Cordless Appliances and Battery Safety

Do you use a cordless vacuum, robotic vacuum or cordless kitchen appliance? Eventually, you will have to replace your appliance’s rechargeable battery. And when that time comes, you’ll likely go online to look for the best deal.

While everyone wants to save money, that “good deal” on a replacement may cost you later. Just as they have with replacement refrigerator water filters, counterfeiters are now pushing fake replacement batteries onto the market.

Branded replacement batteries are made specifically to fit appliances of the same brand. A counterfeit battery may power the appliance at first, but they are not designed with the same circuitry as the genuine appliance replacement. Furthermore, they do not include the same safety features, putting you at risk for fire, injury, or property damage.

Fortunately, you can reduce your chances of ending up with a counterfeit replacement battery by purchasing replacement batteries only from the manufacturer of the appliance or other trusted source.

Safe use of appliance batteries goes beyond where you purchase them. Proper storage, transport and disposal is also important. Follow these tips from the Power Tool Institute’s Take Charge of Your Battery campaign:

  • Store lithium ion batteries away from liquids and metals, such as keys, coins, screws and nails.
  • Do not throw batteries away with the trash. Take them to a recycling center or dispose of them in a receptacle specifically designed for batteries.
  • Don’t use batteries that have been dropped or damaged. Contact the manufacturer to report the damage.

Be Prepared for Wildfire Season with an Air Cleaner

In recent years, people in areas where wildfire smoke hasn’t historically had much of an effect have received a wakeup call about indoor air quality and the importance of planning for smoke events. A room air cleaner is one of your best defenses when wildfire smoke and ash wreak havoc on indoor air.  Don’t wait: Air cleaners can become popular items when wildfire smoke affects indoor air quality, and retailers sometimes report that they are in short supply during smoke events.

The smoke and particulate matter put out by wildfires is a health risk for anyone, but it is particularly dangerous for people with asthma or other conditions that affect breathing. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Government of Canada recommend that people in wildfire-prone areas consider purchasing an air cleaner as part of their preparation for fire season, a step also recommended by ASHRAE’s just-released 10 Elements of a Smoke Readiness Plan.

If you are shopping for an air cleaner to improve your indoor air quality during wildfire season, you will likely come across models that use different types of technologies to clear the air. More important than the method the air cleaner uses is whether the air cleaner is appropriate for the size of the room in which it will be used. Look for the AHAM Verifide® seal and the air cleaner’s Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) on the air cleaner packaging. The seal means the air cleaner has been independently tested to ensure that it meets the manufacturer’s claims about its ability to remove tobacco smoke (the smallest particles included in CADR), pollen and dust. The suggested room size for the air cleaner will be noted prominently on the seal.

Under normal circumstances, you should choose an air cleaner with a smoke CADR two-thirds the size of the room in which you will use the air cleaner. However, those in areas heavily affected by wildfire smoke should select an air cleaner with a smoke CADR that matches the room size. For example, an air cleaner with a smoke CADR of 200 would be appropriate for a 200 square-foot room in an area affected by wildfire smoke.

If you are using an air cleaner to improve indoor air quality during wildfire season, take these steps to ensure that your air cleaner continues to operate at a high level:

Change the filter regularly: Your air cleaner’s use and care manual will recommend how often to change your air cleaner’s filter. These recommendations are based on the manufacturer’s testing, but can vary depending on how often you use the filter and the level of pollutants in the air.  Extended operation in an area affected by heavy smoke may require more frequent filter changes. If the filter is changing color or if the level of air coming out of the air cleaner drops, it could mean the filter should be changed. Keep extra filters on hand, especially during wildfire season.  Purchase replacements from reputable sources to ensure they are authentic and not counterfeits.

Clean the outside: Some manufacturers recommend using a vacuum to remove dust from the outside of the air cleaner. Vacuum or gently clean the dust from the outside of the air cleaner when you notice a buildup. An air cleaner that is dirty on the outside is likely dirty on the inside, so make this part of the process when you are replacing or cleaning the filter.

Vacuum regularly: Air cleaners are only part of the equation if you are seeking cleaner indoor air. Do a thorough cleaning of the area and vacuum regularly to remove particles so they are not kicked back into the air you breathe.

Change your furnace filter: If you change your furnace filter regularly, you might not have to change the filter in your air cleaner as often. However, a furnace filter is not a substitute for an air cleaner because it is designed to trap large particles. In addition, it is common for particles to miss the furnace filter and end up inside the home.

Give your air cleaner room to breathe: It might be more convenient to place an air cleaner against a wall and in a corner, but that will restrict airflow and reduce performance. Move the air cleaner toward the center of the room and operate it on high in an area free of obstructions. The more air that goes through the air cleaner, the more pollutants it will remove.

Do your part to prevent range-tipping

Have you taken steps to prevent range-tipping accidents in your home?  Typically, range-tipping accidents occur when a child climbs on to the open door of a range which has not been secured to the floor or wall by an anti-tip bracket and the child’s weight causes the range to tip over onto the child. This can cause death or serious injury from the weight of the range, plus burns and scalding injuries from hot food and liquids that fall from the cooktop.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 78% of tip-over accidents that led to injuries involved furniture, 18% involved televisions and 4% involved appliances. Tip-over accidents occur in most rooms in the home, but only 4% occur in kitchens. That’s compared to 45% in bedrooms, 24% in living rooms and 29% in other areas of the home.

