Everybody's always looking for ways to save money, especially In this economy, and one common money-saving tip you'll often hear is to watch out for excessive “brand loyalty.”
Sometimes people let themselves get so accustomed to paying premium prices for Brand A, they overlook Brand X which works just as well for a considerably lower price.
Various types of brand loyalty which serve only to empty your wallet include paying extra for clothing just because it has a designer's name on the label, or overlooking store-brand foods which are often made by name-brand companies, only without the fancy packaging.
That said, while most flavors of brand loyalty are potential money-wasters, there are a few areas where it makes good economic sense and one where it's downright mandatory: power sources for electronic devices with rechargeable batteries, such as phones, laptops, tablets and even e-cigarettes.
No matter which manufacturer made your devices, you should always stick with manufacturer-approved batteries, chargers and other accessories, rather than buy third-party products which might prove dangerously incompatible with your device.
At best, third-party batteries will likely void your manufacturer's warranty. At worst, they can make your devices overheat, catch fire or even explode. It happened to Ginny in Thousand Oaks, California, who wrote to share her story with us so that others might learn from her family's dangerously close call:
I'm still recovering from an adrenaline rush after yesterday when my daughter's Toshiba laptop caught on fire and exploded! …. It *could have* blown up in my face but I ran fast enough to throw it out the front door first, and then my son's who threw it again away from the house. These are the things that keep going through my mind.
The only damage was the laptop and my nerves (and a scorched wall, burned comforter and dirty smoke) but I want to share my experience because I had NO idea this could happen!
Got too hot
Ginny's 13-year-old daughter was reclining on her bed doing homework on her laptop when “it got too hot and she smelled smoke.” She immediately unplugged the laptop and turned it off, but it was too late:
It was BAD; there was toxic smoke, flames, shrapnel and the fire doesn't go out no matter what you try; it was like a nuclear reactor meltdown sans radiation (I hope lol) that gets bigger instead of smaller until it blows up and doesn't stop for a long time.
When lithium-ion batteries catch on fire, they genuinely are very difficult to extinguish: they can reach temperatures of up to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and they also might explode (which are two reasons why bulk shipments of lithium-ion batteries have been banned on U.S. passenger flights for over a decade now, since 2004). Ginny understandably found herself badly shaken by the incident:
I am buying a "Class D" fire extinguisher or two today after watching a YouTube warning, but I am not sure that would stopped the exploding lithium batteries …. I had NO idea this was a possibility. The laptop always ran hot - it was old and we bought it used. We got a new fan, and recently replaced the battery.
Uh-oh. Replaced the battery? We asked Ginny if the new battery was Toshiba-approved, or made by a third party.
I'm afraid the batteries were 3rd party. My husband had just replaced them because the Toshiba battery died, but I didn't realize he had done that. I never use 3rd party batteries in my cameras and would have objected to them if I had known but he likes to save money (hah! House fires aren't cheap, nor is the burn center, worst case scenario).
Ginny's wasn't the only family to suffer a close call thanks to a third-party battery. Last July, a 13-year-old in Texas accidentally set her bed on fire with her smartphone, which was not only powered by a third-party battery, but ended up under her pillow one night, so that the heat generated by the battery had no place to dissipate and made the pillow start smoldering.
The next month, an airplane about to take off from a runway in Tel Aviv instead had to be evacuated, after the battery in a passenger's iPhone caught fire.
Not that such fires are anything new. Back in 2004, a California teenager suffered second-degree burns when her cell phone caught fire without warning. A local fire investigator said the phone suddenly burst into “fist-sized flames,” and suspected an overheating lithium battery was to blame.
By 2005, the feds were warning consumers about the fire hazards and related dangers posed by rechargeable batteries. That March, for example, the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a list of “cell phone safety tips” and the first item was this: never use incompatible cell phone batteries and chargers. Whichever brand of phone you have, you must stick with manufacturer-approved batteries rather than buy from third-party sources, as the manufacturers can't guarantee that third-party devices are compatible with their devices.
To protect yourself and keep your house safe from such fire hazards, the three most important pieces of advice are:
- always use manufacturer-approved batteries and chargers for your smartphone, laptop, tablet or any other device;
- never leave the devices plugged in overnight or while you're away from home; and,
- especially while the devices are turned on, do not cover them with blankets, pillows or anything else capable of restricting airflow and preventing heat from dissipating.
As Ginny ruefully noted: “I knew that third-party batteries might hurt my camera, but I didn't know they might hurt me.”
Everybody's always looking for ways to save money, especially In this economy, and one common money-saving tip you'll often hear is to watch out for excess...