Unplug that Anker battery pack now: House blaze sparks recall
Send them back? God no, throw them away, says maker
Anker has issued a voluntary recall of its 535 battery packs — also marketed as the PowerCore 20K — one of which is believed to have caused a house fire earlier this month.
According to the recall notice, "due to manufacturing condition, a small number of Anker 535 power banks may overheat and pose a fire safety risk."
In response to questions about the issue, Anker claimed the power bank met all applicable industry standards prior to its sale in the US, Canada, UK, Europe, Japan, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. It was only later, the company says that the defect was discovered and a recall issued.
The manufacturer says it's now working with government agencies to recall the devices before they cause any damage. However, it now appears that the battery may have already caused a house fire in the hamlet of Leitersburg, Maryland, USA, in early February. According to one newspaper, State Fire Marshal Oliver Alkire believes the "most probable cause" of the fire was an Anker 535 battery pack.
The rechargeable power source was reportedly packed inside a suitcase with no devices connected to it, and the homeowner told the media the battery hadn't been used in about a week. Investigators were able to determine the power bank was an Anker 535 based on a purchase receipt from November.
No one was hurt, and the fire was limited to the bedroom. However, fire officials told reporters the blaze could have been worse if the residents hadn't taken steps to limit the fire's spread — namely closing the bedroom's fire-proof door before evacuating the building.
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Other than the Maryland case, which Anker didn’t directly address in its response to The Register’s questions, we’re told that the maker has “received reports of a small number of instances where the 535 power bank overheated and caught fire,” but didn’t provide any specifics.
Customers who have purchased an Anker power bank are encouraged to check to determine if their device is subject to the recall. Users can visually identify the charger by checking for the branding "535 Power Bank" or "PowerCore 20K" and the model number "A1366."
While Anker has announced a recall, it's clear they do not want the devices back. Customers in possession of affected Anker 535 devices are advised to stop using the device immediately and store it in a safe location until it can be properly disposed of at a facility that accepts lithium battery cells. Your nearest recycling center should help.
Anker also advises customers not to throw the battery in the trash bin — which we'll note is illegal in many jurisdictions anyway. But given the risk of the device causing a literal dumpster fire, the advisory is understandable.
Anker has shared a web form where customers can request a refund.
This is hardly the first or highest profile incident of lithium-ion batteries causing fires. In 2016 Samsung was forced to recall its then new Galaxy Note 7 in its entirety after the device's batteries began experiencing explosive failures, including one incident on a plane.
Meanwhile, larger scale battery packs have been known to cause spectacular fires. Last year, a Tesla battery pack at a California substation ignited just six months after it was installed. ®