By November 27, 2017 Read More →

Wiring accessories: It’s time to rethink charging outlets

By Jim Hutchison, National Sales Manager, Crabtree.

According to Ericsson’s latest Mobility Report, in Q1 of 2017 smartphones officially accounted for 80% of all mobile phone purchases across the globe. But as smartphone uptake grows, so does consumer demand for battery life.

Our research found that 30% of UK adults now charge their phone in a public place at least once a month, while 58% would like more public buildings to feature USB charging outlets. These figures are only expected to rise and to satisfy changing user habits, USB charging outlets are emerging on the market.

However, installing USB charging outlets is not just a way to meet public demand, it can also make charging smartphones and tablets a significantly safer process.

The rise of counterfeit chargers

The rise of smartphone uptake has not only led to a demand for more battery life, but also the rise of fake or unofficial smartphone chargers. These counterfeit leads and plugs that vary in both quality and reliability are being produced, purchased and then used at a rapid rate in large public buildings.

When questioned in our survey, over half (57%) of the respondents either admitted to, or remained unsure as to whether they’d bought a cheap phone charger that was made by a different manufacturer to their phone.

Meanwhile, 46% had purchased one from independent e-commerce merchants on websites like eBay or Amazon – increasing the likelihood of it being fake. However, most consumers are also blind to the fact that counterfeit chargers have a number of safety risks.

In a test ran by Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) last year, it was found that only three out of approximately 400 fake Apple chargers were insulated well enough to protect the user from electric shock – a risk that fixed USB charging outlets can mitigate. However, out of those surveyed 47% did not think that electric shock would be a risk when using an unsolicited charger.

Other safety risks associated with fake or counterfeit phone chargers include screen burns, electrical fires and power cuts. Adding weight to this risk, in our survey more than 100 respondents confessed that they had experienced something dangerous when charging their phone, with many admitting to fires, smoke, sparks and burning.

But, what can be done?

Clearly, there’s a need for greater awareness of the risks associated with fake chargers. But while a public education is key, there are also other ways to tackle this growing safety concern.

This is where specifiers and installers can help. Due to the fact that fake chargers are often bought unknowingly, it’s near impossible to stop their use in commercial buildings. This means it’s important that those responsible for purchasing and installing the electrics in a build take full advantage of any products or features on the market that can reduce these risks.

By sourcing USB charging facilities in fixed installations, it’s possible to guarantee an extra level of safety to the public using commercial buildings. For example, sockets with integrated USB charging outlets and intelligent mobile device charging offer higher levels of user safety by automatically managing the charge to match the needs of the device plugged in.

This ability to manage and match the charge will guarantee optimal charger performance regardless of mobile device brand or charger used. As well as limiting risk of fire or electric shock, this means that expensive devices will not suffer component damage or screen burn and the charging needs of the user can be met, without compromising the speed at which their device charges.

What’s next?

Charger sockets that are part of the fixed installation offer a safer way to meet the public’s needs but unfortunately, they are not currently a requirement within the IET wiring regulations. It’s for this reason that fixed USB charging outlets require a separate mention in specifications – if you don’t ask for them, you won’t get them. Looking ahead, this is likely to change as regulations progress, making it a question of when, not if.

Safety has always been a priority for all professionals working within the electrical installation industry. However, it’s recently become a huge concern in light of recent news events.

So as people look to charge up their smartphones on the go, USB charging outlets will be extremely important. Not only do they satisfy growing public demand, but they also minimise a growing safety concern – something that should be at the top of everyone’s agenda.

Above: USB charging outlets meet public demand and make charging smartphones and tablets a significantly safer process.