Electronic charging devices: The fire risk

Image from http://www.electriciancourses4u.co.uk

Mobile electronic devices such as phones and laptops, have become the norm in today’s modern living. The ability to enclose sophisticated technology in small portable devices enhances our lives tenfold. We have become accustomed to these devices, carrying them around without much concern.

The first thing we do in the morning is take our phones off charge before beginning our day. The increase in portable devices in our home, brings an increased risk of fire, short circuiting and electric shock. Many tend to charge devices in a haphazard way, unbeknownst to the user. Problems include over-charging, using counterfeit chargers, and charging devices whilst in the bed.

The biggest risk is the availability of cheap knock-off chargers to the public.  Counterfeit chargers are available everywhere at a fraction of the price of the branded one. The problem with these chargers is that most have been wired using sub-standard components, in turn failing to meet the safety requirements of the UK Electrical Equipment Safety Regulations Act 1994.

Cheap chargers can be bought online with many purchased for individual use. Others are bought and mass distributed, ending up in stores around the country. So, why are we risking the lives of our families in order to save a few pounds? Many of us are blissfully unaware of the danger posed by counterfeit chargers.

Knock-off chargers are advertised as being compatible with several devices. However, why do you think these chargers are so cheap? Knock-off chargers can indeed charge your phone, but they can continue to charge the phone after it has fully charged, causing it to overheat. Unlike legit chargers which would cut off at this point.

Other problems include a lack of voltage filtering and a sub-standard circuit board. So yes, the reason these chargers are cheap is because safety has been compromised. Genuine product chargers carry their logo printed on the charger, not on a sticker, so don’t be fooled when purchasing.

Image from http://www.edmonton.ctvnews.ca

Genuine or fake, chargers can overheat if overcharged. Over-charging your devices, can not only degrade the life of the battery, but it can also cause overheating and the risk of fire.

An increasing number of fires in the home have been caused by charging devices. A house fire which killed five people in Sheffield was said to have been caused by a faulty phone charger, plugged into a socket in the living room. A family member spotted flames sparking by the sockets in the living room as she went to retrieve her phone.

A report from the British Consumer Safety Group has found that 63% of children and teenagers leave their phone to charge over-night, and thirty-eight percent say they keep their phone charging under their pillow while they sleep.

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The problems arise when the phone is left on your bed, laid out on the combustible surface, especially under your pillow. The heat generated cannot dissipate and the charger will become hotter and hotter. Likely resulting in the pillow and bedding catching fire. When charging your devices, make sure to place the charger and device on a cabinet or dresser.

We have grown to realise that it is wrong to leave a candle burning, or the stove lit, so why are we so complacent about our chargers. You should never priorities cost over life safety. Going for the cheaper option can cause you your life. Always use the charger that came with the device, as the branded charger is less likely to cause a fire.

Lastly, make sure your children are aware of the dangers that the improper use of chargers can pose. These are modern times. Our parents may not have had to deal with such hazards, but our children will continue to face these hazards in the future.

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