January 16, 2018

Archives for November 2007

How Microwave Ovens Work

We use them almost daily and yet many people have no idea how a microwave oven works.  Here are the basics courtesy of the folks at HowStuffWorks.com:

A microwave oven uses microwaves to heat food. Microwaves are radio waves. In the case of microwave ovens, the commonly used radio wave frequency is roughly 2,500 megahertz (2.5 gigahertz). Radio waves in this frequency range have an interesting property: they are absorbed by water, fats and sugars. When they are absorbed they are converted directly into atomic motion — heat. Microwaves in this frequency range have another interesting property: they are not absorbed by most plastics, glass or ceramics. Metal reflects microwaves, which is why metal pans do not work well in a microwave oven.
You often hear that microwave ovens cook food “From the inside out.” What does that mean? Here’s an explanation to help make sense of microwave cooking.
Let’s say you want to bake a cake in a conventional oven. Normally you would bake a cake at 350 degrees F or so, but let’s say you accidentally set the oven at 600 degrees instead of 350. What is going to happen is that the outside of the cake will burn before the inside even gets warm. In a conventional oven, the heat has to migrate (by conduction) from the outside of the food toward the middle (See How a Thermos Works for a good explanation of conduction and other heat transfer processes). You also have dry, hot air on the outside of the food evaporating moisture. So the outside can be crispy and brown (for example, bread forms a crust) while the inside is moist.

In microwave cooking, the radio waves penetrate the food and excite water and fat molecules pretty much evenly throughout the food. No heat has to migrate toward the interior by conduction. There is heat everywhere all at once because the molecules are all excited together. There are limits, of course. Radio waves penetrate unevenly in thick pieces of food (they don’t make it all the way to the middle), and there are also “hot spots” caused by wave interference, but you get the idea. The whole heating process is different because you are “exciting atoms” rather than “conducting heat.” 

In a microwave oven, the air in the oven is at room temperature, so there is no way to form a crust. That is why microwavable pastries sometimes come with a little sleeve made out of foil and cardboard. You put the food in the sleeve and then microwave it. The sleeve reacts to microwave energy by becoming very hot. This exterior heat lets the crust become crispy as it would in a conventional oven.

Brewing the Perfect Cup of Coffee

If you want know how to do something right, ask an expert.  The experts at Krups, the manufacturers of both commercial and home coffeemakers, offer these tips for great brewing:

1. The Coffee Beans Whole beans stay fresh longer
 It is best to buy as soon after roasting as possible. Ideally, you should purchase your coffee fresh every 1 – 2 weeks; and buy only the quantity that you need to last for that period of time.

2. The Grind
 Always grind your beans as close to the brew time as possible.

Do not underestimate the importance of the grind to the taste of your coffee. They type of grind used in a particular machine can alter the taste and flavor of coffee. The general “rule of thumb” is the longer the extraction period (the time water spends in contact with the grounds) the coarser the grind should be. Generally coffee is finely ground for espresso and coarsely ground for a French press machine. Drip coffee machines fall somewhere in the middle. Experiment with the grind and your favorite coffee to get the perfect result. If you have your coffee ground in the store, specify the grind or let them know what type of machine you are using so they can grind accordingly.

3. The Water
 The water you use is VERY important to the quality of your coffee. Its best to use filtered or bottled water. If you are using tap water let it run a few seconds before filling your coffee pot. Be sure to use cold water. Do not used distilled or softened water. Some Krups coffee machines use a unique filtration system that removes traces of chlorine for a better taste and reduces mineral deposits for longer machine life. The ratio of coffee to water is also very important. Use the proper amount of coffee, which is typically 1 to 2 tablespoons of ground coffee for every six ounces of water. This can be adjusted to suit individual taste preferences. Be sure to check the “cup” lines on your brewer to see how they actually measure.

