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Battery Safety and Vaping

Introduction

So you’ve decided to take the plunge into the world of high-powered and mechanical devices.  Welcome to the world of the enthusiast, the cloud chaser, and the connoisseur!  With great power, as Spider-Man says, comes great responsibility.  The purpose of this sheet is to reiterate what you’ve discussed with your salesperson regarding basic battery safety. Clouds are fun, but under the wrong circumstances they can also be dangerous.  As much as we want you to enjoy your new rig, we also want you to do so as safely as possible, and we hope this information sheet will help you with that.

Battery Sizes

Batteries come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and are always designated with numbers like 14500, 18350, 26650, etc.  The batteries we use are sized by their dimensions.

  • The first 2 digits will describe the diameter of the battery, measured in millimeters (mm).  A 14500 battery will have a 14mm diameter, just over half of the diameter of a 26650 sized battery with a 26mm diameter.
  • The second 2 digits will describe the height, or length of the battery, also measured in millimeters.  An 18350 battery is 35mm tall, and a 26650 battery is 65mm tall.
  • The last digit will nearly always be a “0” and simply means that the battery is circular in shape.

Types of Batteries

IMR – These are the high-drain lithium ion batteries that are the most recommended for vaping by manufacturers, and are widely considered to be the safest batteries available for the purposes vapers use them for.  They will typically have a LiMn (lithium manganese) composition which makes them a safer chemistry battery than most others.  These batteries are rated to withstand higher current draw (measured in amps, or amperage) than most other types.  They come in a variety of colors and sizes, and are produced by several different manufacturers, including Sony, Panasonic, Efest, PVTSO, LG, and Samsung.  IMRs are the only types of batteries that Madvapes sells to our customers for use in mechanical or high-powered devices.

ICR – These lithium ion batteries are less common, but we see them frequently sold in kits online or may come packaged with a device purchased through a third party or overseas vendor.  When we see batteries being used in mechanicals that are the incorrect type for that application, normally they are ICR batteries.  While for some regulated devices these are acceptable, they are not at all recommended for high-powered or mechanical devices because they are intended for low-current applications.  These are usually 18350 or 18650 batteries, but may come in other sizes, and are almost always blue in color, and rarely have a brand name on them.  In the event of a catastrophic failure, these batteries can be some of the most dangerous, as they have been known to produce flames, and may explode under the right circumstances, causing injury to anyone in the area.  Madvapes does not stock ICR batteries.

Protected – Protected batteries may still be stocked by some shops, and they are designated as protected batteries because of a small protection circuit mounted on top of the battery under the wrapper.  Though they may sound safer because of their “protected” name, these are not recommended for use in high-powered or mechanical devices.  There are two reasons for this.  First, the added protection circuit nearly always makes the battery either too long or too wide to fit into most devices comfortably, if at all.  Secondly, if the protection circuit is not functioning properly, the risk of battery failure is increased due to the less stable chemistry of the battery versus an IMR battery.

Alkaline – These are the batteries that you likely have lying around the house and are used in your remote control.  Produced by manufacturers such as Duracell and Energizer.  Though they are sometimes used in small or homemade box mods, do not even consider using these batteries in a high-powered or mechanical device.  Seriously, don’t even think it.

 

 

Battery Life (mah)

Batteries should be marked somewhere with their capacity, which is measured in milliamp hours, or mAh.  The higher the mAh marked on the battery, the longer the battery should last between charges.  For example, a 2500mAh battery should last longer than a 1600mAh battery when used in a similar setup under the same resistance atomizer.  You should note, however, that sometimes less than reputable brands may inflate battery life by great amounts on the battery wrapper.  At Madvapes, we test all of our batteries before ordering them in bulk to make sure that they are true to their claims, and that you will be able to buy with confidence from us.

Amperage Ratings (Amp limits)

Here is the crux of battery safety.  All batteries have discharge ratings that are included to extend the life of the battery, help determine their application use, and for safety purposes.  In mechanical devices, we recommend batteries that have a maximum continuous amp draw of not less than 20 amps, or 2000 milliamps (mA).  There will frequently be two different ratings for amperage draw, the continuous and the pulse.  The continuous draw rating will always be lower than the pulse.  The continuous rating denotes the maximum amperage that a battery can handle over a long period of time (at least several minutes) before the battery starts experiencing stress from over-discharge.  The pulse rating denotes the amperage the battery can withstand for short periods of time without damaging the battery (under 1 minute).  Drawing more current from a battery than it is rated for is one of the most dangerous things you can do while vaping.  Some batteries will have the amperage ratings plainly marked on the wrapper, some will not, so always be sure to ask if you aren’t sure of the limits of the battery you have, or one you’re about to buy. 

The reason we recommend determining the battery you’d like to buy using only the continuous rating is because accidents happen.  At some point, almost every vaper has forgotten to use their locking ring, or their switch has become stuck in the firing position, or a mod component failed and the device auto-fired.  If this happens without your knowledge, the battery could be discharging for some time before it’s noticed.  If the pulse rating is being used, it may well exceed the limits of the battery for the length of time it is fired.  If this is the case, the battery could vent, leak, or experience a catastrophic failure.  The catastrophic failure of a battery in your hand or near yourself, or other people, is a worst case scenario that should be avoided at all costs, because it can cause serious injury to yourself or bystanders.  Such occasions are possible, and have happened in large venues.  If you think it can’t happen to you, remember they likely thought the same thing before the accident.

