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Battery Safety 101: What is it, and why do I keep hearing about it?

 

This:

 
 
 

Plus this:

 

Equals this:

Get it now?

  

 

A battery is basically a means controlling large volumes of volatile energy in a case that’s strong enough to hold it in place. When used safely and correctly they provide us with energy for all our various devices, gadgets and vapes. There are a lot of battery options out there, and all of them follow the same set of rules, the trick is knowing what the rules are.

In vaping, every replaceable battery has 2 key areas of risk; the very top of the battery, and everywhere else. Every other place on the battery is the negative, and therefore are all wrapped in plastic.  Which is what makes them so convenient to use, and exceptionally dangerous in the wrong hands. All it takes for a battery to vent, discharge or explode is connecting the outside of the battery with the top of the battery. This means a piece of metal that’s 1 millimeter long, is more than enough to cause your battery to vent or explode.

After you realize how easy it is to damage a battery, you realize the next step is knowing what to look for to ensure you are being safe. These steps are simple to follow and will help you stay as safe as possible with your batteries. Not following these steps can lead to some disastrous consequences up to and including loss of life, limb or property.

What to watch for:

  • When examining a battery look at the plastic wrapping it should be free of rips, tears, punctures, or wear marks that could leave metal exposed
    • Look for any discoloration, stretch marks or signs of wear on the plastic wrapper

  • Examine the top of the battery near the ‘Nipple’ or ‘Flat Top’ and look for dirt, bends, swelling or dents.
    • Examine the bottom and sides of the battery, looking for dents, punctures or bends

  • Ensure there is no discoloration or scoring marks at the top and bottom of the battery
    • Small black marks are normal and will build up over time
    • Orange, red, brown or other coloration means you need a new battery

Each of these bullet points leads to a different effect with your battery and, if your battery has any of these signs of wear then, we would recommend you stop using it or be ready for a large bill if you’re lucky. These signs are a good way to gauge how safe each battery is to use.

Note that a batteries age may not impact how safe it is.

What it means:

  • Rips, tears or punctures in the batteries plastic wrapper it can cause:
    • Two points of connection will complete a circuit, which allows the battery to drain
    • May cause a point in the battery that ‘super heats’ and causes the housing to fail, leading to venting and an explosion
    • Punctures may have created an opening in the casing, which means highly toxic lithium will be covering the battery cell.

  • Dirt, bends, swelling or dents:
    • Any dirt near the connection points of the battery is a potential fire hazard
    • Bends may cause the parts inside to fail
    • Swelling means the battery is already damaged, discontinue use immediately
    • Dents mean the inside parts of the battery have been damaged

  • Discoloration near the “Nipple” or “Flat Top”
    • If it is black this is normal and can be wiped away with a paper towel
    • If it's orange, brown or red this means rust
      • This can be problematic as Oxides may be electrically conductive
      • It is for this reason that a battery with rust should be replaced
      • Oxidation may weaken the battery housing
      • May be a ‘scab’ or ‘plug’ over a puncture in the battery

While most people may think that the issue of battery safety is limited to only vapor products, the truth is every battery is just as dangerous. Every day batteries across the planet fail, and in almost every instance it is a direct result of user error. Remember a few simple steps will ensure you stay as safe as possible.

  • Never use a battery you are not comfortable with
    • Some batteries may have specifications you’re not familiar with
    • Don’t risk it, and stay safe
  • Never use a battery that you have not inspected
    • Every time you change the battery inspect it before you use it
  • Never carry batteries or battery-operated devices in pockets, purses, or back packs
    • Always be aware of where your batteries are
    • Not all devices are made the same, if you are not sure if your device will turn on or off by itself keep it in your hand
  • Never store batteries in direct sunlight, hot surfaces or areas
    • Batteries inside of a car, in direct sunlight or near hot surfaces may explode
    • The temperature in your car can be 20 degrees’ higher than it is outside
  • Only purchase batteries from trusted sources
    • Not all batteries are made the same, some manufacturers do not check their batteries quality
    • Some batteries are replicas made at the lowest possible cost

Voltage (Volts), Wattage (Watts) and Amperage (Amps), what's the difference?

