“Buy Safe, Charge Safe” urges woman, after cheap replacement battery explodes in her home

A woman in Lichfield who bought a cheap lithium-ion battery which later exploded in her home is urging people to Buy Safe, Charge Safe, this Christmas.

The woman, who we’re calling Lucy for the purpose of this case study, looked online to replace the battery which had died in her vacuum cleaner.

After shopping around for the best deal, she and her husband were left shocked by the prices that some of the replacement batteries were going for.

Lucy recounts: "All I can remember thinking is how expensive all these different replacements were. There were so many of them, some that were genuine and some that weren't, that were selling for over £65, which seemed really expensive.

"Eventually, we came across one for under £30. It was third-party, but it was advertised as being compatible with our particular model, which was good enough for us.

"The fact that almost all of the reviews were five-star also inspired us both with confidence.

"At that price, it seemed too good to turn down."

However, rather than being too good to turn down, the replacement battery ended up proving too good to be true.

Lucy continues: "I decided to try out the vacuum cleaner with the new battery in our bedroom. It seemed fine at first and I remember thinking what a bargain we'd managed to get.
"But within minutes, I could feel it getting very hot very quickly. Then I noticed thick, black smoke coming out of it, alongside this awful burning smell.

"Then came the flames, which I can still picture now, melting the vacuum's plastic casing.

"I was in a total state of shock and horror. I couldn't understand how this harmless domestic appliance had turned into a fireball in front of my very eyes.

"My first thought was to get it out of the house. In a panic, I threw it out of the bedroom window onto the patio.

"I hurried out, but by the time I got into the back garden, the vacuum cleaner was completely ablaze.

"I called the fire service, as it just wouldn't go out.

"Then it exploded."

Lucy has kindly shared with us some images of the vacuum cleaner, just after it had exploded.

She admits that she is extremely lucky to have avoided serious injury. However, there have been many cases in recent months where victims have not been so lucky. Faulty lithium-ion batteries have caused deaths and life-changing injuries, whilst devastating homes, families and communities.

That is why we are urging people to be aware of the significant risks to life that faulty lithium-ion batteries can have.

Remember, just because a battery is advertised as being compatible, that does not necessarily mean that it is genuine, nor that it is safe. 

Only purchase batteries from reputable retailers and online sellers, even if it costs more. It could be the difference which stops you from falling victim to a fatal fire.

You should also check your battery regularly for any signs of damage. This should especially be done if the battery or device has been dropped or damaged in some way. Even if you think there is a slight chance that your battery is damaged, you should not use or charge it, and you must replace it immediately.

For the five simple checks you can do on your battery, just remember SANTA:

Smoke - Is smoke coming out of your device or battery?
Aroma- Is there a strong or unusual smell coming from the battery?
Noise- Can you hear your battery hissing or cracking? Is your device making any other unusual sounds?
Temperature- Does your device or battery feel extremely hot to touch? 
Appearance- Does the battery look swollen? Has it drastically changed shape?
If you notice any of the above, you must immediately:

  • Turn off the device
  • Unplug it from the power source
  • Call the device manufacturer or retailer for further instructions.

In the event of smoke or fire coming from your device, you must:

  • Raise the alarm
  • Vacate the building
  • Call 999.

Sarah Smith, station manager at Rugeley & Cannock Community Fire Stations, said: "Lucy's distressing story highlights all too well the very real dangers of faulty lithium-ion batteries.

"By her own admission, it could have been a lot worse. A cheap deal is not always the best deal and you can’t put a price on fire safety.

"I would also like to reiterate the importance of remembering SANTA. Lucy was able to immediately sense that the battery wasn't right after it started smoking, giving off an unusual aroma and increasing in temperature.

"Recognising the signs and taking swift action might well have saved her life, and it could save yours too.

"I cannot say it enough: please Buy Safe and Charge Safe."

For more information and guidance on how you can Buy Safe and Charge Safe, please read: Communities urged to Buy Safe, Charge Safe this Christmas (staffordshirefire.gov.uk) 

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In an emergency call 999. General enquiries call 0300 330 1000.