Consumer Reports probes claims of fire-starting microwaves

January 31, 2013 8:07:41 PM PST
A common kitchen appliance is causing some potentially dangerous problems, according to findings by Consumer Reports.

You may want to take a closer look at your microwave because a new Consumer Reports investigation shows some could be turning on by themselves and catching fire.

Joe Lyons is afraid for his safety. His condo board says he's one of 10 residents who've reported their KitchenAid microwaves started on their own, and in at least one case, caused electrical arcing.

"I feel unsafe, especially when I heard the stories around the building of the sparking being so intense, it sounded similar to fireworks," Lyons said.

In fact, one fire at a Florida home started in a microwave that was not in use, according to the official fire report. Both incidents reported to the Consumer Product Safety Commission involved the same microwave, KitchenAid model KHMS-155-LSS.

Consumer Reports looked at thousands of pages of CPSC documents in its investigation of appliance fires, including many obtained through its Freedom of Information Act requests.

"Forty-one of the CPSC reports involved KitchenAid microwaves that turned on by themselves, some causing fires," said Consumer Reports' Dan DiClerico.

Consumer Reports also examined 82 similar reports involving some GE microwaves, six of which involved serious fires.

"The reports listed various models, but 30 complaints involved the GE Spacemaker line of over-the-range microwave," DiClerico said.

None of those microwaves has been recalled. And the problem is not limited to these two manufacturers.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission told Consumer Reports it has "an open investigation into the safety of kitchen appliances, including microwaves."

If you have a problem with your microwave, unplug it and get a technician in to look at it. And it's a good idea to know which circuit breaker turns off the microwave in case of an emergency.

Whirlpool, which owns Kitchenaid, says it has not been able to verify a single report of a self-starting microwave.

GE told Consumer Reports that it "has investigated unverified reports of 'self-start' and found them to constitute product quality, not product safety, concerns. Many have been determined not to be 'self-starts' at all."

If you're experiencing a problem with any appliance, Consumer Reports says notify the manufacturer immediately.
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