November 18, 2017

Archives for January 2011

Winter Weather Warning: CPSC and USFA Issue Home Heating Safety Alert

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the United States Fire Administration (USFA) are urging consumers to play it safe as winter weather blankets the United States.

According to USFA, home fires spike in winter months. Cooking and home heating are the leading causes of residential building fires during the winter. The risk of fires also increases with the use of supplemental heating, such as space heaters.

CPSC estimates that home heating was associated with an average of 33,300 fires and 180 fire deaths per year from 2005 to 2007.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is also a serious threat in the winter months. Any fuel-burning appliances in the home, including furnaces and fireplaces, are a potential CO source. Carbon monoxide is called the “invisible killer,” because it is an odorless, colorless and poisonous gas.

There has been an increasing trend in unintentional, non-fire CO deaths associated with consumer products since 1999. CPSC staff estimates there were 184 CO poisoning deaths on average per year from 2005-2007 compared to 122 deaths per year from 1999-2001. Since 1999, the majority of CO deaths have been associated with heating systems and portable generators.

Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are an important line of defense in the home, and they give consumers valuable escape time. About two-thirds of fire deaths occur in homes with no smoke alarms, or in homes where consumers have removed the alarm’s batteries or where the batteries are dead. Recently, there were tragic deaths in homes where alarms could have made a difference:

* In Citra, Fla., a fire killed five children on November 8. Their home did not have smoke alarms.
* In Penfield, N.Y., a 54-year-old man died of CO poisoning in November. Prior to his death, the home’s CO alarms reportedly beeped and were removed from the house.

CPSC and USFA recommend that in addition to having working smoke and CO alarms, consumers should follow these safety tips to prevent fires and CO poisoning:

Preventing Fires:

* Place space heaters on a floor that is flat and level. Do not put space heaters on rugs or carpets. Keep the heater at least three feet from bedding, drapes, furniture, and other flammable materials; and place space heaters out of the flow of foot traffic. Keep children and pets away from space heaters.
* To prevent the risk of fire, NEVER leave a space heater on when you go to sleep or place a space heater close to any sleeping person. Turn the heater off when you leave the area. See CPSC’s electric space heater safety alert for more space heater safety tips (pdf).
* Never use gasoline in a kerosene space heater. Even small amounts of gasoline mixed with kerosene can increase the risk of a fire.
* Have fireplace flues and chimneys inspected for leakage and blockage from creosote or debris every year.
* Open the fireplace damper before lighting a fire, and keep it open until the ashes are cool. An open damper may help prevent build-up of poisonous gases inside the home.
* Store fireplace ashes in a fire-resistant container, and cover the container with a lid. Keep the container outdoors and away from combustibles. Dispose of ashes carefully, keeping them away from dry leaves, trash or other combustible materials.

Preventing CO poisoning:

* Schedule a yearly professional inspection of all fuel-burning home heating systems, including furnaces, boilers, fireplaces, wood stoves, water heaters, chimneys, flues and vents.
* NEVER operate a portable gasoline-powered generator in an enclosed space, such as a garage, shed, or crawlspace, or in the home.
* Keep portable generators as far away from your home and your neighbors’ homes as possible – away from open doors, windows or vents that could allow deadly carbon monoxide into the home.
* When purchasing a space heater, ask the salesperson whether the heater has been safety-certified. A certified heater will have a safety certification mark. These heaters will have the most up-to-date safety features. An unvented gas space heater that meets current safety standards will shut off if oxygen levels fall too low.
* Do not use portable propane space heaters indoors or in any confined space, unless they are designed specifically for indoor use. Always follow the manufacturer’s directions for proper use.
* Never use gas or electric stoves to heat the home. They are not intended for that purpose and can pose a CO or fire hazard.

More information can be found in CPSC’s Safety Alert, Reducing Fire Hazards for Portable Electric Heaters (pdf)

Recall: Food Dehydrator by NESCO American Harvest Due to Fire Hazard

Name of Product: NESCO American Harvest Gardenmaster Food Dehydrator

Units: About 4,800

Manufacturer: The Metal Ware Corporation, of Two Rivers, Wisc.

Hazard: A defective capacitor in the electronic control module can overheat, posing a smoke and fire hazard.

Incidents/Injuries: NESCO received three reports of overheating resulting in smoke or fire. No injuries have been reported.

