July 22, 2014

Recall: GE Dishwashers Due to Fire Hazard

Name of Product: GE Profile™ and GE Monogram® Dishwashers

Units: About 174,000

Manufacturer: GE Appliances & Lighting, of Louisville, Ky.

Hazard: Water condensation can drip onto the electronic control board, causing a short circuit and resulting in an overheated connector. This poses a fire hazard to consumers.

Incidents/Injuries: GE has received five reports of fires, four of which caused minor damage to the kitchen countertops where the dishwashers were installed and one caused minor damage to adjacent cabinets and smoke damage to the home. No injuries have been reported.

Description: This recall involves the GE Profile dishwashers manufactured between July 2003 and December 2005 and GE Monogram dishwashers manufactured between January 2004 and December 2006. They were sold in white, black, bisque, stainless steel and with custom panels. The recalled model and serial numbers listed below are located on the inside on the front left side of the dishwasher tubs.


(Click to Enlarge)

Sold at: Retail stores nationwide, appliance dealers and authorized builder distributors from July 2003 through December 2006 for between $750 and $1,400.

Manufactured in: United States

Remedy: Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled dishwashers, disconnect the electric supply by shutting off the fuse or circuit breaker controlling it and inform all users of the dishwasher about the risk of fire. Contact GE for a free in-home repair or to receive a GE rebate of $200 for the purchase of a new GE Profile dishwasher and a GE rebate of $400 for purchase of a new GE Monogram dishwasher.

Consumer Contact: For additional information, contact GE toll-free at (877) 275-6840 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday or visit the company’s website at www.geappliances.com/recall

Appliance Lifespans

We’ve said it before, here, but we’ll say it again, below we list some approximate lifespans for household appliances.

Average appliance life span in years

Compactors: 6

Dishwashers: 10

Disposers, food waste: 9

Dryers, electric: 12

Dryers, gas: 12

Freezers: 11

Microwave ovens: 9

Ranges, electric: 16

Ranges, gas: 17

Range/oven hoods: 11

Refrigerators: 12

Washers: 11

Water heaters, electric: 13

Water heaters, gas: 11

Air-conditioners, room: 9

Air-conditioners, central: 11

Boilers, gas: 20

Dehumidifiers: 7

Furnaces, gas: 15

Furnaces, oil: 17

Heat pumps: 12

Courtesy of heraldnet.com

Paying for Your Next New Appliance

Household appliances are generally so reliable, having one break down takes us by surprise. The hassle of shopping for a new appliance is trouble enough without worrying about paying for it too. Plan ahead, because the dryer is not going to sound out announcements before it conks-out.

Repair or Replace?

The first decision to be made is if you really need a new appliance, or if repairs are in order. If the repair costs half the price of a new appliance, seriously consider buying new, says Mark Kotkin at Consumer Reports. According to the magazine’s research, any major household appliance more than eight years old should be considered for replacement rather than repair. The magazine also suggest you skip the repair and buy new if your appliance costs less than $150.

Budgeting

“I’ve seen a lot of people’s budgets over the years, and it seems like household maintenance is one category that people miss,” says Matt Bell of MattAboutMoney.com. People who know the age of their appliances and their expected life spans can budget better for replacements. Or they could maintain a more general emergency fund for when bad things happen. Either cash stash will help you avoid finance charges on a credit card you can’t pay off right away, said Bell.

Home Warranty

A home warranty is a service contract for an existing home that covers major operating systems, such as a furnace or a dishwasher. The homeowner buys a repair contract, often for $300 to $500 a year, and pays a service charge for each call. If many of your major appliances are near the ends of their useful lives, a home warranty might be worthwhile. But warranties are complicated, covering some types of breakdowns and not others. Pre-existing conditions and malfunctions that stem from poor maintenance or installation can be excluded. Some companies will cover all or part of an appliance’s replacement cost. Choose this option carefully.

Best Stores for Buying Appliances

When you’re shopping for a new appliance, you want a store that will provide good prices, helpful staff and ease of service along with a good selection.

Unfortunately, two surveys from the Consumer Reports National Research Center show that no one retailer seems able to provide it all.

CR did find some cause for hope. Abt Electronics, in the Chicago area, and independent local stores garnered high praise from shoppers who bought a major appliance in the past year. For small appliances, independents also rated highly, along with Costco, though the standout was Amazon.com, as in past years.

CR’s rankings for shopper satisfaction came from more than 21,000 respondents to its 2009 Appliance Shopper Satisfaction Survey. It also commissioned a separate, nationally representative Home Gripes survey of 1,405 homeowners about their experiences shopping at home stores.

