Foxfury Rook
Results 1 to 20 of 20

Thread: Bottom line on 18650 safety?

  1. #1

    Default Bottom line on 18650 safety?

    A few years back when I decided to get a "real" flashlight, I chose the newly released Quark 2xAA Tactical as opposed to the CR123, since AA's are more readily available. I invested in Eneloops and a decent charger and have been happy with the setup.

    However, now that I'm looking for a new flashlight, I'm really curious to get into the world of 18650's to hit and exceed that 500+ lumen mark. But the more I read about 18650 maintenance, the more I wonder if they are worth the hassle. I just want to charge the battery, use it in the flashlight, and when it gets low recharge it and throw it back in. I'd like to leave a multimeter out of the equation if possible, since that gets back into the realm of not worth the hassle. That said, I plan to continue reading up on 18650's and take the necessary precautions, within reason. But am I really introducing much danger in my house by using 18650, or is it just overemphasized around here to catch the attention of new users?

    Thanks for any help/advice, and sorry for starting a thread on a worn-out topic.

  2. #2
    Flashaholic* Bwolcott's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    California
    Posts
    564

    Default Re: Bottom line on 18650 safety?

    Quote Originally Posted by benhar View Post
    A few years back when I decided to get a "real" flashlight, I chose the newly released Quark 2xAA Tactical as opposed to the CR123, since AA's are more readily available. I invested in Eneloops and a decent charger and have been happy with the setup.

    However, now that I'm looking for a new flashlight, I'm really curious to get into the world of 18650's to hit and exceed that 500+ lumen mark. But the more I read about 18650 maintenance, the more I wonder if they are worth the hassle. I just want to charge the battery, use it in the flashlight, and when it gets low recharge it and throw it back in. I'd like to leave a multimeter out of the equation if possible, since that gets back into the realm of not worth the hassle. That said, I plan to continue reading up on 18650's and take the necessary precautions, within reason. But am I really introducing much danger in my house by using 18650, or is it just overemphasized around here to catch the attention of new users?

    Thanks for any help/advice, and sorry for starting a thread on a worn-out topic.



    not many problems with 18650s just get name brand cells and a nitecore intellicharger and your set!

  3. #3

    Default Re: Bottom line on 18650 safety?

    I'm a newb and my be giving bad advice, so keep that in mind. But here is my take on it...

    I have the quark 2xaa regular and purchased an extra body for it that is sized for a single aa battery. I've purchased a 14500 li-ion battery to go in that body, so I can still use my quark. What I like about the li-ion is that I can use my volt meter to see how the battery is doing and charge it up based on the voltage left. I think it's going to be pretty cool, but we'll see.

    Part of the fun is experimenting and learning about voltage, capacity, and charge rates and the other half is that one 14500 will make our quarks brighter than with 2xaa
    Maglite xl50...Fenix E05...Nebo Redline SE...Maratac AAA...Thrunite Ti firefly...Quark x AA^2...Maratac CU Rev1...Maratac CU Rev2...Fenix LD01SS...Solarforce L2T

  4. #4
    Flashaholic* Bwolcott's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    California
    Posts
    564

    Default Re: Bottom line on 18650 safety?

    Quote Originally Posted by 97catintenn View Post
    I'm a newb and my be giving bad advice, so keep that in mind. But here is my take on it...

    I have the quark 2xaa regular and purchased an extra body for it that is sized for a single aa battery. I've purchased a 14500 li-ion battery to go in that body, so I can still use my quark. What I like about the li-ion is that I can use my volt meter to see how the battery is doing and charge it up based on the voltage left. I think it's going to be pretty cool, but we'll see.



    with the intellicharger you dont need to worry about voltages it stops on its own
    Part of the fun is experimenting and learning about voltage, capacity, and charge rates and the other half is that one 14500 will make our quarks brighter than with 2xaa

  5. #5
    Flashaholic* mattheww50's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Location
    SW Pennsylvania
    Posts
    847

    Default Re: Bottom line on 18650 safety?

    The hazard from Li-Ion cells stems from the fact that they store much more energy per unit weight than NiMh, or alkaline primary cells. To do so requires chemistry that is more 'reactive'. Like most hazards, it all comes down to how you manage the risks. First you can manage the risks by being careful about the equipment you use. Use protected cells from a recognized manufacturer. The Panasonic NCR18650A based cells are probably the best. Next use a high quality charger. the Nitecore Symax I4 charger (Version 2) is fine as a charger. There are others. In protected 18650 and chargers, you generally get what you pay for.

