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Lithium Polymer batteries have absolutely transformed the RC hobby on every level possible, and without doubt, has made the greatest positive impact when it comes to our RC hobby. From amazing power to extended run time, LiPo batteries continue to improve with ultra fast charge times, better quality and cycle life, and best of all, reduced pricing.
However, when it comes to LiPo battery safety, it's paramount that you take the extra precaution when using LiPo based batteries, as misuse, abuse and negligence can equate to fire, property damage, injury, or in the most extreme of cases, death. Simply put, LiPo safety is worth your effort.
When push comes to shove, LiPo battery fires are not the norm, and in 99.9% of all cases, they are due to negligence by the end user. Modern day LiPo batteries are stable and well built, and when used with modern day LiPo battery chargers that utilize multiple built in safety features, a LiPo failure that results in a fire is pretty darn rare.
However, fires still happen, and we have seen several hobbyists damage their homes, burn down their garages, and even burn down their homes in entirety. And in every such instance, even if the most rudimentary safety precaution would have been taken, the damage would have been limited to a battery that probably costed $50.00, versus a destroyed home in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. In short, don't be that guy.
So, below is a breakdown of precautions and info on LiPo battery safety. And even though it's not nearly as interesting as reading about the latest & greatest RC wonder, we can assure you that the info noted is worth a look - even if you already feel like you're being safe & cautious.
Charging In Your Home or Garage - A Really Bad Idea.
We know it's super convenient when it comes to charging your LiPo batteries, but charging inside your home or garage is a very bad idea, as any home or garage is full of combustible material. And if a rare LiPo fire occurs, secondary fires are highly likely, which can propagate into a full house fire. Garages are even worse, as most garages are packed full of combustible materials, along with fire's happy friend, gasoline.
We have seen several customers burn up their garages and homes by choosing to charge in these areas, equating to massive levels of property damage, not to mention the risk they placed with themselves and their family members. It's a terrible way to learn, and the risks simply do not add up.
If you can avoid charging in your home or garage, do it - it's the ultra easy way to prevent a LiPo fire turning into an all out epic disaster.
Never Leave Your LiPo Charger Alone - Seriously, Never.
This is a big one, and has been one of the main contributors of fires that have taken place in the RC hobby. And since the vast majority of LiPo fires occur while charging, it's a super terrible idea to ever leave your charger all on its own during the charging cycle.
We have seen hobbyists charge their batteries while away from their home, and hobbyists that charged LiPo batteries while sleeping. To be blunt, this is incredibly stupid - and that's being massively generous. If you are charging any LiPo based battery, do not leave your charger, or at the ultra bare minimum, be very close to your charger while checking on it often to make sure everything looks okay.
Anytime you leave a LiPo battery on charge by itself is tempting fate, and since fate is known to pull some serious jerk moves, it's best to take the extra precaution necessary and keep close tabs on your charger while your LiPo is being topped off.
Never Charge or Use a Crashed / Damaged LiPo Battery - Ever.
Let's face it. Some LiPo batteries can be a bit pricey, and losing one to a crash is serious painful. But, if the battery shows signs of damage (deformed cells, punctures, swelling, heat or voltage issues), trying to use or charge this battery is asking for a less than ideal campfire moment that can destroy your charger or aircraft, or worst of all, start secondary fires that can ruin your day, week or year. Honestly; try to justify a new RC purchase with your better half after burning down her house. I'll save you the suspense - it won't go well.
If you damage a battery in a crash and the battery shows some obvious signs of damage, count it as a goner. It is not worth risking your aircraft, charger, home or safety to hold onto a damaged battery after a crash. And since the likelihood of the battery going thermonuclear melt down on you, dispose of it safely with a salt water bath to deplete the battery of voltage so it can be safely disposed of.
In short, a damaged battery is just not worth the risk.
Use LiPo Safety Gear - It's Cheap & Easy.
Charging and storing your LiPo batteries is easier than ever with multiple LiPo safety devices available today. When charging, LiPo safe bags are a great way to contain any potential fire that takes place. These bags are lined with a fire resistant material that will suppress any fire that occurs, thus making sure the only victims equate to the battery and the LiPo bag that just contained the fire.
Want more? You can step it up a notch with a product like the BAT-SAFE, which is a metal container with vent holes that add even greater fire protection if the worst takes place. This type of product is an excellent device to add some of the best protection you can buy when it comes to using LiPo batteries.
Don't want to spend the cash? Something as basic as a cinder block makes a great containment device, or a surplus ammo can does the job nicely as well. In the end, one of these simple means of protection are the cheapest insurance you can buy, making charging that much more safe.
Store LiPo Batteries Safely - Ultra Important.
Not using your LiPo batteries right now? If they are sitting pretty in your closet as they await your next RC adventure, you are asking for massive trouble - burn your house down, blazing inferno trouble. If you're not using your LiPo batteries, they need to be stored in a location where they cannot cause trouble if a fire occurred. Outside is a good place - preferably in a cool, sheltered area that is free of combustible material. Further, storing your batteries in a LiPo safe container is crucial, as this will add the necessary layer of protection if the worst takes place.
Simply put, call it ultra cheap insurance, as storing your LiPo batteries in any area that offers the chance of secondary fires is begging for a really bad day - especially if you're not using some type of LiPo safe containment device. And even if you take the extra step of a LiPo safe bag or some type of BAT-SAFE device, this is not license to store the batteries in your garage, closet or office. These devices will help suppress a fire if one were to occur, but you certainly don't want something like this as your only line of defense.
Charge & Use With Care - Lot's Of It.
