Monday, December 6, 2010

Holiday Safety

Originally posted on Consumer Energy Report Site

This holidays is a time to be aware of some dangers that are around us.
Faulty plugs, lights and over-loaded electrical sockets could cause fires. The California Department of Consumer Affiars, reminds you to make sure you are using holiday lighting properly.

And because LED holiday lights are cool to the touch, replacing your old strings of 7-watt bulbs with LED lights can decrease the chances of home fires.
picture of Christmas tree in flamesOur holiday tradition - Christmas trees - can be a hazard. The National Fire Prevention Association says Christmas trees were the cause of an estimated average of 300 reported home structure fires from 2000-2004.

An estimated 17,200 home fires started by candles were reported to public fire departments during 2004. Make sure open flames are not near drapes or flammable materials.

Home heating is the second highest cause of fires in the home, with chimneys and chimney connects accounting for the largest share of home heating fire incidents (40 percent). So, it may be a good time to have your chimney swept.
Underwriters Laboratories says consumers can cut their risk of dying in a home fire in half simply by having a smoke alarm in their homes.

So, if you don't have a smoke alarm...or if you know of someone without a smoke would be a good holiday present.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Holiday Decoration Safety Tips from CPSC

Originally Published by  U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

Before crawling up on the roof to string the Christmas lights, you need to know that every year, hospital emergency rooms treat about 12,500 people for injuries, such as falls, cuts and shocks, related to holiday lights, decorations and Christmas trees, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
In addition, warns CPSC, candles start about 11,600 each year, resulting in 150 deaths, 1,200 injuries and $173 million in property loss. Christmas trees are involved in about 300 fires annually, resulting in 10 deaths, 30 injuries and an average of more than $10 million in property loss and damage.

"Sometimes people are having such a nice time during the holidays that they forget to extinguish candles," said CPSC Chairman Hal Stratton. "Always put out lit candles before leaving a room or going to bed. Always keep burning candles within sight. Also, make sure your holiday lights bear the mark of a recognized testing lab to show they meet safety standards."

Since CPSC started monitoring holiday lights and decorations sold at stores nationwide, inspectors have prevented the import of 116,500 units of holiday lights that did not meet safety standards.

CPSC tips to make your holiday a safe one:


  • When purchasing an artificial tree, look for the label "Fire Resistant." Although this label does not mean the tree won't catch fire, it does indicate the tree will resist burning and should extinguish quickly.
  • When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness. A fresh tree is green, needles are hard to pull from branches and do not break when bent between your fingers. The trunk butt of a fresh tree is sticky with resin, and when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles.
  • When setting up a tree at home, place it away from fireplaces and radiators. Because heated rooms dry live trees out rapidly, be sure to keep the stand filled with water. Place the tree out of the way of traffic and do not block doorways.
  • Indoors or outside, use only lights that have been tested for safety by a recognized testing laboratory, which indicates conformance with safety standards. Use only lights that have fused plugs.
  • Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections, and throw out damaged sets. Always replace burned-out bulbs promptly with the same wattage bulbs.
  • Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord. Make sure the extension cord is rated for the intended use.
  • Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights, and a person touching a branch could be electrocuted.
  • Before using lights outdoors, check labels to be sure they have been certified for outdoor use.
  • Stay away from power or feeder lines leading from utility poles into older homes.
  • Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, house walls, or other firm supports to protect the lights from wind damage. Use only insulated staples to hold strings in place, not nails or tacks. Or, run strings of lights through hooks (available at hardware stores).
  • Turn off all holiday lights when you go to bed or leave the house. The lights could short out and start a fire.
  • Use caution when removing outdoor holiday lights. Never pull or tug on lights - they could unravel and inadvertently wrap around power lines.
  • Outdoor electric lights and decorations should be plugged into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). Portable outdoor GFCIs can be purchased where electrical supplies are sold. GFCIs can be installed permanently to household circuits by a qualified electrician.
  • Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials to trim a tree. Choose tinsel or artificial icicles of plastic or nonleaded metals. Leaded materials are hazardous if ingested by children.
  • Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens. Always use non-flammable holders, and place candles where they will not be knocked down.
  • In homes with small children, take special care to avoid decorations that are sharp or breakable, keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children to avoid the child swallowing or inhaling small pieces, and avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a child to eat them.
  • Wear gloves to avoid eye and skin irritation while decorating with spun glass "angel hair."
  • Follow container directions carefully to avoid lung irritation while decorating with artificial snow sprays.
  • Use care with "fire salts," which produce colored flames when thrown on wood fires. They contain heavy metals that can cause intense gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting if eaten. Keep them away from children.
  • Do not burn wrapping papers in the fireplace. A flash fire may result as wrappings ignite suddenly and burn intensely.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Is your range ready for Thanksgiving? It's best to be prepared

By Joe Gagnon - Originally Printed in The Observer Eccentric Papers

Reader writes: I spilled a glass of milk on top of our stove … somehow the milk found its way between the two pieces of glass that are part of the stove front door (area where you can see inside the actual stove). The milk residue is still visible. There are some screws that appear to be for keeping the door in one piece. Is it okay to take the front door apart and clean this mess? I have not used the stove since the incident, so it should be easy to wipe off the milk. I don't want to use the stove and then get the brown spots that sometimes you see on the front of stoves. Thanks for your help.

