/ Home & Energy

Are your home appliances safe?

If a car is recalled for safety reasons, owners can be traced through the DVLA. But what if your washing machine or tumble dryer is at risk of catching fire? How can you find out?

Our investigation has found that even when a manufacturer recalls a potentially dangerous product, the majority can remain unfixed, partly because it’s so hard to find owners.

If a product turns out to be unsafe, manufacturers must take steps to remove the risk to customers. If it’s dangerous, they must issue a safety notice to alert owners. But what if they don’t know who the owners are?

Manufacturers of home appliances can only get hold of you if you’ve actively registered your details with them. And how many of us do that?

Just one in three, says accident prevention charity, Electrical Safety First (ESF). This means that unless the recall hits the headlines and you see the story, you may be sharing your home with an appliance that could cause a fire.

Why don’t more people register their appliances?

Most of us don’t think that registering a product is to do with safety – 70% of us would be more likely to register if we knew it was for this reason, ESF found.

61% would be more likely to if we weren’t going to end up on a marketing list. So it’s maddening that some manufacturers seem to be using the only central registration scheme – set up by trade body, the Association of Manufacturers of Domestic Appliances (AMDEA) – as an opportunity for marketing.

We think marketing options for a free safety scheme like this should be clear and ‘opt-in’ – where you actively choose to receive messages by ticking a box.

But six out of 10 manufacturers we registered an appliance with require you to ‘opt out’. Two of these, Hoover and Indesit, tried to persuade us to sign up for extended warranties.

They told us a debate around ‘opt-in’ and ‘opt-out’ is not important, and their focus is on encouraging people to register products.

Which appliances are most at risk of catching fire

infographic_graphWe don’t want to overstate the risk. We analysed government fire data and found there were 11,965 fires caused by products in our homes between 2011 and March 2014.

That number’s low compared with the number of appliances we own, but the consequences can be devastating for those affected.

That’s why we think the AMDEA website for registering your appliance is a great idea. It’s backed by the government’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and we’d urge anyone who hasn’t already their details with the manufacturers of their appliances to use it.

But watch out for marketing traps when signing up – manufacturers shouldn’t take advantage of those who want to protect their homes and families.

Have you registered your appliances? If not, why not? And what do you think of the recall system?

Comments
Member

The last time I registered an electrical product – a Russell Hobbs kettle – one of the questions was about my income. I phoned the company and gave them a piece of my mind.

There is no doubt that we need an organisation to record purchases and provide consumers with information about recalls etc. This should be funded by manufacturers but INDEPENDENT of them.

Unfortunately, AMDEA is primarily a trade body whose primary role is to serve the industry. I do not trust AMDEA to use my information responsibly. They even refer to using consumers information in relation to their competitions on their website.

Thanks for raising this important issue, Lisa.

Member
Em says:
14 June 2015

About 10 years ago, I had a lithium battery explode whilst charging. Even though it was on the floor, it shot burning shards of metal over an area of one square metre. Fortunately I was at home and heard the “bang!”. Also the 100% wool carpet it damaged was self-extinguishing, although I needed a brand new one to repair the burn marks. (Well done, LV Insurance!)

The fire brigade who attended the incident to clear the fumes, told me that this was becoming more of a problem and they were seeing lots of calls related to mobile phones being dropped behind cushions on sofas and overheating.

I just want to alert readers to these new dangers we are bringing into our homes more and more, whilst the number of domestic appliances in use is relatively static. And how many of us plug our mobile phones in or have a DECT phone next to our bed at night?

Member

Accidental dwelling fires

Accidental dwelling fires were 4% and 22% lower in Britain in 2012-13 compared to the previous year and ten years before respectively. The main cause of accidental dwelling fires remained the misuse of equipment/appliances (13,900 fires), while the main source of ignition was cooking appliances
which accounted for more than half of all accidental dwelling fires.

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/313590/Fire_statistics_Great_Britain_2012-13__final_version_.pdf

Given Which?’s data crunching it would appear that the fire services believe misuse of appliances to be a significant cause. I suspect the electrical fire data given by Which? may be looking at the product that created the fire without considering the misuse aspect.

