specific charger, use only that charger.
- Do not buy cheap e-cigarettes. Some of them are knock-offs made by fly-by-night outfits, whose main or, only objective is to make quick buck (Bang for your buck? Sorry, couldn’t resist that). That is why a trusted source or seller is vital (such as esmoko).
- For units with replaceable battery features, do not buy unknown battery brands, and make sure they are protected** batteries. Of course, then there’s making sure that you get the right kind, such as IMR and INR versus ICR. Therefore, read more about batteries before buying them. I would normally read reviews about brands and so on before making my decision. Lastly, don’t get adventurous with batteries, like re-purposing those old laptop batteries. Some of them are unprotected batteries and they could be in a bad condition. They aren’t the right sort anyway, i.e. not high-drain batteries.
- Switch off & lock when not in use. In some incidences, users inadvertently pressed on the fire button continuously, resulting in the e-cigarette batteries to overheat and catch fire in its user’s pocket. All e-cigarettes that I have used so far have the 3 or 5 click feature to turn lock on and off. It may be a bit of a hassle, but trust me, you don’t want to have fire in your pants. Not sexy said Fred. This applies to when you travel as well, especially in flights.
- Keep your batteries cool. Never leave it near a hot place e.g. next to your barbie, or in the sun, such as on the dashboard of your car.
- Keep your batteries dry. No, don’t vape in your swimming pool. Not cool.
User education and common sense is paramount. Let’s not spoil a good thing. As I mentioned in my first blog, e-cigarette is the main contributor to my quitting on cigarettes. Let’s not vie for the Darwin Awards and risk the authorities clamping down on e-cigarettes as a result of it. But, MOST of all, safety is of the highest concern here. So, let us vape smartly and responsibly.
Before I end, here is a quote from Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association on this subject:
“When used and charged properly, vapour products pose no more of a fire risk than any other product that is powered by lithium-ion batteries, like cellphones or laptops”
I would love if we can share more experiences and knowledge on this article. I am sure I have not covered everything or even sufficiently. So, please feel free to comment below.
* “Exploding (e-cigarette)” is actually a misnomer. The battery catches fire and due to the cylindrical shape of the batteries & container, and it gets propelled like a rocket in many cases.
** Protected batteries are batteries with in-built circuit board that will cut the battery off if its overheated or overcharged. Read specifications before buying.