E-cigarette safety has become front page news recently as there have been several reported incidents of lithium ion battery cells suddenly catching fire.
ECCR looked into these incidents and they all involved cases where products were improperly used or involved a cheap brand that really should not even be on the market. Naturally, you want to know if your e-cig battery is safe and what you can do to make sure that your lithium ion battery cells do not catch fire of blow up. Electronic cigarette safety is important and the best weapon available is knowledge. We will cover areas of concern beginning with what caused the recent accidents and whether or not your e-cig battery is safe.
Lithium Ion Battery Cells
The advantage of lithium ion batteries is there ability to store more energy by packing more material into each battery cell while using thinner separating materials. Ultimately, a lithium ion battery can store more than double the energy in the same amount of space as other batteries.
The theory behind lithium ion battery cells has existed since the early part of the 20th century but the technology to reliably produce them did not exist until the early 90s.
With the advent of this technology, laptops, digital cameras and cell phones became much more marketable. The first cell phones were huge, bulky devices. Cell phones were not widely marketed until smaller, more portable models could be produced. Lithium ion batteries enabled cell phones to go from giants bulky devices that you could not practically carry with you to being small enough to fit in a coat pocket. Think about it, by enabling the advance of cell phones, lithium ion batteries have basically changed the world and how we communicate.
Lithium ion batteries have always been subject to overheating. In the early days of lithium ion powered laptops and cell phones, there were many incidents where fires would spontaneously occur. The industry set a standard that if there were a 1 in 200,000 failure rate, a product recall would be triggered.
Thankfully, we have advanced the technology to a point where these incidents seldom occur. The cure was simply following specifications and not pushing battery cells to charge beyond their design. While laptop fires basically do not happen anymore, recently there have been many concerns about e-cigarette safety because of a spike in reported e-cig fires or explosions.
Why Do E-Cigs Catch Fire?
First, we have to mention that low quality e-cigarette brands are much more subject to overheating. By simply using cheaper materials, a lithium ion battery can be less effective. The purity of the lithium is the key. A lithium metal that contains traces of other scrap metals is cheaper than purer lithium but when this material is used to create battery cells the impurities can affect the flow of energy charges particles.
In addition, cheaper brands use low-grade conductive materials. What that means is that the transfer of energy from the battery to the atomizer is not very efficient. Other than poor product performance, this should not lead to a problem but if you combine this with other deficiencies suddenly it could be the catalyst to a series of events that leads to overheating or worse.
Cheaper brands use lower quality lithium and conductive materials. If you are concerned about e-cigarette safety make sure that you stick to reputable brands.
You are truly better off sticking to reputable brands. For example you never hear of a Green Smoke e-cig catching fire. Our top-ten list includes thoroughly vetted and tested brands that do not have quality material issues. If you enjoy mods or other types of e-cigs, make sure that you do not modify the product beyond manufacturer recommendations.
E-Cig Modifications Lead To Problems
Besides the dangers of buying low quality brands, e-cigs may be subject to some catastrophic failure as a result of modifications. Unless you have an advanced degree in electric engineering, it is not a good idea to operate your e-cig outside of the manufacturers specifications.
When an e-cig catches fire or explodes it is because of a malfunction with the lithium ion battery. The battery is often quite small.
In that small space, there are layers of lithium, an anode, a cathode and a vent. Any modification, no matter how simple, can affect how the battery functions.
As an example, putting colorful tape or paint on an e-cig may help with looks but if that tape or paint blocks the vent the lithium ion cells inside the battery will not be able to naturally cool. This very simple and seemingly harmless type of modification has led to unfortunate incidents.
Modifications can block the vents designed to cool lithium ion batteries. These types of modifications can lead to over-heating or even combustion.
It is very important that you use the proper charger to charge your batteries. Just because another charger will charge the battery does not mean that it is doing so properly. You may over-heat or over-charge your battery.
In more than one case of an e-cig fire, the problem began when the person used the wrong batteries or they used 2 short batteries instead of 1 long battery. Mod users are notorious for modifying there e-cigs. You have to be careful. Follow the manufacturers operation guidelines. Don’t make your e-cig into a personal science project!
E-Cigarette Safety and Lithium Ion Battery Safety
There are a number or precautions that you can take to protect you from experiencing problems.
1. Lithium ion batteries cannot be charged at temperatures below 32 F or 0 C. Below these temperatures your battery indicator lights will make it appear that your battery is charging normally but that is not the case. What happens is that below this temperature the lithium actually begins plating the anode. If done repeatedly, a plated anode can cause your battery to rapidly overheat and become a fire risk. So, in the winter, don’t leave your e-cig battery charging in a cold car!
2. For precautionary reasons, once your battery charger indicates that you have a full charge, remove the battery from the charger. If you leave it in overnight, which most of us do, try to remember to remove it from the charger when you wake up.
3. Here’s some obvious ones, do not put your batteries in a fire, water and don’t try and take them apart!
4. Never solder anything to a battery.
5. Always, always, always use the proper charger.
That’s a few basics. To wrap this all up, avoid cheaply made e-cigarette brands, feel free to consult our e-cigarette reviews to learn about reliable brands. Don’t modify your e-cigs in any way not approved by the manufacturer. Don’t charge your battery below freezing temperatures. If you use a mod, stick to the manufacturers specifications.
There is no doubt that reports of e-cig battery fires have been overblown. Be that as it may, you should be aware of e-cig safety issues and what precautions you can take. So, be safe and happy vaping!