How to Keep Your Appliances Safe
Prevent your appliances from causing floods, fires, and other natural disasters.
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Modern household appliances are incredibly convenient, but like any machines, they can pose safety hazards if they're misused—and sometimes they just malfunction. What steps should you be taking to make sure you, your possessions, and your family stay safe from appliance accidents? Let's break it down.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, ranges and ovens cause the most fires, which shouldn't be a surprise. However, it might be surprising to learn that electric rangetops cause more fires than gas units, usually in the form of grease fires. According to our tests, electric ranges can heat pans to substantially higher temperatures than a gas range, above the flashpoint of many cooking oils, and sometimes to a temperature where they will ignite.
Another possible explanation of the prevalence of fire among electric ovens is complacency of the user. An electric unit does not have the perceived risks of gas leaks, carbon monoxide poisoning, or visible fire, all of which can lead users to a false sense of security. But bear in mind you should use the highest setting on your electric range sparingly, and never leave an active stove unattended.
A dishwasher may seem innocuous, but it's a box with heat, spraying water, and electrical wiring, nestled among your wooden cabinets. Poor cable insulation is obviously a problem, but the wooden housing can ignite, too. Preventative maintenance and planning are your best best for safety. And try to avoid leaving the house or sleeping with the dishwasher running.
Dryers build up lint, and lint is extremely flammable. Excess buildup poses a fire hazard, especially if it obstructs ventilation and leads to overheating. Clean your lint trap regularly (after each cycle, preferably—that'll help to dry your clothes more efficiently, too), and check for buildups in the accordion folds of the dryer vent or in the dryer itself. This preventative maintenance is easy—and as a bonus, you can collect the lint as a great source of tinder for your next camping trip.
Washing machines pose a flooding hazard. A malfunction can flood your home—hopefully the basement, but possibly your apartment. This can create electrical hazards, promote mold growth, and cause water damage. If you live in an apartment complex, you might be liable for the damage caused to neighboring units. Consider purchasing a floor water detector, or shop for auto-shutoff mechanisms that detect moisture. And as a general piece of life advice, homeowners' or renters' insurance is always a good idea.
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