October 23, 2014

Recall: Goldstar and Comfort-Aire Dehumidifiers by LG Electronics

LG Electronics Tianjin Appliance Co., in cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), is urging consumers to check if they have recalled Goldstar or Comfort-Aire dehumidifiers. The firm is re-announcing the recall of about 98,000 of the dangerous dehumidifiers that pose a serious fire and burn hazard, and are believed to be responsible for more than one million dollars in property damage.

The power connector for the dehumidifier’s compressor can short circuit, posing fire and burn hazards to consumers and their property.

The dehumidifiers were first recalled in December 2009 following eleven incidents, including four significant fires. Since that time, the company has received sixteen additional incident reports of arcing, smoke and fire associated with the dehumidifiers, including nine significant fires. No injuries have been reported. Fires are reported to have caused more than $1 million in property damage including:

$500,000 in damage to a home in Gibsonia, Pa.
$200,000 in damage to a home in New Brighton, Minn.
$183,000 in damage to a home in Hudson, Mass.
$192,000 in damage to a home in Valparaiso, Ind.
$139,000 in damage to a home in Salem, Ohio
$129,000 in damage to a home in Brielle, N.J.
$ 95,000 in damage to a home in Philadelphia, Pa.

Because of the severity of the risks, CPSC and LG Electronics are concerned with the lack of consumer response to the recall. Only two percent of the 98,000 consumers who purchased these units have received a free repair, which means that consumers and their property remain at serious risk.

Anyone who has the recalled dehumidifiers is strongly encouraged to immediately stop using them, unplug them, and contact LG Electronics for the free repair.

The recall involves the 30 pint portable dehumidifiers sold under the Goldstar and Comfort-Aire brands. The dehumidifiers are white with a red shut-off button, controls for fan speed and humidity control, and a front-loading water bucket. “Goldstar” or “Comfort-Aire” is printed on the front. Model and serial number ranges included in this recall are listed in the table below. The model and serial numbers are located on the interior of the dehumidifier, and can be seen when the water bucket is removed.

Brand Model No. Serial Number Range Sold at
Goldstar GHD30Y7 611TAxx00001 through 08400
611TAxx08401 through 40600
612TAxx00001 through 20400
612TAxx21001 through 30600 Home Depot

Brand Model No. Serial Number Range Sold at
Goldstar DH305Y7 612TAxx00001 through 00600
701TAxx00001 through 16800
702TAxx00001 through 03000 Walmart

Brand Model No. Serial Number Range Sold at
Comfort-Aire BHD-301-C 611TA000001 through 001697
612TA000001 through 004200
701TA000001 through 000578
710TA000001 through 000599 Various retailers, including Ace
Hardware, Do It Best and Orgill Inc.

The recalled dehumidifiers were sold at The Home Depot, Walmart, Ace Hardware, Do It Best, Orgill Inc., and other retailers nationwide from January 2007 through June 2008 for between $140 and $150. They were manufactured in China.

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Refrigerator Safety Act

The horrifying death of a child trapped in an abandoned refrigerator was the motivation behind a story by the Channel 5 news in Rio Grande Valley, Texas.

The station reported finding numerous refrigerators abandoned in people’s yards. This is certainly a danger and without question should be addressed as a public safety hazard, but the investigation states that “it’s against federal law to have such an appliance just sitting around.”

I was curious about this federal law called The Refrigerator Safety Act and looked into it myself. What I found is this:

{SEC. 1.} [15 U.S.C. 1211]
It shall be unlawful for any person to introduce or deliver
for introduction into interstate commerce any household
refrigerator manufactured on or after the date this section takes
effect unless it is equipped with a device, enabling the door
there of to be opened from the inside,
which conforms with
standards prescribed pursuant to section 3.

The law was to become effective after the various standards were defined, all of which followed the Refrigerator Safety Act’s publication date of August 2, 1956. This also appears to be misunderstood in the news story.

The local station also reported that “The law says that if you’re going to keep a refrigerator around, the doors and locks must be removed.”

I could find nothing that requires the owner to alter their appliance. The manufacturer is required to make it possible to open it from inside, preventing entrapment. I don’t think a panicked, trapped child (or adult) will be able to find the release mechanism and get out. The concept is good, but in practice, I don’t think it will work. Removing the doors is a great idea, it just doesn’t appear to be legally required.

Please don’t misunderstand me – I have taped, tied and locked my empty freezer before turning it to the wall and locking it in the garage away from all children and animals. I take the safety of others very seriously, I just couldn’t find the federal law that could fine me if I didn’t take government mandated precautions. I don’t have a solution or an answer to what should or shouldn’t be governed; I’ll try to do what I believe to be right to protect others, but I like to be clear about laws.

