One of the greatest benefits of vaping that many people never think about is the fact that, by switching from smoking to vaping, you’re switching to a form of nicotine consumption that presents a significantly lower fire risk. In the United States alone, smoking causes more than 18,000 fires per year. Those fires result in an average of 590 yearly deaths and $476 million in property damage. Vaping, on the other hand, doesn’t require lighting something on fire and therefore has a dramatically lower fire risk.
Note, however, that we didn’t say vaping has no fire risk. Vaping involves the use of at least one powerful lithium-ion battery, and lithium-ion battery fires do happen occasionally. They’re rare, but they can cause as much damage as cigarette-related fires when they do occur.
Here’s the good news: While vape battery fires can happen, using your vape batteries safely can almost completely eliminate the risk of a fire happening to you. If you want to live The Vape Life to the fullest possible extent, you need to know that you’re treating your batteries right – so let’s make sure you’re doing that. This is your ultimate guide to using vape batteries safely.
The most common reason why vaping devices overheat and start fires is because they’re charged improperly – most commonly with USB wall adapters designed to charge smartphones and tablets quickly.
With phones and tablets, you’ve probably noticed that the makers of those devices often mention their “quick charging” abilities in the marketing materials. A phone, for instance, might be able to give you a few hours of talk time after being connected to the charger for just a few minutes. The reason why today’s mobile devices can charge so quickly is because their chargers use very high currents – and the batteries of those devices can support those higher currents.
Vaping devices, on the other hand, typically require low-amperage charging in order to maintain stable battery temperatures. For that reason, you should never charge a vaping device with a mobile phone or tablet charger and should only charge it through your computer.
The second most common reason why fires occur with vaping batteries is because they’re carried improperly – most often in pockets. You may have carried disposable alkaline batteries in your pocket before, but you should never do that with vaping batteries because lithium-ion batteries are significantly more powerful than alkaline batteries.
Moreover, the battery’s entire metal outer enclosure is conductive. Only a thin plastic wrapper protects the battery’s enclosure, and it’s very easy to tear the wrapper. Almost any metal object can do it – particularly the keys and spare change that you also carry in your pocket. Coming into contact with other metal items can cause a lithium-ion battery to short circuit, creating the very real possibility of a violent fire in your pocket. If you want to travel with extra batteries for your vape mod, place the batteries in a dedicated plastic carrier that keeps them completely isolated from other objects.
If this article has inspired you to search online for information about vaping battery fires and explosions that have happened in the past, you’ve probably seen some truly horrifying stories about vaping devices that have exploded in people’s faces. Those devices were mechanical mods. A mechanical mod is a vaping device that has no internal electronic components. It’s simply a container with threading on one end and a button on the other end. You put a battery inside the tube and complete the circuit by pressing the button. In that moment, the battery activates.
When the first mechanical mods were invented, people used tanks and atomizers that were significantly less powerful than those used today. In those days, a “low-resistance” atomizer might have a resistance of about 1.5 ohms. Today, though, a high-end vape tank might have a coil resistance of 0.15 ohms. That’s a huge draw on the battery, which is why the electronic vape mods that you find in vape shops automatically check for short circuits and other conditions that might be unsafe.
If a regulated vape mod detects a problem, it won’t activate. Mechanical mods have no safety features, and they really have no place with today’s extremely demanding vape tanks and rebuildable atomizers. Unless you understand battery safety intimately and are prepared to take responsibility for your own safety, you shouldn’t use a mechanical mod.
Earlier in the article, we mentioned the importance of a lithium-ion battery’s plastic outer wrapper. The plastic covers the battery’s metal enclosure, which is important because the entire enclosure is conductive. If a metal object touches a battery’s positive terminal while also touching any part of the battery’s side, that’s a short circuit, and a fire could potentially occur.
If your vaping device has a metal interior – and you insert a battery with a torn wrapper – a short circuit could potentially occur. Therefore, you should never use a battery if the wrapper is torn. It is possible to remove and replace a battery’s outer wrapper – and if you don’t know how to do that, you can probably get help at a local vape shop or even a hobby shop. Until you do that, you should stop using the battery.
Other forms of visible battery damage such as denting and bulging are extremely severe problems. If you have a battery that’s visibly deformed, you should retire and recycle it immediately. Physical damage to a battery’s enclosure will cause permanent chemical changes within the battery and can ultimately lead to an internal short circuit.
The last thing you need to know about vape battery safety is that you should never charge your batteries while you’re sleeping or away from home. Even under the best of circumstances – and with the highest-quality batteries – there is a small chance that any rechargeable battery can overheat and catch fire while it’s charging.
If you notice that a battery feels hot or emits a strange smell, you need to stop the charging process immediately before the battery enters thermal runaway – and if thermal runaway does occur, acting quickly with a fire extinguisher can prevent property damage or injury.