How Smoke Damage Can Affect Industrial Electronics and What You Can Do

Smoke damage to industrial electronics is a time-sensitive situation, and not a fun one at that. However, if you act fast and rely on the experts, you can salvage your company’s assets and restore crucial data. Taking the right steps can increase the chances of saving various electronics from fire or smoke damage. While it depends on each situation, some electronics may be able to withstand soot contamination while others may not.

Electronics have fragile circuitry systems where smoke from fires and even kitchens, lamps, candles or cigarettes can destroy various components. Whether your operations experience a hazardous fire or a smaller disaster, the team at Global Electronic Services understands your situation. We offer solutions and repairs to smoke impaired electronic equipment to help your business regain critical info and devices.

Why Smoke Causes Damage

We all know the detrimental effects of smoke on the human respiratory system, but can smoke damage electronics? Yes, it can.

Smoke is an irritant that pollutes the atmosphere and can coat surrounding objects within your company’s walls. The gas can prevent electrical devices from releasing heat, causing a buildup. The high temperatures can then reduce the life of a machine. Extreme overheating can also lead to the premature failure of a system.

Three ways smoke can cause harm to electronic devices are:

  1. Black film: The black film from smoke can coat both the interior and exterior surfaces of electronics, creating an insulating effect. It causes machines to overheat, which can result in a shortened lifespan and premature failure.
  2. Magnetic charge: In short, the magnetic charge within smoke can cause electrical shortages in the circuitry of machines.
  3. Soot acidity: The high levels of acidity from soot can degrade electronic parts made of plastic, metal and glass. The residue reduces a device’s lifespan and can damage internal components.

Made of carbon as well as other fumes and particles, smoke contains certain chemicals depending on what’s burning. For example, plastics produce smoke with dioxins, while burning wood creates nitrogen oxide smoke. Burning house materials can emit sulfur dioxide, hydrochloric acid and acetic acid. Meanwhile, one chemical found in all smoke is carbon monoxide.

Once the carbon monoxide reaches the inside of a machine, it can create a black film that insulates the heat-producing sections. The magnetic charge of smoke can cause circuit shortages and over-heating, too. If there is little to no filtration in the room, smoke can become stagnant. Even with proper ventilation, overheating is sometimes problematic.

While smoke damage in electronics is challenging, soot also plays a hazardous role. When soot combines with moisture, it quickens the corrosion process. The acidity of the grit can generate disintegration and discoloration of metals. The black powder is an airborne material that can coat objects and corrode various substances. It can also conduct electricity, which is what causes electrical shorts. Soot’s detrimental effects increase over time because as it embeds deeper into materials, it’s more difficult to remove.

Factors that affect how much an electronic can suffer from smoke and soot are as followed:

  • Exposure of wiring or circuitry
  • Location of wires
  • Subjection to heat or other contaminants like water
  • Plugged in or not

Between 2011 and 2015, an average of about 38,000 industrial and manufacturing fires occurred, resulting in about $1.2 billion in property damage, which includes anything from electronics to equipment and other structures. Overheating of equipment and machinery stands as one of the major leading causes of industrial fires.

Even between the years 2012 and 2016, industrial properties, along with mining, agriculture, defense and utility companies experienced an annual average of $233,060,600 in property loss.

Common Causes of Industrial Smoke

The three main components of industrial electronics to cause smoke or ignite fires are hard drives, motors and batteries. Under the wrong conditions or excessive use and overload, the parts overheat. As they heat up and begin to smoke, they start fires and cause damage to the rest of the machine.

Other parts that tend to react from smoke or cause overheating include:

  • Memory chips
  • Cable trays
  • Led drivers
  • Ballasts
  • Braking resistors
  • Conduit and tubing
  • Junction boxes
  • Fittings
  • Circuit boards

Different conformal coatings can also cause smoking or excessive heating compared to others. For example, acrylic, parylene, silicone, epoxy and polyurethane all have different effects. Polyurethane and parylene coatings are the most resistant to fire smoke, while silicone is the least effective.

Motor control equipment like adjustable speed drives and motor control centers have electric components that react to fire or high levels of heat. Motor control centers — made of fuses, controllers, circuit breakers, overload relays, insulators and buswork — also react poorly.

Fire, smoke and heat can lead to insulation damage and corrosion of transformers within electronics. Debris and chemicals can also affect the performance of the transformer. Once cables, wires and cords are subject to heat, all other components can go down within the system.

While many components of your company’s electronic devices are damageable, Global Electronic Services has all the replacement parts necessary to make fast repairs.

What to Do If Your Equipment Was Subject to Smoke

Saving your business’s assets from smoke damage depends on how fast you react and the severity of the damage. Quick action is imperative, even if it seems like only a little bit of damage. If you leave soot and water damage until weeks later as opposed to acting right after a fire, your company’s electronics will have a lower chance of survival.

Within minutes, smoke and soot can leave a yellow stain on plastics, walls and other porous materials. After a few hours, the high acidity content in soot can start to tarnish or stain metal objects. When several days pass by, the yellow discoloration becomes permanent, and metals begin to corrode and rust. If you wait a week or more, soot will permeate through any electronics, causing permanent corrosion that releases toxic fumes.

After a fire incident, electronics become a safety hazard, putting your company’s data at risk. Here are five helpful tips on what to do if the equipment is smoking from overheating or has been damaged from a fire.

