July 31, 2014

Recall: Electric Blower Vacuums by OWT Industries Due to Laceration Hazard

OWT vacuum recall

Name of product:Expert Gardener Electric Blower Vacuums

Hazard:

Objects that are drawn into the unit during vacuum mode can break through the plastic housing, posing a laceration hazard.

Consumer Contact:OWT Industries Inc.; at (800) 597-9624 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, or online at www.expertgardenertools.com and click on Safety Notices for more information.

Units:

About 131,500

Description:

This recall involves Expert Gardener electric blower vacuums with two different model and serial number ranges, including model 20254EG with serial numbers BMP3010001 through BMR3311972, and model 20254EGC with serial numbers EUP3120001 through EUP3630730. Model and serial numbers are located on a label on the left side of the motor housing. The blower vacuums are green and black. “Expert Gardener” and “BlowerVac 2 Speed Quiet 150 MPH Powerful 220 MPH” are printed on the side of the green motor housing and on the black plastic blower tube.

Incidents/Injuries:

There has beenone report of an incident with the recalled blower vacuums.  No injuries have been reported.

Remedy:

Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled blower vacuums and contact OWT Industries Inc. for a free replacement blower vacuum.

Sold exclusively at:

Walmart stores nationwide and online at www.walmart.com from January 2012 through December 2012 for about $40.

Importer:

OWT Industries Inc., of Pickens, S.C.

Manufacturer:

Changzhou Globe Tools Co. Ltd. and Techtronic Industries (Dongguan) Co. Ltd., of China

Manufactured in:

China

Recall: Homelite Electric Blower Vacuums Due to Laceration Hazard

homelite vacuum

Name of product:

Homelite Electric Blower Vacuums

Hazard:

Objects that are drawn into the unit during vacuum mode can break through the plastic housing, posing a laceration hazard.

Consumer Contact:

Homelite Consumer Products;  at (800) 597-9624 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, or online at www.homelite.com and click on Safety Notices for more information.

Units:About 241,000 in the United States and 13,600 in Canada

Description:

This recall involves Homelite electric blower vacuums with two different model and serial number ranges, including model UT42120 with serial numbers BMP3540001 through BMR2103100, and model UT42120A with serial numbers BMR2120001 through BMR3421250. Model and serial numbers are located on a label on the left side of the red motor housing. The blower vacuums are red and black. “Homelite BlowerVac 2 Speed Powerful 220 MPH” is printed on the side of the motor housing and on the black plastic blower tube.

Incidents/Injuries:

Homelite receivedone report of an incident with the recalled blower vacuums.  No injuries have been reported.

Remedy:

Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled blower vacuums and contact Homelite for a free replacement blower vacuum.

Sold exclusively at:

Home Depot stores nationwide and online at www.homedepot.com from February 2012 through December 2012 for about $40.

Importer:

Homelite Consumer Products Inc., of Anderson, S.C.

Manufacturer:

Changzhou Globe Tools Co. Ltd., of China

Manufactured in:

China

Chocolate Vacuums – It’s Not What You Think

Are you shopping for a new vacuum? Of course power, durablity, ease of use, and cost are issues to be addressed, but, hey, what about color? Isn’t the color of your vacuum of primary concern? Well, Electrolux seems to think we should at least have some fashionable choices when it come to our vacuums.

Designers at Electrolux, AEG’s parent company, identified Chocolate Brown as 2011′s “icon color” – the hottest color for cars, fashion, and everything in-between. The new AEG brand UltraOne vacuum cleaners that launch in May 2011 will be offered in Chocolate Brown as well as Deep Blue and Clear Blue.

“The fashion industry, car shows, and interior design expos are a great source of inspiration,” Elisabeth Piper-Mäkitalo, Senior Graphic Designer at Electrolux.

One design detail carried over from the previous UltraOne collection is the scale-like, carbon-fiber “squircle” pattern on its rear side panel. The squircle design – a circle and square hybrid – was added to enhance the vacuum’s appearance. It’s a pattern that is also seen as a design element in car interiors and lamps.

All the new colors are metallic intended to convey a technical feel but also a soft and fashionable quality. Electrolux expects that similar colors will be used in 2011 fashion, cosmetics, and automobiles.

When developing the 2011 look for the UltraOne floor care appliance line, designers took to heart the status the vacuums had earned since its launch – appliance reviewers have given it top rankings in at least 11 markets.

