The recall of the sunshade reveals the significance of battery care

Corporations appear to be placing photo voltaic panels and batteries all over the place as of late. Safety cameras are a lot simpler and cheaper to put in should you needn’t run electrical wires, so you’ll be able to solely get them with a small photo voltaic panel and small battery packs to maintain them on in a single day. You will get small patio lights like this one, too. However one factor I by no means thought I would see was a photo voltaic powered umbrella.

That is the topic of a file A recall was lately introduced by the US Client Product Security Fee. “Shoppers ought to instantly cease utilizing the awnings, take away the photo voltaic panel disc containing the lithium-ion battery from the highest of the awning, retailer the disc out of the solar and away from flamable supplies, and never cost the disc with an AC adapter,” the company mentioned. “Shoppers can return their umbrellas and photo voltaic disc to any Costco warehouse throughout the nation for a full refund. Shoppers unable to return product to Costco can contact the corporate for directions on how one can get a refund. SunVilla and Costco are contacting all recognized consumers.”

WTF is a photo voltaic powered umbrella?

This speak of solar umbrellas, pucks, and the like was very complicated at first. Do not Canadians play hockey with pucks? And should you’re within the far north, why do you want an umbrella? Undoubtedly not raining, as a result of should you use the factor for rain, you are not going to get any photo voltaic vitality to your “pinch”. The additional studying did not assist a lot. I realized that the “disk” caught hearth, and held on high of the cover, although:

“The corporate has obtained six stories of lithium-ion batteries overheating. This contains three stories of photo voltaic panels catching hearth whereas charging by way of the AC adapter indoors and two stories of umbrellas catching hearth when the photo voltaic panel disk overheated and caught hearth whereas suspended on the cover. One was injured by smoke inhalation.

After doing a set or studying across the web, typically discovering “This merchandise will not be obtainable” or “This merchandise has been discontinued”, I’ve discovered that an umbrella will not be one thing you’ll be able to carry round with you, however slightly put in your yard to get some shade throughout the day, and possibly some safety from Rain throughout the wet day picnics all of us have. “Photo voltaic imp?” It is outfitted with LED lights that give your picnic desk a romantic glow should you’re having dinner or a celebration after darkish.

So, it sort of is smart, however the individuals who purchased it did not appear to have an excellent time when the “disk”, which hangs above the cover (not within the shade), caught hearth. The disc clearly accommodates not solely a small photo voltaic panel, but additionally some battery cells that may overheat and result in a reenactment of the HBO Chernobyl mini-series. Plus, burning parachutes is extra more likely to annoy your neighbors and earn you a high-quality of kinds that HOA Karens crave to slap you.

Why does the puck catch hearth?

Battery cell defects are not the trigger this time round because it does for the Chevrolet Bolt EV and Hyundai Kona. In these circumstances, there’s actually no good short-term resolution, and you are not presupposed to park it in a storage, even should you do not totally cost it, a minimum of till the automobile will get a brand new battery.

As an alternative, the CPSC and its Canadian equal say to retailer your “puck” indoors and out within the solar to maintain it from igniting. Subsequently, it seems that the batteries are getting scorching and going into thermal runaway. When this occurs, neighboring cells may rise, leading to a small however difficult-to-quench hearth.

We have additionally seen this in electrical automobiles. Lithium batteries typically want to remain inside a slim vary of temperatures, normally across the identical temperatures {that a} human is snug with. It will get too chilly, and batteries cannot produce electrical vitality from the chemical vitality they retailer. Make them actually scorching, and nicely, you will catch hearth. To stop this from occurring, and to get an extended battery life, most electrical automobiles have a liquid cooling system that releases warmth by means of the radiator, like some other automobile (however there’s a lot much less warmth to do away with). These with out digital security measures cut back the obtainable energy or shut down the automobile if it will get too scorching.

The issue is right here

Automakers spend lots of money and time designing secure battery techniques for his or her automobiles, however small digital units will not be topic to the identical strict security requirements. Oftentimes, once you break down these low-cost issues, you will solely discover wires and batteries with none sort of severe battery or thermal administration. Higher electronics, just like the safety cameras in my home, have a minimum of some primary BMS techniques in place to stop a hearth, and the batteries are inside a whitewashed casing to replicate the photo voltaic vitality away.

However, placed on an affordable “pill” with no actual BMS (or inappropriate BMS), make the housing black, go away it within the solar all day on daily basis, and you will have the right recipe for catastrophe, even when it is a small catastrophe.

If this small recall and the bigger automobile remembers we have seen ought to educate us something, battery pack design and security are key. Having correct cooling and security measures in place is not one thing we are able to skimp on to make a less expensive product and preserve costs at Costco, Amazon, and Walmart low. On a small scale, individuals may burn or inhale some smoke. On a bigger scale, individuals may die and full buildings may burn down.

Whereas regulators actually play a job right here, we nonetheless reside in a world the place consumers nonetheless should watch out. Should you’re shopping for something with lithium batteries, particularly outdoor, don’t fret. Watch out when purchasing and should you purchase one thing, check out it to see should you suppose the batteries are getting first rate care and safety from overheating or different points that may make your new gadget explode.

All photographs are offered by the Client Product Security Fee.


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