10 Essential Battery Safety Tips for Vapers
Exploding e-cigarettes are big news. It seems like hardly a week goes by without a news story telling us about the latest vaper’s battery to explode, usually with pictures of the aftermath or a grainy CCTV video to drive home just how scary it is.
This is concerning for new vapers in particular, who might be worried that their shiny new mod is going to go off like a firework. The good news is that this is very unlikely to happen, especially if you take sensible precautions with your battery and in your vaping habits.
Although you can find detailed advice on these topics elsewhere (a post of our own here, and several excellent ones over at Vaping360), we’ve put together 10 key pieces of advice to help you stay safe.
Why Do E-Cigarette Batteries Explode?
Before getting into the tips, it’s worth delving into the issue of e-cigarette explosions a little. E-cigarettes have a small chance of exploding for essentially the same reasons as cell phones, laptops, hoverboards and many other electronics can explode: lithium batteries aren’t perfect.
Small manufacturing defects, frequent overcharging and many other things can affect the internal structure of the battery and cause the temperature to rise. When the temperature increases enough, it sets up a feedback loop where the heating causes more heating, and that causes even more heating and so on. Eventually, the batteries will “vent with flames” – which is just as scary as it sounds – or straight-up explode.
How Common is it?
While there does seem to be a regular string of stories appearing in the news, you have to remember that there are millions of vapers around the world, and the vast majority don’t have issues with their batteries. Lithium batteries aren’t perfect, but the chance of yours failing really is low.
EcigOne has a huge list of reported e-cig battery explosions, dating back to August 2009, and it currently totals 214 explosions. This covers seven and a half years and includes reports from around the world, so some perspective on this number is crucial. In the US alone, with about 10 % of adults vaping in 2015, there are well over 20 million vapers. Even without including other countries, this would suggest that your odds of having a serious problem are about 1 in 100,000. A more general estimate for lithium ion batteries overall suggests a failure rate of about 1 in 10 million.
The thing to remember is that your e-cigarette battery is not a ticking time bomb. As long as you follow the tips below, the lithium ion battery in your mod will be just as safe as the lithium ion battery in your cell phone.
Which Type of E-Cigarette Battery is Most at Risk?
Most of the tips below primarily apply to removable batteries for e-cigarette mods (e.g. 18650 or 26650 batteries), but they’re important to understand regardless of the type of battery you use. The risk of problems with vape liquid pens and mods with internal batteries is much lower, but you should still be careful.
The biggest risks are for mechanical mod users. This is because these devices don’t have the safety features you’ll find on “regulated” mods; they’re basically just tubes with batteries, switches and somewhere to screw your atomizer in. Most vapers don’t use these, though, and honestly there is little reason to now there are cheap, widely-available, high-power “regulated” mods available.
1 – Buy High Quality Batteries
The simplest tip is to make sure you buy high quality batteries. As you may expect, cheaper batteries are often lower-quality and are the most likely to fail on you. It’s better to spend more to get a device from a reputable company than to cut the cost and risk getting something poor quality or even dangerous.
For people buying 18650 or 26650 batteries for their mods, the same advice applies. Batteries almost all come from just four companies: Samsung, LG, Sony and Panasonic. Other brands take these batteries and stick their own wrapper on them, often raising the price too. The best advice is to just buy a battery made by Samsung, Sony or LG directly. There are some great suggestions here and here.
2 – Maximum Current Ratings: Don’t Believe the Hype
One of the most important things to look for in a battery is the amount of current it can safely put out. This is shown using a “continuous discharge rating,” “maximum continuous current” or “maximum continuous discharge.” These all mean the same thing: the maximum amount of current the battery can supply to your coil continuously.
You won’t be able to find a battery rated for more than 30 A. If a company claims that a battery can give you more than this, it’s probably a “pulse” firing rating, not a continuous one.
In general, these ratings aren’t reliable for vapers, because they aren’t all established using a consistent standard and companies may even exaggerate what their batteries can do. Although it isn’t really this simple, the best advice is to just consider the continuous discharge rating, and assume that this is the most current your battery can safely provide.
3 – Store Your Batteries Safely
Your batteries should be kept away from extreme temperatures and direct sunlight. If your battery is stored in a hot environment, it can reduce the amount of charge it can store or even increase the risk of failure in use. The ideal temperature to store your batteries is 59 °F (15 °C), but anything below 104 °F (40 °C) won’t have too big an impact.
If you’re storing your batteries for a long period of time, you should also keep them at about 40 % charge, rather than completely drained or charged. Use a plastic case to store batteries if they aren’t hard-wired into the mod.
4 – Carry Spare Batteries in a Plastic Case
If you have a mod with a removable battery, you may have to take a spare battery out of the house with you sometimes. If you carry a battery loose in your pocket, metal objects like your keys or coins can cause a short circuit, and this can lead to big problems. To avoid this, always carry spare batteries in a plastic case.