Perhaps Which? could confirm how it derived its figures.

The idea of registering appliances I am a fan of and had suggested two years ago that Which? could itself be the holder of info for members as it should/would be in a position to mail owners even if they inherited or bought second-hand the appliance.

Obviously when moving into a flat or house, renting or by purchase any left equipment is unlikely to have the registration details handy. Therefore though AMDEA looks to be a good idea it is not a flawless concept.

Not unsurprisingly I think my idea better : )

Member

Hi diesel, apologies for the delay in responding – The figures (11,965) apply for products that are faulty or incorrectly installed or maintained. Between the same time period (Jan 2011 and March 2014) there were roughly 7,700 incidents which could be defined as misuse of a domestic appliance. Of these, about 7,400 were accidental and the remainder deliberate.

All of the stats quoted here were provided by the Department for communities and local government on receipt of our FOI request.

Member

The idea of registering appliances I am a fan of and had suggested two years ago that Which? could itself be the holder of info for members as it should/would be in a position to mail owners even if they inherited or bought second-hand the appliance.

Obviously when moving into a flat or house, renting or by purchase any left equipment is unlikely to have the registration details handy. Therefore though AMDEA looks to be a good idea it is not a flawless concept.

Not unsurprisingly I think my idea better : )

Member

My 38 year old fridge failed last week before this current Which? conversation started.

Apart from the features I wanted in my new replacement, a major consideration in making a choice, was whether my chosen model might catch fire. I have excluded one manufacturer because of their safety record.

Unlike washing machines and tumble dryers, which can be operated whilst the owner is present to deal with any malfunction, a fridge runs 24 hours per day, so product safety is even more important for this type of appliance.

Also with brand engineering, your machine may, in fact, be made by the manufacturer you are trying to avoid

Member

Xopher – Your point that fridges and freezers run continuously is very important. We cannot switch them off at night, which is why it is important to have working smoke detectors in kitchens and utility rooms even if washing machines etc. are never run overnight.

Member
Rhainwhit says:
15 June 2015

What we really need to know is the relative risk not the absolute numbers of appliance fires.

eg if you add fires from washers and driers together you get 3179 fires against 225 fires from washer driers but that does not make washer driers 14 times safer than having the appliances separately, because there are far fewer combined machines. If we knew how many machines there were, we could judge the relative safety of one decision against another. Come on Which? Make your statistics more meaningful.

Member

From a BRE follow-up survey published in 2013 to a 2011 survey the estimated number of:
washer-driers was around 2.9m [ Which data for 3+years 228 fires
washing machines 18.2m. [1723
tumble Dryers 10.7m [1456

On those figures the washer-drier looks least dangerous but it also may be a reflection that they last the least length of time and are replaced and therefore on average are newer than most washers.

I have no data for the ages of the various types of machines in the fire statistics but tumble dryers are significantly older on average than washing machines. This is probably due to them being more lightly used than the washing machines and intrinsically mechanically simpler. Nearly 25% of dryers were 10 years or older – though it would be rash to consider the machines being faultier with age without considering that continued inadequate clearnabce od ducts and filters over time might be a more likely cause.

Rhainwhit I hope this helps.

Member

I have always registered the major appliances for the very reason that there might be a safety recall. However, I am annoyed that three quarters of the registration document always seems to be devoted to a lifestyle survey which is obviously intended for resale to other companies, insurers, mail order firms, etc. A short while after sending off the registration form a letter comes from Domestic & General offering extended warranty cover; this is obviously no coincidence and, presumably, the appliance manufacturer gets a commission payment from D&G. The letters from D&G that follow registration [and subsequent annual marketing attempts] masquerade as letters from the manufacturer [the envelopes and letterhead have the AEG/Bosch/etc logo on them]. If the registration process were stripped of its commercial overburden it might attract more support and be more trustworthy. Being independent of the manufacturers would be a big advantage in creating a respectable scheme.

