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Vape Battery Accidents and Explosions
You’ve probably heard about some explosions caused by vaping devices’ or e-cigarette batteries. These things can actually happen, although not often. It depends on several factors that range from the quality of the build to the manufacturer’s quality control systems to the elements (weather, extreme temperatures, moisture, etc. - and the owner’s care. The exact causes of these accidents are not entirely clear yet, but some evidence suggests that battery-related issues can lead to vape explosions.
How Are Vaping Batteries Made?
Batteries made of lithium-ion are definitely a break-through of modern science. They are getting more and more powerful as time goes by and can accumulate more and more energy as the clock ticks. These engineering marvels are also getting smaller and can power a vast range of devices, from our smartphones to our cars’ remote controls, to electric cars, alarm systems, and, you must have guessed it right, your vaping device.
For vapers, they are the heart that pumps the energy to enable them to indulge in the blissful flavors and blow out beautiful billowing clouds after each hit. But where do these batteries come from? How are they manufactured? How many different shapes and sizes of batteries are there? How do they end up at the vaping device store? How do I know which one to choose? We will answer all these questions, but before we get there, it’s important to learn a bit of history about batteries.
Let’s Brush Up On Battery History
Back in the early 20th century, right before WWI, in 1912, to be more precise, an engineer who went by the name of G.N. Lewis began working on the lithium battery. However, it wasn’t until more than five decades later, in the 1970s, that the first non-rechargeable lithium battery was finally given the commercial green light.
Ion flow in lithium-ion batteries. Image Source
In the 1980s, there were many attempts at developing a rechargeable lithium battery, but these projects failed due to the instability of the metallic lithium used as anode material. Don’t worry I’m not going to bore you with chemistry.
Basically, the metal-lithium battery uses lithium as anode, whereas Li-ion (or lithium-ion) batteries use graphite as anode and some active materials as cathode. You might have studied these terms (anode and cathode) back in science class in middle school.
Have you heard of SONY? Well, they were the ones who came up with the first rechargeable lithium-ion battery back in 1990. Lithium-ion is a non-metallic solution (unlike its cousin and predecessor, the metal-lithium). Lithium is the lightest of all metals and provides the most considerable specific energy per weight.
And that’s lithium battery history for you in a nutshell!
How Do Lithium Batteries Work?
The battery or batteries in your vaping device is no different from the batteries used in any other portable device (smartphone, remote control, camera, tablet, laptop, medical devices, etc.). Vape batteries also come in different sizes and shapes, and most are made up of lithium-ion chemistries, which provide a great deal of power.
When connected to a source of electricity, Lithium becomes positively charged by holding on to that energy. Consequently, the positively charged lithium releases that flow of energy when placed to something negatively charged. These qualities make lithium an extremely efficient material for the production of batteries.
Internal structures of Li-ion batteries. Image Source
A battery cell is created by rolling lithium into hair-thin sheets that are wounded together with negatively charged copper. This combination creates a light but potent source of energy. The ions then flow from the negative electrode (anode) to the positive electrode (cathode). The poles reverse the direction when charging. As a result, ions flow from the cathode to the anode.
Lithium batteries come to the vape shops after the manufacturer grades them (A, B, C-grade). Large companies like Sony, LG, Samsung, and Nokia purchase 90% of the grade A battery cells. Then they wrap them in their branded wrappers and sell them to a distributor. The distributor then sells those batteries to vape shops, and the shop sells them to you.
As with any electric or electronic device, there is always a chance or risk of an accident, and vaping device batteries are no exception. However, what differs from a vaping device battery to a smartphone battery is that the latter are custom-made lithium-ion batteries manufactured to meet the device’s specific demands.
Vaping device batteries, on the contrary, aren’t necessarily approved by the vaping device manufacturer. The trend in the last years is that vapers have become more adept to choose their own batteries for their box mods and pod mods as well as customizing their own vaping devices to their specific needs and wants, such as enhancing flavor production, and outputting larger and puffier clouds. As a result, many new vapers who don’t have enough experience will make certain mistakes that can put their physical integrity at risk. Explosions can also be the consequence of incorrect use or choosing low quality batteries just to save a few bucks, or plainly from not knowing what to buy.
What Type Of Battery Should You Look For?
Since all lithium-ions work on the same basic physical and chemical principles, you could practically power your vaping device with almost any battery you want.
But it should go without saying—don’t just stick a random battery in your vape. The likelihood of it being able to handle the demands of your vaporizer is low.
So it pays to know about the types of batteries you’ll be using in your vaporizer.
The two we’ll be talking about today are external round cells (mainly 18650s) and internal lithium ions.
One of the most used battery types is the 18650. Several manufacturers cater for the vape industry, including well known electronics brands, such as Sony, Samsung, and LG, but not exclusively these brands. There are many other players in the market.
