The title of this blog post pretty much gives away the content, but I want to flesh it out more than “hey, be safe with your batteries.”

Batteries are used in a multitude of things.  We have them in our wireless mice and keyboards, our cell phones, our laptops, and, most infamously, our smoke detectors.

How often have you been woken up at 3am to the insistence of the smoke detector’s whine to replace the battery?  What did you do with it — throw it in your junk drawer or the trash?  What did you do with your used up AA batteries from your wireless mouse?  Also in the junk drawer or trash?

Environmental impact

Throwing your batteries in the trash can result in an electronic circuit from liquids that find their way in there.  Batteries in landfills are also a major cause of groundwater pollution.  Your batteries should always be disposed of in a manner that is environmentally sound and safe.  Most electronics stores are happy to take care of them for you.  I drive by a Best Buy at least three times a week, so it’s easy to stop there and drop them into a disposal container they have in the entrance of the store.  Office supply stores and many other businesses often offer the same service.

Household impact

Battery fires are similar to Christmas tree fires.  They’re rare, but devastating.  This link can show you exactly what I’m talking about with this danger.  It’s only a couple paragraphs, but there’s a lengthy video attached, so I recommend watching it after reading this post.

Essentially, if a battery thrown in a drawer is able to complete a circuit, it will generate electrical current and heat, which is likely to light the drawer it sits in on fire.  Completing that circuit is as easy as touching a staple against a 9 volt battery, or a couple pieces of metal touching both ends of a AA or another cylindrical battery.

As soon as that drawer is jostled and the circuit is made, the current starts generating and you can have a fire within a few minutes to a few hours.

How to protect yourself

Protecting yourself from this hazard is simple and only takes a few seconds with each battery replacement.

For 9 volt batteries, the infamous rectangular ones with two terminals (the little nubs) on one end, simply putting a piece of electrical tape across those terminals is sufficient to keep it safe until you can dispose of it properly.

For AA and batteries of that shape, make sure to keep them lined up with each other when stored.  Positive (the ends with the protrusion) and negative (the ends with the indentation) ends should be all on the same side, to minimize risk of jostling.  For added protection, a strip of electrical tape across either the line of positive or negative ends will keep them from rolling around and accidentally creating a circuit.

There are battery storage cases out there, but by keeping a small roll of electrical tape in your junk drawer, you don’t need to spend the extra money.

Now, test those alarms monthly and replace those batteries, safely, when needed!  If you replace them before they go critical, you won’t be woken up at 3am by those, again!  For more battery storage tips, check out this excellent article on WikiHow.

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