Reply: The last time I took a stove door apart was in the year 1979 and what a disaster that was. I did a beautiful job and the customer was so happy until a few months later when the glass just suddenly exploded and the kitchen range wasn't even being used at the time. I found out why, from an engineer at the factory who told me that the screws holding the glass and the door together were installed with a torque wrench. Unless you set the proper torque on these screws you are asking for trouble. In my case, I could no longer obtain the glass for the door from anyone in the appliance industry as the part was discontinued. I had to purchase a piece of tempered glass from a glass company and fortunately I fixed it right on the second try. I have read a lot of complaints from consumers who have had their oven door glass shatter or show stains in the glass. Today I suggest that you live with it and blame it on the Halloween spirits. This particular reader wrote a cute reply. I appreciate your quick response. I will leave it be and no crying over spilled milk.

Next month is Thanksgiving and that day is when families get together and many good times are to be had by all. Nothing can upset that day like a kitchen range that fails to cook the Thanksgiving feast. I suggest that you still have enough time to go through a check list on the operation of your stove. Don't wait, do it now. The service repairs you may need from a professional may take a few days to order a part and install it. The service business can not handle the demand for range repair during the Thanksgiving period. Another service tip is the self cleaning feature on your range. Keep in mind that if something is going to go wrong with your stove, it most likely will occur during the self cleaning cycle or shortly after. The weather is cool enough now to put your range through a self clean cycle. I know you don't want to open that oven door and show a messy oven when all the family is running through the kitchen but please don't wait to put it through the cycle. If you take out the racks and put them in a plastic garbage bag and soak them overnight in a mixture of water and vinegar, you will be surprised how clean they come out. Don't use abrasives to clean off spots of baked on food. Try some warm vinegar, it works. Be careful with the glass again. Too much wet solution will flow between the glass panes and cause permanent streaks. The pans under the burners are important. They reflect the heat upwards to give you even cooking and these pans are replaceable. This upcoming Thanksgiving Day is not replaceable and I wish all of you a great one. Stay tuned.

We Get E-mails!

By Joe Gagnon - Originally Printed in The Observer Eccentric Papers
Mrs. Barringer writes----I have a garbage disposer that didn’t run when I turned it on. I heard a humming sound for 10 seconds or so and now when I turn it on, nothing happens. Do you think I should call a plumber or go and purchase a new one.

Reply---Thanks for writing and before you go out shopping let me have you try and do a little service on the one you have. The humming sound you heard is normal whenever the cutter blade inside should become jammed. You may have dropped something like a little wire twist off the loaf of bread inside the disposer. Even a tab from a can of pop is enough to jam the disposer. First you need a hand small enough to get into the thing and then you start feeling around the edge of the base plate. Once you find the obstruction, use a flashlight and a pair of needle nose pliers and pull it out. Take note---you should always have the power in the off position whenever you work on something electrical.

            Next, you should have a large allen wrench, which came with the disposer that inserts into a fitting on the very bottom of the disposer. Turn it back and forth several times to see if it turns freely. When you heard the humming sound, you popped the circuit breaker on the bottom of the disposer. If you press it inwards with your finger, it will stay in and you are now ready to turn on the power switch to check it out. In most cases, the disposer is repaired with this remedy. Please let me know.

Jason writes----Our 8 year old gas stove was not working properly the other day. The oven light was flashing and the heat was not on. When you look inside, there was no light on, like it was not heating. If you turned it off and turned it back on in a minute or so it would work. Could the oven need a good cleaning?

Reply---Thanks for the note Jason and I think you have an igniter that is going bad on you. There will come a time soon when it won’t work at all and you can replace this part yourself rather than calling for a service technician. It’s mounted to a railing and is located under the floor of the oven. It’s in a wire cage and make sure you use the correct size screwdriver when removing the screws or you will strip the screw heads. Two wires come off the back of the igniter and need to be disconnected from the terminals they lead to. Use extreme care with the new igniter, as they are very fragile and rather expensive. Igniters in a gas range are very common to fail and an oven, which is dirty, will not normally be the cause. You will have to be the judge on whether or not yours needs a good cleaning. Warm white vinegar is a good solution to loosen up the heavily soiled spots with a little elbow grease.

             Ms. Carol wrote me and asked if I had come to a final conclusion on the Maytag Neptune front load washer we purchased 7 months ago. Well, my darling Valorie still loves it, there are no odor or mold or water problems around the front door tub boot, and it hasn’t needed any sort of service call. I trusted the store when they told me that all past problems with the washer have been resolved and so far it’s running like a champ. Keep in mind that the washer we had before this new one was something like 35 years old. I guess I’ll come to final conclusion on this new one if should last anything close to 35 years. Stay tuned.