It is easy to find batteries thrown away in people’s homes, but most individuals do not know the dangers these items may pose. These fairly innocuous household items may pose a threat when handled carelessly. When storing these items, you might ask: Is it okay to keep batteries together in a box or drawer?
Batteries can catch fire but not from just being stored together. These batteries’ positive and negative terminals must connect with something metallic to complete the electric circuit. When the electric energy flows through the circuit, it builds up to produce heat, thus starting a fire.
This article will explain a few details related to this topic, including how batteries can start a fire, storing batteries safely, and the precautions one should take when storing batteries.
How Can Batteries Start a Fire?
Batteries can start a fire when an electric circuit is complete, allowing the flow of electrons on that circuit path, thus producing energy that manifests as heat. If you store your batteries incorrectly, you may risk a fire.
The laws of electricity are applicable in this situation. A battery has two terminals, the negative and the positive terminal. Thus, to produce electricity, these terminals must be connected to ensure the electrons flow from the positive to the negative terminal to create a balance (source).
For instance, if you have stored your batteries inappropriately in a drawer with coins or other metals, these conductors may connect the batteries’ positive and negative terminals.
Ultimately, it creates a complete electric circuit that generates electricity. Since metals are low resistance items, there will be an increased flow of current not used to power a specific item, such as a flashlight (source).
It produces energy, which heats the papers in the drawer or cotton wool, thus starting a fire in your house.
In other circumstances, you may leave the batteries aligned in a specific direction, thus leading to a fire hazard. For example, when you leave two batteries in a drawer with the positive terminal connected to the negative terminal of the second battery. If the second battery is connected to a coin or a good conductor, it completes the electric circuit.
Eventually, the energy flowing through the circuit will increase and produce high amounts of heat. This energy is sufficient to burn any combustible material close to the batteries, thus starting a fire.
How To Safely Store Batteries
One should adopt various measures to store batteries safely to avoid starting a fire. Let’s discuss these safety measures in detail.
Store the Batteries in Their Original Packaging
Storing the batteries in their primary packaging is imperative, primarily if you have used the batteries once. Single-used batteries have high amounts of chemical energy to produce electrical energy, releasing heat when connected to a circuit.
However, the batteries’ original packaging prevents the positive and negative terminals from connecting. Additionally, if you have lost this original packaging, you can use a box to store your batteries.
The main precaution you should take is that the positive and negative terminals should point in the same direction because they will repel each other (source).
Seal the Terminals Using a Masking Tape Before Storing
Many of us forget to check if conductors, such as metals exist in our storage drawers. Taping your battery terminals can also prevent your batteries from shifting around in your storage space.
Taping seals the positive and negative terminals to prevent them from connecting with the conductors and completing a circuit. Ultimately, it prevents fires from starting (source).
Place the Batteries Near Non-Conductible Materials
This method is suited for those who prefer storing their batteries in containers without sealing the terminals. Thus, one should ensure that the objects close to the batteries are non-conductible materials, such as rubber, ceramic, and plastic. These materials cannot complete an electric circuit, thus preventing a fire.
Do Not Mix Old and New Batteries Together
The main benefit of separating old and new batteries when storing them is that it increases the longevity of your new ones. If you mix these two batteries, you may end up with battery leakage, which is corrosive and may damage your skin.
Furthermore, mixing the old batteries and the new ones may make the new batteries lose power.
Precautions When Storing Batteries
One should take various precautions when storing batteries at home. Let’s look at these precautions in detail.
Store the Batteries Away From the Oven
Some people store batteries near the oven, which is a fire hazard even if no conductors are close to the batteries. Batteries comprise zinc, manganese, and potassium, which are flammable substances (source).
Cooking using your oven may heat the batteries, causing them to explode. As such, one should store these substances away to prevent starting a fire.
Store the Batteries Away From Children
One primary precaution you should take when handling batteries is that you should store them away from children. First, your children may swallow the batteries, especially the tiny button batteries.
Also, your child may complete the batteries’ electric circuit while playing with wires or coins. This action may start a fire, especially if combustible materials like cotton are close. Ensure your children, especially toddlers, cannot access your batteries.
Store the Batteries at Room Temperature
One should store batteries at room temperature because they are flammable. The best battery storage temperature is 15 degrees Celsius (59° F) (source).
Apart from preventing the batteries from exploding, storing them at room temperature prevents them from self-discharging at a high rate. Ultimately, it increases your batteries’ lifespan.
Batteries serve various purposes, but if not stored properly, they might be the reason why your house catches fire.
These items can start a fire in two ways:
- If the batteries are stored together with good conductors and an electric circuit is completed.
- If the batteries are stored close to a heat source, causing them to explode.
As such, one should take various measures when storing batteries. These measures include:
- Keeping the batteries at room temperature.
- Sealing the batteries’ terminals when storing them.
- Storing the batteries away from a source of heat.
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