“We naturally wanted to give it a unique range of colors to set it apart from the crowd—a powerful yet fashionable statement,” said Piper-Mäkitalo. “The UltraOne has striking lines – you can really feel its raw energy. We wanted to accentuate this power by adding a bold new palette of colors. When you think about it, there isn‘t that much difference between the colors used in makeup, nail polish and mascara, and today‘s cars. Flake and metallic are found in both worlds. This gives us a range of colors that are both traditionally masculine and feminine: unisex, if you will.”

The design team developed several new colors: Watermelon Red, Deep Blue (available in UK), Ice White, Antique Grey, Clear Blue (available in UK), Cassis, “and, finally, what we call the Icon Color: Chocolate Brown,” Piper-Mäkitalo said. “Brown and metallic feel very right for 2011.”

Recall: Hoover WindTunnel Canister Vacuums Due to Fire and Shock Hazards

Name of Product: Hoover® WindTunnel Canister Vacuums

Units: About 142,000

Importer: Hoover Inc., of Glenwillow, Ohio

Hazard: The power cord between the power nozzle and the wand connector can short-circuit posing fire and shock hazards to consumers. This condition can occur even if the vacuum has been turned off but left plugged in.

Incidents/Injuries: Hoover has received 69 reports of overheating or electrical malfunction, including one report of fire and smoke damage, and two reports of carpet damage. There has been one report of a minor injury.

Description: This recall involves the Hoover WindTunnel Bagless Canister Vacuum model S3755. The vacuum is silver and black in color, and comes with a power nozzle. The model number can be found on a label on the bottom of the canister.

Sold at: Mass merchandisers, department stores and independent vacuum retailers nationwide and online from March 2003 to December 2008 for between $250 and $280.

Manufactured in: China

Remedy: Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled vacuum cleaners and contact Hoover for a free repair.

Consumer Contact: For additional information, contact Hoover toll-free at (888) 564-2066 between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, or visit the firm’s website at www.hoover.com/windtunnelcanisterrecall

Is a Central Vacuum System Right for You?

If you are considering installing a central vacuum system, you probably have visions of carefree vacuuming- is that an oxymoron? You will no longer lug your vacuum up and downstairs or try to maneuver through doorways, banging the walls as you go. Well before you spend the $1000 or more, read on to see if your vision can become a reality.

From DIYlife.com:

HOW DOES A BUILT-IN CENTRAL VACUUM SYSTEM WORK?
Unlike standard portable vacuums, central vacuum systems don’t require you to haul a heavy unit around the house to clean. With built-in central vacuum systems, you need only carry a lightweight hose and power brush. Dirt and debris is sucked up and sent through tubing located in the walls and sent to a power unit/receptacle, which typically installed in a garage, crawlspace or basement.

Inlet valves are located throughout the house, and PVC tubing is installed in the walls and under the floor connecting back to the central vacuum. The lightweight hose connects to the the inlet and can reach up to 35 feet. So instead of plugging a portable vacuum in and out of of pre-determined electrical outlets, you just need to move the hose from inlet to inlet when operating a central vacuum. Like standard vacuums, central vacuum hoses have a variety of attachments with added features, such as wet interceptors that pick up liquid.

BENEFITS OF A CENTRAL VACUUM SYSTEM
Central vacuums are not as pricey as you may think, relatively speaking. In recent years, several portable vacuums have hit the market complete with high-tech features that take all the (human) work out of vacuuming. These advancements have begun to equalize the cost between portable vacs and central vacs. With price becoming a smaller factor, here are some great benefits to central vacuum systems:

- Healthier Air
Central vacuum systems are the only virtually dust-free way to vacuum. Traditional vacuum cleaners collect dirt and dust in a cup, paper bag or reusable cloth bag. Even with HEPA filtration, fine particles are exhausted back into the air. With a central vacuum system, the dirt and dust are collected in a receptacle located away from the living area. Homeowners can exhaust their units outside, thus eliminating any dust or odors recirculating. This is a very important feature for people who suffer from allergies.

- Powerful Cleaning
Traditional vacuum cleaners are meant to be portable, and thus need to have extremely lightweight motors. Such is not the case for central vacuum systems, which can accommodate larger, more powerful motors: about three to five times more power than traditional vacuums. Not only are central vacuum motors larger, they have built-in cooling fans (for longer life), as well as greater airflow and suction.

- Versatility
With portable household vacuum cleaners, an upright machine is superior for cleaning carpets while a canister vacuum is superior for cleaning bare floors, cars, upholstery, etc. With a central vacuum system you get an all-round superior cleaning, there’s no need to switch models for different tasks. Inlets can be strategically placed anywhere in the house or garage, and a lightweight 35-foot hose can cover the distance between sockets. Because of the long hose, you can easily go right up your stairs without having to carry a heavy unit up and down. The long hose and inlets make it easy to get into every area, including the garage to clean car interiors easily. Wet interceptors allow you to pick up water with your central vacuum system too. Furthermore, you can install automatic vacpans that allow you to sweep dirt right into the system.

