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Risks & Dangers of Cheap AC Adapters

January 31, 2018

Cheap and generic AC Adapters and Power cords can be found on online shopping sites like eBay from as little as $5-$10. When something is available for such a cheap price, you’ve got to wonder whether costs are being cut during the manufacturing process. And these cheap AC Adapters and Power cords can pose very serious dangers, including:

  • Fire risk

    The Consumer Affairs Agency recorded almost 100 cases of smoke, fire, or overheating involving AC Adapters and Power Cords in 2014. In one incident, a person was slightly injured in a fire after using an unbranded unit that was purchased online. These adapters were subject to a fire hazard recall in July that year, involving 224,000 other units. A spokeswoman for the National Institute of Technology and Evaluation (NITE) points out that “The terminals inside the connectors can become twisted or deformed and interrupt the flow of current. Sweat, liquids, and small debris or dust can also cause short circuits and fire”. Overall, cheap AC Adapters and Power Cords are seen as a fire risk as they can dangerously overheat.

  • Electrocution

    According to a Sydney Morning Herald report, a Sydney woman died from apparent electrocution after using an unbranded USB phone charger purchased from a stall in the suburb of Campsie. The woman was wearing headphones and holding her laptop at the time of death, and was found with burns on her ears and chest, suggesting electrocution.The chargers, powerboards, and travel adapters sold by the Campsie stall didn’t have Australian Safety Standards markings, such as the manufacturer and serial number. They were also not certified for sale in this country. This incident highlights the dangers of using uncertified phone cables and AC wall chargers. Paying a few extra dollars for a certified, brand name charger that meets Australian Safety Standards not only makes sense in the long run, but could potentially also save your life.


    Engineer and blogger Ken Shirriff of Righto writes that AC Adapters and Power Cords that are made in China or Hong Kong and sold for a few dollars will usually have low-quality internal components and not be built to the same standards as a branded AC Adapter. Counterfeit AC Adapters may supply only half of the amp and wattage output they claim to offer, which poses a hazard to both yourself and your phone. An AC Adapter has hundreds of volts internally, so if it doesn’t have proper insulation installed then it can cause electrocution.

  • Damage to devices

     cables also use low-quality wires that aren’t properly shielded, meaning they can break easily and cause electric shock. Moreover, repair business MendMyi reports that high input voltage spikes of cheap chargers can damage an iPhone’s USB charge chip, rendering the device unchargeable.

Common features of cheap AC Adapters and Power cords

Apart from being generic, made in China, and costing only a few dollars, cheap AC Adapters and Power cords often share the following features:

  1. They are rated incorrectly and don’t have sufficient overload protection. For example, they may claim to offer 10 watts, but can only safely output 5 watts. This means the chance of overheating if the device overloads the AC Adapter.
  2. They skimp on the separation between high and low voltage components.The specification of electronic components is an essential aspect of design safety, so if they’re not specified it can have potentially dangerous consequences.
  3. There can be less than 1 mm separating the voltage input from the output.This is only a fraction of the recommended safe distance of 3-4 mm. This could potentially cause a lethal electric shock hazard.
  4. They have huge spikes, and voltage levels vary wildly with peaks over 6 volts and troughs under 4 volts. High input voltage spikes can damage the sensitive internal electronic components of a device.
  5. Their high noise output causes interference with other devices. In other words, the noise from a cheap AC Adapter disrupts the sensitive electronics within the same area, such as mobile phones, MP3 players, WIFI and more.