So Mrs. JestJack advises that the proposed countertop oven may be a fire hazard. This sounds like a reasonable proposition, because a) they’re kind of dinky things and b) they’re not actually major appliances and so may be able to slide under whatever codes exist relevant to, say, a built-in oven. And of course, c) just like everything else, they’re no doubt made in China, where safety codes are irrelevant.
This warrants some exploring around.
In the first place, I discovered that those who know anything about fire & smoke alarms recommend a heat alarm in the garage, not a smoke alarm. The reason is kinda obvious: your car puts out a lot of particulate exhaust, and besides, it’s dusty in a garage.
Both of those apply: every time Gerardo and his guys are tromping around, they blower dirt into the air and into the garage. Monsoon winds do the same — the aged garage door has a gap all around it, and dust flows in at the slightest breeze.
Guys talking to each other at an electrician’s forum seem to favor what’s called a “rate of rise” heat alarm for a garage: one that’s less likely to be set off by summer temperatures. I wonder how you find such a thing? It gets hotter than a two-dollar cookstove out there in the summertime…and…heh…since a two-dollah cookstove is what we’re about to install, we have a problem. FEMA prefers a hard-wired heat alarm. Now, I suspect, we’re beginning to push this project past the cost-effectiveness barrier… I don’t know what such an alarm costs, but my electrician seems to have retired — his phone has gone away — and hiring someone to install such a thing sounds like it will costs some serious dollars.
Searching for countertop oven + fire hazard, one finds that one big offender is Black & Decker. Kiyipes!! Complaints are recent, and they’re very serious:
Timer did not turn off heating element. Entire unit in flames and smoke.
The unit was blowing the circuit breaker in my house. The unit also caught on fire when trying to toast 2 English muffins. The rear heating element bar on the bottom caught fire in the middle and I burned my right arm while putting out the fire.
[uhmmm…HELL-o… Why would you keep using an electric appliance that repeatedly blew the circuit breakers? Is there an IQ here?]
…turned on the toaster oven and everything sounded normal. Then a few minutes later a loud explosion happened where all of the glass on the door and the door handle violently exploded outward.
[This person included a photo of the offending appliance, as did several others.]
I started to heat some pre-made corn tortilla taco shells in the toaster oven. After about 4 minutes I noticed there was a fire in the oven. I had to unplug, and with towels carried it to the bathtub where I had to spray with water. My 2 nearest smoke detectors were going full blast but I had to continue to spray the fire out.
[Man but people do some stupid things when confronted with a fire!]
It has caught on fire, not once, but twice!! The first time it happened, I thought that it occurred because there was too much grease. Cleaned my oven thoroughly and then it happened again!
The exploding doors story appears four times here…and I haven’t even begun to scroll all the way down through the page. One of the Black & Decker models blew up all over a lady’s dog, spraying the animal with molten glass.
Hmmm… Here are a few posts that suggest unplugging small appliances when they’re not in use, the principle being the same: electric appliances in general are fire hazards. This one looks pretty good: it notes that there’s been a lot of fire-related recalls of toasters and toaster ovens, and suggests they always be unplugged when not in use. “Safety experts found that when the appliances are connected to an electrical outlet, the heating element could energize and impose a fire hazard. If the appliance is near flammable items, it can also cause fires through combustible ignition.” Date’s not given…but it surely sounds believable.
Good Housekeeping (same source, down a page) says Breville’s toaster ovens receive the best ratings, both from GH and from consumers. Apparently Panasonic is way up there. In another post, GH says they recommend Kenmore (not on your life: the offending wall oven is a Kenmore) and Breville. But I think they’re talking about toaster ovens (the kind you lay pieces of toast in to toast flat) rather than countertop convection ovens, which function like a real, regular oven.
ohh-kayy…here’s the National Fire Prevention Association on “home fires involving cooking equipment.” This looks one helluva lot more credible. Click on that link for the report!
Overall, cooking equipment was involved in 45% of reported home fires, 17% of home fire deaths and 42% of reported home fire injuries. Ranges, with or without ovens, account for the majority (61%) of reported home structure fires involving cooking equipment and even larger shares of associated civilian deaths (86%) and civilian injuries (78%). Unattended equipment is the leading cause of cooking fires. More than half (54%) of nonfatal civilian cooking fire injuries occurred when the victims tried to fight the fire themselves.
That last figure’s not surprising, after reading some of the stupidity self-reported in the Black & Decker whinges, above.
Folks. Let’s have a little common sense interlude here. When something catches on fire in your house, GET THE HELL OUT OF THE HOUSE.
Better — far better — that your house should burn down to the ground than that you should end up in the hospital or dead. Fire fighting is something best left to professionals.
Okay, back to the question at hand: This is pretty interesting:
Households that use electric ranges have a higher risk of cooking fires and associated losses than those using gas ranges. Although 60% of households cook with electricity, 80% of the ranges or cooktops involved in reported cooking fires were powered by electricity.
The rate of reported fires was 2.7 times higher for electric ranges than for gas ranges. Civilian injuries and direct property loss were 4.1 times higher for households using electric ranges!
Geez. Who’d’ve thunk it?
This is big:
Unattended cooking was the leading factor in cooking fires. Unattended equipment was a factor in one-third (34%) of reported home cooking fires and almost half (46%) of the associated deaths. Abandoned or discarded material, which may be related to unattended equipment, was a factor in 11%.
Kinda obvious, of course. But…who hasn’t gone off and left the turkey baking? Or turned away from the stove to attend to a screaming kid?
Cooking equipment is the leading cause of home structure fires and associated civilian injuries and was the third leading cause of home fire deaths during this period.
Well, I suppose that’s not surprising, either. Faulty wiring, I imagine, has got to be a big risk, maybe even more so than cooking indoors. And of course, the ever-popular stupidity: candles next to drapes, going off and leaving a room heater on, that kind of thing.
Okay, here’s a report that claims toaster ovens are hazardous, at least by comparison to microwaves. I don’t know what this site, Take Part, is. But the author cites the same NFPA report to the effect that “toasters or toaster ovens caused nearly half of the 3,000 reported household fires involving “portable cooking or warming devices”—more than woks, more than your countertop grill, more than deep fryers, and way more than microwaves….” This is derived from data presented in a graph, and I’m not at all convinced it’s a correct interpretation. Take Part also claims the problem is food residue and grease left in the appliance, which also isn’t exactly what the report says — NFPA makes a generalization, not a statement specific to portable heating and cooking devices. I think the conclusion that toaster ovens per se are any more dangerous than other appliances cannot really be drawn from the NFPA report. Ranges and cooktops, according to the figures presented, are by far more guilty of causing household fires.
Okay. Here’s what I believe to be the takeaway messages here:
• Shell out the cash to buy a high-rated brand, such as Breville or Kitchenaid.
• Avoid Black & Decker!
• Do not place the countertop oven near anything flammable.
• Unplug the oven when it’s not in use.
• Keep an eye on it: do not leave it unattended while it’s on. (This would mean you can’t bake bread, cook a casserole, or roast a chicken in one of the things.)
• Clean the device carefully every time you use it. Remove all grease and crumbs after each use.
• Be sure there’s a functioning smoke or heat alarm in the vicinity.
• Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen.
Most of those things, except maybe leaving it unplugged most of the time, seem kinda commonsensical. I doubt if you’d burn the house down if you followed these guidelines.