Tips to make sure you stay safe and avoid risk of fire
Any number of appliances can go up in flames and they can do so for a variety of reasons, most you can do something about through simple safety and, with all the recent press frenzy over the Hotpoint tumble dryer fires, Bosch and Hotpoint dishwasher fires and a smattering of washing machine fires we thought we’d set out some of the common reasons.
First thing to understand is that appliance related fires are neither new nor uncommon. It happens.
Next is to realise that in a good many cases there will be a perfectly reasonable and understandable reason for such events that all too often become clear as any incident is investigated and the cause ascertained fully.
Most risks can be avoided with the simple application of some common sense and, the realisation that if not used correctly and in the correct environment, like most things that use electricity, appliances can be dangerous.
What we often see and, we admit roll our eyes a bit when we do, is people who are obviously very upset at the loss incurred or the scare they got talking about dangerous products, recalls, compensation and so forth with the media on occasion joining in.
You may think that we are trivialising the danger of fire in appliances but we are not. Not at all.
What we are trying to point out is that when used and cared for correctly, the chance of a fire incident is staggeringly low and when we do see a fire incident, upon a full investigation, it often proves to have been caused by an external factor. All we want is for people to be safe.
But, that's the thing, until you get to the bottom of how it happened and why it happened it’s probably best not to do that. Of course feel free to ignore us if you wish but, if it turns out it was caused by something the owner did, they can end up looking somewhat silly.
Let’s run through all the common stuff that applies to all domestic appliances.
In An Unheated Area
You will often see washing machines, tumble dryers, fridges, freezers and so on banished to unheated outbuildings such as garages and garden sheds, lean-to’s and the like and this is actually really dangerous.
Cold metal, hot components in operation and mains electricity in damp conditions is almost asking for an accident to happen.
Moisture can form on electrical components and they will fail, go bang and stop working or go up in flames!
This is highly, highly inadvisable and a large fire risk.
And in a good many instances, downright dangerous.
Water and electricity in combination are generally poor bedfellows and the risk of electric shock in conditions like this cannot be understated all you need to do is touch the wrong thing that happens to be damp or is exposed to dampness and at best you’ll get a shock but it could be much worse.
Aside from which, as the appliances are not designed to work in such environments they do not run as efficiently as they should so, you could be wasting energy as well as risking your home or even your life.
It really is common sense.
If you’ve no room for the appliances that you want indoors in a normally heated room our advice is, live without them. It’s not worth the risk.
Just as above, if you spill a cup of water, tea, coffee or whatever onto an electrical appliance the chances are, it won’t end well and often with a fizzle, pop and bang.
There is the obvious fire risk from it along with the danger of electrocution.
Immediately disconnect at the mains and allow it to dry out then just hope that there’s no permanent damage and, this includes if the machine was off at the time.
In A Bathroom
We have seen many times washing machines and even tumble dryers installed into bathrooms. Yes, it is true.
Even although that they may be IPX4 rated for okay to use in that area of a bathroom doesn’t mean that they should be!
Especially so in a small bathroom where steam and that bugbear of condensation is likely to be an issue. If that gets into electronic components or some carrying mains current and shorts them, it’s going to go badly.
Bottom line, don’t put domestic appliances in a bathroom.
Ignore regular maintenance at your peril.
It will cost you on efficiency so the appliances use more electricity and it may well shorten the life of the machines and that’s the best outcome.
The worst is that build up of “stuff” in any of them will become a fire risk or, make the machine one.
There are loads of articles on here to help you with that along with your user manual all of which is given for free to help keep you safe. If you ignore these instructions then it’ probably isn’t going to be anyone’s fault but yours if it all goes a bit pear shaped some ways down the line.
Even the simple things that should be obvious like keeping the machines clean and free of fluff and dust build up is considered to be user maintenance and should be done. If not, there are risks that can arise from blocking vents and so on.
Let us clarify our interpretation of “unattended use”. By this we mean that there is either nobody in the home or, the washing machine is in use when there is nobody that can see or hear it, primarily use when in bed to in outbuildings.
We do not recommend unattended use, we never will despite the electricity companies wanting to have you run appliances through the night. Which, by the way, you only save money doing if you are on the appropriate tariff and have the meter to allow it, if you don’t have one or both there is no point at all, you save nothing.
We would stress that these are machines and all machines will at some point fail. Just like cars, PC’s and every other mechanical device, they will not run forever and they will fail, this is a certainty. All that is in doubt is the “when”, not if.
Yes we are aware of the contradiction as delay timers are often fitted but, we do not recommend that they are used.
Wherever you have appliances, have a smoke alarm. Make sure it works, test it.
Every fire brigade in the land will tell you exactly the same thing and, with good reason, they save lives. One day it might be yours it saves.
If you want to completely ignore our advice on use in outbuildings etc, then at least have a working smoke alarm that you can hear in your home.
We know that most people will consider all of the above to be perfectly reasonable, obvious and probably completely rational but, some people don’t. We know, we’ve seen the carnage as a result.
We have also seen numerous “fires” with lots of threats of legal action, compensation and so on evaporate as it has been discovered that one of the above or, one of the more product specific things to watch for have been discovered as the reason for issue.
Following these simple tips though, however obvious they may seem to you, can help you stay safe.