5 On Your Side

Self-starting microwaves impose fire hazard

Posted February 12, 2013 6:00 p.m. EST
Updated February 12, 2013 6:48 p.m. EST

Government documents show roughly 147,000 household kitchen appliances catch fire each year. Human error often is to blame, however, a recent Consumer Reports investigation shows plenty are caused by the appliances themselves.

Joe Lyons, a West Coast resident, owns a microwave that starts on its own. Nine others in his building reported the same problem and at least one case caused 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.

The incidents all involved the same KitchenAid model and were reported to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Consumer Reports examined thousands of pages of commission documents about appliance fires.

“Forty-one of the CPSC reports involved KitchenAid microwaves that turned on by themselves, some causing fires,” said Dan DiClerico of Consumer Reports.

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.

The microwaves have not been recalled and Consumer Reports confirmed that the problem is not limited to these two manufacturers.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission told Consumer Reports it has “an open investigation into the safety of kitchen appliances, including microwaves."

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

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

If you have a problem with your microwave, Consumer reports said to unplug it and call a technician. It is also a good idea to know which circuit breaker turns off the microwave in case of an emergency.

It you have a problem with any appliance, notify the manufacturer immediately and report the problem to saferproducts.gov.

For more information, visit the Consumer Reports website .