Maytag Dryer Electrocution and Fire Hazard

Recently, we investigated the case of a minor fire that occurred in an electric dryer.  The dryer was purchased through a local home improvement store and installed by their crew.  When the dryer was test started, the vent line immediately began smoking and burning.  The dryer was later examined at the retail store where it had been purchased.  It was subsequently determined that one of the line cord connections at the terminal block, apart from the ground wire, was somehow connected to the dryer housing.  This connection, in effect, had made the appliance electrically “live”.  As a result, touching any metal part of the housing and something else such as a metal water pipe could have caused significant injury to the user.  However, since this was a new appliance and had never been used, the installers would not have been aware of the condition.  Instead, when the dryer was started, the housing was not only electrified but, current traveled through the aluminum exhaust duct to ground.  The exhaust duct was burned because it could not withstand the amount of current flow.  The dryer in question is manufactured by Whirlpool under the Maytag brand and is a model number MEDC215EW.  There are currently no recalls for this model.  At present, it is unknown if this is an isolated incident or if other incidents have occurred.

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Destructive Force of Ice

As most everyone knows, this winter has been hard on just about every corner of the country.  It’s been a very cold winter and the southeast has had its share of low temperatures.  For this reason, buildings that must be protected against fire sometimes have to use dry sprinkler systems.  Conventional systems that pressurize lines with water up to the sprinkler heads are impractical because the lines are usually routed through areas (such as attics) that are subject to falling below freezing.  As a result, the water in the lines can freeze and cause the lines to beak or burst.  When thawing occurs, water damage will also occur.  In order to prevent such damage, dry systems are employed.  That is, instead of filing the lines with water, the lines are pressurized with air.  Pressurized air serves to keep the main water valve closed until such time as a fire causes the sprinkler heads to open and relieve the pressure.  As the air pressure is relieved, the main water valve opens, water fills the lines, and exits through the open sprinkler heads to fight the fire.  However, there are times when water can get into the branch lines.  Water can enter when there is a loss of air pressure due to a leak in the system or when water is completely removed such as after a hydrostatic test.  The photos below show what happens to an iron pipe tee when water is frozen inside.  In one instance, the tee is broken in half whereas in the second instance, the tee is fractured on one end.  Note that both fittings came from the same job.  Ice typically expands between 9 and 12% by volume and as a result, places a tremendous amount of pressure on the fitting walls to cause failure.

Rheem Water Heater Recall

On May 26, 2016 Rheem recalled approximately 50000 electric water heaters.  The problem with the appliances was that the temperature control could overheat resulting in a fire.  The recall applied to 40, 50 and 60 gallon units.  Recently, we encountered a water heater where a fire had occurred and caused damage to the upper control area including the circuit board that controls the water temperature. In this instance, damage was limited to the upper front of the appliance and the ceiling of the closet where the water heater had been installed.  However, if the fire had gone unnoticed, the fire would have spread to the remainder of the structure causing significant damage.  Water heaters involved in this recall are still in circulation.   Consumers are advised to contact Rheem if they have an appliance that should be replaced before a fire occurs.  A copy of the recall is shown below along with Rheem’s contact information.

 

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