4. Water Temperature During Brewing
 Your coffee machine should obtain a water temperature between 195 – 205 degrees Fahrenheit when brewing. Water temperatures below this temperature will result in flat, weak coffee while water that is too hot will scald the grounds and result in poor tasting coffee.

5. Brewing Time
 The amount of time that the water is in contact with the coffee grounds is another important factor affecting the taste of your coffee. If the taste of your coffee is not optimal, it is possible that it is either over-extracting (the brew time is too short). the type of filter used – gold tone, paper, flat or cone – also effects the contact time. Experiment with the contact time until you can make a cup of coffee that suits your tastes perfectly.

Krups’ Deep Brew Technology, a feature of most Krups coffee machines, eliminates any room for error because it heats water to an ideal temperature, then pulses it through the coffee grounds at precisely timed intervals, resulting in rich, fully flavored coffee.

6. After Coffee Has Been Brewed
 Brewed coffee should be enjoyed immediately. It is recommended to use a pre-heated mug or coffee cup to maintain optimal temperature. If the coffee is not served immediately, it is recommended to pour the coffee into an insulated thermos and serve within 45 minutes. Remember: never reheat your coffee. Thermal coffee machines, such as the Krups Aroma Control Therm, are an ideal way to brew and store coffee while maintaining freshness because it does not require a warming plate which makes coffee bitter over time.

7. Enjoy Your Coffee!
 Take a moment to smell the aroma and taste the flavor. A thoughtfully prepared cup of coffee will make for a much more enjoyable coffee experience.

Recall: Miter Saws by WMH Tool Group Due to Laceration Hazard

Name of Product: Performax and Wilton 10” Sliding Miter Saws

Units: About 7,100

Manufacturer: WMH Tool Group Inc. (WMH), of Elgin, Ill.

Hazard: The saw handle’s switch can fail, causing the saw to smoke, spark, and trip circuit breakers, and disable the safety brake. The saw also can keep operating unless the unit is unplugged, posing a laceration hazard to consumers.

Incidents/Injuries: WMH has received reports of six incidents with the saws. No injuries have been reported.

Description: The recall includes Performax model number 90206 and Wilton model number 34570 10-inch sliding miter saws with date code/serial numbers ranging from W062505 to W070405. The model, date code/serial numbers are printed on a black label on the motor housing of the saw.

Sold at: Home centers and hardware retailers nationwide from August 2006 through March 2007 for between $150 and $250.

Manufactured in: China

Remedy: Consumers should immediately stop using these saws and call WMH to receive a replacement miter saw or a full refund.

Consumer Contact: For additional information, contact WMH at (800) 689-9928 between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, or visit the firm’s Web site at www.wmhtoolgroup.com

Picture of Recalled Sliding Miter Saw

Picture of Recalled Sliding Miter Saw

Bigger, Faster, Better

The basic appliances in our homes are becoming less basic each year. Refrigerators are getting larger with separate temperature zones, dishwashers sanitize dishes and washers clean with less water than you would think possible.

Let’s start with washers. At the Columbus Dispatch , Kevin Kidder writes:

About 30 percent of washers sold are front loaders, which use 65 percent less water and 35 percent less electricity.

The complaint against front loaders used to be that putting clothes into them was a pain.

But manufacturers have added up to 18-inch pedestals on the bottom, elevating the machine and easing the strain on aching backs.

The machines achieve their efficiency through the horizontally oriented tubs, which don’t need to fill to wash clothes. They also spin faster than predecessors, meaning more water is removed from the fabric before it goes into the dryer.

Refrigerators aren’t just larger, they are 45% more efficient than they were in 1990. Another nod to saving resources is filtered water through the fridge. No more buying bottled water.

For those consumers who are concerned about the air in their refrigerator, “Sub-Zero will offer an ‘air-scrubbing system’ to eliminate bacteria and odor in the refrigerator air. The molecules from those odors won’t settle on the foods, altering the flavors.” One really big change in refrigerators is “new refrigerator drawers, which are stand alone units that, as the name would suggest, are shaped like under-the-counter drawers. They are about 2 feet wide, pull out like a drawer and have several cubic feet of storage.”

