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View Poll Results: How prevalent are LiPo fires?
Vote here if you are a LiPo user and have never had a fire 60 88.24%
Vote here if the only fire(s) you have had can be traced directly to human error or equipment malfunction 7 10.29%
Vote here if you have had fire(s) that can't be traced directly to human error or equipment malfunction or you don't know what caused the fire(s) 1 1.47%
Voters: 68. You may not vote on this poll

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Old Apr 19, 2004, 09:57 PM
DLC
Registered User
Houston, TX USA
Joined Jun 2001
363 Posts
How Prevalent Are Lipo Fires?

I was on the verge of ordering some LiPo's. However, after reading this forum, I am having second thougts. I don't mind taking reasonable precautions and following reasonable procedures. I can also live with a 2 or 3 sigma probability of fires even if I do use precautions and follow procedures. However, if LiPo's are really a fire waiting to happen (as appears, at least to me, to be implied in several of the posts) and if explosion/fireproof boxes are a necessary part of the charging process, I will stay with my NoCads and NiMh's for a while. The sticky post at the top of the forum page does a good job of sorting the fires by cause, but I can't get a good handle on how pervalent the fires are. Hence the poll.
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Old Apr 19, 2004, 10:12 PM
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dgoslee's Avatar
Seaford, DE
Joined Jan 2002
793 Posts
I own 16 packs, 2 or 3 cells, have around 250 cycles between them. No fires, one puffed up pack, which occured while flying (not charging).

Dan
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Old Apr 19, 2004, 10:24 PM
Registered User
Melbourne Australia
Joined May 2003
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Reasonable precautions is what you need. I charge mine outside where fire wouldn't damage anything. I've never had a problem with fire. (i have crashed and destroyed them, but they have never exploded or caught fire.)

I get the impression that most of the people warning you of lipos and how dangerous they are, are people that don't use them. If you respect them and treat them properly you'll be fine. It's no different to taking the same precautions when filling your tank with gas or lighting your stove. Just don't be stupid about it.

Once you try them, you'll never go back
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Old Apr 19, 2004, 10:50 PM
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Joined Jan 2002
6,588 Posts
Quote:
Originally Posted by DLC
...(if) fireproof boxes are a necessary part of the charging process, I will stay with my NiCads and NiMh's for a while ... I can't get a good handle on how prevalent the fires are ... Hence the poll.
DLC, If you really mean it that you find fireproof charging containers unacceptable, then you don't need to take a poll - you should avoid LiPos, as currently constituted.

It really doesn't matter how many LiPo thermal runaways have occurred in the past. There will be more and collateral damage will occur, absent safe containment. One of those might be yours.

- RD
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Old Apr 19, 2004, 10:55 PM
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YarSmythe's Avatar
USA, TX, Houston
Joined Nov 2003
2,766 Posts
My experience:

Never had one go up because of a crash or incorrect charging. However, while trying to make a 3S pack out of (2) 2S packs, I broke off the aluminum tab on one of them. Not having a use for it anymore, I decided to try a little experiment.

In my special lab (backyard), I laid the single LiPo back on the ground and stood over it, dangling a #11 Xacto knife. Dropping the knife into the pack, I was amazed how fast the sucker went up in flames and smoke. After watching this little home-grown firecracker fill up my backyard in smoke, I extinguished the mess with a garden hose and placed it into a bucket of water. For the next few minutes, smoke and bubbles continued out of the pack.

I know it is rare for someone to stab a LiPo pack, but if you do, BACK OFF QUICKLY. I never thought it was going to explode. I'm not talking just getting hot and melting, this thing was ON FIRE! My NiCds and NiMh have gotten hot to the point of melting the insulation...but never on fire.

Until these things are safer to handle, I'm just buying the packs ready-made from Thunder Power.