Take a look at the law here, and see if my reading comprehension needs improving. In the meantime, please, don’t leave any appliance large enough to contain a living breathing, creature out where it will be a hazard- federal law or not.

The Battle Continues – LG vs Whirlpool

If you have been following the ongoing series of court debates between LG and Whirlpool, you’ll be aware of the back and forth battles regarding steam dryers and refrigerator patents.

The United States District Court in Chicago this week entered a final judgment in favor of Whirlpool in a case filed by LG Electronics involving Whirlpool’s steam dryer advertising. The court had previously ruled that “Whirlpool has established that its dryers do, in fact, use steam,” and that “LG did not introduce expert testimony or credible evidence of even a single Whirlpool customer, retailer, or trade representative who expressed confusion.”

“We’re very pleased with the Court’s decision,” said Marc Bitzer, president, Whirlpool North America Region. This victory means consumers will continue to have a choice in purchasing their steam laundry appliances.”

While this seems to settle the steam dryer case, the refrigerator patent battles continue. LG originally sued to have Whirlpool fridge patents invalidated; Whirlpool countersued. In March 2010, a jury trial found mostly in favor of Whirlpool and awarded Whirlpool $1,786,925. On July 1, 2011, the court granted a new trial and set a trial date of Sept. 28, 2011.

Whirlpool is seeking a judgment that better validates its patent claims; LG seeks to have the claims of patent violation invalidated and eliminate its liability. Stay tuned…

Haier Buying Sanyo Appliance Division

Sanyo Electric Co., Ltd. plans to sell much of its major appliance business to China’s Haier Group, in an uncommon instance of a Japanese electronics conglomerate allowing a rising Chinese rival take over a chunk of a major business segment.

The sale of the Sanyo operations—mostly washing-machine and refrigerator businesses—is part of Panasonic’s efforts to eliminate overlapping areas since its 2009 purchase of Sanyo. For Haier, the acquisition of Sanyo’s businesses will help it move a step closer to becoming a globally recognized quality appliance brand like Whirlpool or Electrolux.

Haier Group will have the rights to use the Sanyo brand name on washing machines, refrigerators, air-conditioners, TVs, and other consumer appliances in Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Malaysia under the SANYO brand for a limited, but unspecified, period of time.

The acquisition of the Sanyo businesses is “an important part of Haier’s overall growth strategy,” said Haier Vice President Du Jingguo in a statement released Thursday.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Haier has said previously it was looking at overseas acquisitions to grow. President Yang Mianmian told Dow Jones Newswires in March it would look at opportunities that arise.

The Chinese firm previously held talks with General Electric Co. in 2008 to buy the U.S. firm’s appliance unit. Before the talks with GE, Haier made an unsuccessful bid for Maytag Corp. in 2004 but lost out to Whirlpool Corp.

Haier holds more than 6% of the world’s white-goods market.

Save Money on New Appliances and Help the World Too

We can all use a little help these days. If your budget cuts have you rethinking how to replace an aging appliance, GE offers a solution that lets you buy a new appliance while helping others. At the online GE outlet store, with any purchase of one of their discontinued, closeout or overstock appliances (which includes standard GE warranty and free delivery) they will donate 2% of the price to the United Way.

They have just about every appliance you could need – from refrigerators, and washers to trash compactors and range hoods. The supply and variety varies, with more choices in the larger kitchen appliances than others. The savings also vary. At last look, you could save $200 -$500 on a refrigerator, but just around $20 on a ventilation hood.

It would also be a good resource if you are trying to match older GE Appliances already in your kitchen.

How an Evaporative Cooler Works

If you have ever enjoyed a breeze on a too hot day as it cools your skin, you felt as Ben Franklin did back in 1750, when he changed out of damp clothes and into dry ones on a 100+ day. He noted that he was cooler in the damp clothes and realized that the warm breeze in the room was not cooling him, but rather, his sweaty clothes. Not an attractive thought, but one that led him to experiment by wetting the bulb of a thermometer with spirits that evaporated quicker than water, and then blowing air across it. He managed to bring the temperature down so far that ice froze on the bulb.

An evaporative cooler, also known as a swamp cooler works on this principle. It is essentially a large fan with water-moistened pads in front of it. The fan draws warm outside air through the pads and blows the now-cooled air throughout the house. The pads can be made of wood shavings – wood from aspen trees is a traditional choice – or other materials that absorb and hold moisture while resisting mildew.

Small distribution lines supply water to the top of the pads. Water soaks the pads and, thanks to gravity, trickles through them to collect in a sump at the bottom of the cooler. A small recirculating water pump sends the collected water back to the top of the pads.