Description: The recalled product includes a base with stackable trays to place food. The top of the unit houses the electronic control module. Model number FD-1020 and production date codes: 09E 0610; 09E 0624; and 09E 0903 are molded into the underside of the dehydrator’s electronic control module.

Sold at: National mass merchandisers and retailers and online at www.nesco.com and other websites from July 2009 to January 2011 for about $140.

Manufactured in:
China

Remedy: Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled product and contact NESCO for instructions on how to receive a free electronic control module.

Consumer Contact: For more information, contact NESCO at (800) 726-4457 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. CT Monday through Friday or visit the firm’s website at www.nesco.com

New GE Profile and GE Café Bottom-Freezer Refrigerators

Dining in can be delicious. And it’s a good thing, because in these money- and health-conscious times, many of us are doing it more often.

Nearly half of Americans, or 46 percent, say they’re dining out less frequently, according to a 2009 Nielsen survey. Also reflecting a trend toward meals served at home, household spending increased on deli items, fresh seafood and meat, and produce for the year ending September 2009. And, as any kid will tell you, some meals at home include leftovers — at least once a week in 77 percent of households, according to a 2010 report by the National Grocers Association.

Regardless of what you’re putting on the dinner table, a key ingredient is convenient food storage. New GE Profile and GE Café bottom-freezer refrigerators not only help preserve your favorite foods for home cooking, they also make it easier than ever for your family to serve themselves — thanks to convenient storage features and an improved ice-and-water-dispenser.

Refrigerators with the freezer on the bottom are increasingly popular, in part because of the convenience they offer in organizing and accessing both fresh and frozen foods. Having the fresh food compartment at eye level allows family members to easily help themselves to frequently used fruits and vegetables, deli items and drinks. In the freezer compartment, slide-out drawers and baskets allow a variety of frozen food packages to be seen at a glance and quickly retrieved.

“Another advantage is that the freezer is wider than in a side-by-side refrigerator,” says Dan Capelle, GE Appliances product manager. “The freezer area is the full width of the refrigerator, providing room for larger items, such as a whole turkey, pizzas, a tray of frozen appetizers, or extra bags of ice.”

Sales of bottom-freezer refrigerators increased more than 40 percent in 2010 alone, according to the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers. “Consumers love not only the convenience, but also the style and appearance of these models,” says GE’s Jeff Cooksey, marketing manager for refrigeration.

The new line of GE Profile and GE Café models also features more capacity for ice storage, thanks to a new design that places the water and ice dispenser in the door of the refrigerator. In addition, this frees up more usable space in the fresh food area.

The new line of GE Profile and Café bottom-freezer refrigerators will be available to consumers on May 11, 2011.

Models are available in freestanding, counter-depth, and armoire styles.

Good Housekeeping Honors New GE Profile Washer with VIP Award

It is the late-night dilemma of many busy Americans — keeping their eyes open another hour or so to wash and dry clothes they just realized they needed the next morning. GE has an answer that’s much better than staying awake through another late-night talk show: the GE Profilefrontload washer with Steam technology that cleans clothes and gets them ready to wear by morning — right out of the washer.

“Good Housekeeping is proud to honor GE Profile’s Frontloader Steam Washer with Overnight Ready Cycle with a 2011 Very Innovative Products (VIP) Award. This represents an outstanding achievement, as the winners of our VIP Awards are chosen from thousands of products,” says Miriam Arond, director of the Good Housekeeping Research Institute, “Our VIP Award winners are products that are ingenious breakthroughs and solve everyday problems in new and exciting ways. The fact that GE’s product performed so well is extremely impressive.”

The washer’s innovative “Overnight Ready” cycle washes clothes, then removes so much moisture that clothes are comfortable to wear without transferring to the dryer. It’s the first unit in the industry with the ability to wash small loads on an overnight cycle. The cycle even helps prevent clothes from wrinkling compared to clothes that are left sitting in the washer overnight. The “Overnight Ready” cycle keeps clothes moving gently up to eight hours to remove moisture content. Two easy-to-clean filters trap lint for excellent results.