1. Turn Off Electronics

For the highest chance of saving electronic assets, keep them turned off for an extended period. If you try turning them back on after an incident, it can increase the chances of a short-out, especially if water or soot is still present. Proper drying needs to take place before hitting the “on” button again. Aside from water, smoke damage can also leave an oily residue, causing an electrical short, resulting in other disrupted functions.

2. Unplug Technology

After an internal disaster with your business’s factory or other building, the first step is to unplug all the electronic devices. Many machines still use a small amount of power to maintain internal storage and other systems when turned off. Unplugging the technology after an incident can reduce possible water exposure, damage from a fire and short-circuiting.

3. Remove Hard Drive Files

Removing all hard drives and restoring data as soon as possible is critical after any fire, smoke or water damage. Retrieving company information from storage and memory can help you keep important files on hand instead of watching it disappear. Transfer the data to another computer or secure device that hasn’t been hit by any pollutants. You will also want to replace the circuit board of the hard drive and swap out the old ROM chip for a new one — which is a job for the experts.

4. Refer to All Warranty Papers

If there is no saving an electronic, refer back to your warranty papers. If they are current, you can replace the damaged technology. Your company should also file a smoke damage claim to the insurance provider.

5. Call the Restoration Professionals

If your operations need immediate equipment repair, contact the experts at Global Electronic Services. Our factory-trained workers can lessen the loss of data and electronics. We evaluate the damage, clean the surfaces of items and work with specialized equipment to eliminate soot and the smell of smoke. Global also seals the electronic surfaces on devices to prevent recontamination.

Instant and direct action will improve the chances of asset survival. Small electronics such as cellphones, tablets, iPads, laptops, hard drives and flash drives have a higher recovery rate if handled quickly and adequately. For hand-held items, the trick of the trade for water damage is to place the electronic in rice for 24 hours to soak up moisture. It’s a simple solution for minor incidents.

However, larger electronics like printers, copiers, servers and appliances often require more professional help in the case of water, smoke or soot damage. Specialists assess the destruction and make the necessary repairs to restore any harmed components.

For your business to avoid dangers from occurring in the future, take the proper steps and preventative actions to safeguards your technology. Electrical fires are often a result of overheating. To inhibit overheating from happening, make sure all devices have suitable ventilation systems. You can also place electronics in a concealed room that’s away from any risky smoke sources. Even keeping components that emit smoke away from flammable materials can make a massive difference.

In the case of electronic appliances, like heaters, do not leave them running for excessive periods, as overheating can occur and spark a fire. As a more obvious precaution, keep smoke detectors in all areas of your factory. You should even consider a backup program for a computer’s data in case of smoke or fire, such as a cloud-based storage system.

How We Clean Electronics Damaged by Smoke

After you followed the proper steps on how to handle electronics hit with smoke and other substances, there are a few paces you can take to start the cleaning process. Quick action is the best remedy, and you can begin the simple task of cleaning off soot even before the professionals arrive. Using a damp cloth, remove any soot off the surfaces of the electronics.

If there was more severe damage from a fire, be sure to remove any debris or broken glass. When it comes to your business’s larger equipment, rely on the experts from a fire and smoke impairment restoration service like Global Electronic Services. While you may have the confidence to restore and repair technology on your own, trusting the specialists can increase the chances of salvaging your assets.

We clean and restore technology by implementing advanced machinery and techniques. As a result, we can save your company money by getting the job done effectively and efficiently. We have the correct equipment and experience to support your situation.

Global is your go-to solution for smoke-damaged technology, as well as broken equipment in general. We support industrial electronic repairs such as:

  • AC and DC drives
  • Circuit breakers
  • Encoders
  • Flow meters
  • Industrial controls and monitors
  • Power supplies
  • Printed circuit board
  • Servo drives
  • Transducers

We even support servo motor repairs, along with hydraulic and pneumatic repairs. Our on-site services come to your corporation for large industrial equipment maintenance and emergency electronic repairs. We send the proper professional to you whether it be an engineer, machinist or another to support your situation. Global Electronic Services has a goal of helping you minimize downtime, and we implement turnkey solutions to achieve optimal uptime.

We offer an 18-month in-service warranty, 24/7 customer service and factory-trained and certified technicians to give you skilled results. Our typical repair time is one to five days, but we also offer a one- to two-day rush service. Once our team arrives, we evaluate your damaged units before making repairs, so you know what to expect.

After you call on the professionals for electrical smoke and fire damage support, it’s beneficial to create a remediation plan. Ask questions like:

  • Is there proper ventilation for heat-producing electronics?
  • Are the machines away from flammable materials?
  • Is there a concealed room for the devices to prevent future hazards?
  • Are there smoke detectors in various locations?

Refer to the following fire safety tips that can help your factory prevent hazards:

  • Carry out an exposure analysis
  • Create emergency and fire prevention procedures
  • Implement regular maintenance for all electronics
  • Offer fire safety training for employees
  • Inspect equipment on a regular basis and be aware of warning signs

Preventing fires or electronic overheating is easy when you take the right steps. Ensuring your company’s machines are well-maintained in ventilated areas can make all the difference.

Reach Out to Global Electronic Services for a Quote

By now, we know the answer to the initial question — does smoke damage electronics? Smoke can be detrimental to your company’s technology by causing devices to overheat, short circuit and corrode. While it may seem like there is little you can do to salvage vital machines and data, Global Electronic Services offers repairs on the east and west coast of the U.S. We are here to restore and repair your damaged electronics, so your operations can remain productive and safe.

Contact us online for a quote or call us at 877-249-1701 to speak with a Global representative.

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