What would also be useful would be a major appliance safety recall website so one could look up whether a particular machine had been the subject of a recall or a free rectification or a safety warning. Despite having registered our major appliances my confidence level in the manufacturers notifying us in the event of an issue is only 50%.

Another suggestion is for home insurance policies to encourage registration and give a discount if the householder has done so. This would only work if there were a reputable registration scheme in place and not a manufacturer-driven commercially-motivated private data-sharing process.

Member

For recalls of electrical products, it’s worth checking the Electrical Safety First website, which has greatly improved over the last couple of years: http://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk

I used to use RecallUK for information about recalls etc affecting a wide range of products. Unfortunately RecallUK closed due to lack of funding. The website now has a link to this:

“Beko Inquest Coroner Recommendations

In 2010 Mr Santosh Benjamin Muttiah died in a house fire caused by a Beko Fridge Freezer. His wife and two young children survived the fire.
The Coroner for Mr Muttiah’s Inquest has just listed a number of recommendations that he believes will help with recalls of domestic appliances in the future.
One of his recommendations is “The creation of a simple, easy to use, Government funded/National website where all product recalls can be registered and accessed by consumers”
You may remember that there was one, it was called RecallUK.
We had to close the website at the end of August because of a lack of funding. We provided 100% of the funding and resources for 4 years and could no longer carry the cost.
We had approached the Government, retailers and manufacturers to see if they would help us by providing the funding. They all declined.
RecallUK has been taken down but could quickly be brought back into operation. If only we had the funding. It costs about £8,000/month to provide this service.

In 2013 we made some recommendations to quickly improve the communication of product recalls in the UK. Click the link if you are interested to see what we proposed RecallUK 4 Step Recall Improvement Proposal”

Member

Thanks for that link, Wavechange. I was unaware of Electrical Safety First. What would be particularly useful would be a website where you could register your appliances and receive e-mail alerts if there was a safety warning, or a recall, or a recommended modification.

Since I also need a reliable electrician at the moment I’m going to use the ESF website to check who they list [and, more to the point, who they don’t list] in our area.

Member

John – There is also the RAPEX alert system and database run by the EC, which lists recalls on a wide variety of products, not just electrical goods. It is not easy to use.

“What would be particularly useful would be a website where you could register your appliances and receive e-mail alerts if there was a safety warning, or a recall, or a recommended modification.” That would make a good Comment of the Week. 🙂

AMDEA covers only a limited range of electrical products and it is absurd that important safety information is tied to market research and marketing,

Member

John, this is another example of where Which? could help. I have suggested way back that they publish a collection of organisations that we can access to get factual and useful information. ESF is just one such – why would anyone normally know about it?

Have you thought of using Which?’s Trusted Traders register? I have reservations about the basis of this though – although with no experience to support that comment It is a scheme apparently paid for by the trader – £60 assessment fee then £480 a year for a small business. My concern is that it seems not to depend on any customer reviews, just on a trader business assessment and looking at their complaints procedure, for example. I’d prefer to see a scheme where random customers are routinely asked by Which? for an assessment of their experience with a trader to maintain their listing. Which? may be concerned to maintain the income since, as is pointed out in a previous conversation, they have incentives to increase turnover for the Which? group. (Cynical, I know).

Alternatively, Which? Local or some Local Authorities run good trader schemes.Something again Which? might draw attention to?

Member

Hi Malcolm,

In answer to your point about customer reviews – as part of the W?TT assessment process we ask businesses to supply their customer log for the past year. The relevant W?TT assessor then selects 3 previous customers completely at random. They are contacted subsequently and asked a series of questions about their experience with the business.

You can find more about what the W?TT assessment process involves via the link below:

http://trustedtraders.which.co.uk/about/why-use-which-trusted-traders/

All the best
Tom
W?Local & W?TT

Member

Tom, Thanks. I didn’t spot that requirement on the TT website. Endorsements are invaluable providing they are up to date.

