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Not all Power banks are equal
Safety must be your first consideration when buying tech accessories.
Overly cheap power bank prices often means cheap batteries that will not charge an iPhone 5, and can even catch on fire.
Read the below APPA article on power bank safety for more information.
Banking Power, Knowledge and Safety
There is a growing demand for power banks today, but there are differences!
When it comes to electronic devices, the absolute first priority is safety. Power banks differ from one another predominantly on the quality of the battery. This quality relates to the type of Lithium battery, cell grade, true capacity, regulated output voltage/current, and protection circuitry. In fact, 70% of the price can be related to the quality of the battery.
A full range of knockoff powerbanks without proper labeling or certification have now flooded the market. With the frequency of mobile power bank accidents increasing every day, and with ever-increasing demands being placed on them, power bank safety has become the number one factor in buying them.
Of course, poor performance and unhappy customers are just as much a risk for your business. There have been cases of dishonest manufacturers using recycled batteries rather than new batteries, and even one where the units contained only a single battery, together with two bags of sand for weight!
Reliable importers of electronic equipment know the technical specifications, product standards, and transportation restrictions for their products. Unfortunately, many Chinese suppliers are selling power banks originally made for the domestic Chinese market, which are rarely compliant with Australian and New Zealand safety standards. Some lack overheating and overcharge protection – both of which are part of the regulatory scope in the Australian and New Zealand market.
WHY IS POWER BANK PRICING SO VARIED?
- Lower cell output on low-quality batteries – Event though ‘nominal’ output may be stated as 2000mAh, there is a conversion ratio that must be applied before you can figure out the charging capability of the battery. As a result, a 2000 mAh power bank will not fully charge an iPhone 5 (approx. 1560 mAh).
- Overload protection switches are a crucial point of safety – some power banks being sold by less-reputable suppliers in China do not have this, which is why you are far better off purchasing from an APPA Supplier.
- Input and Output – ampage relates to the flow of capacity into the device to be charged. The higher the ampage, the faster your device charges.
DON’T select any product with an old (one year or more) manufacturing date.
DON’T put pricing first. It puts you at risk of purchasing an inferior and/or hazardous product. Products compliant with strict safety standards are more expensive to produce than those that are not.
DO look for power banks with – 60 Degree temperature cut off limit (to avoid fire) – 300 recharge cycles – Internal cut off sensor for pressure, amplitude and temperature – All components tested and certified – Grade A battery cells (Grade B and below may be old, re-used batteries)
DO make your supplier selection from a current APPA supplier!
Portable battery power banks are high power capacity devices. Inside your power bank is a lithium battery. There is a big difference to quality depending on the battery! When faulty, power banks can overheat, causing burns as well as electrical current strong enough to cause damage to the device and to the user. Cheap batteries might catch fire or even explode when over-charged. The correct circuitry to prevent over-heating and reverse charging must be present. All power banks should have a MSDS (material safety data sheets) when imported. Any APPA supplier will tell you – safety must be your first consideration. Don’t get short-changed and go with price over quality, because you may get burned – literally!
Li-ion vs Li-Polymer Batteries
Batteries fall into two major groups, both of which can be called ‘rechargeable’.
Lithium ion – tends to be rectangular or cylindrical and is usually cheaper. They are hard-shelled with a strong casing. They weigh a little bit more, are sturdier, and are hard to puncture. They have high-energy densities and cost less, as they suffer from aging, even when not in use.
Lithium polymer – tends to be thinner and come in a silver bag. They are soft-shelled and can be damaged more easily. However, they weigh less and can fit into small shells – particularly the custom-designed PVC moulded power banks. Though more expensive, these are a better battery.
POWER BANK TERMINOLOGY
18650 Li-ion power banks and Li-polymer power banks – in Li-Polymer power banks, the discharge stability, internal resistance safety, and performance are superior. Li-Polymer batteries have overcurrent and overvoltage protection, whereas there is no protection circuit in an 18650 Li-ion battery. The most common type of power bank is 18650 Li-ion. In general, Li-Polymer batteries are better quality and safer.
Ampage – the output of the power bank enables charging of only smart phones or tablets. In general, smart phones need an output between 0.5A and 1A, while tablets need at least 1A to 2A. The higher the ampage, the faster your device will charge. You can have a very high capacity battery in a power bank (5200 mAh) and yet, it will take forever to charge your device. Think of traffic flowing along a highway during peak hour – the traffic will get from point A to point B faster if the highway has more lanes (ie. greater output).