Only Abt Electronics scored better than average on price for major appliances. For small appliances, Amazon.com and Costco got readers’ highest marks for price for the second year in a row.

Here’s more from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Consumer Reports:

Besides price, the expertise and manner of a store’s sales staff were key reasons for choosing a major appliance retailer, according to the CR Shopper Satisfaction Survey. But respondents to the Home Gripes survey cited difficulty in finding a useful salesperson at all as one of their chief shopping annoyances. Salespeople who were arrogant or even nasty were especially bothersome for women.

Independent retailers, Abt Electronics and Pacific Sales in California received top marks for having salespeople knowledgeable in major appliances. The trio also stood out for service rendered; Best Buy scored below average for its staff. For staff expertise and service in small appliances, independent local retailers scored best. Among major retailers, only Lowe’s stood out; and for service, Sears scored above average.

Around a quarter of major- and small-appliance shoppers chose retailers based on their reputation for high-quality products. Retailers varied significantly on both counts. Poor selection was a complaint for less than 5 percent of respondents to CR’s Shopper Satisfaction survey. But almost a quarter of small-appliance shoppers at Sam’s Club complained that the store had too few brands or models available for selection. For major appliances, no store scored better than average for shopping ease.

For major-appliance product quality and selection, Abt Electronics and Pacific Sales scored best; for selection, Home Depot scored below average. For small-appliance purchasing, Amazon.com and independents stood out for quality and selection. Shopping for small appliances in stores was more varied, with independent retailers getting top marks for shopping ease, followed by Sears, Lowe’s and Best Buy, which all scored above average.

Stores that push extended warranties were among the top annoyances in CR’s Home Gripes survey. In the Shopper Satisfaction Survey, respondents who bought a major appliance were much more likely than those buying small appliances to be hit with an extended-warranty offer.

For small appliances, Amazon.com’s storage of shipping addresses and payment preferences might have contributed to its high score for checkout ease in the Shopper Satisfaction Survey. Independent retailers also received top marks, followed by Costco. For major appliances, no retailer scored worse than average. But Abt Electronics and independents fared best.

States Ban Phosphate-Laden Dishwasher Soap

According to USA Today, July starts a ban in  sixteen states of the sale of dishwasher detergents that contain high levels of phosphates, a source of pollution in lakes and streams.

Stores will not be allowed to sell detergent with more than 0.5 percent phosphorous. The bans do not apply to commercial dishwashing products, and detergents for hand-washing dishes generally contain no phosphorus.

States instituting the rule include Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin, reports the Associated Press.

Some areas such as Spokane County, Wash., have had such bans in place for years.

“Phosphorous is like a fertilizer. It increases algae and aquatic weed growth in water bodies,” Bernie Duffy, natural resource specialist with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, told the AP. He said too much algae depletes oxygen needed for healthy fish and aquatic life.

Sewage treatment plants and private septic systems can remove much but not all of the phosphorous from wastewater, so some of it ends up in lakes, streams and rivers.

As a result of the ban, some familiar brands such as Cascade and Colgate-Palmolive are offering dish soaps with few or no phosphates.

Clorox has launched a Green Works product line that won the endorsement of the Sierra Club and Martha Stewart has developed a low-phosphate “Clean” line with Hain Celestial Brand, reports Environmental Leader, which says eco-friendly brands such as Seventh Generation and Method have gained in popularity.

Energy Star Credibility

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy recently outlined a new two-step process to strengthen the credibility of the Energy Star brand.

Step 1: Testing. More aggressive product testing will be required in the future in order to be Energy Star-certified.

DOE began tests at third-party test labs on six of the most common appliances categories:
• freezers
• refrigerator-freezers
• clothes washers
• dishwashers
• water heaters
• room air-conditioners.
DOE noted that these appliances account for at least 25% of a typical homeowner’s energy bill. It will test about 200 basic models in the coming months.

The agencies are also developing a new system to require all products seeking the Energy Star label to be tested in approved labs and require ongoing verification testing.

Step 2 Enforcement.

The agencies have taken action against 35 companies in the last 4 months to enforce compliance with Energy Star as well as with DOE’s minimum appliance efficiency standards. A news release details some of the enforcement actions taken in 2009-2010, including:

• July 2009: Subpoenas issued to AeroSys Inc. to obtain air-conditioner and heat pump documentation.
• Sept. 2009: AeroSys required to provide product samples for DOE testing to verify models met U.S. federal minimum energy efficiency standards.
• Dec. 2009: DOE and EPA took steps to remove Energy Star labels from 20 LG refrigerator-freezer models that had been shown, via testing by multiple independent labs, to consume more energy than allowed by Energy Star criteria.
• Jan. 2010: DOE signed a Consent Decree with Haier regarding actions to address four Haier freezer models, including two Energy Star models, that were consuming more energy than reported.
• March 2010: EPA terminated its Energy Star relationship with US Inc./US Refrigeration based on a history of logo misuse, unresponsiveness, and failure to comply with program guidelines.

