Computer laptops have joined the list of electrical appliances that are most at risk of causing fires in a building. Computers, including laptops, were responsible for 15 fires last year.
Firefighters are reminding people not to leave their laptops placed on beds and continuously plugged into chargers as both lead to overheated batteries which have been known to spark a blazes.
Fires caused by overheating laptops are mostly avoidable when used with care. However authorities are urging care to be taken with the use, storage and charging of laptops.
Ignoring The Warning Signs
Don’t be too distracted to pay attention to the warning signs that point to the possible overheating of a laptop.
Here are a few warning signs to look out for.
- Laptop or battery is hot – The laptop battery and/or device appears to be increasing in heat and is hot to touch.
- Fans Running Fast And Making Noise – Your laptop’s fans may be making lots of noise, meaning they are struggling to keep its insides cool.
- Struggling To Perform Basic Tasks -Programs may not be running as smoothly as normal, files and programs are taking longer to open.
- Pixelated Lines Across Your Screen -Your screen may appear strange. Streaks or tears may appear on top of each window. A clear sign that your graphics card is not in working order due to not getting enough ventilation, and is being overworked.
- Crashing And Powering Off -Your screen may go dark and is powering off, indicating that your hard drive may have failed. Is this has happened you’ll need to, leave your computer turned off for a while, until it completely cools down.
Prevent The Worst From Happening
It’s all too easy to overlook these kinds of symptoms when you’re caught up working on something.
However it is better to prevent the worst from happening so that any downtime is eliminated or reduced.
Here are a few tips to help you prevent the worst:
- Remove risk
Leaving your laptop on type of fabric, cushion and carpeted flooring can prevent your computer from venting heat properly. Heat trapped inside the laptop can cause damage to internal components like the CPU, hard drive, video card and battery. If the laptop is exposed to high temperatures for too long, internal components can.
- Monitor charging
Be present and awake when charging a laptop. This will ensure that you can monitor the environment that it is in and its heating levels. If you leave the laptop unattended and plugged in for any period of time, make sure you move it to a hard surface like a table or desk, and never leave with it plugged in (and switched on), whilst it is on a flammable surface. If you have nowhere else to leave the laptop, unplug the power cord from both the computer and the outlet and turn the computer off completely.
- Unplug charger
Keeping a laptop plugged in for an extended period or when it doesn’t require charging can damage the battery. It is recommended to charge the battery to 80% capacity and then unplug it. Run the computer off the battery until you reach 40% and then repeat the process. Following these guidelines can prolong the life of your laptop. Excessive heat caused by keeping your laptop plugged in can damage the battery, placing the battery’s cells under stress at a higher voltage.
- Beware of recalls
Periodically, computer makers issue battery recalls. In the past recalls have been issued from many brands including Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Apple and Lenova. Just recently (January 2016), Toshiba issued a recall for the batteries of 54 models of laptops. If your laptop is among those with potentially hazardous batteries, follow the manufacturer’s advice. For information about products that have been recalled, go to: https://www.recalls.gov.au/
- Clean & Service
Your laptop has a fan that is used to remove hot air that is generated during use. A fan that is consistently running at high speeds could be an indication that it’s not venting air properly, especially if the laptop is regularly hot to the touch. Laptops are designed to shut down when exposed to extreme temperatures, so if your laptop has been turning off unexpectedly, check that the vents aren’t blocked. Dust and debris can accumulate over time and clog your laptop’s vents.
When possible, take your laptop to a professional to clean off the fans and clear dust from the inside. If you are handy, take the laptop apart, with the battery removed, and clean the inside with a compressed-air canister to clean any vents that have become clogged. This will provide a noticeable decrease in overheating.
- Test & tag
Regular test and tagging will ensure that your laptop equipment is inspected and electrically tested for personal safety. The laptop cord will be inspected for defects such as damage or missing components and a number of other electrical tests to measure earth continuity, insulation resistance and polarity. The frequency of inspection and testing will vary depending on the nature of the workplace and the risks associated with the electrical equipment.
Electrical safety and regular yearly inspections of your electrical appliances, power leads, extension leads and all other workplace electrical equipment is not to be taken lightly. It is now OH&S legislation that businesses, contractors, sole traders operating in a working environment must have a regular test and tag performed on their electrical equipment to AS/NZS 3760:2010 standards. Each year in Australia there are dozens of workplace related deaths caused by electrocution and many more serious injuries or destructive fires. Most of these could have been prevented with regular Test and Tag inspections.
Taking steps to prevent laptops from becoming a risk in the workplace should be a primary concern for all organisations and businesses that rely on employee productivity and want to provide a safe work environment.
Do you have laptops or devices in your workplace that need testing? Don’t delay, talk with us today.