Laptops and smartphones a fire hazard in the home

We all love our gadgets, but tech like smartphones, laptops and tablets may actually pose a significant threat to the safety of our homes, RACV insurance has warned.

Data from RACV Insurance showed that 11% of house fires were caused by household appliances and that computers and phones were the fourth most likely appliance to cause a fire in the home, after air conditioners, dishwashers and microwaves.

This high occurrence of fire is due largely to the lithium batteries used in these kinds of portable electronics, which, when left connected to a power source, can overheat and become a hazard.

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“Over the past decade there have been house fires attributed to overheated batteries in several countries and last year Victorian fire services attended 28 fires involving portable electronic appliances,” said RACV General Manager Insurance, Paul Northey.

With Aussie households owning more and more electronics, the risk of fire is only set to increase. ABS figures showed that in 2014-15, 86% of all households had access to the internet; 94% of those used a desktop or laptop computer, while 86% used mobile or smartphones and 62% used tablets. Overall, each household had an average of six electronic devices that were connected to the internet.

“These portable devices provide entertainment and unlimited access to information but users must be alert to the risks and follow some simple safety rules,” Northey said.

RACV’s safety tips for your tech
  • If your device is fully charged, take it off the charger.
  • Keep your gadget on a hard surface that won’t block its fans or ventilation system when using or charging it to reduce the risk of overheating.
  • If your laptop gets too hot even with the fan running, take a break and allow it to cool.
  • Don’t store your laptop in a bag or case when it is turned on.
  • Make sure your charger and cord aren’t damaged.
  • Only use approved chargers (no dodgy knockoffs!).
  • Using a double adaptor to charge multiple devices? Think about switching to a power board with overload protection.

To protect your bank account in the case of a house fire, make sure you have adequate home and contents insurance to cover the structure of your home, as well as everything in it - including your electronics.

Need to find a policy to cover your home in case of a fire? Check out our home insurance hub to find the best deals available.