Volts or Wattage is the amount of power your battery gives your devices, and in vaping it represents the volume of power given to the coil. This allows you to control and adjust your vaping experience and set the power that is right for the coil.

Volts or Watts may hurt if you get shocked by it, but you should be okay with a low volume of current. Some of you may know this from testing 9-volt batteries to see if they are charge, remember the tongue trick? That little sting on your tongue represents the voltage being discharged from the battery. In general, lower voltages (or wattage), like those we see in vaping are mostly harmless. Unless you have specific medical conditions, you should be okay.

Amperage or Amps on the other hand, is the most dangerous component of energy. Amperage represents the force of the current. It is this force of current which can be hazardous, dangerous or even deadly. Amperage as low as 0.1 to 0.2 Amps is enough to produce pain, to severe shock and may even be lethal. The batteries we use in vaping are Lithium Ion High Drain batteries, most of which will produce 20 or more amps. What this means is on average a battery used in vaping can produce at least 100 time the fatal amperage limit.

While that may seem intimidating, you should be aware that most cell phones and tablets use more powerful batteries then those used in vaping. Always remember any battery can vent, explode or cause harm, it's up to you to know how to use, inspect and store them.

Just like batteries it's just as important to pay attention to how, and what you use to charge them. Some devices use built in batteries and need to be charged through a USB cord or a wall mounted adapter. A great way to find yourself in the hospital is to use the wrong one for a vape. Did you know that there’s a wrong one?

Therein lies the problem, most people don’t know what to look for, or how to ensure it doesn’t happen to them. A USB Wall Mounted charging system will have two key components; the wall Mount adapter and a USB cord. The adapter is the component that controls how much electricity travels from the wall to the device you plug it into, and many newer USB adapters can rapidly charge your Cell Phones, Tablets, Camera’s and other devices. The amount of energy they send into your device varies greatly and this variation can have catastrophic results.

One of our customers, learned the hard way that not all charging units are the same. Luckily for her when the battery exploded and launched itself across the room; it missed her newborn baby by 3 feet, only put a dent in the wall, and only caused minor burns on her floor. She was very lucky, more so than many others who have used the wrong charger on the wrong device.

Rapid Chargers were not intended to be used with vapor products. Rapid charging forces the battery to accept more energy then it was originally designed for. To a point this is safe and just like driving your car on a hot day, it adds a bit of wear and tear but doesn’t break it. The problem is when you plug in something that wasn’t designed for it, just like riding a jet ski in the Sahara it's a bad idea and just going to break. Except with batteries, they can explode.

A vape is intended to be charged with a standard 5-volt adaptor that sends nothing more than 2 volts of current. Be aware that 2 volts, is pushing it so you will need to be present to watch the batteries charging, if they get warm or hot discontinue charging unless your making s'mores.

DO NOT USE ONE WITH YOUR VAPE OR THIS CAN HAPPEN TO YOU:

Many devices will have the ability to use replaceable batteries, which should be charged on an external charging bay. These systems are specifically designed to charge high drain lithium ion batteries, but just like cars there’s good ones and bad ones. It can be hard to tell which one is safe, and which one will cause a fire, so here are the rules to follow to help you stay safe.

Make sure the charger your using has the following features, if you are not sure either look it up or throw it out. If you can’t be sure, don’t trust it.

  • Reverse Polarity Protection
    • This makes sure the battery won’t explode when you put it in wrong
  • Overcharge protection
    • Keeps the battery from exploding from too much energy
  • Plastic or non-conductive material
    • It's okay for the part that touch the battery to be metal, nothing else
  • Clean
    • Dirt and debris can catch fire

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  • Niki Schultz

    A warning for graphic image would have been really appreciated. I get that shock value is great when trying to instill the importance of something, but there’s a limit and that image was way past it.

    November 30, 2018