We recently had a question from a client about power safety in electronics- and it’s not a wonder with some of the recent news stories  out there.  HP is doing a massive battery recall from unexplained fires, video of a Dell Inspiron lithium battery sparking has made news around the country, not to mention all those Galaxy 7’s that caught fire prompting a massive recall of the product.  In this technology-driven world, are we safe when using and charging our electronics?

While we all know that news tends to exploit extremes, it’s important to note that the issues we’re hearing about affect a VERY SMALL percentage of the electronics in use having issues.  HP and Dell sell millions of laptops yearly, and the documented cases where power issues have been experienced with their systems is less than 1%.  However small the risk, it’s important to note some of the easy things you can do to minimize these problems, and ensure longer life and safety for your devices.

  1. Use A Surge Protector.  Using a good surge protector, or battery backup backup device to charge your devices helps protect your devices from harm.  Not only does it protect your device from spikes in the power line from the power company, but good ones can stop power when it senses power problems with the electronic itself.  Getting a good surge protector from a known brand name helps to insure that quality control measures were taken into account when the device was manufactured.  While they’re usually more expensive, they lessen the chance that you’ll have a faulty device.  What’s a good name to consider?  Look for Belkin or APC.  Going on vacation, or need something for a tight space….we love these portable surge protectors!
  2. Use Quality Chargers and Batteries.  We’ve talked before about the importance of using brand name Apple chargers, and while after-market or non-brand name products aren’t always bad, there’s usually a huge price difference between the brand ones and knock-offs.  Why?  Like with surge protectors mentioned above, many times the companies who cut costs by using lesser-quality parts don’t have the same quality control, and using that bad product could do damage to your devices.  Protect yourself by buying replacement batteries and charging cables from trusted, quality retailers (avoid the Dollar Store or Five Below for cables and car chargers), and discontinue use if it seems hot to the touch or if the battery on a laptop seems to swell or expand.  If purchasing for Apple devices, make sure the packaging says MFi Certified- meaning the manufacturer has complied with the developer to make sure it is safe to use.
  3. Practice Smart Battery Tips.  Battery life varies based on the type of battery you’re using.  Personally, my laptop is always on, plugged in and charging, 24/7.  Despite that, once a week or so, I usually disconnect it from the power cord and let the battery run for a while.  Why?  While it’s completely safe to keep a laptop plugged in all of the time, it isn’t the best for the battery, meaning over time it could shorten it’s lifespan.  Periodically relying on that battery (and unplugging it from the power source), lets it use some of the battery and help encourage a longer life.  Often times a device will ship from the factory and say “fully charge before first use”, despite shipping with a minimal charge to begin with.  Trust me….it’s OH so temping to use it straight out of the box….but consider holding off for a few hours and charge it up.  Again- it’s not unsafe to begin using it right away, it’s just better for the lifespan of the battery to charge it before the first use.

In today’s world, we have become so reliant on the technology and devices around us, that we often forget about how to best care for our devices as safely as possible.  Think about all of your chargers in your home: where they’re plugged into, what cords you’re using to charge them, and how old that surge protector or power strip is behind the bed.  Use the tips above to do a quick search of your home and identify any changes you need to make; not only will your local fire department thank you, but you just might save your device too!