Member

Thanks Wavechange and Malcolm. I usually consult ‘Which? Local’ but sometimes there are very few customer reviews for firms in the area although I have found a promising lead this morning. Checking the official register has shown that a nearby electrician that I was considering is not registered so his local newspaper advert has gone in the bin.

Member

Perhaps it should be a requirement for the supplier of a major electrical appliance to have the purchaser supply the owners name and address at the time of purchase. This could then be passed back to the manufacturer. It is the manufacturer, surely, who is in the best position to know if a product might have a safety problem post manufacture and should be responsible for issuing any safety notices?
But perhaps that is too simple?

Member

Rather than supplying my name and address to a retailer or manufacturer I would prefer to register my purchase with an organisation that handled all recalls. If not done by government it should be done by a non-profit making organisation appointed by the government.

If each product was assigned a unique identification code this could be registered online by the owner, with some provision for those who don’t use computers. For smartphone users this information could be provided by scanning a QR code on the goods.

If the organisation is notified of a recall then that could be promptly passed on to the relevant owners.

This procedure would mean that the manufacturer would not be given contact details unless contacted by the owner following a recall. If a product changed hands, the new owner could register it. Recall the Bosch/Hotpoint dishwasher recall, which was years after the fire risk was discovered.

The present recall system is not working very well and I don’t want AMDEA or anyone else using my contact details for market research or marketing.

Member
Lampman says:
27 June 2015

I have a 15 year old dishwasher supplied by Hotpoint which has worked well and hardly shows any signs of use. Last year I was contacted by Hotpoint, resulting in a visit from a service technician to fit a modification free of charge. This was because there have been problems with small fires starting in the control panel. It appears that this dishwasher was actually manufactured by Bosch who have had similar problems with the same design sold under their own name.
I have had a number Hotpoint. appliances over the years and have always found them durable and free from problems.

Member

This morning I received an email offering me a complimentary issue of Country Life. At the end, there was the following information: “You have received this communication from All About Response when submitting your email address in completing either Soapbox Survey or one of our partner surveys to register electrical goods. Click here to unsubscribe.”

Since RecallUK (sadly discontinued because of a lack of funding) and Electrical Safety First provided information on recalls, I have avoided registering electrical goods because of the marketing. The only exceptions have been a couple of items where registration is necessary to qualify for a longer manufacturer’s guarantee or warranty. As an experiment I provided a different email address to identify misuse of my information. I did not participate in any survey and I made it clear that my contact details must not be used for marketing by the company or passed on to any other organisation, even if associated with them.

As I have suggested above, we need a registration system that does not involve giving contact details to manufacturers. The car recall system run by DVSA seems to work well.

Member

Simply solved by requiring manufacturers to hold your data purely for the purposes of making product safety notifications. The DVSA divulge your personal details to commercial parking operators when they want to pursue you for an extortionate civil penalty. Not good in my view.

Member

Lisa Barber launched this Convo before it was announced that millions of tumble dryers in UK homes are a fire risk and require modification or replacement. I have asked around and found many people who are not aware of the problem.

For a recall system to be effective, it must be comprehensive covering everything from white goods to child – and a lot more. Recalls are listed on the European Rapid Alert System (RAPEX). I wonder how many of our politicians are aware of its existence.

Recalls are well documented but what is missing is an effective way of communicating this information to the owners and other users of products. Registering with the manufacturer will only help if you buy the goods new and do not move home, but it will not help with products bought secondhand – which includes built in appliances that change hands with a home. Consider the number of appliances in furnished accommodation in the rental sector. Until the current problems with tumble dryers, the biggest (not including cars) recall I can remember was dishwashers manufactured by Bosch and sold under various brand names. Most of the users of affected machines were never contacted.

My suggestion is that there should be a registration system like that used by DVSA to alert consumers to recalls concerning cars but based on a web-based system that allows us to go online and update the list of products in our homes. A smartphone app could make the job very easy, avoiding the need to enter long strings of numbers, and an increasing products already have the QR codes needed to facilitate the process. When a product is disposed of, it could just be deleted from the list and a telephone-based registration system could be provided for those who do not use computers. This system would cope with those who acquire secondhand products or move into furnish accommodation. Obviously the success is dependent on individuals taking action, so making registration as easily as possible is important.