    If you are really concerned, operate the charger on a surface that will not burn. The porcelain surface on top of most washing machines is both non-flamable, and highly resistant to chemical attack/damage.
    That way failures (unlikely if you use quality batteries and a quality charger) are likely to be messy, but that is about all.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Bottom line on 18650 safety?

    Thanks for the help. My plan was to either use a TL-100 or 4Sevens charger with EagleTac 3100mAh batteries. Does the NiteCore offer much benefit over those, aside from the extra bays (I only need one) and type flexibility? $5 seems a reasonable jump from the 4Sevens, but the TL-100 is only $15.

  7. #7
    Flashaholic* 45/70's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    Rural Ohio
    Posts
    2,800

    Default Re: Bottom line on 18650 safety?

    Quote Originally Posted by benhar View Post
    I just want to charge the battery, use it in the flashlight, and when it gets low recharge it and throw it back in. I'd like to leave a multimeter out of the equation if possible, since that gets back into the realm of not worth the hassle. That said, I plan to continue reading up on 18650's and take the necessary precautions, within reason. But am I really introducing much danger in my house by using 18650, or is it just overemphasized around here to catch the attention of new users?
    Hi benhar. As far as "safety", meaning concerns about harm to the user, or the device the cells are used in, there is one primary difference between Li-Ion cells and other types of rechargeable cells. All Li-Ion cells contain a volatile electrolyte, and under certain conditions, the ability to ignite this electrolyte, as well as provide oxygen to fuel the fire, all this contained within the cell. This same situation is not possible with alkaline, carbon zinc, NiCd, or NiMH cells.

    This is why, for the most part, you don't see Li-Ion cells for sale in "brick and mortar" stores. The primary use for Li-Ion cells, is in the manufacturing of battery packs for consumer devices. These devices are required to have a form of protection circuitry, either in the battery pack, or the device itself, that is "tuned" specifically for use of that battery pack in that device.

    Except for a few lights, this is unheard of in the flashlight industry. We must provide our own safety measures, such as using "protected cells", which provide only general protection, not protection for any specific light. In addition, the use of Li-Ion cells in lights requires a certain amount of vigilance in their use, keeping an eye out for anomalies, measuring voltage, and generally keeping track of whats going on with the cells, otherwise, while it may be unlikely, there could be problems. And again, this is due to the chemical properties of Li-Ion cells. No other cylindrical rechargeable cell has the potential ability to self ignite. This is why caution is advised when using these type cells.

    Some on the Forum think that caution is over emphasized concerning the use of Li-Ion cells in our lights. For the above reasons, I beg to differ. If one obtains the proper knowledge to exercise proper care and handling of Li-Ion cells, I don't see any problems with their use. On the other hand, to use them thinking that they are really no different than any other type of cell, is asking for trouble IMO, because they are, in fact, "different".

    Dave

  8. #8
    Flashaholic*
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    WA, USA
    Posts
    563

    Default Re: Bottom line on 18650 safety?

    Fenix says their ARB-L2 battery is safe.



    Quote Originally Posted by Bwolcott
    not many problems with 18650s


    I'm not sure what Fenix's definition of "safe" is, and even Bwolcott says "not many" problems.

    It only takes one problem. I do not think it is worth the risk.

    Jake
    Wish: 1) Super low beacon; easy find flashlight. 2) Low voltage indicator, so not stranded without light. 3) Simple, one handed control ring mode changer (magnetic control ring). 4) Flood beam for walking/tasks. 5) Pocket carry. 6) LiFePO4.


  9. #9

    Default Re: Bottom line on 18650 safety?

    You are going to get a lot of different replies on this matter, but for me the Bottom Line is this:
    - Have you ever had a laptop explode on you? Do you know anyone who has?
    These cells have been used in laptops for many many years with very little incident (because they use proper charging and balancing mechanisms).

    Follow a few base rules and you will be fine:
    - Always buy good protected cells. AW, EagleTac, 4Sevens, etc....
    - Always use a good charger that uses a CC/CV charging spec. Pila is good, I am very happy with 4sevens one too and that has multiple charging rates.
    - Monitor your charging.
    - Don't use 18650 (or any LiIon) cells in series unless they are protected.

    I've been following these rules and have never had a problem.

  10. #10
    Flashaholic* Lou Minescence's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    New England US
    Posts
    666

    Default

    If you want to be safer, single cell 18650 lights and don't leave the batteries unattended while charging.

