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Mitigating risks of Lithium-Ion battery usage in strata properties

Lithium-ion batteries are rechargeable power sources used in electronic devices such as laptops, mobile phones, e-bikes, e-scooters, power banks and power tools. When used appropriately, these batteries don't represent additional risk, however, when they are not maintained, misused, or not charged correctly, incidents of fire and even explosions have been well publicised in the media space.

While these batteries offer convenience and portability, it's essential to handle them with care and maintain them in accordance with manufacturer's instructions. Referring to a qualified electronics experts or familiarising yourself with any user manual is key to minimising any Lithium-ion battery related incidents.

As recently as 30th January 2024, a North Carolina resident was unable to obtain a replacement battery and therefore attempted to change the battery themselves, but the battery short-circuited and exploded resulting in a house fire (1).

Closer to home, on 19 Jan 2024, a unit fire at North Bondi, in Sydney's Eastern Suburbs, was sparked by a faulty Lithium-ion battery. The four people within the unit were luckily awoken by the explosion and evacuated. Fourteen other residents of neighbouring units were also evacuated. Fire and Rescue NSW investigations have established that an e-bike battery was left on-charge in a bedroom and ignited.(2)

This article will provide important tips on how to safely use and maintain lithium-ion batteries to minimise the risk of accidents and to maximise their lifetime. You can also download our Fact Sheet on mitigating risk of lithium battery usage in strata properties.

Quality Matters:

Always purchase lithium-ion batteries from reputable manufacturers and authorised dealers. Inferior quality batteries may lack essential safety features and can pose a higher risk of malfunction or failure. For permanent battery installations like solar panel battery banks, do not compromise on quality by engaging anyone other than suitably qualified, certified contractors.

Avoid Extreme Temperatures:

Lithium-ion batteries should not be exposed to temperature extremes. Avoid exposing them to high temperatures such as leaving them in direct sunlight and/or outside, or areas prone to high temperature build up such as vehicles, cluttered storage spaces, etc. This can lead to thermal runaway & a condition where the battery overheats and poses a fire hazard. Similarly, extreme cold temperatures and areas with condensation, excessive humidity, or water should be avoided.

Avoid cheap or counterfeit chargers:

Use only the provided or recommended chargers for your devices. Avoid cheap or counterfeit chargers, as they may not have the necessary safety features. Overcharging can also lead to a safety risk, so unplug your devices once they are fully charged.

Safe Charging Practices:

Charge your devices in well-ventilated areas and avoid covering them with fabrics or other insulating materials. This will help dissipate heat during the charging process and reduce the risk of overheating. Always charge your batteries and devices on hard surfaces as opposed to soft material surfaces such as linen, carpets or other soft floor coverings or similar. Do not leave devices charging for longer than they need to, overnight or if you leave your place of residence. Most manufacturers recommended unplugging them once they reach a full charge. Continuous charging at 100% can contribute to a shorter battery lifespan over time.

Utilise a Battery Management System:

It is recommended that lithium batteries that support renewable energy systems such as solar panels utilise a Battery Management System to monitor cell voltage, currents, temperatures and assist in avoiding a potential thermal runaway incident. The Battery Management System (BMS) should be installed and maintained to manufacturer specifications in an optimal location away from direct sunlight, with good ventilation and free from potential hazards.

Regular Inspections:

Periodically check your devices and batteries for any signs of damage, such as swelling or leakage. Cease using the devices should they show any characteristics out of the ordinary, such as overheating, erratic flashing of charging lights or physical damage. If you notice any abnormalities, stop using the device immediately and replace the battery.

Storage Guidelines:

If you need to store lithium-ion batteries for an extended period, ensure they are partially charged (around 40-60%). Store them in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.

Dispose of Old Batteries Properly:

Responsible disposal of failed or redundant batteries is essential for the entire community. Just like you wouldn't dispose of chemicals, paints or other flammable items in your household waste, nor should you dispose of lithium batteries in that manner. Many local recycling centres or electronic retailers offer battery recycling programs to ensure environmentally friendly disposal.

Stay Informed:

Keep up to date on any product recalls or safety notices related to your devices and batteries. Manufacturers may release updates or recalls addressing potential safety concerns.

By following these tips, you can enjoy the convenience of lithium-ion batteries while minimising safety risks. Being proactive about battery safety not only protects you and your property but also contributes to the responsible and sustainable use of technology.

Download our Lithium-Ion battery Fact Sheet