General Electric Pays $3.5 million Civil Penalty

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has reported that it has come to an agreement with General Electric regarding an imposed penalty for not reporting defects in two of its product lines. The products were identified as the “Profile” dual fuel ranges and “Profile and Monogram” dishwashers. According to the CPSC, press release number 15-082 dated February 19, 2015; General Electric had been notified about overheating of a wiring harness connector back in 2004 but did not report the problem until 2009. It was further determined that the overheating of the connector could also pose a fire hazard. In April of 2009, General Electric recalled 28,000 dual fuel ranges because of the hazard. Furthermore, the CPSC has determined that the control board in “Profile” and “Monogram” dishwashers can short circuit as result of the buildup of condensation on the boards. The short circuiting can also pose fire and burn hazards. According to the CPSC, General Electric had known about the problem since 2007 but failed to report the defect to the CPSC until 2010. Instead, the company chose to settle claims and make payments based on reports of defective units. In October of 2010, the company recalled 174,000 units.

Federal law requires manufacturers, distributors and retailers to notify the CPSC immediately after learning of a potential defect in a product that could be hazardous to consumers. Consumers can report a dangerous product by going on line to or calling the CPSC hotline at 1-800-638-2772.

Chevy Impala not Recalled for Exploding Intake Manifold and Engine Fire

During the late 1990s, a problem developed with some General Motors vehicles that were recalled for engine backfire and subsequent damage to plastic intake manifolds. All of the vehicles that were involved were equipped with defective fuel pressure regulators. The defective regulators allowed combustible mixtures of air and fuel to accumulate in the intake manifold. When an engine backfired, the mixture ignited producing a pressure that caused the plastic manifold to burst. Since General Motors was aware of the problem in the late 90s, recalls were issued for 98-99 Buick Park Avenue, Buick LaSabre, Oldsmobile 88, and Pontiac Bonneville vehicles. Although various vehicle models manufactured between 1995 and 2002 were supposed to have been monitored, the Chevrolet Impala escaped notice. As a result, we recently investigated a 2001 Chevrolet Impala engine fire that was caused by the sequence of events described above. It should be noted that GM vehicles in the model year range previously stated are still on the road and could be potential fire hazards. If you feel that your vehicle might be a fire hazard, have it inspected. Remember that the sequence of events that leads to an engine fire occurs as follows: attempt to start in cold weather and then a loud popping sound followed by smoke and the appearance of flames from beneath the hood. Damage to one recently investigated instance is shown in the photographs shown below.

Cracked intake manifold cover

Cracked intake manifold cover

Damage to intake manifold and surrounding wiring

Damage to intake manifold and surrounding wiring

Danger: Using Lights for Space Heating

During this past week, hundreds of thousands of people experienced the polar vortex that swept across our country. In the process, many have had to figure out a way to heat spaces where there was no heat in order to keep pipes and pets from freezing. One of the things being done is using lights with high wattage bulbs. Clamp lights as well as any type of spot or work light are rated for use with a bulb of specific wattage. It is never a good idea to use a light rated for a specific wattage with a bulb rated for a higher wattage. For example, if your light is rated for 100 watts, do NOT use a bulb rated with a wattage greater than 100 watts. A higher wattage bulb will produce more heat, always in excess of the rating of the light itself. The problem lies in the fact that more heat results in a higher current draw. If the wiring cannot handle the current draw, it will melt and burn resulting in a fire, particularly if an extension cord is also used. A fire hazard will also arise if the light bulb produces enough heat to ignite combustible material in close proximity to the light. How far away should a light be kept from combustible material depends on the heat output of the light bulb. Recently, we were asked to investigate a fire involving a clamp type worklight and its use in heating a dog house. As it turned out, the light was rated for 150 watts and the homeowner installed a 250 watt infrared bulb to provide the necessary heat for their pet. At 120 volts, a 150 watt bulb will draw 1.25 amps whereas a 250 watt bulb will draw a little over 2 amps. These current levels are very low in comparison to other heat producing devices and were not a factor in this incident. On the other hand, the amount of heat produced at 150 watts is about 511 BTU/hr. At 250 watts, the amount of heat produced is 852 BTU/hr, a difference of 341 BTU/hr. This difference was enough to cause the plastic material in the dog house to melt and eventually ignite. The fire went on to cause damage to a deck and vinyl siding material used to cover the soffitt. Fortunately, the owner’s dog survived the fire and was unharmed.

Haier Freezer Recall

Our website ( has been updated in regard to a recall issued by Haier America for a problem with its 5.3 cu ft chest type freezers. A faulty capacitor has been identified as a fire hazard in those units. However, in the couse of one of our investigations, we encountered a fire in a 3.5 cu ft chest freezer which is similar to the fires in the 5.3 cu ft units. That is , the fires start low, in the compressor/control area and burn upward. Although no connection has been proven between the two units, the Consumer Product Safety commission has been asked to investigate further. Details of the recall issued by Haier are available on the CPSC website, . On this page, click on “Recalls and Product Safety News”. On the next page, go to ‘Find Reports by Month and year”, enter “November 2010”. On the next page, scroll down to “Haier America Recalls Chest Freezers Due to Fire Hazard”.

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