How To Measure Amperage Draw

Now that we have discussed the importance of not stressing your batteries by drawing too much current, we will show how you can avoid doing so with your atomizers.  The formula, which will be explained below, to measure the amperage draw of your build is V/R=I

V          Voltage, measure in volts
R         
Resistance of your atomizer, in ohms (Ω)

I           Current, measured in amps

Voltage is the voltage coming from the battery.  On a fresh charge, battery voltage is 4.2 volts with a small tolerance one way or the other.  There is a small amount of voltage drop that factors into the equation, but without testing that particular resistance and device combination, it’s impossible to know exactly how much dropt there is, so for safety we always assume you’re getting the full battery voltage to the atomizer.  Divide by the resistance (which you should have measured on an ohm meter beforehand) of the atomizer.  This will give you the amperage draw.  As an example, suppose you’ve built a coil measuring 0.4Ω that you’d like to use on your device.  Plugging values into the equation you should have 4.2V / 0.4Ω = 10.5 amps.  This is well within the limits of most of the IMR batteries that we carry. 

Remember, going to lower resistances will cause the amperage draw to increase exponentially.  Using the same formula, we find that a 0.2Ω coil will draw 21 amps, where battery ratings start becoming an issue for safety, and a 0.1Ω coil will draw 42 amps, which no battery available can handle safely.

If you are uncomfortable with this type of math, there are many Ohm’s Law calculator websites and mobile apps to assist you.  One of the most comprehensive calculators we have used is www.steam-engine.org.

How To Store Your Batteries

Batteries should always be stored properly and never carried loose.  For example, you should never throw a battery into a pocket with change or keys inside.  If the positive and negative contacts of the battery are connected by metal, whether it be keys, coins, or any other small metal objects, the circuit will be completed, which will end badly.  This could result in a severe burn or other injury depending on the severity of the short and the amount of time that the circuit is closed.

If you intend to keep your batteries inside your device while not in use, and your mod is equipped with a locking feature, we strongly recommend locking the device to prevent accidental firing.  This can damage your batteries, and if your device fires without your knowledge for an extended period of time, this can present a safety hazard.  For more information about the hazards brought about by shorted or accidentally fired batteries, see the section titled, “Worst Case Scenario” near the end of this document.

To prevent this type of injury or damage to property, we always recommend carrying spare batteries inside a plastic battery case designed specifically for carrying batteries.  We offer these cases very inexpensively, and they are vital for the safe transportation of batteries.

WORST CASE SCENARIO

Even being as careful as possible, accidents happen.  If your batteries become stressed beyond their capabilities, especially for a long period of time, they are likely to fail.  Though catastrophic failure is a highly uncommon and unlikely event, you should always be prepared for the worst case scenarios.  In high-powered devices including the IPV2, IPV3, Smok BEC Pro, and others, the device will show a message such as “CHECK BATTERY,” “TOO HOT,” or simply fail to operate if there is a problem with the batteries or the device is getting too hot.  This is for your safety, so you may have an added layer of protection from catastrophic failures. 

Mechanical devices are a different story.  Because they contain no failsafe against battery failure and offer no overcurrent protection, it is important that you understand what to look for and you should do if there is a battery problem.  If there is too much current being drawn from the battery, or beyond what it is rated for, you will notice the device starting to get warm.  While there will be thermal transfer of heat from your hands and your atomizer to the device during use, which is normal, the switch on the mod will likely become much warmer and at a much faster rate than the rest of the mod.  This should be your first signal that there may be a problem you should investigate any shorts in your atomizer or device.  If your battery or device is becoming hot to the touch, immediately take the device apart and remove the battery. 

When the battery is shorted for long periods of time, it may begin to vent battery gases which are toxic to humans.  The purpose of the holes in your mechanical device is to allow those gases to escape and give you the time necessary to remove the battery from the device.  However, just because a device has venting capabilities, do not assume that there will not be buildup and bottlenecking of the gases inside the device.  If the pressure gets high enough, the device will become a danger to anyone in the area because it is at risk of exploding like a pipe bomb.  We don’t say this for shock value.  This can and has happened at conventions full of people, and is a consequence of leaving a venting battery inside a device.  If the battery has failed to the point of venting, it should immediately be placed in water (tap, not distilled) both to absorb heat, and to catalyze the reaction in a safer environment.  

CONCLUSION

We hope that you have found this information helpful, and will use it to keep yourself safe when using high-powered and mechanical devices.  The step into the hobbyist side of vaping can have great rewards and satisfaction, so long as you keep your builds at safe resistances, store your batteries properly and use the proper batteries for your setup.  If you ever have any questions or are unsure about some aspect of your setup, please get in touch with us and we will be more than happy to help you to stay safe.  We would much rather be asked a question so we can help, then hear an unfortunate story about an avoidable mishap.