Other actions addressed problems with lightbulb and showerhead manufacturers.

The agencies noted that Energy Star violations receive much media attention but account for a small percentage of total products in the program. A recent independent review found 98% compliance.

Recall:Maytag Dishwashers Due to Fire Hazard

Name of Product: Dishwashers

Units: About 1.7 million in the United States

Manufacturer: Maytag Corp. of Newton, Iowa or Maytag Corp. of Benton Harbor, Mich.

Hazard: An electrical failure in the dishwasher’s heating element can pose a serious fire hazard.

Incidents/Injuries: Maytag has received 12 reports of dishwasher heating element failures that resulted in fires and dishwasher damage, including one report of extensive kitchen damage from a fire. No injuries have been reported.

Description: The recall includes Maytag®, Amana®, Jenn-Air®, Admiral®, Magic Chef®, Performa by Maytag® and Crosley® brand dishwashers with plastic tubs and certain serial numbers. The affected dishwashers were manufactured with black, bisque, white, silver and stainless steel front panels. The brand name is printed on the front of the dishwasher. The model and serial numbers are printed on a label located inside the plastic tub on a tag near the left side of the door opening. Serial numbers will start or end with one of the following sequences.

SERIAL number STARTING with OR SERIAL number ENDING with
NW39, NW40, NW41, NW42, NW43, NW44, NW45, NW46, NW47, NW48, NW49, NW50, NW51, NW52, NY01, NY02, NY03, NY04, NY05, NY06, NY07, NY08, NY09, NY10, NY11, NY12, NY13, NY14, NY15, NY16, NY17, NY18, NY19   JC, JE, JG, JJ, JL, JN, JP, JR, JT, JV, JX, LA, LC, LE, LG, LJ, LL, LN, LP, LR, LT, LV, LX, NA, NC, NE, NG, NJ, NL, NN, NP, NR

Sold at: Department and appliance stores and by homebuilders nationwide from February 2006 through April 2010 for between $250 and $900.

Manufactured in: United States

Remedy: Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled dishwashers, disconnect the electric supply by shutting off the fuse or circuit breaker controlling it, inform all users of the dishwasher about the risk of fire and contact Maytag to verify if their dishwasher is included in the recall. If the dishwasher is included in the recall, consumers can either schedule a free in-home repair or receive a rebate following the purchase of certain new Maytag brand stainless-steel tub dishwashers. The rebate is $150 if the consumer purchases new dishwasher models MDB7759, MDB7609 or MDBH979; or $250 if the consumer purchases new dishwasher models MDB8959, MDB8859, MDB7809 or MDB7709. Consumers should not return the recalled dishwashers to the retailer where purchased as retailers are not prepared to take the units back.

Consumer Contact: For additional information, contact Maytag at (800) 544-5513 anytime, or visit the firm’s website at www.repair.maytag.com

EnergyStar Ratings – Can They be Trusted?

According to retailers, the Federal Appliance Rebate Program has increased appliance purchases nationwide.  The rebate is for energy efficient appliances which is great – only you might not be getting what that EnergyStar  label promises.

A recent report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) suggests that some Energy Star products aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

Responding to a request for investigation from Sen. Susan Collins (R., Maine), the GAO submitted 20 fictitious products between June 2009 and March 2010 for certification by Energy Star, a joint program of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy (DOE). Fifteen of the fakes–including a phony “room-air cleaner” that was little more than a space heater with a feather duster taped to it–received an Energy Star label.

Parade Magazine reports that in response, federal officials announced plans to strengthen the program. From now on, each application will be reviewed individually by an EPA staff member (as opposed to the automated approval process previously in place). By the end of the year, companies that want Energy Star certification for their products will be required to submit lab results from an independent testing agency rather than conduct their own evaluations.

Meanwhile, consumer advocates say we can still have faith in our Energy Star appliances: Most Energy Star brands on the market are about 10% more energy-efficient than their counterparts.

Sen. Collins applauds the reforms, calling them long overdue. “Energy Star wasn’t just slipping a bit,” she says. “It was in danger of falling off the quality cliff–putting taxpayers at risk of getting ripped off. Now that the EPA and DOE are moving to put more stringent oversight in place, I believe consumers will be better served and the integrity of the program will be restored.”