Exploding Batteries

About a year ago, one of our smoke detectors which is hard wired in the house started beeping so I went to change the back-up battery. I couldn’t open the battery door and I noticed that the plastic casing was melted around the battery. The battery had literally exploded and trashed the smoke detector. I just chalked it up to a defective battery. Until yesterday …

I was putting the kids to bed when I heard a huge kaboom and then all the smoke detectors started beeping. I started running through the house with Emma and Luke to see if we could find smoke or find what the heck happened. We couldn’t find anything and I remembered the battery from last year. I started checking all the batteries in smoke detectors and I found another exploded battery. I finally figured out that something wasn’t right.

I searched on the internet and found that the particular model of smoke detector we have (a BRK 4120SB manufactured by First Alert) will cause Duracell batteries to explode. The company blames the battery maker and Duracell blames them for a bad design. Believe it or not, with tons of people reporting this problem, there has never been a recall. The smoke detectors work fine with Energizer or Eveready batteries. I called up the company (1-800-323-9005) and they are sending me a new unit to replace the one that exploded. They are also sending stickers to put in the detector to indicate that Duracell batteries can’t be used. The customer service rep was extra nice, but I still have a problem with their company.

Now I know enough about product liability to know that this is absolutely crazy. Remember that I was a design engineer for 11 years. If you have a product that causes small explosions in your home and disables a smoke detector when you use the best selling battery on the market, then you have a serious safety problem. Why wasn’t this product recalled? Because if they issue a recall then they open themselves up to litigation in every house fire where the people say they didn’t hear a smoke detector. This is another example of common sense being thrown out the window.


I am a former design engineer who now pastors Cornerstone Community Church in Galax, Virginia. I'm passionate about following Jesus and I love technology. I've been married to Jennifer for 28 years, and we have three adult children.

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2 Responses

  1. Fred says:

    I myself have had 2 batteries explode. One explodedas I got out of shower. I thought was a transformer at first then I heard the chirping alarm and more or less put 2 and 2 together. The second one that exploded I did not witness. The alarm started chirping, I remembered the other battery exploding so I sat this one outside. And sure enough in the a.m. I noticed it had exploded.these we’re real cheap batteries though not Duracell.believe it or not this is not common.

  2. Luka Lazarus says:

    I’ve had some Duracell 9V batteries explode just sitting by themselves. They were not abused or anything like that, and still had usable charge left. They ejected pieces across the room! (You can find pics on the web of exploded Duracell 9V batteries – the internal cells bulge and burst, ejecting the electrode rod and other gunk.)
    I’ve also seen numerous Duracell 9V batteries that have begun to bulge at the ends. Now I know to stay away from them especially once they start to bulge. (Because they are building up pressure inside.)

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