Is my phone charger a fire risk? And other boring but important safety questions answered

Could my phone charger burn my house down?

Yes, if it’s dodgy. London Fire Brigade has warned of the dangers of counterfeit iPhone chargers, following a spate of recent house fires caused by cheap fakes. While buying the real deal from Apple might seem crazy expensive compared to the generic versions (which can be found priced as low as 99p on eBay) the unanimous view is that they’re definitely worth it.

According to the report, imitation chargers have on average less than half of the 60 circuitry components found in general Apple iPhone chargers. ‘There have been some near misses in the last few months,’ warns London fire investigator Andrew Vaughan–Davies. ‘And, unless people stop buying them, it’s only a matter of time before we are called to a fatal fire.’

How do I know if I’ve got a fake?

Well aside from buying it for less than the price of a sandwich, there are a few signs the Fire Brigade recommend looking out for to spot an unofficial iPhone charger:

  • A glossy/shiny finish on the plug pins (on the real chargers they’re matte)
  • Irregularly angular plug pins
  • An upside-down USB socket
  • Lightweight – real Apple chargers weigh over 40g
  • Dark printed text on the faceplate

There’s a whole lot more scary detail on counterfeit chargers from Electrical Safety First here, if you still need convincing.

It’s ok, my charger is genuine. But could a genuine charger still burn my house down?

Well, possibly. Branded chargers are much safer than generic ones because their wiring and battery has been specifically designed for that device – but where fire risks are concerned, it’s still better not to leave them plugged in at all. That means not charging overnight, and not when they’re not being used.

But it takes me a whole three seconds to plug it in each time!

I know, sucks right? But on balance, fire is probably worse.

Wait, did you say I can’t charge overnight?

Yeah, sorry. South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue specifically advise against charging anything overnight, or for longer than the device takes to reach full battery. Try making it part of your evening or morning routine instead, or become one of those people who always has a charger tucked away at the bottom of their Mary Poppins carpet bag.

What about laptop chargers?

Same goes, we’re afraid. Anyone who’s ever cuddled up to their toasty laptop on a cold winter’s night will be at least vaguely away that computers and chargers can overheat if left on for too long. Even e-cigarette chargers can be a risk (still better than smoking the real thing in bed though). So always unplug the juice once your battery’s full.

Image: MarLeah Cole

Want to read more? Here’s our coverage of the recent Apple announcements, includingeverything you need to know about Apple’s ‘phablet’, the iPhone 6 Plus, andsmartwatches buying guide, or if you’re sick of Apple completely, here’s our rundown of our 14 favourite dating apps, from Tinder to eHarmony.

Lauren Bravo