Limiting the risk of a lithium battery fire

How to limit the risk of a lithium battery fire in your home

Whether it’s your smartphone or laptop, e-bike or cordless drill, you most probably have at least one thing in your home that is powered by a lithium-ion battery.

Other common devices and products containing these chargeable batteries range from mobility scooters to e-cigarettes, smart watches and toys.

Lithium-ion batteries are small, light and powerful, and most of the time are used and charged safely by millions of people every day. 

Battery fire risk

However, lithium-ion batteries can cause a risk for an electrical fire in homes if they are damaged, or charged, stored or used incorrectly.

Counterfeit or second-hand batteries and chargers can also increase the risk of faults and fires.

A fire can develop within seconds, often without warning, and can be difficult to put out.

Fires linked to lithium-ion batteries in e-scooters and e-bikes in particular have quadrupled since 2020, killing eight people and injuring another 190. This has led some councils, hospitals and fire services to warn about the growing risk the batteries can pose.

However, there are simple things you can do to reduce the risk of a fire involving lithium-ion batteries in your home:

  • Use the original battery and charging equipment. If you need to replace a charger or a battery, don’t buy an alternative from an unofficial third-party provider, as this could potentially lead to dangerous overheating of the battery. Check for the CE or UKCA safety marking.
  • Follow the original manufacturer’s instructions, especially when charging or if there is a fault.
  • Don’t charge larger items such as e-scooters in bedrooms or where escape routes can be blocked, such as hallways. Instead, where possible, charge them in an outbuilding away from combustible materials such as wood, plastic, flammable liquids and gases.
  • Avoid charging batteries under beds and on sofas and don’t charge or leave devices in direct sunlight. 
  • Do not leave them charging while you are asleep or away from home and unplug the battery once fully charged.
  • A battery can become less stable with use or damage. So, if you drop your phone or crash your e-bike, for example, pay attention while it charges. Stop charging if it gets unusually hot and follow the original manufacturer’s instructions.  
  • Ensure any repairs, replacement of batteries or inspection is carried out by a repairer approved by the original equipment manufacturer.
  • Don’t forget about items like cordless power tools which you might not use often and may be stored in excessive heat. Their batteries may age and degrade and can easily catch fire.

By taking these precautions, and staying aware of the risks, you can continue to use these batteries in your everyday life.