Many people keep records of their purchases in case they have to make an insurance claim. Having the information on a product registration database could avoid the need to do this.

Member

“success is dependent on individuals taking action”. This will be the problem – getting individuals to do this. they already can through pre-paid registration cards, and most will not worry about the marketing that may result in my opinion. We see in other fields how “sticky” (unwilling) people seem to be to act for themselves.

One sure way of getting all appropriate products registered is to require the retailer to do so at the time of sale, but only taking the essential contact details. The first purchaser will then be assured of contact and, if they give an email / mobile are likely to keep contact if they move. A label on the product telling a second-hand purchaser who to contact to update records will help.

Member

Involving the retailer brings in a new problem. I have quite a number of products that were purchased from Comet, and so do many others. Both retailers, especially online ones, can change hands and you will recall that Kenneth Watt explained the way in which brands of white goods are traded. I certainly don’t want a system that is doomed to failure.

As I have said, registration is dependent on individuals taking action. Friends and family could help there. News stories about people losing their homes because a fire could have a reminder to register products appended.

I’m looking at an invitation by Miele to ring an 0845 number to activate my free 2 year guarantee. “Calls charged at standard local rates.” 0845 numbers should have gone and local rates disappeared in 2004. Why should anyone have to register for a guarantee to be activated? Unless this is made a condition of sale by the retailer (which normally mentions just the period of cover), then it is unfair to the consumer.

Member

I am not suggesting the retailer does any more than process the registration, to whoever is held responsible for administering it. This might be the manufacturers, a central body (hopefully not an inefficient taxpayer funded bureaucracy) or whatever. So it does not depend upon Comet staying around.

We know some individuals are not good at taking action, so let’s make it unnecessary in this case. If every relevant sale ensured the purchasers basic details were properly registered for future safety contact or recall then much of the problem is addressed.

Member

I would not object to retailers offering to process registration but I would rather do the job myself to minimise the chance of my contact details being used for marketing. I’ve given you an example of where this has happened.

Member

Perhaps we are progressing towards a proposal then. 🙂 It should be illegal to make marketing contact if this is not specifically requested. The only contact I have had after registering is from Domestic and General offering silly prices for extended warranties. I can deal with those using the dustbin.

Member

I hope so, Malcolm. Make sure that you shred D&G extended warranty forms if they have your name and address printed on them. Comet used to do this.

D&G seem to have a large share of the market and presumably negotiate with manufacturers to provide extended warranties at a more sensible price than if purchased separately. I recall you mentioned buying an extended warranty for a dishwasher and it’s likely that this is provided by D&G.

Member

I would put this literature in an indesit tumble drier (if I had one).

There are companies who give multiple-appliance cover – and most of us have more than one. Have Which? ever reviewed these? It might be useful for Which? to look at the types of warranty on offer – those offered by companies like Miele (who, as you say, no doubt have them underwritten by an insurer but possibly subsidised – mine costs effectively £15 a year), multiple appliance and single appliance ones and, of course, the range of standard guarantees initially coming with the product.

When my car reaches the end of its manufacturer’s warranty I will be looking to see whether an ongoing warranty or extension is worthwhile. Like house insurance this is both about peace of mind and perceived value. Another area worth exploring by Which? maybe.

Member

Latest news on the Which? website “‘Fire hazard’ HP laptop batteries recalled Listed HP and Compaq PCs could cause burns

Read more: http://www.which.co.uk/news/2016/07/fire-hazard-hp-laptop-batteries-recalled-448038/ – Which?

Another example of where compulsory registration of a product would make so much sense.

I wonder what view a mean insurance company might take if you had one and took no action (ignorance of the recall or inaction). Alternatively could you claim off the retailer or HP if you suffered fire damage?