5 – Turn Your Mod Off When it’s in Your Pocket or Bag
Even a battery inside a mod can cause a problem if your device accidentally fires. You can turn off almost any mod, or at very least you can lock the keys. If you don’t do this, something could accidentally press the fire button while it’s in your pocket or bag and start sending power to your atomizer. Most devices have safeguards to prevent this (a 10-second cut-off, for instance), but it’s still something to avoid if at all possible. It’s easy though: just switch off your mod before you put it in your pocket, and if you use mechanical mods, make sure you lock the fire button.
6 – Use the Charging Cable that Came with Your Device
If you’re using an e-cig with an in-built battery or a mod that allows you to charge external batteries via USB, you should ideally use the cable that came with the device. If you charge with a different cable and the power ratings don’t match up, you could risk doing damage to your battery.
If you can’t do use the manufacturer’s charger, though, you can still safely use alternative chargers. Make sure the voltage on the charger matches the voltage required by your device and the current (in amps) provided by the charger is the same or higher than the current your device requires. For many mods and devices, the charging cables are just basic USB cables, which have standard power ratings and are basically interchangeable.
However, for some devices – especially vape pens and cigalikes – different chargers may have different ratings, so it’s much better to stick to the manufacturer’s recommended one.
7 – Don’t Leave Your Battery Charging Unattended
Out of the 214 explosions recorded by EcigOne, 79 (about 37 %) occurred during charging. Although using the wrong charger could easily have been a factor, overcharging also plays a part in this.
Most electronic devices stop charging when they’re done. But this safeguard isn’t always reliable, so it’s best to remove the battery from the power when you notice it’s finished. If you’re charging overnight, you can’t do this, so if the safeguard fails your battery could end up overcharged. In most cases everything will be fine, but it’s still better avoided.
Additionally, if there’s a problem during charging, you need to be awake and alert so you can deal with the situation. This is why you shouldn’t leave your batteries charging unattended.
8 – Make Sure You’re Operating Within Your Battery’s Limits
As mentioned in point 2, the maximum continuous discharge rating tells you how many amps you can safely draw from your battery. When you’re vaping, this means making sure your power setting and coil keep you in the safe range.
The best tool to use to work out if you’re in the safe range of your battery is Steam Engine’s battery drain calculator. First you choose unregulated (mechanical) or regulated (mods with variable wattage, temperature control e.t.c.), and then enter all of the information requested. There are “battery presets” that already contain they key information for most batteries used for vaping, but it’s worth double-checking this, especially for less common batteries.
The “battery voltage” field is for the remaining voltage in your battery (not the voltage displayed on your mod’s screen). This is 4.2 V for a fully charged battery, and decreases as you run down the charge. You should ideally recharge batteries when they reach 3.7 V, but many devices allow you to check your remaining voltage directly, and it will likely get lower than this before your mod makes you recharge.
The crucial thing to remember is that the current you draw increases as your remaining charge drops on a regulated mod. Mathematically, current = wattage / voltage, for a regulated device. So if you’re close to the limit for your battery (displayed in the “battery drain” section on Steam Engine), make sure you don’t let your charge level get too low.
For an unregulated mechanical mod, you still use the remaining battery voltage, but the equation is current = voltage / resistance, and the main thing you need to be careful about is your coil’s resistance.
In both cases, the best idea is to get a battery that can safely provide at least 20 A, especially if you’ll be vaping “sub ohm.”
9 – Don’t Let Your Charge Level Get Too Low
Recharging before your battery completely drains maximizes its lifespan. As pointed out in the previous section, batteries with less remaining charge will also need to provide more current to meet your wattage setting too. For both of these reasons it’s better to recharge your batteries at about 40 % remaining battery life (3.6 to 3.7 V) rather than waiting for your mod to tell you to recharge it. You’re protected anyway, but it’s good practice regardless.
10 – Stay On Alert for Signs of Problems
If you follow the tips in this post, you’re unlikely to run into problems with your battery, but one final point is to stay on alert for signs of issues. The biggest thing to look out for is your battery heating up. If it gets hot, then that’s a big sign of an issue (although the side closest to your atomizer can get a bit warm in ordinary use). Similarly, look out for any swelling of the battery, because this is another sign it could be overheating or experiencing a short. If either of these occur, move the battery away from anything flammable, and preferably outside if the problem is serious.
You should also stay on the lookout for simpler things like your battery’s wrapping becoming damaged or any dents on your battery or mod. Any damage like this increases the risk of an issue, so you should ideally replace the battery.
Conclusion: Don’t Panic, But Be Sensible
We can’t stress enough that your battery probably won’t explode on you. However, all batteries do carry some risks, and even though it isn’t likely, it’s essential that you take these simple steps to make sure you stay safe while you’re vaping.
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