With the reports of hoverboard related fires growing each week, it's natural for us as consumers to be concerned with the safety of these products. Fortunately, there is a considerable amount of due diligence that can be done before you purchase a hoverboard and as soon as you pull your self balancing scooter out of the box. For those of us that are concerned about safety, but don't want to do the detective work, we can let Amazon do a lot of the work for us. Recently, Amazon banned about 97% of hover boards from their online retail store. The remaining 3% of hoverboards were certified to have met a stringent set of battery and safety standards. These include UN 38.3 (battery), UL 1642 (battery) and UL 60950-1 (charger) safety regulations. If you purchase any of the self balancing scooter brands currently available for sale on Amazon you can be reasonably assured that the battery and charger meet these standards and are safe for use.
Once you have purchased a hoverboard on Amazon or another retailer, there are a number of post purchase steps that you can take to ensure your safety. The most common problem that you will run into is knock-off and impersonator brands, this is less of a problem on Amazon, more so at other retailers. Email the company you purchased your board from, let's say HOVERBOARD, and double check to make sure that the seller of your self balancing scooter is authorized. You will usually hear back from these companies quickly with a confirmation on the legitimacy of the seller.
The final step that you can take to make sure that your board is hazard proof involves some hands on effort. I recently purchased a Swagway, so I'll run through the steps I took to manually check for potential fire hazards within the components on that board. You can apply these checks to any brand of Hoverboard. The first thing that you will need is a Phillips Head screw driver. There are about 22 screws holding the outer shell of the Swagway in place, you are going to need to unscrew all of these in order to remove the shell.
There are a few things that you are going to want to inspect once you have a clean view of the internal components:
- Check to make sure that the circuit boards are either green or blue in color. You will have a total of 3 circuit boards to check, a mother board and two smaller circuit boards next to each wheel. The low quality, impersonation brands will have a yellow circuit board while the premium brands will use green or blue circuit boards (green being most common and blue being the best).
- Inspect the battery pack to make sure that it is labeled with the brand and strength of the battery. This should be a 36V battery produced by Samsung or LG (Swagway uses Samsung).
- Make sure that the battery pack and largest circuit board are on opposite sides of the hoverboard. These two components generate the most heat, so you do not want them to be close to each other.
After completing this manual inspection of your hoverboard you can be reassured that your product is safer than many of the faulty brands on the market, however, there is no guarantee that your self balancing scooter will be 100% safe from any fire hazard. When using your hoverboard, always keep a few things in mind:
- Don't charge your board immediately after riding it, allow it to cool down for an hour or so first.
- Don't charge your hover board over night, you can usually get close to a full charge in much less than a full charge session. When charging our board for shorter periods of time you run a lower risk of overheating the battery, which is the main cause of fires.
- Charge your self balancing scooter far away from any flammable materials, in the rare case that there is an explosion within the battery you want any resulting fire to be contained.
While there is no way to be 100% certain you will never encounter a hoverboard fire without refraining from buying a hoverboard all together, if you follow the aforementioned steps your risk will decrease dramatically. For those of you skeptics who are still convinced every self balancing scooter is a ticking time bomb, I've got some good news for you. There are enough skeptic consumers, policymakers and organizations out there to make investing in safer battery technology a profitable alternative for the big brands. According to CNET, Stanford researchers may have already found a solution to exploding batteries. They have designed a special nano-nickel film to keep the lithium ion batteries from getting too hot. Unfortunately, this technology is not yet commercially available, and it may be months or years before we see it implemented in hoverboard batteries. Swagway has developed a board with even more safety features, dubbed the Swagtron. Swagway is already recognized as a premium brand with low fire risk. Additional safety features on the Swagtron, like a specially designed chamber to contain the lithium ion battery, will make this board even more appealing to cautious consumers. This board isn't yet available to consumers, but is expected to be available sometime in February 2016. As we've seen in the past with new technology, safety concerns shouldn't be viewed as an obstacle for business, but as an opportunity for leaders in the industry to step up and innovate.
**UPDATE: Check for UL 2272 certification before you buy! This is the certification recommended by the Consumer Protection Safety Commission, you should only purchase a hoverboard if it meets this standard.