How to Safely Handle a Replacement Laptop Battery

Learn about precautions you should take when handling replacement laptop batteries including temperature considerations & recycling tips.

How to Safely Handle a Replacement Laptop Battery

When it comes to handling a replacement laptop battery, there are certain precautions that must be taken to ensure the safety of the device and its user. Never remove the battery while the computer is turned on, even in standby or sleep mode; doing so will crash the system and possibly damage the hardware. Even inserting a battery into a working laptop can damage the system, so it should only be done when the laptop is completely turned off or in hibernation. Temperature is one of the main factors that affects laptop battery life.

Low temperatures can be a problem if you live in a cold climate, but high temperatures are a bigger concern. Lithium-ion batteries and devices containing these batteries should not go to household waste or recycling containers. Instead, they must be taken to separate recycling or household hazardous waste collection points. The increase in demand for lithium-ion batteries is largely due to their high “energy density”.

Lithium batteries can be smaller and lighter than other types of batteries and, at the same time, contain the same amount of energy. This miniaturization has allowed a rapid increase in consumer adoption of smaller portable and wireless products. However, if these batteries or electronic devices containing them are thrown away or placed in municipal recycling bins together with recyclable household materials, such as plastic, paper or glass, they could be damaged or crushed during transport or by processing and sorting equipment, creating a fire hazard. Therefore, lithium-ion batteries, or those found in electronic devices, should be recycled into certified battery electronics recyclers instead of being thrown in the trash or placed in municipal recycling bins.

Because of the size and complexity of these battery systems, consumers may not be able to remove medium and large scale lithium-ion batteries. Consult the manufacturer's instructions and pay attention to safety warnings and instructions. The DOT's “Check the Box” campaign is a public awareness campaign that seeks to prevent serious incidents by raising public awareness of everyday items that are considered hazardous materials in transportation, including batteries that are packaged and sent for recycling or disposal. Batteries must be correctly identified, packaged and labeled using the markings on the package before they are sent for recycling or disposal.

For more information, go to the DOT Check the Box campaign and watch the campaign video. Some lithium-ion batteries may meet the hazardous waste definition of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) if they have a hazardous waste characteristic, such as flammability, reactivity, or toxicity when discarded. People who generate waste that is defined as hazardous in the RCRA are called “hazardous waste generators”. These regulations do not apply to households because, according to the RCRA, hazardous waste discarded by households is generally exempt from hazardous waste regulations.

Rather, commercial establishments are responsible for determining if the waste they produce is hazardous waste, including lithium-ion batteries at the end of their useful life. The universal waste regulation establishes a simplified set of requirements for generators of specific types of common hazardous waste (for example). The requirements vary depending on whether less or more than 5000 kg of total universal waste accumulates on site at a time, but they include instructions on how to manage waste, how to label containers, how long waste can accumulate on site and where waste can be sent, among others. Universal waste regulations do not require that the shipment be made through a hazardous waste manifest, but it does require that the waste be sent to an authorized hazardous waste disposal facility or to a recycler.

International shipments of lithium-ion batteries managed as universal waste must also meet the requirements of the RCRA for the export and import of universal waste. The EPA recommends that companies consult their state solid and hazardous waste agencies for additional information on applicable universal waste regulations.An additional consideration, especially for small businesses or those that generate small amounts of hazardous waste per month, are the RCRA regulations on “very small quantity generators” (VSQG). Lithium-ion batteries discarded by companies that generate less than 100 kg (220 pounds) of hazardous waste per month are considered generator waste in very small quantities and may be subject to reduced hazardous waste requirements. Before using the VSQG exemption, check with your state's regulatory program as they may have different requirements.If a lithium-ion battery is damaged, contact the battery or device manufacturer for specific driving information.

Some third-party or non-Dell batteries are commercially available and claim to be compatible with Dell laptop computers.To ensure your laptop's built-in battery lasts as long as possible, it's important to take some common-sense precautions and know about factors that affect its lifespan. To avoid possible additional damage to the device case or internal components and cause a malfunction, stop using the laptop and unload it by disconnecting the power adapter and letting the battery run out.We recommend contacting Dell product support to learn about options for replacing a spent battery under applicable warranty terms or service contract including replacement options by an authorized Dell service technician.

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