April 24, 2014

Recall: Frigidaire and Electrolux ICON Electric Smoothtop Cooktops and Slide-In Ranges Due to Fire Hazard

Name of Product: Frigidaire and Electrolux ICON Smoothtop Electric Cooktops and Frigidaire Slide-in Ranges with rotary knobs and digital displays

Units: About 122,000

Manufacturer: Electrolux Home Products Inc., of Charlotte, N.C.

Hazard: Liquids can pool under the control knob and cause the surface heating element to turn on unexpectedly, heat to temperatures other than expected and then not turn off, posing a risk of fire and burn hazards to consumers.

Incidents/Injuries: Electrolux has received 70 reports of incidents, including three reports of fires that resulted in property damage. Three minor burn injuries were reported.

Description: This recall involves Frigidaire and Electrolux ICON smoothtop electric cooktops and Frigidaire slide-in ranges with rotary knobs and digital displays. Model and serial numbers for the slide-in ranges can be found inside the oven door on the left side of the unit or on the underside surface on cooktop models. The following model and serial numbers are included in this recall:

Frigidaire Serial Number Range and Models

Serial Number Range: NF501XXXXX through NF952XXXXX
Model Numbers GLEC30S9EB
GLEC36S9EB
GLEC30S9EQ
GLEC36S9EQ
GLEC30S9ES GLEC36S9ES
GLES389EB
GLES389EQ
GLES389ES
GLES389FB GLES389FQ
GLES389FS
LEEC30S9FE
LEEC36S9FE
LES389FE PLEC30S9EC
PLEC36S9EC
PLES389EC
PLES399EC

Electrolux ICON Serial Number Range and Models

Serial Number Range: NF501XXXXX through NF045XXXXX
Model Numbers E30EC65ESS E36EC65ESS

Sold at: Mass merchandise and independent retail stores from January 2005 through August 2010 for between $500 and $2,500.

Manufactured in: Canada

Remedy: Consumers should immediately stop using and unplug the recalled ranges or power off cooktops at the circuit breaker. Contact Electrolux for information on how to obtain a free repair kit.

Consumer Contact: For additional information, contact Electrolux at (888) 281-5310 between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. ET Monday through Saturday or visit the firm’s website at www.smoothtoprangerecall.com (Frigidaire) or www.cooktoprecall.com (Electrolux).

CPSC is still interested in receiving incident or injury reports that are either directly related to this product recall or involve a different hazard with the same product. Please tell them about it by visiting https://www.cpsc.gov/cgibin/incident.aspx

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.

Appliance Repair Saga

We all have to deal with this on occasion- here’s a lighthearted look at one woman’s recent experience with an appliance failure.

Most of us are familiar with Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ five stages of dealing with death, but I think they work equally well with appliance repair.

Not long ago, the electronic control panel on our stove went south, mid-meat loaf. Where moments before had been a glittery display panel reminiscent of the Starship Enterprise was now the Black Screen of Death. An ominous notation appeared: “Error F5.”

Instantly, I went into Denial. As in, this can’t be happening to me! This range is practically new! It had great ratings! I even went so far as to search online as to what Error F5 was. It was possible, I thought (see Denial, above) that it could be something innocuous. But basically Error F5 is code for “This is SO going to cost you.”

Finding out that the first available repair appointment from the Authorized Dealer was going to be nine days away made an easy segue into Stage 2: Anger. Loads of anger.

One teensy weensy component goes bad and the entire control board has to be replaced? This is felony design abuse! What was so wrong (caution: Luddite alert) with the old two-knob ranges, bake knob on the right, temp knob on the left? It is immoral! It’s un-American! It’s – no, no, I’m not turning down the appointment. But – and here we glide seamlessly into Stage 3: Bargaining – are you sure you can’t get me in any sooner? The kids and grandchild are going to be visiting next weekend and having no way to cook except a microwave is going to be really, really hard. Maybe you have a cancellation list I could put my name on? (Please?)

Like dying, it only gets worse from there, because eventually the Authorized Dealer actually shows up. The kids had been very nice about it all when they came. It wouldn’t be their last visit, they said, consolingly. And it never hurts to remind oneself from time to time how wonderful warm food tastes on a cold rainy evening especially since they didn’t get any.

But by this time, Olof and I are ready for some serious bakables. So it was with total shock when the Authorized Dealer mentions that control panels are a special order, usually 30 days. Stage 4: complete and total Depression, slams you right between the taste buds.

But during that long month, a funny thing happens – Stage 5: Acceptance. You develop an inner peace, not to mention an intimate relationship with the pizza guy. Cooking is over-rated. Vast technological improvements have been made in microwavables. You can now often recognize the animal they were made from.

So when the Authorized Dealer calls to install the new panel, you’re almost not sure you want him to come out. Especially when he tells you that the control board is $590 and labor to install $150. More, of course, than a whole stove used to cost.

But then you think about your mother’s wonderful cassoulet and about the grandkids coming to refer to you as Grammy Nuke. So you fork over the money and fix the range, assuming this was just a fluke and you’ll have many more years of life out of this appliance.

Talk about Denial.

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.

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.”

Just How Much Energy is That Appliance Using?

My computer stays on through the week, only getting shut off on the weekend.  My answering machine and TV stay plugged in, their little red lights glowing in the night.  I do turn off the treadmill between uses and the DVD player too.

My energy habits are probably similar to many Americans.  If you’re wondering how much energy you’re wasting, or conversely, saving by turning appliances off, check out this energy calculator from GE:

This is a really cool tool that calculates  how much power each appliance consumes in watts or kilowatthours.  Alternatively, you can see how much each appliance costs to use in dollars, and how much it consumes in equivalent gallons of gas.

Some appliances are marked with a blue star indicating that an  EnergyStar model is available or click on the green star to see how much energy (and money) you’ll save with a new appliance.

Approved Energy Efficient Appliance Rebate Programs

If you are wondering which Department of Energy (DOE) rebates are available in your state, just check out this interactive map.  There is also a simple table listing the individual states along with the total rebate dollars available, websites and phone numbers.

DOE has approved the appliance rebate programs for the states and territories linked or listed on this page as of April 27, 2010. This list and map will be updated as additional program details are available.  This DOE site is the only official DOE-sponsored Web site – beware of other unofficial sites.