-Lee
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Old Apr 19, 2004, 11:01 PM
Registered User
Walled Lake, MI, USA
Joined Feb 2000
11,182 Posts
You will not get accurate results from an informal poll like this. In any case, RD is correct: The proper safety procedure for charging Li-polys is to do so in a fire-resistant container, or in an area away from all combustibles. There is a small (no accurate percentage available) chance that a pack may fail and vent flames during the charging process. If any combustibles are nearby, secondary fires may start. If no combustibles are nearby, you will merely lose a pack. If you aren't willing to do this, there's no reason to put everyone through the exercise of participating in a poll that will not change the need for charging in fire-resistant containers and away from combustibles.
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Old Apr 19, 2004, 11:22 PM
My Soul is High
Tomokabear's Avatar
Fort Payne, AL
Joined Mar 2004
624 Posts
Hi DLC
I have never had a problem. I don't know anyone who has had a problem.
I do take precautions so that in the event of a mishap nothing else will go up in flames.
Some people might sat that the negative publicity about the cells is doing a great disservice to the product. I would dissagree, by the fact that everyone is very well aware that these soft packed bundles of energy can be extremely dangerous.
I truly want to go to all Li-Po power, but the wife is reluctant to refinance the house to raise the money!
Bear
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Old Apr 19, 2004, 11:25 PM
Space Coast USA
hoppy's Avatar
Space Coast
Joined Oct 2000
21,170 Posts
The issue is not how often it happens, but that it does happen. What guarantee does anyone have that they won't make a mistake, or a pack/charger problem won't happen. Absolutely none! Therefore, prudent users assume that it might happen and charge/handle the packs in a manner that if it does happen, only the pack burns.
Take care,

hoppy
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Old Apr 20, 2004, 12:05 AM
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buzzsaw 46's Avatar
Spring Valley. MN
Joined Jun 2000
4,458 Posts
RD, Dave, and hoppy are absolutly correct in that you are tempting fate if you charge Li-Po packs with out some form of fire containment! While I havent had any problems with packs ballooning or fires it will most likely happen if I continue to use this form of energy storage!

I will say I dont think the fire proof safe is required for transporting the packs to and from the flying site, I havent heard of a pack spontainously combusting with out it having been damaged in a crash. I do transport my packs in a foam lined pistol case with cutouts to seperate the packs to prevent damage/shorting in transport.
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Old Apr 20, 2004, 04:41 AM
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vintage1's Avatar
East Anglia, UK
Joined Sep 2002
29,705 Posts
Quote:
Originally Posted by hoppy
The issue is not how often it happens, but that it does happen. What guarantee does anyone have that they won't make a mistake, or a pack/charger problem won't happen. Absolutely none! Therefore, prudent users assume that it might happen and charge/handle the packs in a manner that if it does happen, only the pack burns.
Take care,

hoppy
Yes, and no. The issue is both how often it happens, and the consquences of it happening.

I boil kettles 10 times a day. About once every 5 years I drop hot water on myself and get a blister. Should I always put on leather gloves before boilng a kettle? No.

I drive a car. About once every 15 years I have an accident serious enough to make a mess of the car. If I didn't wear a seat belt I might be dead, or at least seriously injured. Should I wear a seat belt? Yes.

Back to LIPOS. I don't charge in fireproof containers. Yet. I ought to, and its on the list. I didn't use to wear seatbelts all the time either, then I attended some motor races, and saw what happens to peple who have horrendous smashes but are strapped in tight. I also saw what happens to people who race cars with no seat belts. Dead in front of me. Literrally dead. Thrown out and run over by the next car along. I wear seat belts now. All the time.

Lipos won't kill me tho, just make a mess of the workshop and maybe house. I have to balance the probability of an accident with the damage it will cause against the hassle of taking strict safety precautions ALL the time.

As it is, I charge them near a window, and I keep an eye on them. I discovered once when some brainless clot dropped a sparkler into a box of fireworks on an apartment roof, that you can actually grab a lit firework and throw it far enough away not to be a problem, and ultimately kick the rest off the roof, if you keep your head. I don't recommend it, but in an emergency it serves. First sign of smoke and out the window they go. Fireproof box made of drywall board or fireproof board is on the list tho.

Risk analsis is not about how much damage, its also about how likely it is. e poll is showing that random fires are so far unheard of. Everybody believes that they did something wrong, or there was something by way of a fault causing it. That means that you CAN be careful and watch over the charge process, and be pretty sure that your packs will balloon and smoke before they flame on you.

I am not rubbishing the safety, just trying to get a perspective on it. How many people here drive without a seatbelt? How many have dropped lit cigarettes into a waste bin full of balsa shavings? How many leave an open fire burning whilst they go out the house (THAT trick burnt brother in laws house down, almost compeletely). How many leave candles burning unattended (one of the major causes of house fires in the UK, after cigarettes)...how many people wear safety goggles and fireproof gloves when deep fat frying and leave the pan on the cooker unattended...(probably LOT less safe than leaving an unattended LIPO on charge, with similar results)... or have religiously thrown out all their foam filled upholstery, because its totally lethal if it catches fire?