Moving on to ranges and ovens,

Ovens now commonly have convection fans that reduce cooking times. Many are dual-fuel — electric oven, gas range — combining the best methods of cooking for each. Electric ovens require 220-volt outlets.

Some ovens also have accompanying warming drawers, designed to stay lower than 200 degrees.

Some newer models keep foods moist by injecting steam into the cooking cavern.

Using steam preserves the nutrients in vegetables and is good for other foods that need moisture such as souffles, said Sue Scatterday, commercial sales specialist with Builders Appliance Supply on the Far East Side.
With ranges, an older technology from the 1970s — induction cooking — has been refined and could be the next big trend in stovetop cooking. With induction cooking, magnetic fields heat the iron cooking pot directly; the surface of the range remains cool to the touch.

Gas ranges have evolved, as well. More people want the professional look of industrial burners and stainless steel.

With those higher temperature burners, hoods have become more powerful yet quieter.

“Because we’re seeing so many, we stress that you need the large hoods,” she said. And because newer houses are so airtight, some people actually need “air makeup systems” that allow air to flow into the house so the hood can work properly.

Then we have dishwashers- the newer ones are drying hotter and using 39% less energy than in 1990. Dishwashers are also available in under-the-counter drawer styles, allowing for multiple work stations in kitchen design. I’m personally especially pleased with how quiet the new dishwashers are.

Today’s appliances are performing better, more efficiently, and with less effort than ever.

Great Music, Great Gift

The Sansa Shaker is a little, pink or blue, kid’s dream come true. I’ve listened to it with my kids-it comes with ports for two headsets- and the sound is fabulous! Sansa Shaker It retails for around $29-$39 depending on the memory you want. Check out a comprehensive review at TechTalk.net. This MP3 player is fun, easy to use and well priced.

Recall:Cooper Lighting Recalls Fluorescent Shop Lights Due to Electrical Shock Hazard

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with the firm named below, today announced a voluntary recall of the following consumer product. Consumers should stop using recalled products immediately unless otherwise instructed.

 Name of Product: Metalux Fluorescent Shop Lights

Units: About 274,000

Distributor: Cooper Lighting Inc., a division of Cooper Industries, of Houston, Texas

Hazard: When the two prongs on the plug’s electrical cord are touched simultaneously while lamps are installed, the light can pose an electric shock hazard to consumers.

Incidents/Injuries: Cooper Lighting has received six reports of consumers experiencing an electric shock. No serious injuries have occurred.

Description and Model: This recall involves the Metalux fluorescent shop lights Model 9240. Only date codes between December 1, 2006 (“344 06”) and September 14, 2007 (“257 07”) are included in this recall. The date code format includes the day and the year. For example, “344 06” refers to the 344th day of year 2006, or December 1, 2006. The model number and date code can be found on the packaging and on labels adhered to the fixture housing.

Sold at: Major home center and hardware stores nationwide from January 2007 to October 2007 for between $8 and $10.

Manufactured in: China

Remedy: Consumers should stop using the light fixture immediately and uninstall it according to instructions posted at www.cooperlighting.com. The fixture should be returned to the place of purchase for a full refund or credit.

Consumer Contact: For additional information, contact Cooper Lighting at (800) 440-1676 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday or visit the firm’s Web site at www.cooperlighting.com

Picture of Recalled Fluorescent Shop Light

Picture of label

Picture of label

Picture of plug

Don’t Clean Your Oven Today!

Here’s a very good tip from Appliance411:
as, garberator, microwave, oven, range, stove, refrigerator, automatic and clothes washers or washing machines

Helpful and money saving tips from APPLIANCE411! Oven Cleaning
Clean your oven *well* in advance of a dinner party! It is not usually a good idea to try self-cleaning an oven *immediately* prior to a big dinner. Cleaning a week or more in advance would allow service to be scheduled should a problem arise. They often do… and at the of worst times.