- Longer Lifespan
Central vacuums have considerably longer life than portable household vacuum cleaners. With average use most central vacuums will last 20 years. By contrast, a standard chain store vacuum will last about two years.

- Added Home Value
According to CentralVacuum.com, a central vacuum system can add around $2,000 to your home’s resale value.

DRAWBACKS OF A CENTRAL VACUUM SYSTEM

With all the benefits, there are some noteworthy disadvantages of central vacuums:

- Cost
If you do the installation yourself, a central vacuum system can cost as little as $500. Yet this is still a significant cost, and a portable household vacuum cleaner is certainly your best choice if budget is main concern. Also, there is an added energy consumption factor. If you ran the vacuum for an hour every day, you’d consume about 20 cents more electricity per day with a built-in central vacuum system.

- Installation Obstacles
It is extremely difficult to install central vacuum systems in apartment and condominium buildings. Houses without a basement, crawlspace or attic to house the vacuum center are better off with a standard vacuum. Other limiting features include poured concrete walls. These factors makes installation difficult and costly. In such cases opt for a standard vacuum and avoid the headache.

- Physical Limitations
Homeowners who have disabilities that make emptying the relatively large canister a challenge are better off with a standard household vacuum.

FIXING AND MAINTAINING YOUR BUILT-IN CENTRAL VACUUM SYSTEM

In most cases you can manage your own troubleshooting as well. From unclogging the tubing, to changing the motor brushes, central vacuum maintenance and repair is very DIY-friendly, with an abundance of resources and troubleshooting tips available.

With the average life of a central vacuum system being 20 years, they are bound to require repairs eventually. Attachments will need to be replaced every 5-8 years at a cost of about $150-$500 depending on what you need. Also the carbon brushes in the motor may need to be replaced after about 10 years at a cost of $15-$20.

While some motors last 20 years, others may go sooner. If they do you’re looking at a cost of about $200. When considering the options, be aware of an emerging trend in the central vacuum industry, a movement toward throw-away power units. These types of central vacuum units have either sealed motor pods or the manufacturer doesn’t offer replacement parts.

Cleaning a central vacuum in most cases is as simple as emptying the canister and occasionally reaching up and removing any dust that accumulated and got trapped above the container. Central vacuum bags and canisters need to be emptied on average once every three months.

INSTALLING A CENTRAL VACUUM
The average person can install and maintain their central vacuum system.

However, there is some degree of difficulty: determining the layout requires planning. You can often get guidance from the store where you purchase your vacuum.

There are lots of resources available with general installation instructions. You’ll want to review the specific instructions for your unit, consult with a professional, and check to make sure that a non-professional installation won’t void your warranty.

The ease of doing-it-yourself depends on whether you have easy access to the area where you plan to store the system and that no major hurdles in the home require professional troubleshooting. Once you’ve reviewed the instructions, if you decide that you don’t have the necessary skills, time or interest to install it yourself, you can always hire a professional. Either way, the resources are plenty.

FINAL VERDICT: For homes that are less than 1000 square feet, a central vacuum system is simply not worth the money. But when your home and your budget can manage it, built-in vacuum systems are definitely a desirable choice.

LG’s Android Wants to Control Your Appliances

LG, in a press conference at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, showed examples of web-connected washing machines, refrigerators, ovens and a robot vacuum substantially improved with Android apps on tablets or smartphones.

“This is the first time the industry has actually had the infrastructure to support the technology for smart appliances,” said Patrick Steinkuhl, head of LG’s home appliances division.

Steinkuhl explained that Wi-Fi connections and apps would enable appliances to be much “smarter” than they are now. On an oven equipped with an Android tablet, you could download a recipe that instructs the oven to automatically change temperatures to provide optimal cooking results for a turkey, for example.

“Imagine an oven that is so smart that on the day of the big game it’s able to send you a text message saying ‘Hey, your roast is about done. Better get to the kitchen,” Steinkuhl said.

Another example he raised was a robot vacuum that could use an Android app to learn the precise dimensions of your home to know exactly which points have and haven’t been cleaned yet.

Apps could also improve energy efficiency in refrigerators, Steinkuhl added.

LG said it plans to sell some of these new appliances this year, but the company hasn’t yet disclosed a price. The question is – are they worth the money?

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.