November 18, 2017

Archives for June 2010

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.

Newest Microwave Features

Microwave ovens have been around for over forty years during which most people used them for exciting tasks such as heating leftovers, warming coffee and making popcorn.  There were those adventurers that added to their cooking repertoire by preparing whole meals in the microwave.

But how to improve a product whose entire purpose is to be simple? Oven makers right now are betting on steam. Sharp has a $1,000 microwave that uses steam to cook more thoroughly, keep food moist without adding fat and help heat penetrate better (consumers fill a water reservoir attached to the oven). Whirlpool Corp. offers steam in a combination microwave-ventilation hood, starting at $349. It’s a space saver because it goes over a gas or electric range.

Steam microwaves are aimed at people who are in the market for an oven with special features, but not necessarily a microwave. “For anyone looking for a steam oven, it’s much cheaper than the other options,”  says Jason Hughes, associate director of product planning and development at Sharp Electronics, a unit of Sharp Corp., in Japan.   Conventional steam ovens cost upward of $2,000.

Now could be an opportune time to introduce new features. The number of meals Americans prepared at home using a microwave rose 9.5% to 47 billion meals last year, the first usage increase in decades, according to NPD Group.

Consumers are “actually doing a lot more meal preparation” in their microwaves, says Bob Schiffmann, president of R.F. Schiffmann Associates Inc., a New York consulting firm.

New-and-improved microwaves face big challenges. “Not every customer’s lifestyle is the same,” says Sue Bailey, director of major-appliance product management at Viking Range Corp., which has introduced a $1,275 microwave in a pull-out drawer that sits under the kitchen counter. Viking says it may come out with a steam device. “Some want steam, some just want things a little more quickly, and others just want a little more space” inside, Ms. Bailey says.

“It’s a product that still hasn’t been perfected after all these years,” says David Lockwood, director of consumer insights at Mintel International Group, whose research indicates 93% of households have a microwave oven. “It still doesn’t do everything people want it to do,” he says.

It may be simply a matter of sex appeal. Boxy, noisy, at times smelling bad, the microwave oven hasn’t inspired the kind of lust and romance that a trophy refrigerator or oven marketed as professional-grade commands from upscale homeowners.

The average microwave lasts only about eight or nine years, Mr. Lockwood says, and many consumers own microwaves that cost less than $90. “The average buyer still wants the cheapest possible solution,” he says.

You can read about the history of the microwave oven in our article “The Microwave Oven-a Brief  History”

Recall: GE Front Load Washers Due to Fire and Shock Hazards

Name of Product: GE Front-Load Washing Machines

Units: About 181,000

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

Hazard: A wire can break in the machine and make contact with a metal part on the washtub while the machine is operating, posing fire and shock hazards to consumers.

Incidents/Injuries: GE is aware of seven incidents in which flames escaped the units and caused minor smoke damage. No injuries have been reported.

Description: This recall involves GE front-load washing machines without auxiliary water heating. Model and serial numbers are listed in the chart below. Recalled washing machines were manufactured between December 2006 and February 2010. The model and serial numbers are located on the bottom right side and on the bottom door frame of the washers.

Brand Model Number Begins With: Serial Number Begins With:
GE WBVH5 AM, AR, AS, AT, DM, DR, DS, FM,
FR, FS, GM, GS, HM, HR, HS, LM,
LR, LS, MM, MR, MS, RM, RR, RS,
SM, SR, SS, TM, TR, TS, VM, VR,
VS, ZL, ZM, ZR, ZS

Sold at: Department and various retail stores nationwide from December 2006 through May 2010 for about $700.

Manufactured in: China

Remedy: Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled washers, unplug it from the electrical outlet and contact GE for a free repair. Consumers should not operate the washer until it has been repaired.

Consumer Contact: For additional information, contact GE toll-free at (888) 345-4124 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, or visit the firm’s website at www.geappliances.com

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