I’ll never forget a bad experience I had once as an electronics apprentice. When it comes to working with electronic equipment, Arduino included, knowing how to deal with fire hazards is crucial. If ignored, your Arduino can catch fire and cause you damage even if it’s the smallest component, such as a diode.
But, can Arduino catch fire? Here’s what you need to know: Yes! Arduino can catch fire under certain conditions. If this is not taken into considerations when working on your projects, it can cause serious damages or even hurt you.
This article will focus on the ways to keep your Arduino projects and yourself safe from the risk of fire and the factors which can prove to be a fire hazard when working with electronic equipment. So, make sure you give this article a good read till the last word.
What Is a Fire Hazard?
Fire hazards are materials, situations, or practices that can lead to an uncontrollable fire. Strictly talking about electronics, a small spark can ignite a massive fire or even an explosion within a few seconds.
The incorrect methods of handling electronic equipment, together with the wrong type of components used in projects, are some of the factors that contribute towards an electrical fire.
There are many other types of fires, and each one has a different method of extinguishing it. Some fires need water to extinguish, while others are strictly put down by using only specific chemicals such as carbon dioxide.
What Are the Causes of Fire in Arduino Projects?
Now that you’re aware of what a fire hazard is, let’s take a look at the possible causes of fire in Arduino projects.
What could go wrong when working on a simple Arduino project? You might be wondering.
Can an Arduino board cause a fire? Let’s find out!
Here 9 Reasons Your Arduino Can Catch Fire
Reason #1: Poor Ventilation
The most common cause of fires in Arduino projects as well as other electronic projects is poor ventilation.
When an electric current passes through a piece of conductor, it produces heat energy because electrons are flowing through the conductor, and they bump into atoms of the conductor, giving off heat energy.
We use to make many connections on our Arduino boards when working on a project, meaning that multiple currents are flowing through it; hence generating a considerable amount of heat energy.
So, the heat that electronics projects produce needs to be guided out of the system through a proper ventilation channel.
You shouldn’t, for example, build an Arduino project and keep it without proper ventilation (or close it in a tiny room) where there is zero ventilation because sooner or later, you’d have to call the fire brigade to help you out!
So, always make sure to place your Arduino projects in a well-ventilated area when powered on.
Reason #2: Loose Connections
Loosely connected wires or other components are another cause of the fire because they obstruct the current path and increase the resistance of that connection, causing heat to dissipate.
If you’ve ever seen a loosely connected plug hanging on the wall socket, you would’ve noticed that it has turned black or it’s hot at the touch, because of the extra heat produced.
Loose wires in Arduino projects can also burn out and cause a fire to start.
Reason #3: Short-Circuiting
A short circuit occurs when two wires or two conductors come into contact with each other when they’re not supposed to.
These “wrong contacts” lead to a high flow of current, and often you can see a spark coming out of it.
If the short circuit continues, the spark may develop into a fire and create a lot of unwanted mess.
Reason #4: Defective Components
Using inferior quality components in Arduino projects or using a fake Arduino board is also classified as a fire hazard because the defective parts cannot handle a lot of heat. Hence, they often burn out and may cause a fire to flare up.
If you want to check whether your Arduino board is original, check out this article.
Reason #5: Overloading
Always make sure not to overload your Arduino board because it might lead to a fire incident.
Overloading means connecting the Arduino board to too many components, where each of them is driving a significant amount of current from the microcontroller board.
When you overload your Arduino board for a long time, the connections heat up, and eventually, the temperature of the board rises above the safe limits and leads to a fire.
Hence, you should always avoid overloading your Arduino board when using it in projects.
Reason #6: Presence of Flammable Materials
Materials that can catch fire easily, such as clothes and flammable liquids, must always be kept at a safe distance from electronic circuitry.
Avoid keeping these items near your Arduino project because these materials will help the fire spread very fast.
Even if there’s just a tiny spark that won’t turn into a fire, these materials can make the sparkle grows into a fire.
To see which household substances are highly flammable, click here.