The GE Profile frontload washer and dryer with Steam and SmartDispense technology is white (PFWS4600LWW, PFDS450ELWW, EST: $1,399* each). Additional frontload models include the GE Profile frontload washer and dryer with Steam and SmartDispense technology in champagne (FW4605LMG, PFDS455ELMG, EST: $1,499* each). Optional SmartDispense pedestals in white (SPBD880JWW, EST: $499*) and in champagne (SPBD880JMG, EST: $599*).
*Resellers determine their own resale price.

GE Appliance Cash Sweepstakes

Beginning January 13th, GE is running an eight week sweepstakes, with weekly $250 VISA card giveaways and a grand prize of $20,000. You can enter each day for a chance to win. Here’s the link to get you there: GE Sweepstakes

Recall: GE and Professional Series Brand Dehumidifiers Due to Fire Hazard

Name of Product: GE and Professional Series Brand Dehumidifiers

Units: About 198,000

Importer: GEA Products L.P., of Louisville, Ky., and CEM Global LLC (Professional Series) of China

Manufacturer: GD Midea Air Conditioning Equipment Ltd., of China

Hazard: A component in the dehumidifier’s compressor can short circuit, posing a fire hazard to consumers.

Incidents/Injuries: Midea and GE have received a total of 14 reports of incidents involving smoke and fumes emitting from the unit and eight reports of fires. In six of the reported fire incidents, property damage extended beyond the unit. No injuries have been reported.

Description: This recall involves 30-pint and 40-pint portable dehumidifiers manufactured between November 2006 and August 2007, and during April 2008. The dehumidifiers are white with a front-loading water bucket. “GE” or “Professional Series” and digital controls are located on top of the dehumidifier. Model and serial numbers are located on the back of the dehumidifiers. Model and serial numbers included in the recall are:
Brand :

GE

Model Number Begins With:
AHK30LK, AHW30LK, AHM30LK, AHK40LK, AHH40LK, and AHM40LK

Serial Number Begins With
VL1, ZL1, AM1, DM1, FM1,GM1, HM1, LM1, MM1, RM1

CEM “Professional Series”

Model Number Begins With:
PS78303

Serial Number Begins With
from C10102336010841 4100001 to C10102336010841 5103037

Sold at: Walmart, Sam’s Club, Home Depot, Menards and other retail stores nationwide from February 2007 through June 2009 for between $140 and $180.

Manufactured in: China

Remedy: Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled dehumidifiers and contact Midea to determine if their product is included in the recall. Consumers with recalled dehumidifiers will return their product to an authorized service center for a free repair. Consumers should not return the recalled dehumidifiers to the place of purchase.

Consumer Contact: For additional information, contact Midea toll-free at (877) 593-8721 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, or visit the firm’s website at www.recallverification.com

Recall: White-Rodgers Home Heating and Cooling Thermostats Due to Fire Hazard

Name of Product: Programmable thermostats

Units: About 180,000 in the United States and 8,300 in Canada

Manufacturer: White-Rodgers of St. Louis, Mo.

Hazard: The programmable thermostats constantly charge the backup AA batteries used to power the thermostat’s clock. This can cause the batteries to leak, resulting in a fire hazard.

Incidents/Injuries: The firm is aware of three incidents involving minor property damage. No injuries have been reported.

Description: This recall involves all White-Rodgers programmable thermostats with model numbers 1F88-XXX and 1F85RF-275 and date codes beginning with 05, 06, 07, 08, 09 and 1001 through 1039. The model number is printed on the thermostat’s front pull-down panel door. The date code is located inside the removable front cover. White-Rodgers and/or the utility company’s name and logo are printed on the front of the thermostat. These thermostats were able to be controlled by power companies in homes that took part in energy demand reduction programs.

Distributed by: More than 40 utility companies to consumers nationwide who took part in energy conservation programs and by various HVAC wholesalers for about $150.

Manufactured in: China

Remedy: Consumers should immediately remove the two AA batteries from the thermostat and contact White-Rodgers for a free repair kit. If battery removal causes changes in furnace operation, contact White-Rodgers.

Consumer Contact:
For additional information, contact White-Rodgers toll-free at (888) 624-1901 between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. CT Monday through Friday or visit the firm’s website at www.regcen.com/Thermostat

Note: Health Canada’s press release is available at http://cpsr-rspc.hc-sc.gc.ca/PR-RP/recall-retrait-eng.jsp?re_id=1217

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 us about it by visiting https://www.cpsc.gov/cgibin/incident.aspx

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.