When charging your LiPo batteries, it's paramount that a dedicated LiPo battery charger is used, and even more important, it's crucial that the correct settings are inputted based upon the batteries that are being charged. Things such as cell count, mAh, amperage rate and more are massively important when inputting the correct data for charging your batteries. And even though your LiPo charger has multiple safety systems built in to protect against errors, don't depend upon these systems to save your bacon.
It's always best to make sure that all the settings are properly set corresponding to the battery you want to charge, and since most chargers allow the end user to set the proper amperage to charge, make 100% sure you are setting the proper amperage for the battery at hand. And if you don't know the exact specifics that need to be inputted, don't guess - always ask!
On the flip side, be sure to care for your batteries properly by not over discharging them, damaging them, storing them at full charge, etc. Follow all the proper guidelines of LiPo care to make sure your batteries have a safe & happy life, which will add even greater levels of safety & protection when it comes to the possibilities of fire.
Also, be careful when it comes to parallel & serial charging, as these methods increase the risk greatly when it comes to overcharging LiPo batteries, which can result in battery failure & fire. Many people use parallel & serial charging to charge multiple batteries at once, but we honestly don't recommend it.
Solder LiPo Batteries - Carefully.
When soldering LiPo batteries, you are dealing with bare leads that can potentially short out, if not careful. A direct short with a LiPo battery is bad in many ways, as it usually wounds the pack, compromising its useful life for the future. Further, this damage has the potential of the battery catching fire, and even though this is rare, it has happened before.
So, when soldering your LiPo battery, always keep the bare power lead that's not being soldered covered and protected, and be mindful of any bare wires during the soldering process. And if the worst takes place and your battery shorts out, as much as we hate to say it, we would suggest the battery be counted as done for. It's just not worth the risk.
Storing & Charging Your LiPo Battery In Your Aircraft - No Go.
If you're not using your aircraft, storing your battery within is just a bad idea, as it is not being protected by any fire resistant material. Even further, if the battery failed and a fire occurred, your model is toast - a real kick in the teeth considering many RC aircraft are far and above a pretty penny's value.
Same goes for charging your battery inside your model - you're just begging for it at this point, because more often than not, most LiPo fires occur during the charging phase, and your RC aircraft will take the full brunt of the abuse if your LiPo fails in epic style.
Storing Your Batteries In Your Car - Bad Idea.
Flame paint job on your car? Cool. Flames consuming your car? Not cool at all. Obviously you see where this is going, but we have seen this happen before, and it's just a bad idea. Considering there is plenty of combustible material inside your car, your once cool ride can be transformed to a heap of smoking rubble in short order if a LiPo fire were to occur. And if your car is parked in your garage? Ouch. You get the picture.
As with the above lines of warnings, storing LiPo batteries (even for a short while) in your car is a super terrible idea - especially since most cars have several gallons of gasoline in close proximity to add some serious flamage to the mix. And when transporting LiPo batteries, do so with a LiPo carry bag or battery safe setup. This will save you from a real headache and a not so fun insurance claim with your true to life "hot wheels."
LiPo Safety - Final Thoughts.
If you've read this entire blog and are now petrified of the lurking potential of your LiPo batteries, don't be. LiPo fires do happen, but they are quite rare. And if you follow the basic guidelines above, you will save yourself from heaps of frustration and stress, making your LiPo experience what it should be - convenient, safe & fun.
As with anything in life, a bit of safety & common sense goes a long ways, so don't fear your LiPo batteries, and don't spend your every waking moment concerned that a LiPo fire is just a moment away. Safety & precaution pay massive dividends, and since LiPo fires are rare, the only LiPo fire you may ever witness is after you lawn dart your beloved model into the ground at epic speed. After that, a fire may be in order to finish the poor thing off. Then again, you may want to extinguish the flames - just sounds safer.
Interested In Some LiPo Safe Products?
Check out some of the great products below to help keep your belongings safe when it comes to the possibility of LiPo related fires. Honestly - it's the cheapest, easiest form of LiPo protection and is totally worth your investment.
LiPo Safe Bag
An excellent way to protect yourself, a LiPo Safe Bag can be used while batteries are charging, preventing a LiPo fire from propagating and causing secondary fires. LiPo Safe Bags can also be used to store LiPo batteries, but must be careful when doing so, as even a bag such as this can only contain so much thermal energy if multiple LiPo batteries are stored within. If using as a LiPo storage device, be sure to store in a locale that is free from any combustible materials if a fire were to occur.
BAT-SAFE LiPo Battery Charging Box
Specifically designed to contain the thermal energy of a LiPo fire, the BAT-SAFE is a metal box with vent holes and fire resistant material within that allows the user to safely charge and store LiPo batteries. Utilizing double steel insulated walls with a fiberglass and steel wool filter, this BAT-SAFE box stops the flames and filters the intense levels of smoke when a LiPo fire occurs, offering the maximum levels of safety if a LiPo fire were to occur. Of course, we do not recommend having combustible materials close by with this device, nor do we recommend using this device as storage within a home or garage. This is simply a recommendation for maximum safety & caution.
BAT-SAFE X-Large LiPo Battery Charging Box
Building on the same technology and design as the smaller BAT-SAFE above, the BAT-SAFE X-Large version is just that - a much larger container designed to store many LiPo batteries in a safe & sound fashion. This product offers excellent protection from the thermal energy of multiple batteries in one locale, along with the intense levels of smoke that also occurs when a LiPo fire takes place. Although this system is designed to completely absorb the energy of a LiPo fire, we still don't recommend storing LiPo batteries in your home or garage when using this device as a simple matter of abundant precaution.