You may have seen the jaw-dropping video footage of a house fire being sparked by an everyday item: the battery. Just about every one of us uses 9 volt batteries at home, from use in smoke detectors to our kids’ toys. When we saw this video we felt compelled to spread the word about this important yet seemingly unknown risk. Believe it or not, it’s a common occurrence.
In short, an old 9v battery started a house fire. In this situation, Dave Miller, a Colorado resident, replaced the old batteries in his smoke detector with new ones. He tossed the old ones into a brown paper bag for later recycling. What he failed to realize is the fact that two batteries so close together could react and cause a spark. When a laundry basket bumped into the bag, the batteries touched and the terminals shorted.
We all do it, right? We hear the smoke detector beeping, we replace the battery, and we toss the old batteries away. Whether you toss them into a garbage bag or into a junk drawer, most people would never consider battery disposal high risk. Below is some basic info that could help keep you and your home safe.
What causes this?
All it takes is one metal object to touch the battery’s posts to cause a spark and fuel a fire. Even a household item as small as a paper clip can be the cause of this type of reaction. This is because the positive and negative posts are close together. Any metal that you’d find in a junk drawer, from keys to coins, can cause the battery to heat and lead to a fire. Even weak batteries can have enough charge to cause a fire.
What can I do to prevent this?
DO: Avoid storing batteries in small junk drawers without protection. Keep batteries in original packaging until you use them. If original packaging is not available, here are some options:
- Put a piece of electrical or duct tape over the battery to avoid any friction that could cause a spark.
- Store batteries in individual plastic bags.
- Store batteries standing upright.
- Toss batteries carelessly into small drawers, bags, etc.
- Place two batteries next to one another without a barrier.
- Throw used batteries into the trash, especially if there is metal inside.
How can I dispose of my used batteries?
To properly dispose of a used battery, you should take them to a collection site for household hazardous waste. Of course, be sure to cover the positive and negative posts before taking them. If you are still unsure of how to dispose of your old batteries, check with your city or town. They will gladly guide you.
Last but not least, once you finish reading this post, we encourage you to please check your drawers for loose batteries. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.