    Remember things that are fun are dangerous. Exploding flashlights, laptops catching fire and melted iPhones.

  11. #11
    Flashaholic*
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    WA, USA
    Posts
    563

    Default Re: Bottom line on 18650 safety?

    Don't laptops (cell phones, power tools) monitor the battery and have safety mechanisms built in? ...unlike flashlights.

    I'm not sure which lithium-ion chemistry is used in laptops.

  12. #12
    Flashaholic* Lou Minescence's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    New England US
    Posts
    666

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by snakyjake View Post
    Don't laptops (cell phones, power tools) monitor the battery and have safety mechanisms built in? ...unlike flashlights.

    I'm not sure which lithium-ion chemistry is used in laptops.
    True. Protected lion batteries have a safety feature. What I was implying is even people with those devices have had trouble too. The risk does not stop me from owning them. I don't want to get hurt either.

  13. #13
    *Flashaholic* fyrstormer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Location
    Northern VA, USA
    Posts
    5,802

    Default Re: Bottom line on 18650 safety?

    Quote Originally Posted by benhar View Post
    However, now that I'm looking for a new flashlight, I'm really curious to get into the world of 18650's to hit and exceed that 500+ lumen mark. But the more I read about 18650 maintenance, the more I wonder if they are worth the hassle. I just want to charge the battery, use it in the flashlight, and when it gets low recharge it and throw it back in.
    That's how I've been using my Li-Ion batteries for years and I haven't had any problem. I only use a multimeter to check lithium primaries to see which battery in a set is actually dead, so I can reuse the rest.

    I use protected RCR batteries and unprotected IMR batteries. With the RCRs, I swap them out when the protection circuit kicks in, and with the IMRs I swap them out when I can't remember the last time I charged them -- or when the light drops out of regulation. Like I said, no issues thus far.
    Last edited by fyrstormer; 07-16-2012 at 11:42 AM.

  14. #14
    *Flashaholic* fyrstormer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Location
    Northern VA, USA
    Posts
    5,802

    Default Re: Bottom line on 18650 safety?

    Quote Originally Posted by benhar View Post
    Thanks for the help. My plan was to either use a TL-100 or 4Sevens charger with EagleTac 3100mAh batteries. Does the NiteCore offer much benefit over those, aside from the extra bays (I only need one) and type flexibility? $5 seems a reasonable jump from the 4Sevens, but the TL-100 is only $15.
    The NiteCore i4 Intellicharger can charge Li-Ion batteries and NiMH batteries, so it's more convenient than having two separate chargers. If you have tons of empty flat space to put things like battery chargers, then there probably isn't any meaningful benefit.

  15. #15
    Flashaholic* 45/70's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    Rural Ohio
    Posts
    2,800

    Default Re: Bottom line on 18650 safety?

    The comparison between consumer devices that utilize Li-Ion battery packs and using Li-Ion cells in our lights frequently comes up. There really isn't much of a parallel here.

    Consumer devices such as laptops use protection circuitry that monitors the condition of each cell in series, during both charge, and discharge. This is similar to the way cells are charged/discharged using a hobby charger, utilizing either a built in, or external balancing circuit. Also, as I mentioned earlier, these protection circuits are external to the cells (the cells used are themselves, unprotected) and are tuned to the specific conditions under which the pack will be charged/discharged, in that specific device.

    With our lights, at best, the light has built in protection circuitry, such as the (now discontinued?) LiteFlux series single cell lights, and the Neofab Legion II, for example. Single cell lights are not much of a problem, if the light has protection circuitry built in. With lights that use multiple cells in series, such as the Legion II however, the protection circuitry only reads the "battery" voltage, that is the whole string's voltage, not each individual cell voltage, such as a laptop's protection circuitry does. This opens up the possibility of over discharging an individual cell in the series string, or "battery", unless the cells in the "pack" are well matched.

    This leaves us with the option of using "protected" cells in series. The problem here, as I mentioned previously, is that the protection circuits that are added to Li-Ion cell manufacturer's cells by third parties, number one, are not all the same, and number two, are not designed for the specific light that the cells will be used in. These type protection circuits are a "catch all" and not "tuned" to the specific current loads and characteristics of the light the cells will be used in. For example, some protected cell PCBs will not trip at low current levels. If the cells in the series string are not well matched, this could lead to over discharge of one, or more cells.

    So anyway, you can't really compare laptop Li-Ion use, with flashlight use. The situation is just not the same, especially concerning lights that use cells in series.