Capacity – the capacity of the power bank gives an indication of how much you can charge. A capacity of 2600mAh allows an iPhone 5 (approx 1560 mAh) to be fully charged, yet a Samsung Galaxy S5 (approx 3000 mAh) cannot be fully charged. A power bank at 2200 mAh, however, will not fully charge an iPhone 5 partly due to voltage equation output and the laws of electrical resistance.
Li-ion – lithium ion
Li-Polymer – lithium polymer
mAh – Milliamp Hours is a unit for measuring electric power over time. mAh is commonly used to describe the total amount of energy a battery can store at one time. A battery rated for more mAh will power a phone for longer, given the same usage pattern.
PCB – the printed circuit board (PCB) is the board base for physically supporting and wiring the surface-mounted and socketed components in most electronics.
UL – is a global safety organization that has been at the forefront of product safety for over 100 years. UL certifies, validates, tests, inspects, audits, advises and trains manufacturers to ensure the safety of their products. It is vital for Distributors to purchase from companies that seek UL certification. UL urges those who are in the market for purchasing power bank products to look for the UL Mark. The UL Mark indicates the product has been evaluated to the appropriate safety standards. If a power bank has a UL Mark, this also means the lithium cells used in the product meet UL 1642, which is the standard for lithium battery cells. This standard ensures the lithium cells have been exposed to unusual conditions as part of testing.
LET’S ASK OUR SUPPLIERS
1. A Distributor comes to you for power banks. What do you need to know about their requirements, so you can help them select the right product for the end-user?
The main question would be the intended use of the power banks. Economy classed power banks are ideal for charging phones for emergency purposes and are generally below 3000 mAh, whereas power banks with a capacity of between 3000 mAh and 10000mAh are more suited to charging larger items, such as tablets and iPads – but obviously come at a higher price point.
2. When your clients are comparing differently-priced power banks, what should they take into consideration?
A-Grade batteries and protective circuitry should be the main two things that are considered when comparing differently-priced power banks. Obviously, quality components are key to ensuring the safety of the power bank and phone, or any other device being charged.
3. As an APPA supplier of power banks, do you ensure your products are compliant with Australian/New Zealand regulations?
Yes, it is imperative that all our power banks are compliant with all international regulations. Selling power banks without any certification is dangerous and puts people and goods at risk. Look for power banks that have a UL mark.
4. What do Distributors need to know about safely transporting power banks?
Power banks need to be packed separately and should be placed in strong packaging for support during transportation. Avoid shipping methods that can expose the power banks to being dropped or broken. Avoid methods where the power banks can get wet.
5. Is it safe to purchase a no-name brand power bank, or should you only purchase known brands?
As a promotional item I think it is fine to purchase a no-name power bank, as long as the product is manufactured by a reputable company. You need to make sure the item passed all safety standards, has quality components, and has a UL listing. There have been instances in the USA over the past 12 months where there have been recalls. In fact, one particular recall cost the supplier in excess of $500,000 when a number of power banks caught fire. This can occur without the product being used, basically still in its original packaging.
ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
- Do your power banks come from a company that meets international compliance?
- Do your power banks come with relevant compliance certificates for transport?
- What is the quality of the battery inside? Is it a brand – like Samsung – or a generic no-name brand?
- Do your power banks come with control circuitry to regulate voltage and current output?
- How fire-retardant is the casing surrounding the battery?
- What features are actually in your power bank: battery type, protection circuitry, true capacity (mAh), stable output current and voltage, certification, 1 or 2 Amp output, dual capacity indicator, cable quality and design, charging tips, and plastic or metal casing?
- Are you an APPA supplier?
As a member of APPA the Australasian Promotional Products Association we have access to over 30,000 promotional products. You can check out our website for ideas then talk to our friendly team to discuss your requirements.
This article was researched and compiled with assistance from APPA Members:Caprina (Harry Sussman), Logo-Line (Simon Atkinson), and High Caliber Line (Phillip Bouchard). The editor wishes to thank these contributors for sharing their knowledge and expertise.
Disclaimer: The information provided here is general in nature and provided for educational purposes only. APPA Members and other organisations must do their own research to understand their legal obligations and to ensure they are compliant with all relevant laws and regulations. APPA does not accept responsibility for any loss or damage occasioned by any person acting or refraining from action as a result of reliance on this information.