Member

Which? is normally quick of the mark, but he laptop battery recall was announced weeks ago. Sign up for recall information at: http://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/product-recalls/

One of today’s recalls was for the power supply for an e.on smart meter. I have inherited one with the house. I received a text message about this because I stayed with the same energy company as the previous owner. I had reported this one to Electrical Safety First, but suspect they already had this in hand.

It’s best to charge laptops etc away from flammable materials because batteries can overheat and even burn.

Member

It’s all about total cost of ownership and peace of mind, but the latter can come at a very high price. At a time when every electrical retailer was pushing very expensive extended warranties, Which? did a great deal to raise awareness of the practice. I have nothing against paying more for a longer warranty as long as it offers good value, and have said that a few times in our discussions. Offering an extended warranty at a low cost may be a useful clue that a product could be durable. Perhaps we could explore this in a relevant Convo.

From the AMDEA website: “The original tumble dryer was a metal drum with holes which was rotated over an open fire. M Ponchons’ 1799 machine had obvious disadvantages – the clothes could be smoky, sooty and sometimes burnt.” I suggest a recall.

Member

Sounds more like the coffee bean roaster Davy’s, the grocers, in Sheffield had in the window near their door – a lovely smell wafted into the street. Perhaps they also used it to dry their uniforms after closing time.

We have to use our common sense, judgement and reliable information, including dealing with warranties. I’m all for more durable products and try to buy those that will last. I believe they end up offering better value for money. They don’t always have to cost a lot more, just be engineered out of decent materials and well designed.

Member

The smell of roasting coffee outside the village grocer’s shop is one of my earliest memory, though I did not like taste at the time.

You might not have bought my washing machine, Malcolm. It was the cheapest in the shop and selected on the basis of physical size and a ten year guarantee on some parts. It has had a couple of repairs in its younger days but is still working well after more than 34 years. I have replaced it because I suspect parts may no longer be available. I might find a museum for it to spend the rest of its days.

I’m disappointed that white goods manufacturers do not mention the importance of having a smoke alarm nearby. Worst still, they sometimes put in delay start features – not unlike a time bomb – disregarding the advice of fire services not to run such appliances overnight.

Member

When smart meters arrive (at out expense) they will allow charging consumers (with money, not electricity) based on the electricity cost to the energy supplier. Energy companies buy half hourly as demand varies through the day. The rationale of smart meters will be to persuade people to save energy by using relevant equipment off-peak (middle of the night will be cheapest). So that will encourage us to use washing machines, driers, dishwashers while we are asleep.

I still want to know whether the unsafe Whirlpool (Indesit) driers comply with the European standard that allows them to be sold – BS EN 60335-2-11 2013 – particular requirements for tumble driers – Section 30 “Resistance to heat and fire”. This requires that in the event of fluff catching fire in the drier, the materials surrounding the heater do not support fire, so the machine should not burn. If they are compliant then I suggest the standard needs revising to include further preventative measure; standards do evolve naturally as experience develops. If, however, the relevant materials do not comply then the manufacturer and the test house have questions to answer. It would not be expensive for Which? to carry out this test. Will they do so? All we need is facts.

Member

I do hope that most people take heed of advice not to run appliances overnight. Having had the benefit of having a smart meter for a few months I can see that they can give some insight into the cost of using energy for different purposes and keep an eye on daily expenditure. I would be happy if the energy companies gave smart meters to those who were struggling with their bills rather than pushing them on us all.

The standard is inadequate because it has no provision to ensure that the lint filter is inspected prior to each use.

When I was a child in the 50s, I had an ‘electric fire’ with two radiants in which spirals of nichrome wire were embedded and could be touched by small fingers. My father decided it was unsafe and bought a new fangled fan heater with inaccessible heating elements and an overheating cutout to shut off the power if it fell over or the airflow was obstructed. I still use it in my workshop. I suggest we give serious consideration to phasing out conventional tumble dryers in favour of heat pump models, where there is no high temperature heater to cause a fire.

Member

Here is a recent report of a death caused by a fire in a tumble dryer: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/aug/08/defective-beko-tumble-dryer-mishell-moloney-birmingham-coroner-fatal-fire

There are a couple of clues about what went wrong:
“The source within the tumble dryer was the printed control board….”
“In virtually all cases it has been the run capacitor [that caused fires] – I can’t think of any cases that weren’t.”

