A local mom wants answers after her son’s laptop started sparking and smoking just a year after buying it. She claims its lithium battery could have started a dangerous fire. Action 9’s Todd Ulrich found laptop fires are rare, but there have been many recalls and you could reduce the risk.
Nicole Jordan kept the Dell laptop wrapped up on her patio. She was scared to have it inside ever since it seemed to explode inside her son’s college dorm room.
“When he opened his backpack, it was smoking and sparking,” Jordan said.
Jordan bought her son the Dell XPS 9560 last year.
She says her son poured water on it before there were flames. The screen and metal case melted.
“You’re thinking, what if?” Ulrich asked.
“How can you not think what if,” Jordan replied.
“Oh, my God! Had this happened 12 hours later when he was asleep, the results would have been catastrophic,” Jordan said.
Online, she found similar stories involving lithium-ion batteries and several laptops and cell manufacturers.
“I just saw many threads where time after time batteries swelled and burst and caught fire,” Jordan said.
She contacted Dell and Action 9.
Dell recalled 4 million lithium batteries in 2006 as a fire hazard.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission received 16 reports since 2015, from owners claiming their laptops were risky. One consumer claimed it started a house fire. Another consumer heard popping sounds then claims the laptop burst into flames.
“It’s rare, but these batteries can be a fire risk?” Ulrich asked.
“Yes, I think so. These are high energy materials, like a gun that’s fully loaded,” said Dr. Yang Yang from UCF.
Dr. Yang tests lithium batteries for safety and performance. He says a defect can cause a failure. So can misuse, like frequently overcharging a lithium battery.
“Additional energy inside the battery will make material decompose and that can generate flammable gas,” Dr. Yang said.
Dell did not respond to Action 9’s questions. But last week, the company sent Jordan a new upgraded laptop to replace her son’s graduation present.
“If they knew this was an issue, just tell us,” Jordan said.
She doesn’t think her son overcharged or damaged the battery.
Dr. Yang says a swelling lithium battery is an early warning and needs to be replaced. He also cautions against leaving a laptop plugged in overnight.
Written for WFTV