Consumer Reports probes reports of self-starting microwaves, fires

147,000 appliance fires occur every year

Author: Marilyn Moritz, Reporter, mmoritz@ksat.com
Published On: Feb 05 2013 05:23:57 PM CST   Updated On: Feb 05 2013 05:50:57 PM CST

A Consumer Reports investigation into appliance fires uncovered reports that self-starting microwave ovens caused some of them.

Joe Lyons is one of 10 residents of his condo who reported their KitchenAid microwaves started on their own.  One of the residents reported 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.

A House fire in Florida started in a microwave oven that was not in use, according to the official fire report.

Those incidents, reported to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, involved the same microwave, KitchenAid model KHMS 155 LSS.

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

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

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 those two manufacturers.

The CPSC said it has an "open investigation into the safety of kitchen appliances, including microwaves."

If you have a problem with your microwave, Consumer Reports advised unplugging it and having a technician check it out.   And, know which circuit breaker turns off the microwave in case of an emergency.

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

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

If you have problems with an appliance, Consumer Reports suggested notifying the manufacturer immediately, and report the problem to www.saferproducts.gov.