Home and Garden: November 2005 Archives

dishwasher update again

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The inspector guy came by, and agreed with me that the dishwasher is kaput. Within an hour we got a phone call from GE offering us a brand new dishwasher of comparable value, delivered and installed. If we want to upgrade (say, to a stainless steel interior instead of the flammable plastic) we will get credit towards the higher cost - not sure exactly how that will work. We need to call them and let them know what our choice will be.
So, I think the drama is almost over.
I didn't realize it when looking over the warranty, but the door is apparantly considered part of the tub - and the tub had a full lifetime warranty. So sending out the inspector guy was apparantly needed to verify just where the damage was and how it happened.
We also will be getting interviewed by an inspector from the Consumer Product Safety Commission sometime after the holiday weekend. But soon, I hope that this whole episode will be behind us.

We are still washing dishes by hand. When John got ahold of the proper person at GE, he was told that they would need to send out some one to inspect the dishwasher to see if it could be repaired. He offered to email them pictures and the fire department report but was told that they need to send a person out to the house. Now, I am pretty darn sure that the dishwasher is totalled - and even if they could fix it I WOULD NOT TRUST IT!!!! I'm traumatized. I wake up smelling smoke that isn't there (and having the hospital alarms go off twice during my last call night didn't help any). Well, I was OK with them having to go through the motions et al. So we waited for them to call us to set a date and time. And we waited.
John had told them to call him at his work phone #, and to leave a message if necessary. His work voice mail pages him anytime a message is left. He told them not to call the house because no one is there most days during business hours - and the voice mail isn't checked very often. Of course, they didn't follow the instructions. Finally, today, they got around to calling us.
Guess what. They want us to pay a $70 fee, up front, for the guy to come out and inspect the dishwasher that caught fire due to their design flaw. This whole episode has been a near occasion of sin for me. I am trying really hard to be understanding etc but right now I could spit nails. Pray for me, will you?

It was only by the sheer grace of God that I still have a kitchen or possibly even a house. The fire moved incredibly fast, and even though I have been trained in basic fire (Los Angeles hospitals require a 4 hour class for all staff)it still took me by surprise. I shudder at the thought of what would have happened if I hadn't been standing right there or if I had been alone in the house without John to help by shutting off the breaker etc.
I really don't want to have to hire an ambulance chaser to seek compensation, but I am getting perilously close. I'm not looking to make a fortune off this, I just want just compensation for the total destruction of an appliance that should have lasted at least 6 more years.

more on dishwasher fire

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The fire seems to have started in a bundle of wires within the door. They were at a flex point that would have been stressed every time the door is opened or closed. This strikes me as a basic design flaw. The dishwasher was only 4 years old. We bought it shortly after we moved into this house, and it was professionally installed.
Our particular model was not included in this Recall of Built-In Dishwashers. However, from the description of the problem, I think that what happened to us is what the recall was all about.

You know, I still shudder to think of how quickly we could have lost the kitchen, if not the entire house! And you know, the dishwasher is one of those with the 'delay start' cycle. That, to my mind, is an implied warranty of safety, that you shouldn't have to be standing there watching the machine wash your dishes.

We left a message for our home owner's insurance. I don't know if this is covered or not, but I think that they should be notified. I don't know if we will get a bill for the fire department turn-out. If so, I hope that insurance will cover it.

John talked to a person at GE yesterday. She gave him the phone number for the proper persons who should be notified of this, and they will be in on Monday.

We went to the appliance store yesterday. It is overwhelming what the choices are - and it is difficult to decide. The thing that is clear to me is that I don't want one with plastic based construction. The smoke from just a short fire had me wheezing pretty bad the next day. I also would like to avoid the main cause of dishwasher fires, which is the heating element for the dry cycle. Those two factors automatically bump the price up to the $700 and above range - and I hadn't been planning to buy anything in that price range anytime soon.

The other factor is a more philosophical one - if we are going to be in this house for another 5 years or more, it is probably worth it to spend a little more. But if we are likely to leave anytime soon, we would be leaving behind that investment, and probably would not recoup it in the sale price. Only if it were part of an overall kitchen remodel would it even be a sales point.

Meanwhile, I am doing the dishes by hand. We have put a cardboard 'floor' over the holes where the hoses and wires were, and the cats have been enjoying sniffing around the ex-dishwasher space. I suppose that I could just put a cabinet in there and go back to the hand washing all the time!

I think the adrenaline has worn off

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or, how not to spend a Friday Night at home.

John and I were sitting watching EWTN. At the end of The World Over, I went into the kitchen to get a cup of tea, preparatory to coming upstairs and settling down for the night. The dishwasher was humming away, washing the dinner dishes. I noticed an orange glow and smoke coming from the bottom of the dishwasher just as we both heard an electrical crackle from the same spot. John ran down to the basement to shut off the circuit breaker to the dishwasher, I called 911, he opened the dishwasher door and punched a hole in the melting plastic to get to the fire, he poured water on the fire while I talked to the dispatcher. By the time the fire department arrived, (maybe 4 minutes?)the fire was out, and John was busily disassembling the dishwasher to make sure that there were no smouldering areas.
The smoke alarm didn't go off until after we had the fire almost out.

Right now, I am incredibly grateful.

If we had already been upstairs when this happened, we wouldn't have been able to stop the fire as early as we did. The dishwasher is totalled, but it didn't have time to spread to the counter or even further in the house. We don't have any smoke damage, despite the heavily plastic nature of the fire. Not even any of the dishes were damaged.

We live 4 blocks from the local fire station. We have a fire hydrant in our front yard, so the firefighters know where we live. We are always careful to keep the fire hyrant shoveled out during the snowy season.

It was scary, but once again I realized that through years of practice, John and I can function almost seamlessly during a crisis.

I am once again grateful for the sheer competency of the man I married. He knew exactly where the breaker was and was able to turn it off within a few seconds. If I had been home alone, I would have probably had to turn off the entire house! He then had the presence of mind to use the nearby and available resources (broom handle to punch a hole in the melted plastic, jug of water to pour over the fire and thereby extinguish it). You may be thinking that you don't pour water on an electrical fire - but it wasn't an electrical fire, it was a plastic fire that had been started by an electrical short.

When the fire crew finished disassembling the door, it appeared that the fire had started in a bundle of wires that were pinched by the door opening and closing. Looks like a design flaw to me.

Anyhow, we got everything disconnected, and the shell of the defunct dishwasher hauled outside. I washed the dishes by hand, using the rack from the machine as a counter rack. Now, to try to calm down a little more and get some sleep.

Oh, and you have to imagine just how the cats reacted to all this excitement! I have quite a few claw marks from trying to herd them into a safe area while the firefighters ran the heavy duty fan to clear the air.

I've had quite enough excitement for the nonce. Now, I have to go shop for another dishwasher. I don't think we'll buy another GE, somehow.

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Home and Garden category from November 2005.

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