How-To: Battery Basics + 3 Of The Most Common Battery Mistakes
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When it comes to e-cigarettes, having functioning and healthy batteries is incredibly important. You’re relying on your batteries to safely last you throughout the day without dying, and they’re relying on you to not treat them badly.
Here we’ll cover some basic background information about batteries, as well as what we consider to be the three biggest mistakes people make with them, and how to avoid making them yourself.
What is a battery?
Batteries are basically a series of cells whose chemical reactions create a stream of electrons in a circuit. All batteries are made up of three basic components: an anode (the negative ‘-’ side), a cathode (the positive ‘+’ side), and some kind of electrolyte (a substance that chemically reacts with the anode and cathode).
When a battery is connected to a circuit, a chemical reaction takes place between the anode and the electrolyte. This reaction causes electrons to flow through the circuit and back into the cathode where another chemical reaction takes place. When the material in the cathode or anode is consumed or no longer able to be used in the reaction, the battery is unable to produce electricity. At that point, your battery will be regarded as “dead.”
Lithium-ion batteries are generally pretty safe, but under the right (or rather wrong) conditions they can fail – and sometimes will literally go out with a bang. When something goes wrong with a Lithium-ion battery, it can start to heat up. This can lead to something called ‘thermal runaway‘, which can end with the battery venting super-heated gasses or even flames, and sometimes may even explode in a particularly violent way; especially if it’s within a contained space.
Mistake #1: Battery Orientation
This is probably due to the fact that many everyday devices that require batteries have protections in them to stop damage being done should you put your batteries in backwards. People have become used to these protections and rely on them far too much.
A lot of mod makers have now realized this and many regulated mods come with reverse polarity protection to safeguard from these kinds of mistakes. This doesn’t mean you should rely on these though; your car has airbags but I’d be willing to bet you try to avoid using them every day.
If you don’t pay attention to the orientation when charging and using your batteries you risk doing damage to either the device or the batteries themselves. Without reverse polarity protection you’re quite likely to vent a battery (thermal runaway; explained above).
If you’re unsure of which way your batteries are supposed to go into your device or charger, take everything into your closest vape store and ask a professional to show you. Don’t use trial and error here.
Mistake #2: Spare Batteries
So, you’re finding that you go through multiple batteries every day and want to carry a spare on you? Just grab a spare and throw it in your pocket or purse and you’re set, right?
Wrong. Very wrong.
Another of the most common mistakes new (and even some experienced vapers) make is that they carry spare batteries loose either in their backpack, purse, or even pocket. This wouldn’t be such an issue if the only thing you were carrying was that single battery (still not recommended). But most people like to also have their key on them, maybe some coins, a phone, and whatever else makes it into your list of things you carry around.
Putting a battery in close proximity to small metal things means you’re basically just waiting for it to land in the wrong position and create an unintended circuit through your pocket into your leg.
Mistake #3: Charging Your Batteries
Charging is another hot topic in the vaping community. Many people use the micro USB port on devices that have replaceable batteries without realizing that on many devices, that USB port is only designed to be used at lower voltages than the iPhone charging brick they might be using puts out (the little white box that plugs into the wall).
In some cases, the port is only supposed to be used for software updates and is actually not for charging at all.
I personally have a lot of different mods, and to avoid this issue entirely I take the battery out (if possible) and charge them on a high quality dedicated charger. These chargers are very easy to find, any good vape shop will carry at least one or two options for chargers. Just make sure whatever you get has overcharge protection and a cutoff.
If you’re using a device with an inbuilt battery (one that cannot be removed to be charged) and you have to either use a charger that came with the mod or a USB cord to charge it, you’ll want to make sure you read the information that came with your mod and check what amperage the device is rated to for charging.
Make sure you don’t plug the cord into anything that outputs more power than the device is rated to. It won’t charge faster, it’ll charge hotter, which is not what you want. You want you batteries to charge at the speed they’re intended to, and not to overcharge.
Both batteries and chargers can be potential fire hazards, and are not something to risk for the sake of saving a buck.
For travel specific tips, check out our article on travelling with an e-cigarette here.