Over the last few years pressure from the Right to Repair movement has increased, pushing tech companies to expand their restrictive repair policies, and many have conceded. Tech giants like Apple, Google and Microsoft have each announced one version or another of self-repair kits, enabling users to repair their own devices from the comfort of their homes. The problem is, battery fires are becoming increasingly common, and so are the risks of people setting their kitchen tables on fire.
The most common battery fires are from Lithium Ion batteries, which are known to catch fire or combust when damaged. At materials recovery facilities (MRFs) there are trained professionals that know how to safely handle and remove batteries, but at home users are typically limited to a screwdriver and tweezers. By encouraging consumers to repair their own devices without the knowledge or training to do so, self repair kits have doubled the risk of potential fires at home. Lithium Ion batteries are in ninety percent of technology nowadays, and it is not advisable to try removing them on your own. However, if you are considering taking the plunge, there are some methods of prevention you can take to make the experience safer, as well as actions to take if a battery fire occurs.
First and foremost, anyone attempting repairs at home should wear safety glasses, especially when removing or installing Lithium Ion batteries. Before you begin any battery maintenance, it is critical to make sure your workspace is clutter free and no other electronics or combustible materials are nearby to prevent a chain reaction. It is also best not to handle LIBs over a carpeted area.
During device maintenance, special care must be taken never to puncture or bend a battery at a sharp angle, as any damage could start a fire. If a battery fire does occur during self repair, or if you feel the battery heating up at all, put it down immediately. Wait until the fire is extinguished and the battery has cooled to handle it again.
It is important to note that because LIB battery fires are the result of a chemical reaction, they are more difficult to extinguish. Small LIBs can be doused with water, or a Class D fire extinguisher. For larger battery fires, it is best to use a foam extinguisher, CO2, ABC dry chemical, powder graphite, copper powder or sodium carbonate. If the fire cannot be extinguished, and it’s in a controlled setting, the safest option is to let it burn out on its own.
When you are done with repairs, do not throw them in the trash. IT asset disposition facilities like HOBI have trained professionals who collect old electronics, including batteries, and recycle them in an eco-friendly manner. This ensures that the battery is not taken to a landfill to further contaminate the environment.