Putting appliances on when there is nobody in the home or everyone has gone to bed is generally ill advised and many instruction manuals will clearly state that electrical appliances should not be left unattended.
Yet, huge numbers of people do leave appliances running unattended despite the obvious risks in that.
Manufacturers, in response to customers asking for the feature, also fit delay start timers to many of their machines and it can actually be difficult to find one without this functionality.
The two are seemingly completely at odds with one another but the latter, the fact that many appliances come with delay timers, gives out the message that it's okay to leave appliances working completely unattended.
Is it good practice though?
Back in the eighties there was a push from electricity companies to get people to use their (at the time) popular Economy 7 tariffs that offered people a lower electricity rate for through the night consumption. This was especially useful if you ran electric heating such as storage heaters.
Back then many of the regional electricity boards also had their own presence on the the high street with stores where you could pay your electricity bill and buy products such as as appliances, heaters and other electrical goods. Of course this is now a thing of the past but, to push people onto Economy 7 tariffs they wanted products that had the ability to be used on those plans.
Manufacturers keen to sell through the electricity showrooms introduced delay start timers to accommodate the requirement on many dishwashers and washing machines as well as washer dryers. Back then it was often an electricity board exclusive model that had this feature and possibly a few other minor changes making it different from the machines sold elsewhere.
Then the feature spread to tumble dryers, drying cabinets and other products as it was already a feature on many cookers and built in ovens.
Slowly the trend became almost a given in the industry and these days most machines will come with this functionality built in because, it's just expected now.
For most people, probably not.
The reality is that few people actually use this function beyond an occasional use, even though it is regularly cited in the list of features that people want when they shop for a new appliance. It is a feature, like many others, that in the trade we think people place too much emphasis on when choosing products.
Having said that, with the advent of appliances being controlled by electronics the cost involved to add a delayed start feature is probably negligible.
Given the number of instances that we see where there is a problem with an appliance then we would have to say that we don't think it is.
Many modern machines can be set to start up to 24 hours, a full day, in advance but who knows what could happen in a day. Pipes could freeze, something could leak or spill onto the machine, another family member could open the door, take the filter out... you just don't know.
Every month we see instances of fires where appliances have failed, whatever the cause may be is not really relevant here, the fact that when there is a problem it can have disastrous consequences is.
Even a leaking washing machine or dishwasher left unattended can cause significant damage to your property never mind any other risk.
It is rare that this happens of course and the odds of any major problem in this respect are not high but, it could happen.
It is vital that, if you do run your appliances either on a delayed start or unattended, such as putting them on and going to the shops or to bed etc, that you understand the risk, however minimal it may be.
This risk is entirely in the hands of the user to control.
Many people think that they will save money running their appliances on overnight economy tariffs and, worse, a good number of people think that electricity is just automagically cheaper at night. The first is, in large part incorrect when you are on a more modern electricity tariff and the second is just incorrect.
For the paltry amount that you might save on electricity (maybe) then we do not think that it is a risk worth taking because, if there is a fault that occurs, then the damage could be significant.
Keeping in mind of course that modern appliances are extremely efficient, they have been for a number of years and most wash cycles for example will use roughly as much electricity as it take to boil a kettle or two of water at most.
It would probably be a much better idea to look closely at your electricity tariff and try to get a better deal there.
To be frank, we really don't know.
It seems almost insane that we have this feature on huge numbers of appliances that few people use and the advice is not to use it, often in the same instruction manuals that explain how to use it on that machine.
There again, some people will not buy an appliance unless it has this feature for some reason despite the risk of using it or, if it is even used at all.
Of course, as we said, the risk is minimal, quite probably absolutely minute but it exists and people should be aware that leaving appliances running unattended is a risk that they choose to take.