Since water is continually lost through evaporation, a float valve – much like the one that controls the water in a toilet tank – adds water to the sump when the level gets low. Under normal conditions, a swamp cooler can use between 3 to 15 gallons of water a day.

A large fan draws air through the pads, where evaporation drops the temperature approximately 20 degrees. The fan then blows this cooled air into the house.

Here’s a little lesson to help determine if a swamp cooler will cool your house enough:

Wet and Dry Bulb Temperature

To predict how much a swamp cooler will cool the air, you need to know the wet and dry bulb temperature. The dry bulb is easy — it’s just the regular temperature of the air. The wet bulb temperature tells you what the air temperature would be at 100 percent humidity, and it’s measured with a thermometer covered with a wet cloth sock and exposed to airflow.

The wet bulb temperature is always lower than the dry bulb temperature, and the difference between the two is the wet bulb depression. Depending how efficient your swamp cooler is, it can bring the temperature down as much as 95 percent of the wet bulb depression. Imagine you and your evaporative cooler are in Las Vegas, and it’s 108 degrees outside with a wet bulb temperature of 66 degrees. A swamp cooler operating at 85 percent efficiency can bring the temperature down to a nice, cool 72.3 degrees, right in the human comfort zone.

Unfortunately, evaporative air coolers don’t work everywhere. Swamps, for instance, are lousy places for swamp coolers. It’s not entirely clear where they got the nickname, but it probably refers to the humidity they add to the air or the swampy smell that can develop when they aren’t cleaned often enough. In order to work, they need a hot, dry climate. In the U.S., swamp coolers work well in the arid southwest.

Portable Air Conditioners and Evaporative Coolers

Now that August is here and we have all had a chance to experience the heat of summer, I have a question – have any readers used a portable air conditioner? Not the fixed models that mount in the window, but the free-standing style that sit in the middle of a room with a tube that allows it to vent outdoors. How about a Swamp, or Evaporative cooler?

The efficacy of the air conditioners seems doubtful to me. Do they have the power to cool a room when at the same time they are producing so much energy (that’s heat!) to run the motor?

Many years ago, my in-laws had what we called a swamp cooler. It was also free-standing and worked by blowing air over water soaked pads. The air that came into the room was cooled as it passed through the pads. It did a great job of cooling one room in hot Southern California where, although the room did seem damp, it was pleasant.

These appliances are the same size and relative cost to buy, but the cooler uses up to 75% less energy to run.

Black & Decker Agrees to $960,000 Civil Penalty for Failing to Report Defective Grasshog XP Weed Trimmer/Edgers

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced today that Black & Decker Inc. has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $960,000. The penalty agreement has been provisionally accepted by the Commission (5-0).

The settlement resolves CPSC staff’s allegations that Black & Decker knowingly failed to report several safety defects and hazards with the Grasshog XP immediately to CPSC, as required by federal law. CPSC staff also alleges the firm withheld information requested by CPSC staff during the course of the investigation.

Federal law requires manufacturers, distributors and retailers to report to CPSC immediately (within 24 hours) after obtaining information reasonably supporting the conclusion that a product contains a defect which could create a substantial product hazard, creates an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death, or fails to comply with any consumer product safety rule or any other rule, regulation, standard or ban enforced by CPSC.

CPSC staff alleges Black & Decker knew, on or before May 2006, that the high-powered, electric Grasshog XP GH1000 was defective and could cause harm, but failed to report this to CPSC.

CPSC staff also alleges that Black & Decker failed to provide full information about defects with the Grasshog XP as requested in May 2006. Based on the incomplete information provided at that time, CPSC closed the case. The firm did not give CPSC staff full information about the extent of Grasshog XP defects or the mounting number of incidents and injuries until October 2006.

In July 2007, Black & Decker and CPSC announced the recall of about 200,000 Grasshog XP model GH1000 trimmer/edgers. By that time, there were more than 700 reports of incidents, including 58 injuries with the Grasshog XP. The trimmer/edgers’s spool, spool cap and pieces of trimmer string can come loose during use and become projectiles. This poses a serious laceration hazard to the user and to bystanders. The trimmer/edgers also can overheat and burn consumers. Black & Decker sold the Grasshog XP weed trimmers from November 2005 through spring 2007 for about $70.

The recall was reannounced in August 2009 with an additional 100 injuries reported. CPSC urges consumers with recalled Grasshog XP trimmer/edgers to contact Black & Decker for a free repair kit.

In agreeing to the settlement, Black & Decker (U.S.) Inc. denies CPSC staff allegations that it knowingly violated the law.