Our insurer partner Aviva is urging consumers to be on their guard after seeing a 7% increase in customer claims over the past year for fires started by lithium-ion batteries, commonly found in rechargeable devices like mobile phones, tablets, power tools, e-bikes, and e-scooters.

The data, which looks at fire claims across 2022 and 2023, includes a significant house fire started by an e-cigarette being charged with an incompatible charger, extensive fire damage to a house after an e-bike with a second-hand battery was left charging unattended in a bedroom, a phone which exploded during charging after getting wet, an annexe which was destroyed by fire after batteries were left charging unattended, and fire in a garage after a faulty charger was used to charge a remote control car.

This trend in claims is also highlighted in additional research commissioned by the insurer which reveals that one in 9 Brits  have suffered a fire (11%) or explosion (11%) in their home due to a lithium-ion battery or device. Almost one in 10 (9%) have experienced scorching of a surface where a lithium-ion battery or device was charging, and two in 10 (20%) have a battery or device which has overheated.

Aviva’s top tips for staying safe around lithium-ion batteries:

Proper care of lithium-ion batteries and devices can help extend the life of the battery and reduce the risk of battery fires.

  • Use the original battery for the device or a manufacturer recommended battery if a replacement is needed. Using non-compatible batteries can cause the battery to fail and can be a fire risk.
  • Monitor the condition of the battery or device. Check for damage including bulging, dents, or signs of overheating. If you notice any damage, stop using the device immediately and replace the battery.
  • Learn the signs that a lithium-ion battery is about to fail. These include excessive heat, unusual smells, bulging batteries, leaking, unusual noises such as cracking or hissing and poor performance of a device.
  • Store batteries and devices safely. When not in use, store devices in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and flammable materials.
  • Ensure you have smoke alarms installed at your property. Early warning systems such as smoke alarms and heat alarms can alert you to fires before they become a serious threat to life.

Charging lithium-ion batteries and devices safely:

  • Always use manufacturer-approved chargers specifically designed for the device. Cheap or counterfeit chargers can be deadly as they may lack safety features and cause overcharging and overheating.
  • Avoid overcharging the battery. Disconnect your device when it is fully charged and unplug the charger. Leaving items on charge continuously, such as overnight while sleeping, can be a significant fire hazard.
  • Monitor batteries and devices while charging and don’t leave them unattended. There are numerous cases of fires starting while people are charging items in different rooms, sleeping, or have even left the house. Catching an overheating battery early can help reduce the risk of a serious fire or serious injury.
  • Charge batteries and devices in a safe location. Charge on a flat, non-flammable surface and avoid charging batteries or devices on soft surfaces such as beds, or close to flammable materials and hazardous substances. If a lithium-ion battery overheats, it can ignite flammable materials and cause a fire.
  • Never charge batteries or devices in hallways, doors or blocking escape routes. If there is a fire, you will need to be able to escape safely.
  • Inspect cables and connectors for signs of damage and wear. Replace any frayed or damaged components to prevent short-circuiting.
  • Do not charge lithium-ion batteries in high temperatures or in direct sunlight. High temperatures can cause the battery to overheat and is a fire risk.
  • Charge and store batteries in a fire-retardant box. A fire-retardant box will offer some protection if the battery or device overheats and catches fire, containing the explosion and helping towards preventing serious fire damage.
  • Teach children how to use and charge lithium-ion batteries and devices safely. Parental supervision while using and charging devices can help prevent unsafe practices, alongside charging items outside of bedrooms.

Source: Aviva