E-cigarettes are electrical inhalers that vaporise purpose-made liquids into an aerosol mist, to simulate the act of tobacco smoking. They have three main parts: a plastic cartridge that serves as a mouthpiece and a reservoir for the liquid, an atomizer to vaporise the liquid, and a battery.

We’ve attended a small number of incidents where the batteries in e-cigarettes have exploded. On each occasion, the lithium ion batteries blew apart because they were connected to chargers not provided by the e-cigarette maker. One of the fires destroyed most of a bedroom and everything in it.

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The way to charge an e-cigarette varies from one device to another, so always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for safe charging, use and disposal, and only use the charger supplied with the device or recommended by the manufacturer.

When charging your device, keep it on a flat, stable surface, and keep it away from flammable materials – never leave it on a bed, and never leave it unattended if you go out or go to sleep. Don’t leave it on charge for more that recommended time either.

See our e-Cigarette Leaflet for more information.

Electric blankets and portable heaters

Electric blankets aren’t as popular as they used to be, but they are still around. Older people are particularly at risk from the cold weather, and many still have an electric blanket in their cupboard or on their bed.

Age UK say that damaged electric blankets cause more than 5‚000 house fires a year, and people aged 65 or more are at greatest risk. Danger signs include: fraying fabric, scorch marks, exposed elements, a worn flex.

You should replace your blanket at least every 10 years. It’s important that they’re tested regularly by a suitably qualified electrician. If you know someone elderly or vulnerable who might use one, encourage or help them to get theirs tested, too.

Safety Tips

  • Never use an electric blanket if it’s wet, and never switch it on to dry it out.
  • Never use a hot water bottle and an electric blanket together.
  • Always buy a brand new blanket – second-hand blankets may not be safe.
  • Make sure the power is turned off at the wall and the blanket is unplugged when not in use.
  • Always spread the blanket out flat – never use it folded.
  • Store the blanket carefully when it is not in use.
  • Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your particular blanket
  • Consider using a non-electric alternative, such as a mattress topper.

Portable Heaters
They’re a convenient way of supplementing your heating at home and can be powered by either gas, electricity or oil. However, take care when buying and using any portable heater. Always check to see if it:

  • is stable
  • has a tilt switch safety device
  • is of good quality

Safety Tips

  • Do not buy a second-hand heater. Make sure you buy from recognised manufacturers and retailers
  • Put a heater on a level surface, well away from anything that could knock it over.
  • Make sure that your heater is at least one metre away from combustible materials, like paper, furniture or curtains
  • Never leave heaters on when you leave the house.
  • Don’t control heaters with automatic timers – only use a heater when you’re at home.
  • Never leave them on while you sleep.
  • Don’t cover an electrical heater or use them to dry washing.
  • Never power electrical heaters from an extension lead – such leads can easily become overloaded and cause fires.
  • Inspect heaters regularly for damage or deterioration. If they’re not in good condition, don’t use them!
  • After being stored/not used for a while, heaters can get dusty. Refer to manufacturer’s instructions to remedy this.
  • Don’t put your heater against a wall, which could restrict ventilation.
  • Don’t cover air vents on storage heaters or fan heaters.

Tumble dryers

They hum away quietly, making our clothes warm and dry… but tumble dryers are potential killers if you don’t look after them.

Follow our safety tips:

  • don’t leave them on overnight or unattended
  • remove the lint and fluff from the trap after every load of clothes dried
  • don’t cover the vent or any other opening
  • ensure the vent pipe is free of kinks and not crushed in any way
  • only use vent pipes that are recommended for use with tumble dryers; don’t improvise
  • if required, only vent the warm air to the outside of a building
  • don’t put rags or materials into your tumble dryer if they have been used to soak up flammable liquids.

Also have a look at our general electrical safety area for more information.