HE Washers Need HE Detergent

When I got my new frontloading, high efficiency(HE) washer, I was told I could use a smaller amount of regular detergent or buy the more expensive high efficiency(HE) detergent.  It was up to me, there would be little difference other than a bit more sudsing with the regular soap.  I decided to start with the HE detergent and discovered that it sudses up too. In fact, I had to cut back to half the amount of HE detergent per load or the washer stopped, flashing an error code.  Now, by using half, the cost was equal too.

It seems that the sudsing is an issue for many people, some feel you need it, others don’t care, but the real concern should be- are the clothes clean?  I’ve been looking around and found that fixitnow.com has some great (although sometimes quirky) answers to the HE vs regular detergent question.

You have to start with the understanding that the tumble action of high-efficiency washers (i.e., front loaders) produce more suds than the agitator action in top loaders. Now most of people think, “Oooo, sudsy, that’s good!” No, not good. Suds do nothing to clean your clothes and are actually an undesirable by-product of the detergent’s chemical interaction with the water.
The main job of detergents is to remove soils and stains. They do this by breaking down the surface tension of water, in effect, making water “wetter.” The water is what actually does the cleaning by slipping in between the [dirt] and the fabric, separating them and suspending the [dirt] in solution.

Detergents are designed to freshen, remove odors, and brighten fabrics as they clean. Another key detergent function is to hold [dirt], and any dyes from colored fabrics, suspended in the wash water so they aren’t re-deposited back onto the cleaned clothes. Traditional detergents are designed to do this in high water volumes used by conventional, top-loading water hog washers.
If you think about it, using HE detergent in your front loader is really common sense. Because of the low-water wash and rinse cycles in HE washers, HE detergents must work differently from traditional laundry detergents in order to be effective. So, a bunch of them pointy-headed scientist types with all kinds of fancy degrees hung on their walls got together to design detergents that would be low-sudsing and quick-dispersing to get the best cleaning performance in front-loading washers.
Excessive sudsing can cause problems in HE washers by “cushioning” — or even preventing — the tumbling action. HE detergents also hold soils and dyes in suspension in low water volumes, so they don’t re-deposit onto cleaned clothes.
Excess suds can cause the washer’s pump to overheat causing premature failure of the pump. These excess suds also cause residue to build up inside the drum and hoses. After a while, your washer will start giving off a moldy funk and infecting your clothes with its faint, musky stink.
Low wash temperatures and/or use of regular detergent (which causes excess suds) may prevent some [dirt] from completely rinsing out of the front-loading washing machines. Oily soils and some dirt-type soils are especially sensitive to lower wash temperatures and medium to high suds levels. Over time, [dirt] will accumulate in the washer and lead to the growth of bacteria and mold, which we professional appliantologists refer to as bio-gookus. This bio-gookus will start stinking and may even impart odors to your clothes. To avoid all this unpleasantness, you should periodically run a maintenance cycle on your front-loader.

The Fix it now folks suggest the following to run a maintenance cycle:

1. Select the hot water setting. If there is no hot water setting, then select a “white” or a “stain” cycle setting. (Note: do not put laundry in the washer.)

2. Select the “extra rinse” option, if offered.

3. Add liquid chlorine bleach to the bleach dispenser. Fill to its maximum level.

4. Run the cycle through its completion.

5. If the washer does not have a second rinse option, manually select an additional rinse cycle to ensure that no chlorine bleach remains in your washer.

6. If your washer still has a funk, repeat steps 1 through 5 as necessary.

BTW, this is good to do periodically on top-loaders, too.

I switched to HE detergent from the start with my front loader, and after reading this, I’m glad I did. These washers are an expensive investment, and I want mine to last a long time.

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