An 18650 Battery is a lithium-ion rechargeable battery. The first 4 digits of the designation code “18650” tell the physical dimensions, and the 5th digit tells us it is a cylinder cell. The standard 18650 battery is 18mm around by 65mm long. This type of battery is commonly found in applications such as laptop battery packs, electric vehicles, flashlights, cordless tools and many other devices that require portable power.
Some types of 18650 have changed a bit by adding either a button top and/or internal protection circuit. This can make the “18650” battery slightly longer, from about 65mm to 70mm or in some cases even longer.
Most devices with internal batteries (e.g. iStick series, eGo series, etc.) use a variation of the lithium ion cells described above. Depending on the size of the unit, they could be 10440s, 14650s, or even 18650s. They could be single, dual, or even triple cells.
What Can Cause a Vape Battery to Explode?
The main reason why vape batteries can explode is simply by the improper care and neglectfulness of its user.
Accidentally dropping your e-cigarette or vape mod.
E-cigarettes, especially the cylindrical type ones, can suffer from battery damage after you drop them. When you drop these devices, pressure can build, especially if they fall on the battery end, increasing the chances for malfunction, or even worse, explosion.
Some vape battery manufacturers have implemented safeguards. When you are looking to buy a vape battery, make sure you look for products that have been thoroughly tested for quality control and have approval seals.
What can you do if you’ve dropped your vape device? First of all, inspect for visible damage. Also inspect for the wrapper. The wrapper insulates the battery, so if in doubt, dispose of it and get a new one.
Carrying vape batteries in your pocket.
Never carry vape batteries in your pockets if you have other metallic elements there too. Always use a separate case. Batteries that come in contact with metallic objects such as keys or coins can lead to regrettable disasters. Two metals that come in contact can produce a short circuit as they rub against each other, sparking a fire in your pocket, and potentially an explosion.
You can use a plastic, insulating case which you can buy at most vaping stores, physical or online, which help keep your batteries safely separated from any catalysts.
In addition, try switching off or locking your vaping device when you carry them in your pockets. This will prevent any random changes to your vape device that could alter the voltage.
Water damage to your vape device.
If you drop your vape device in the water, you can find many recommendations on what to do on many forums online. If you are able to contact the manufacturer, do so and find out if they have any guidelines, advice or warranty. It may not be very obvious to you if there is some water damage, so it’s best for your own physical wellbeing to just get rid of it and replace it with a new one.
Customizing your vape mod.
Some mechanical mods may not have some features like inner circuitry to regulate battery voltage. On the other hand, most newer vape devices have built-in safety features. Try to always have the most recent vape device that offers the best protection and safety features possible. Our advice is to never modify or customize a vape device, especially if you are not an experienced vaper. Stick to using authorized and approved hardware and add-ons as listed by the manufacturer.
How To Prevent A Vape Battery Or E-cig From Exploding?
- Make sure to follow the vape or e-cigarette manufacturer’s instructions to a T. Most vape device manufacturers supply instructions on how to properly care for your vape’s battery, whether in the paper manual or on their own websites.
- Buy high quality, trustworthy and reliable products that have great reviews and offer the best protection against accidents. Not all e-cigarettes or vaping are sold with a charger or battery. This forces you to find out how to charge or power the device on your own. A quick online search for “vape pen battery” will show thousands of results for you to find where to get a battery. A warranty from the manufacturer is also a good indicator that they back their product.
- Never use new and old batteries together. It is always recommended to use two of the exact same batteries in your device. As you will want to be sure that the batteries have the same charge levels. Use batteries only recommended by your vape device manufacturer.
- Store batteries at room temperature. Always protect your vape device and their respective batteries from extreme temperatures. That means extreme heat AND extreme cold. Never leave your batteries in a car during a hot day or in extreme cold temperature. So be smart. Don’t leave them in direct sunlight and don’t put them in the freezer. And definitely don’t put them in the oven. Extreme temperatures can seriously damage your batteries and cause them to deteriorate prematurely, increasing the likelihood of an explosion.
- Never overcharge your batteries. With a lot of batteries now being able to charge via USB it is important to note that not all USB ports and devices are equal. Many smartphones and tablets are designed to be charged as quickly as possible. Taking advantage of USB technology to get these devices charged. Unfortunately some e-cig batteries do not have those same features. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines on charging. Never leave a battery charging overnight or unattended. Use the charger that came with the device.
- Use devices with safety features. Some vapes and e-cigarette devices have features that can further safeguard against potential injury to the vaper. Vent holes,fire button locks, and overcharging protection are just a few of the features that can help.
- Additionally, charge your batteries on a hard, even surface with lots of space to breathe.
