Do you leave your washing machine running when you go out, or pre-programme a dishwasher cleaning cycle to kick in while you’re asleep? And more to the point – should you?
The recent fire risk furore involving faulty Beko fridge freezers has put the spotlight back on home product safety.
Refrigeration appliances are of course designed to be left on at all times. But what about other kitchen electricals like washing machines, washer-dryers, tumble dryers or dishwashers – is it ok to leave these devices running without you being around?
Absent from our appliances
With delayed starts or programmable timers on lots of appliances these days, you don’t even need to be in the neighbourhood to start your products up, let alone be around for the entire duration of a wash or dry cycle.
In fact, around half of the 125 tumble dryers, two-thirds of dishwashers and more than 80% of the washing machines we’ve tested include a ‘time delay’ function.
These can come in useful if you’re running a busy household – and can be a good money-saving aid if you’re on an energy plan where the cost of electricity is cheaper at night, such as Economy 7.
Is there a safety risk?
But you could argue that this type of functionality implicitly encourages the use of appliances without you being present – despite official government guidance to ‘never leave electrical appliances on at night, unless they are designed to be left on’.
So should we heed this general advice – or make the most of manufacturers attempting to make our hectic lives easier?
A new appliance is unlikely to break down in the first couple of years (even less likely if it’s from a brand that scores well in our member-wide reliability survey) – but they can get less reliable over time.
Catastrophic breakdowns, which cause fire or burst pipes, are very rare but there is some small risk attached to using any high wattage appliance.
Some items appear to be more hazardous than others. Regional fire authorities routinely issue stern fire risk warnings against leaving tumble dryers unattended, for example.
Reducing the risk
You shouldn’t let fluff build up in your tumble dryer, so regular maintenance is a must. Clean all lint filters every time you use the machine to maintain good airflow, wipe the drum with a damp cloth regularly, and check the vent outlet and hose of vented dryers.
The heat exchanger in condenser models needs washing out about five times a year, more often for heavy users. Some machines have a light that shows when this needs doing.
Meanwhile, a lot of today’s appliances are controlled by electronic software designed to turn off a machine if it detects something is wrong, such as overheating. You can also choose washing machines and dishwashers fitted with devices that cut the water supply if it breaks down – reducing the risk of you being greeted by a flooded kitchen.
And you should always have working – and regularly tested – smoke alarms.
Clearly it’s not practical to baby-sit our appliances. I’ve been known to pop out to the shops during the middle of a washing cycle. But when do you use yours? Are you comfortable leaving your appliances to run their course while you’re sound asleep in bed or out and about?