Printed circuit boards used in household goods are often made of synthetic resin bonded paper, which is flammable. For a small additional cost, fibreglass board can be used, and this does not burn.

A ‘run capacitor’ is used to control the main motor and when they fail they can burst and sometimes cause fires. Any component that might fail in this way should be in a metal case. It’s common for fridge and freezer compressors to fail but they don’t cause fires because they are enclosed in metal.

It would be fairly easy to design household appliances and other electrical products in a way that largely eliminates the chance of fire in event of a component failure. Why must appliance designers risk lives when there is so much that could be done to address the problem at minimal cost?

Member

“Why must appliance designers risk lives……” .It appears they don’t (unless, of course, the manufacturer acts illegally).

The safety of appliances is covered by international standards. BS EN 60335-1 “Household and similar electrical appliances. Safety…” is applicable to such things as tumble driers, washing machines and so on.

This requires capacitors to be encased in metal (or ceramic) and circuit boards to be subjected to a flammability test all to meet fire safety requirements:

Para 24.8 requires that motor running capacitors shall not cause a hazard in case of failure , meet class P2 safety IEC 60252-1 , and have metallic or ceramic enclosures that will prevent the emission of flame or molten material……. It also specifies a minimum distance from non-metallic parts.

Printed circuit boards are subject to a needle flame test (Annexe E) for flammability (or lack of).

So appliance designers, far from risking lives, have contributed along with others to saving lives by helping put international safety standards together. Manufacturers must meet these standards to be able to put a product onto the European market.

Member

I have seen a fair number of motor capacitors that have failed. A friend showed me the remains of his small compressor after the metal-cased capacitor had burst, presumably spraying flammable oil and starting a fire. It was a well known brand that is popular with hobbyists. The ventilated plastic cover had been set alight and fortunately there was no flammable materials nearby.

If you search for “burnt printed circuit board” there are plenty of images and no doubt some of them relate to consumer products.

There have been some improvements over the years. Wax-impregnated capacitors and transformers have been phased out, but in the 70s I had to deal with a fire in the line output transformer of my parents TV. The wax was burning fiercely. Fortunately modern TVs don’t use very high voltages.

I believe that the standards are inadequate. As I have suggested, use of metal enclosures and fibreglass circuit boards could significantly reduce risks.

Member

The standard does specify metal (or ceramic) cased capacitors and non-flammable circuit boards, such as you say are required. My information is based on the international safety standard. I don’t know what standards apply to the products you refer to or how old they are (I’m sure you did not mean a 1970’s tv as representative); perhaps you could check?

My plea is: please don’t malign “designers” for “risking lives” as you put it when they do not, and are guided by well-researched and tested safety standards. It is a bit of a populist headline approach that misinforms. 🙁

Member

We know that household products, even ones made by well known brands, can be a fire risk. That’s why it is common advice to switch off appliances when not in use and not leave them on overnight unless unavoidable – fridges and freezers obviously come into this category.

If designers are not working to the best standards, I don’t mind maligning them. I have not mentioned any names. Recall the Conversation about a make of self-defrosting fridge-freezers where the defrost timer was in a plastic case. I’ve not seen one, but suggest that putting the time in a metal case could have avoided the risk.

When I mentioned a 1970s TV it was in the context of improving safety standards. A metal or ceramic-cased capacitor must be provided with some means of venting internal pressure safely, without which they could explode in event of failure.

Member

wavechange, it is fine to criticise products that fail to meet standards; I would too. However your original comment seemed to generalise and I simply pointed out this was unfair, and supported it with what international standards require of the particular components you drew attention to. Time to draw a line? 🙂

Member

Why aren’t these “Fire Risk” items being mentioned by name so we can avoid purchasing them WHICH?
Isn’t this all about protecting the CONSUMER? So why are you not telling us which companies to avoid buying from until they get their act together?????