Life is risky, and just because something can happen, doesn;t mena its likley, you have to balance the risk/cosnequences and have good insurance. Ofcourse if its something trivial to fix, you fix it. Like alwyas weraing a seat belt. If its less trivial - and investing some money in a fireproof safe is - well money - then you do think twice about it. Especially if all it takes is you keep an eye on packs, just like you would a fryer on the stove...hey..maybe that's the answer. Borrow Her fryer and charge in that! On a heatproof pad.







.
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Old Apr 20, 2004, 05:07 AM
All under control, Grommit!
leccyflyer's Avatar
United Kingdom, Aberdeen
Joined Sep 2000
12,674 Posts
Quote:
Originally Posted by vintage1
If its less trivial - and investing some money in a fireproof safe is - well money - then you do think twice about it.
.
B&Q

19.95

Less than the cost of a 2s2p pack of Lipos.

About the same cost as four broken APC-E props.

A couple of quid more than a Pico Stik kit.

You know it makes sense.

.......that's an additional safety precaution to keeping an eye on the pack BTW, not a total replacement for it.

Brian
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Old Apr 20, 2004, 08:42 AM
Space Coast USA
hoppy's Avatar
Space Coast
Joined Oct 2000
21,170 Posts
Quote:
Originally Posted by vintage1
Lipos won't kill me tho, just make a mess of the workshop and maybe house.
A lot of people are killed every year in house fires mainly from asphyxiation. This can occur even from a small fire in the house, thus the importance of having smoke detectors in the house.
h
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Last edited by hoppy; Apr 20, 2004 at 08:49 AM.
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Old Apr 20, 2004, 10:00 AM
DLC
Registered User
Houston, TX USA
Joined Jun 2001
363 Posts
Thanks for the responses. In general, I agree with Vintage1's philosophy. Few things are completely risk free. It is a matter of trading off the probable risk level against the consequences. In this case, the consensus appears to be that to be reasonably safe, LiPo's should be charged in a fireproof, preferably closed and vented box. To me, that indicates a level of volatility I am not ready to contend with. Also, the results of the experiment of puncturing a LiPo are more alarming to me than the charging aspects. I like to continually test my limits and my plane's limits, so, I know with certainty that sooner or later (and probably sooner) I will crash a plane HARD. The thought of a crash-punctured LiPo burning away in the grass field where I usually fly, particularly in July and August when the grass is dead, is not a pleasant one.

I am going to stay with NiCad/NiMh for a while longer.
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Old Apr 20, 2004, 10:54 AM
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vintage1's Avatar
East Anglia, UK
Joined Sep 2002
29,705 Posts
Hey brian, I can get a whole new pack for 20.

I think I'll settle for a used flowerpot and a couple of slates on top.

Or an old saucepan on a bit of Masterboard.

I've got smoke detectors already.

Actually, if the packs are waterproof, I could charge them in the bath.

Or make up long leads and hang them out of the window.

Perhaps its time for a new thread '1001 ways to charge LIPOS safely'
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Old Apr 20, 2004, 10:02 PM
Visitor from Reality
United States, VA, Arlington
Joined Dec 1996
12,788 Posts
Agree that a poll is only any use to prop the roof up

You have to weigh up the pros and cons to suit your lifestyle.

Mine involves hefty 16 cell and thereabouts flight batteries, two chargers, a mains power supply at home, a large RV battery at the field and not enough spare time to sit watching a lipo charge up (slightly more exciting that some present day TV programs, but at least with no commercials ).

This suggests to me that I will happily live with my heavier "round jugs" a little longer, until Lee Po Batt Ree Industries comes up with less excitable 'products'. I'm actually planning on going to lipo soon after Bob Villa is seen on TV peddling power tools with lipo packs - that will suggest a minimal legal exposure for his sponsors.

Two, maybe three years, I reckon we'll all be flying lipo, but the new technology early adopter crowd will be flying Unobtanium/Costalotium cells with 100 AH cells weighing less than four ounces of glow fuel (which will go into fission explosion if not watched for the four days it takes to charge them up )

You pays your money and you takes your chances - the chances are what put me off lipos ...
D
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