- Clean your battery and terminal contents with tissue or alcohol wipes if they are dirty.
What is Battery Venting?
All the tips we’ve given you above are meant to prevent the batteries from starting an unpleasant process dubbed ‘battery venting’.
Battery venting is when the chemicals contained inside the battery have gone into meltdown. This ugly process creates toxic gases which slowly leak out of the battery. When the pressure is too high, the vent pops and the gas escapes. And this can very likely lead to a very harmful battery explosion.
Ok, so what else can we do, and avoid doing in order to prevent our batteries giving us a pyrotechnic show, or a much more serious accident that can lead to permanent disability or death of yourself or others around you?
Here Is A Summary Of Basic Do’s and Don’ts
- Never use a damaged battery. If there appears to be a fault, if the wrapping is damaged or frayed, or your battery fails to keep charge, dispose of the battery safely.
- Don’t leave the battery unattended whilst charging - not keeping an eye on your vaping device while it’s charging is a safety risk. Most quality mods have a cut-off point where they stop charging when they are full but unfortunately this function fails sometimes.To avoid overcharging your battery, ensure you check it often and never charge it overnight.
- Understanding Ohms Law is a vital part of battery safety, so don’t go over the recommended amperage set by the manufacturer. Take the amperage number, divide it by the voltage level by coil resistance (ohms) and never exceed this number.
- Don’t mix and match sets of batteries or battery chargers - while many batteries and chargers may look the same, you should never mix and match these components because the voltage output may be different, resulting in your batteries getting damaged.
- Never over-discharge your battery - This can be as harmful as overcharging your device as it causes serious damage and weakens your battery.
- Do not charge your vaping device overnight.
- Do not charge your vaping device with a phone or tablet charger.
- Get a quality vaping device - You will always get what you pay for. .
- Do research before selecting the right battery - if you’ve purchased a vaporizer that doesn’t come with a built-in battery, you’ll need to choose your own.
- Get a quality smart charger, because explosions may happen due to overcharging or discharging of batteries. A smart charger offers more safety features than a regular charger.
- Use a battery case for transportation - it’s crucial to always carry your extra batteries in a case and not to leave them loose in your bag or pockets. If batteries come into contact with coins or keys, it will very likely cause an explosion as that contact can complete a circuit between a positive and a negative.
- Beware of the weather - extremely hot or extremely cold can damage your device’s battery which could lead to explosions.
- Use the correct charging cable - Using a different cable to what your device came with can cause problems because the charger you are using may have a higher voltage than your battery which will cause your device to overheat.
- Replace the batteries in your vape device if they get wet or damaged.
- Using vape devices with safety features, such as vent holes, firing button locks, and overcharging protection.
- Put loose batteries in a separate case to avoid contact with metal objects.
What Else Can You Do?
Until all vapes and vape batteries conform to strong and consistent safety standards, your best protection against vape battery explosions may be knowing as much as possible about your device and how to properly handle and charge its batteries.
- Make sure to read and understand the manufacturer's manual about caring for your device’s battery. If your vape did not come with instructions you most likely will find them on the manufacturer’s website.
- Don't remove or disable safety features that are designed to avoid battery overheating and explosions.
- Only use the recommended batteries. Don't mix different brands of batteries, use batteries that have different charge levels, or use old and new batteries together.
- Charge your vape on a clean, flat surface, away from anything that is flammable or materials which aren’t fireproof, for instance a couch or pillow where it is more prone to overheat or get turned on accidentally.
- Protect your vape from extreme temperatures by not leaving it in the sun or in your car on a freezing cold night.
Getting on a plane soon?
Here’s what you need to know before you board a plane with your vaporizers and electronic cigarettes.
- Vapes and e-cigarettes should only go in carry-on bags.
- Do not use or charge while onboard the aircraft.
- Do not allow devices to turn on. Store them and each spare battery carefully to protect from damage.
- Remove vapes, e-cigarettes and spare lithium batteries from luggage that is checked at the gate.
If you are from, or live in the United States of America, the FDA (Food and Drugs Administration) has an online reporting form for you to let them know about undesired quality problems with a vaping device.
When you use this form you should make sure to include:
- The name of the vaping device manufacturer.
- The brand name, model, and serial number of the vaping device.
- The brand name and model of the battery.
- The name and address of the store where it was purchased.
- Whether the device was used differently than intended by the manufacturer.
- Whether the product was modified in any way.
Conclusion and Summary
We hope we’ve given you enough information to help you care for your batteries and your safety:
- Choose the right battery for your vape device
- How to properly look after your vape device’s battery
- How to prevent battery explosion and accidents
- How to properly pack your vape device when flying
- How to know which battery to buy for your vape device, and
- How to report battery explosions to the FDA (if you are in the US)
Happy and safe vaping!