Faulty fire-causing appliances

FRESNO, Calif.

A new Consumer Reports investigation has turned up disturbing findings. Although many of those fires are due to human error, a troubling number are caused by defective appliances.

Consumer Reports reviewed 69,000 reports of house fires blamed on appliances between 2002 and 2009. Its investigation found at least 23 percent of the fires were clearly attributable to problems with the appliances-mechanical, electrical, or design flaws. In some instances the appliances turned on by themselves.

Faulty appliances causing the most fires were ranges, followed by dryers, air conditioners, refrigerators, and dishwashers.

In the past five years, more than 7 million dishwashers have been recalled because of defects that could cause a fire. And almost 8 million other appliances have been recalled for fire risks.

To find out whether an appliance you own has been recalled, you can go to www.recalls.gov. And be sure to register your appliances with the manufacturer so that you're notified in the event of a recall.

Why are so many recalls due to fire hazards? Consumer Reports says it's because appliances have gotten a lot more complex, so more can go wrong. And many recalled products are being manufactured abroad, the majority in China.

Until appliance design and quality are improved, Consumer Reports says, homeowners are left to wonder whether appliances in their homes are safe.

In response to Consumer Reports' investigation, the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers said, "designing and manufacturing safe products" is a top priority of its members.

As for homeowners, important steps you can take- register new appliances with the manufacturer so you'll receive recall notices. And don't run your dryer or dishwasher overnight or when you're away.

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