See all our prevention tips

Risks associated with lithium batteries

Published on June 27, 2024


They're everywhere and essential to our daily lives. They’re in everything from cordless drills, TV remotes to cell phones. What are they? You guessed it, lithium batteries. They power countless devices. Unfortunately, their skyrocketing use is a potential hazard to you and your home. The more you use them, the greater the risk of fire. Find out what you can do to prevent it.

Types of batteries

Lithium. Rechargeable. Alkaline. Can you tell the difference between each type of batteries?

Since lithium batteries last longer than alkaline batteries, they are often used in energy vampire devices.

There are two types of lithium batteries: non-rechargeable and rechargeable. Also known as lithium-ion batteries, rechargeables contain at least 2 cells.

They too pose a greater risk of fire.

A few statistics

Are the risks associated with lithium batteries being exaggerated? Not according to statistics from Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services. Between 2016 and 2022, the rate of fires caused by these types of batteries rose 500%.

The chemical reaction that occurs while they’re on fire also complicates things. As for the damage they cause, it's often major.

When are lithium batteries a risk?

Let’s start with the basics. Always keep batteries out of the reach of babies and toddlers. Batteries are not something they should be putting in their mouths. All batteries are dangerous when swallowed.

Never use lithium batteries:

  • that are pierced or crushed
  • that suffered an impact, hard blow or accidental contact with a metallic object
  • that have manufacturing defects
  • in extreme temperatures
  • that overheat
  • that fail to charge appropriately
  • that overload

In prevention mode

Are lithium batteries safe? Yes, as long as you use them correctly:

Inspect them before use. Do not use them when they are bulging or dented, or when liquid has leaked out.

  • Consult the manufacturer's instructions, even when the batteries appear to be in good condition.
  • Avoid inserting mismatched batteries into a device.

When charging

  • When choosing a charger, look for models with CSA, cUL or cETL certification. This guarantees that they are safe to use in Canada.
  • Use a charger that is in good condition and, above all, compatible with your batteries. This avoids the risk of overloading.
  • Store your batteries and the devices that contain them in temperature-controlled areas. Extreme heat or cold is rarely good for batteries. This can cause fires or explosions.
  • Never attempt to recharge non-rechargeable batteries. You must dispose of them at a recycling centre.
  • Before charging batteries, make sure there are no flammable materials nearby. Overheating during charging can cause a fire.
  • Avoid leaving battery-powered devices unattended near heat-retaining surfaces such as pillows or beds.
  • Charge your batteries only after they have cooled down. Do not exceed the recommended charging time.

When storing

  • Keep your batteries in their original packaging or in a non-metal container.
  • Avoid short-circuits by storing them in a cool place away from other metal objects.
  • Keep away from fire, water, corrosive liquids (e.g. cleaning products) and flammable substances.
  • Handle your lithium batteries and devices with care. Dropping, crushing and shaking them can cause unexpected reactions.

The art of battery disposal

There’s no way around it. Sooner or later, you'll have to dispose of lithium batteries, rechargeable or not. Recycling old electronics is not a waste of time. However, there is a right way to do it.

The best place to dispose of them at a drop-off location. To find the location nearest you, go to Call2Recycle or your city’s website.

This small, seemingly trivial gesture actually reduces the risk of discarded or recycled batteries being crushed, catching fire or exploding.

The best protection

In addition to these few preventive tips about lithium batteries, your best protection is home insurance personalized to your needs.