Thousands of appliance fires occur each year in homes across America with dryers, coffee makers, toasters and warm mist humidifiers posing the highest threats for deadly fumes. There are numerous reasons why appliances may overheat. However, you can be prepared by following a few smart rules.
Unclog Vents and Exhaust Tubing
The National Fire Protection Agency estimates that dryer fires are now more prevalent and frequent than even chimney fires are in the United States. One of the main reasons for dryer overheating is a failure to maintain the dryer vent. Lint can overheat next to heating elements and ignite a spark that can fuel a nasty fire. We all know to clean the lint trap regularly, but the back of the dryer needs to be unclogged as well, where the vent trap leads to the exhaust tubing. If you can’t reach the interior of the dryer to clean it, you should call experienced service people in your area.
Vent tubing and lint traps should be cleaned out on a regular basis. If you have found that your dryer is taking longer than usual to dry your clothing loads, then you could be at risk for a serious fire. Lint buildup can accumulate in the vent tube and clog air flow that is vital for venting exhaust fumes. Fires can also occur by placing improper items inside your dryer such as foam-backed rugs and plastics. Ensure that your dryer vent tubing and ductwork is constructed of flexible metal and not plastic so that if a fire does start, the metal will do its job in containing a blaze until help arrives. Regularly inspect all dryers for clogged material and missing or damaged parts.
Install Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Many consumers think that because they have gas-powered dryers they are not susceptible to smoke or carbon monoxide dangers, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. If you have a gas dryer there still should be a level of concern about carbon monoxide poisoning. Fumes can build up inside blocked vents and inside the house. With little to no warning at all, dangerous gases can cause occupants to become disoriented, lapse into a coma and fall asleep. Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors can alert your family of dangerous fumes before they ever become a life threatening event. For more information on carbon monoxide safety, visit our Carbon Monoxide page.
Replace Faulty Thermal Fuses
Another cause of appliance overheating is the thermal fuse that regulates the temperature of a dryer, coffee maker, toaster or dishwasher. This particular fuse can cause spontaneous fires if they are broken and not replaced right away. Many consumers don’t realize when a thermal fuse is blown because their unit will still operate, but you can perform a continuity test to check the electrical path between the two points of the fuse. No matter what size the thermal fuse, all can be tested in the same way. Basic analog or digital multimeters can determine if your fuse is still functional by touching the meter probes to each terminal. Doing this will either detect a current electrical path or it won't, depending on whether the fuse is good or not. Before attempting this, make sure the thermal fuse has been removed and isolated from your appliance to avoid getting shocked.
If you are constantly blowing fuses, have a trained electrician check your control board or wiring. Loose connections and wiring problems can be very dangerous and should not be handled by someone who is not electrically skilled or certified. Thermal fuses can last anywhere from one to three years, but once they blow you should call a technician to service your appliance immediately.
Place Appliances on Stable Surfaces
This may seem like a common sense tip, but many people sometimes do not heed the voice of warning in their head. Always keep appliances such as toasters, humidifiers and coffee makers on stable surfaces and away from drapery or exposed water. Appliances such as warm mist humidifiers can be tipped over easily by children or pets and could cause additional threats such as scalding from steam.
Verify Possible Safety Recalls
Never use any appliance that does not contain an Underwriters Laboratory (UL) certification sticker. The UL mark is the most widely accepted certification and safety mark in the United States. Heat producing electrical appliances such as washers, dryers, toasters, dishwashers, coffee makers and humidifiers should always come with UL safety certified stickers, indicating that they have been approved for use. Another way of playing it safe is to always check with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to see if a particular appliance has had a recall or reports of any faulty designed parts.
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