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Fire & Water - Cleanup & Restoration

A potential cause of fire or water damage: Leaving appliances running when no one is home

3/13/2023 (Permalink)

Blog Summary: SERVPRO of Media highlights how the homeowner can avoid fire damage and water damage disasters by turning off appliances before leaving the house or going to bed.

SERVPRO® of Media, which specializes in fire damage and water damage restoration services, urges homeowners to turn off major appliances when leaving home. Otherwise, the consequences could be catastrophic.

Home appliances make life around the house more comfortable, save time, conserve energy, and use much less water than in the past. While older dishwashers use as many as ten to fifteen gallons of water per load, more modern units use between one and four gallons of water. A new washing machine needs only about seven gallons of water, but the older versions need up to 19 gallons of water. Technology has revolutionized the functionality of both the dishwasher and the washing machine. An ENERGY STAR-certified clothes dryer cuts energy consumption by as much as 20%, saving the homeowner more than $200 over the appliance's lifetime. ENERGY STAR certification is not currently available for space heaters, but electric infrared space heaters are nearly 100% efficient in converting electricity to heat.

How frequently are these appliances used in the average home?

  • Dishwasher: 5 loads per week
  • Washing machine: 6 loads per week
  • Clothes dryer: 6 loads per week

The growth of the virtual workforce has contributed to an already expanding demand for space heaters to heat single rooms or enclosed workspaces. Space heaters can be found in almost every home or apartment.

Though these four appliances — the dishwasher, the washing machine, the clothes dryer, and the space heater — are more efficient and safer than ever, leaving them unattended while in operation increases the risk of fire damage, water damage, or both.

How a dishwasher can cause water and fire damage in the home

Since 1994, the water needed for a dishwasher to clean dishes has dropped dramatically. However, a leak in the door or from the pump, which allows water to escape before sensors shut off the flow, could result in a water release. If the appliance has been left unattended, the water release could be as much as seven gallons per minute. That quick trip to the grocery store to pick up a few items for the evening meal could be disastrous.

The dishwasher also poses a fire hazard. A water or moisture leak around the detergent dispenser may allow water to come in contact with wiring that can short-circuit and cause a fire. If the heating coil in the bottom of the dishwasher tub malfunctions or comes in contact with a flammable item, a fire could result. When the fire department extinguishes the flames, the disaster now includes large-scale water damage.

In Massachusetts, a house fire was caused by an unattended dishwasher. According to a statement from the Department of Fire Services, “The family turned on the dishwasher before leaving the house in the morning. The fire was spotted and reported by a local animal control officer who was passing by. The family dog perished in the fire. Investigators were able to determine that the fire started in the kitchen at the dishwasher. Other causes were ruled out. Chief Lavoie said, ‘This fire teaches us two things: that fire will always catch us by surprise and that it is important not to leave major appliances running, like dishwashers, washing machines, dryers or space heaters, when you leave the house.’”

How a washing machine can cause water damage in the home

The supply lines to the washing machine are often hidden from view for aesthetic reasons. A small leak can persist for months without being noticed. Eventually, soft flooring, swollen baseboards, warping sheetrock, or a moldy, musty smell exposes the leak. If left unchecked and unchanged, a supply line may burst, spewing seven to nine gallons of water per minute into the laundry room. If the appliance is “home alone,” the scope of the property damage could involve many rooms and the crawlspace since a leak in the drum or at the pump can release a dozen or more gallons of water onto the floor.

How a clothes dryer can cause fire damage and water damage in the home

The fire risk hazard caused by a clothes dryer is greatest when the lint filter and exhaust duct have not received routine maintenance. Check and clean the lint filter after every load. The clothes dryer is a “hot” appliance with temperatures reaching 125 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit. If the lint filter or vent duct is clogged, temperatures could go even higher. Avoid drying clothing that has been exposed to flammable chemicals. Wash the garments twice if needed to remove grease, oils, and solvents that ignite in the intense dryer heat.

Overloading the dryer with heavy towels, thick bedspreads, or bulky winter coats puts undue stress on the appliance, which may lead to overheating and fire. The heating unit needs a rest and cool-down between loads. Never leave the machine running while everyone is outside, away from home, or sleeping.

When installing a new dryer, purchase a new electrical cord. Do not use the old cord, which could be worn and damaged. Also, install smooth-walled ducts. The accordion duct allows for the buildup of lint in the tubing, which increases the risk of fire. Use clamps or duct tape to connect the pipes.

How a space heater can cause fire damage to the home

An unattended space heater is a culprit in far too many house fires. This appliance accounts for 8 out of 10 fatal house fires caused by a heat source.

  • A damaged or faulty cord
  • The use of an extension cord with the appliance
  • Infrequent maintenance which allows for the buildup of dust, lint, grease, and grime
  • Operating the unit too close to flammable materials
  • Leaving the unit on and unattended

A common thread in water damage and fire damage caused by appliances is leaving the appliance unattended while in operation. By paying attention to the machine while it is operating or shutting it off when leaving home, many fire damage and water damage disasters can be avoided.

What to do when a fire damage or water damage disaster occurs

Property owners near Regal Edgmont Square can call the property damage cleanup and restoration professionals at SERVPRO of Media, PA, when a fire damage, smoke damage, or water damage disaster happens. A crew of IICRC-certified technicians arrives in about an hour and utilizes the latest equipment, cutting-edge technology, and advanced cleaning techniques. The rapid response and quick cleanup process help return life to normal as soon as possible.

For more information about Newtown Square, PA, water damage restoration, contact SERVPRO of Media at (610) 566-5720 or by email at office@SERVPROmedia.com.

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