Reason #7: Faulty Outlets
Faulty outlets and outdated electrical wiring in the house is a significant reason behind household fires.
So, if you’re using a DC adaptor plugged onto a wall socket to power your Arduino board, make sure that the wall outlet is not faulty to prevent a fire in your house.
One can easily recognize faulty outlets checking simple signs, such as burn marks near the socket.
If you need to read more about how to identify faulty sockets around the house, click here.
Reason #8: Lithium Batteries
Using lithium batteries to power up your Arduino board is a big NO! Because lithium batteries are highly flammable and may explode when exposed to heat.
Arduino projects, as explained before, dissipate heat especially if running for a long time, and this can flare up a fire in the presence of highly flammable lithium batteries.
So, it’s best not to use those batteries since you have a lot of other alternatives to power up your Arduino projects which offer a low risk of fire.
Reason #9: Polarized Capacitors
Using polarized capacitors in Arduino projects can sometimes prove to be catastrophic, mainly when these capacitors are supplied with either reversed-polarity voltage or exposed to high temperatures.
Sometimes, a high AC can also lead to a fire. Hence, always make sure to take necessary precautions when using polarized capacitors in Arduino projects.
If you want to know everything about capacitors, check out this awesome article that even shows a lab test with an explosion. Who does not love to blow up things in the lab?!
Make sure to place the project in a cool, well-ventilated place when powered on, and the input voltage and current are at the right level.
How Can You Reduce the Risk of Fire in Arduino Projects?
Now that you know what the possible causes of fire in Arduino projects are, you can quickly reduce the risk of fire by following the following, simple steps.
Step 1. Monitor the Temperature
Always place your projects in a well-ventilated area or attach a cooling fan along with your project. Taking these precautions will make sure that the temperature of your Arduino project does not reach the dangerous level where a fire can quickly start.
You can also program your Arduino project in such a way that if the temperature rises above a certain level, the project turns itself off for a while and then starts again when the temperature drops down.
Step 2. Double-Check the Connections
Adopt the practice of checking your Arduino project’s connections before powering it on.
Make sure you’re supplying the right amount of voltage with the correct polarity, and to fit all the connections tightly.
In case you’re using an adaptor to power up your Arduino board, make sure to connect it firmly to a power outlet that isn’t faulty, thus reducing the risk of fire.
Step 3. Calculate the Currents
Supplying current higher than the recommended value can cause unnecessary heat to build up and increase the temperature of your Arduino project.
So, the best practice would be to calculate the currents before assembling the project so that you don’t have to deal with the hassle of putting out an electrical fire.
Step 4. Keep it Away from Flammable Materials
Flammable materials are a primary cause of spreading fire. As mentioned above, these substances can catch fire within a few seconds; hence, keep these materials away from your Arduino project when they’re powered on.
Step 5. Build Neat Circuits
Circuit boards that have a lot of components squeezed into a tiny area are more likely to develop a short circuit in comparison to those neatly constructed, with components placed apart and separate connecting wires which are not tangled up.
Another advantage of building a neat circuit is that you’ll know which wire is connecting which components and when making amendments, you wouldn’t have to spend a lot of time figuring out which connection you have to break or change.
As you can see, neat circuits are not only a treat for the eyes, but they also help reduce the risk of fire.
Now, after reading this article, you’re ready to fight/prevent the risk of fire associated with Arduino boards or any of your electronic projects.
All you need to do is always to keep the causes of fire, described above, in mind while working on your upcoming Arduino project!
Have you ever had a bad fire hazard experience while working on your electronics or Arduino projects before? What caused the error?
Let us know on the comments below! You can help other people to keep themselves safe while enjoying their Arduino projects!
Want to know a bit more about this topic? Check out these articles:
- 5 common causes of electrical fires (firerescue1.com).
- Fire hazards posed by personal electronic devices (imca-int.com).
- Electrical Fire Hazards (systemsafetyengineering.com).
- An inside look at capacitors (craneengineering.com).
- Safety of using microcontrollers such as Arduino (electronics.stackexchange.com).