Summer is just about in full-swing across the Northern Hemisphere, which means shorts, sunscreen and overheated electronics. Anyone who’s ever hung out in August, in an apartment without air conditioning, while working on their laptop, knows how much heat even a compact device can put out. Can you imagine how hot it must be inside to get the fan revving like that? If you’re worried about your charger getting too hot, we’ve got your back. In the spirit of our winter Guide to Using Your Mobile Device in Cold Weather, we’re back with some tips for getting through the sizzle season.
How does the heat harm your devices?
You reach into your pocket and pull out your phone. The hot brick makes your hand immediately start sweating and you feel gross. The lithium ion battery in your device feels the same way, only instead of “sweating” it starts “melting,” and instead of “gross” it feels (once again) like it is literally melting.
One of the primary challenges for manufacturers is managing the heat that’s created as a side-effect of charging. When the battery is already hot due to the ambient temperature, it overheats that much more quickly. When the charger itself is too hot, there’s risk of decreased performance or even permanent damage on both sides.
Battery University has done a number of studies on battery function in extreme temperatures. Batteries tend to work best around 20°C (68°F); at 30°C (86°F) you see a 20% performance hit; at 40°C (104°F), you’re looking at 40%. Not great!
Charging safely in high temperatures
Generally, if your power bank or charger feels too hot, it’s a sign it needs a break. It should never become so hot you can’t touch it. A little warmth is okay, but remember: your charger is much hotter on the inside, and there are delicate components at risk.
- Be very careful not to leave the unit plugged in longer than absolutely necessary. You’ll also want to be very conscientious about not leaving the charger in direct sunlight. If you’re old enough to remember what happened when a VHS tape was left on a car dashboard too long, you will have some idea of what the sun can do when provoked.
- Speaking of parked cars, they are where many a device has gone to die (horribly). Per Apple’s iPhone operating guidelines, for example, iOS devices are designed to work best when the ambient temperature is between 0° and 35°C (32° to 95°F). Even a stored and depowered device is only safe from 20° to 45°C (4° to 113°F), and the conditions in a parked car can regularly exceed these limits.
- Stick to basic functions on sweltering days. You’ve probably noticed your phone gets hot faster when you’re using certain programs, such as the camera, GPS or graphics-intensive apps. It takes a toll on your phone’s hardware to run these kind of apps. As a result, your already compromised battery must be charged more frequently, increasing the chances of your charger getting too hot.
- Avoid pass through charging. Pass through charging, which we’ve covered before , is when you continue to use your device while it’s connected to a power bank which is itself also charging. As we noted in our previous post, with good quality products your charger won’t get too hot if you only use pass through sparingly. During a heatwave however, the extra strain on the power bank could get dicey. Charging safely in high temperatures means you might have to learn to be just a little more patient.
Do you have any summer charging horror stories? Or brilliant hacks to keep your charger from getting too hot? Want to compliment us for getting through this whole article without using the expression “beat the heat”? Reach out in the comments!