    Dave

  16. #16
    *Flashaholic* fyrstormer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Location
    Northern VA, USA
    Posts
    5,802

    Default Re: Bottom line on 18650 safety?

    Quote Originally Posted by 45/70 View Post
    The primary use for Li-Ion cells, is in the manufacturing of battery packs for consumer devices. These devices are required to have a form of protection circuitry, either in the battery pack, or the device itself, that is "tuned" specifically for use of that battery pack in that device.

    Except for a few lights, this is unheard of in the flashlight industry. We must provide our own safety measures, such as using "protected cells", which provide only general protection, not protection for any specific light.
    I think the current paradigm is fine. Every good light has circuitry that satisfies the light's requirements for power management, and every good Li-Ion battery has circuitry that satisfies the battery's requirements for power management. There is no reason for the light's circuitry to micromanage the battery's operation, because the light shouldn't need to know what kind of battery is providing its power. There are some interesting lights that do micromanage the battery's operation, such as the Arc6 which automatically steps-down to maintain maximum regulated output as the battery starts to die, but there's no need for that sort of thing. Certainly nobody would expect the reverse, for the battery's circuitry to micromanage the light's operation.
    Last edited by fyrstormer; 07-16-2012 at 11:44 AM.

  17. #17

    Default Re: Bottom line on 18650 safety?

    Well, I think I'm pretty much sold. I'm going to hunt some "throw" beamshots of the Quark X 2AA (didn't realize the output was closer to 400 than the stated 280), and unless it impresses me enough to stick with AA, I think I'll give 18650 a shot.

    Thanks again for the help!

  18. #18
    Flashaholic* Lou Minescence's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    New England US
    Posts
    666

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by benhar View Post
    Well, I think I'm pretty much sold. I'm going to hunt some "throw" beamshots of the Quark X 2AA (didn't realize the output was closer to 400 than the stated 280), and unless it impresses me enough to stick with AA, I think I'll give 18650 a shot.

    Thanks again for the help!
    Glad to see your making the move. I was of the mindset to stay AA with my lights with a few exceptions. Then I realized more was better. More runtime was the big gain. I can go all day at work with one battery still going and before with AA I had to change out batteries twice. Good luck with all your new choices of lights !

  19. #19
    Flashaholic* Bwolcott's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    California
    Posts
    564

    Default Re: Bottom line on 18650 safety?

    Quote Originally Posted by snakyjake View Post
    Fenix says their ARB-L2 battery is safe.





    I'm not sure what Fenix's definition of "safe" is, and even Bwolcott says "not many" problems.

    It only takes one problem. I do not think it is worth the risk.

    Jake




    there are probably more reported issues with alkalines, all batteries have had an issue I am sure at some point

  20. #20

    Default Re: Bottom line on 18650 safety?

    Quote Originally Posted by benhar View Post
    A few years back when I decided to get a "real" flashlight, I chose the newly released Quark 2xAA Tactical as opposed to the CR123, since AA's are more readily available. I invested in Eneloops and a decent charger and have been happy with the setup.

    However, now that I'm looking for a new flashlight, I'm really curious to get into the world of 18650's to hit and exceed that 500+ lumen mark. But the more I read about 18650 maintenance, the more I wonder if they are worth the hassle. I just want to charge the battery, use it in the flashlight, and when it gets low recharge it and throw it back in. I'd like to leave a multimeter out of the equation if possible, since that gets back into the realm of not worth the hassle. That said, I plan to continue reading up on 18650's and take the necessary precautions, within reason. But am I really introducing much danger in my house by using 18650, or is it just overemphasized around here to catch the attention of new users?

    Thanks for any help/advice, and sorry for starting a thread on a worn-out topic.
    Using a DMM is not a hassle, just keep it handy. You have a battery in hand that needs charging so take ten seconds to stick the probes on it before charging and again when it's done! I find it no more of a task than charging eneloops on my Maha c9000. My humble set-up consists of a 4sevens charger on a porcelain tile with a DMM within reach. I just leave it set on 4.2v with the charge rate 0.5A. That way if I throw a 16340 or a 14500 in there I don't have to worry about switching down from 1.0A. 18650's take a little longer at 0.5A but I'm rarely in a hurry. I never leave them unattended and occasionally put a hand on it to check for heat. I've never had a problem, voltages stay within specs, no excessive heat etc...That doesn't mean I've become complacent, common sense goes a long way! If you follow some basic do's and don'ts you should be fine but always have a contingency plan for the RARE chance something goes awry!

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •