PAT Testing AtoZ – C is for Chargers

Lately we’ve seen a lot of counterfeit and faulty chargers, both for laptops and mobile devices. These sound like a great deal when you purchase them. Why pay over a tenner when you can get a generic charger for a couple of pounds? However, as this infographic from Electrical Safety First explains, they may be far more costly than the initial purchase price would suggest.

How often do you use a charger?

Think about it – mobile phones, laptops, e-readers, external hard drives, tablets and phablets, e-cigarettes. So many items today use chargers and power packs (properly known as power supplies). All these items use transformers to reduce the mains current supplied to the device. With mobile phone chargers the transformer is usually in the USB wall plug, for laptops the transformer is in a separate power pack.

We’ve been keeping an extra sharp eye out for faulty laptop chargers; many people have been caught out by these as they’re difficult to spot. Further, some e-cigarettes have unsafe chargers, so it’s worth checking to see that yours isn’t one of them.

What’s the problem with cheap replacement chargers?

Cheap counterfeit chargers may have sub-standard components, or even omit some components altogether. One of the most frightening we’ve seen was a USB plug with a loose live pin, just like this one:

A quick search for faulty chargers on YouTube returns over 17000 results; repeating the search on Google provides thousands of news articles on fires, shocks, and unfortunately, fatalities.

Do I just need to avoid cheap unbranded chargers?

Sadly, no. Apple, HP and Lenovo are among the manufacturers who have recalled faulty chargers in the last 12 months. To learn more about these recalls and check your products are safe you can sign up to Register My Appliance or check on Electrical Safety First’s product recall page.

However, cheap counterfeit chargers are definitely hazardous, as another YouTube user explains:

What should I do with faulty chargers?

There are a few things you can do to reduce the risks:

  • Register your device with the manufacturer, and check any emails you receive from them
  • Only buy replacements for faulty chargers from reputable sources
  • Never use a broken or faulty charger, power pack or lead
  • If you are unsure about the safety of a charger or power pack, do not use it
  • Do not attempt to repair a faulty charger or power pack
  • If you buy a replacement charger or power pack, check that it is compatible with the device, that it comes well packaged, and follow the instructions in the packaging. If there are none, it’s probably fake.
  • Check the plug. The earth pin (the vertical one) should be either solid metal or solid plastic – never both. The neutral and live pins (the horizontal ones) should be plastic at the base with metal tips.

If you’re unsure, please refer the item to an expert – it’s just not worth the risk. Our engineers can usually spot illegal chargers at a glance, but that comes from years of practice!

To arrange for one of our experienced engineers to check the chargers and other appliances in your workplace drop us a message at hello@skyburtesting.co.uk or call Emma on 07518 688 233.

Take care until next time!

Adrian


UPDATE: The day after this blog post was originally published, five mobile phone chargers were recalled. They are:

01/05/2015 – Reports emerged of Haiwen Yang being prosecuted and fined £7000 for selling dangerous chargers

07/06/2015 – An e-cigarette charger overheated and caught fire while plugged into the USB port of a laptop – I’m still trying to get my head around that one, because it shouldn’t really be possible!

 

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