Range-tipping is easily prevented, and taking right measures can reduce the risk to almost zero. Here’s what you can do to remove the risk of a range-tipping tragedy from your home:

  • Have an anti-tip device installed: Safety organizations, including UL, require that manufacturers include an easily installable anti-tip device with every new range. The devices prevent tip-over accidents by securing ranges to the floor or wall. All AHAM members that manufacture ranges adhere to the safety and stability requirements. The devices anchor the range so that it will not tip over. Manufacturers also require that anti-tip devices be included as part of installation. Check with your installer to make sure this is being done. Contact your range manufacturer, appliance dealer or an authorized service agent if you aren’t sure whether anti-tip device was installed or if you think you need a replacement anti-tip device.
  • Keep the door closed: Keep the range door closed when the appliance isn’t in use.
  • Talk to your children: Educate your children on the proper, safe use of the range. Tell them that the open door should never be used as a step.
  • Keep the weight off: Never use the door of the range as a step or to support other objects, such heavy pans that may be inside the oven cooking.
  • Check your range for an anti-tip device: If you don’t know whether an anti-tip device has been installed on your range, it’s easy to find out. Take a look under the range to see if it’s anchored to the floor, or pull gently on the back of the range to see if you’re able to pull it off the floor. If you aren’t, it’s likely that an anti-tip device is installed.

Appliance manufacturers include the installation of range-tipping devices in their instruction manuals. But ultimately, it is the responsibility of the consumer and the professionals who install the ranges to make sure the anti-tip devices are installed.

AHAM has been a leading voice for the prevention of range-tipping accidents. Its extensive public education campaign led to manufacturers including information on preventing range tipping in their manuals. AHAM has also worked to educate building inspectors and code officials, federal housing officials, building managers, landlords and insurance companies.

Get AHAM’s brochure on how to protect against range tipping.

Easy ways you can prevent cooking fires

There are more than 100 million ranges and cooktops in use in the U.S. today, and most are operated safely and without incident. When cooking fires do occur, they’re usually preventable through a few simple steps. AHAM has partnered with UL, the National Association of State Fire Marshals, and the National Safety Council to develop its Recipe for Safer Cooking. These preventive measures will help you greatly reduce the chances that a cooking fire will occur in your home:

  • Stay in the kitchen when you’re cooking. Unattended cooking is the leading cause of cooking fires.
  • Wear short or close-fitting sleeves when you cook. Loose-fitting clothing can catch fire.
  • Keep an eye on children in the kitchen. When they’re old enough to cook, teach them how to do it safely.
  • Keep your cooking areas clean. Food and grease build-up can increase the risk of fire.
  • Keep curtains, towels, pot holders and other fabrics away from hot surfaces.
  • Store solvents and flammable cleaners away from heat sources. Never keep gasoline in the house.
  • Turn pan handles inward to prevent food spills that can result in serious burns.

Unfortunately, fires sometimes happen even when preventive measures are taken. Memorize these steps so you and your family are ready if a fire happens:

  • Immediately call your local fire department. Have the department’s emergency number on hand, as calling 911 will instead direct you to a central emergency services center. That means the response time could be slightly longer.
  • If a grease fire breaks out, put a lid on the pot to smother the flames, then turn off the heat and leave the lid in place while the pan cools.
  • Use baking soda to extinguish cooking fires.
  • If a fire starts inside the oven or broiler, keep the door closed and turn off the heat to smother the fire.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen and know how to use it. Contact your local fire department for training.
  • Keep a working smoke detector in your home and test it every month.

AHAM and appliance manufacturers are attacking the problem of unattended cooking fires through the technical advances to cut down on the potential for fires, and through consumer awareness initiatives like the Recipe for Safer Cooking. Visit AHAM’s store to order copies of the Recipe for Safer Cooking and other fire-prevention information.

Make Food Safety Part of the Plan During Summer Celebrations

Cooking and sharing meals is a time-honored summertime tradition, especially on holidays like Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day. While you may be thinking more about serving your guests, you should take steps to ensure food safety during your summertime gathering, especially if you are cooking, eating or serving outdoors. Cases of food poisoning, which affects about 48 million people in the U.S. each year, tend to increase in the summer.

Food safety starts with your refrigerator and freezer. You can start by making sure they are in good working order. Freezers, particularly in hot, humid weather, can be prone to frost buildup, which can be a drag on performance. Fortunately, it is easy to prevent. Your refrigerator may have to work a bit harder to keep food cool in the summer, so make it as efficient as possible by keeping the coils free of dirt and dust and properly arranging the food inside. Keep your refrigerator between 37 and 40 degrees.

From storing to cooking to serving, food temperature matters. A digital thermometer is a valuable tool to ensure you are cooking foods thoroughly, regardless of whether you’re cooking with an indoor grill, cooktop, oven or outdoor grill.

The U.S. Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) suggests these safe cooking temperatures for popular summertime foods:

Ground meat: 160 degrees for beef, pork, veal and lamb, 165 for turkey and chicken.

Fresh beef, veal and lamb: 145 degrees. Allow to rest three minutes before serving.

Fish: 145 degrees or until flesh is opaque and separates easily with a fork.

Shrimp, lobster, crab: Cook until flesh is pearly and opaque

Clams, oysters, mussels: Cook until shells open

Both hot and cold foods can quickly creep into what the FSIS calls “the danger zone,” (between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit), when bacteria are most likely to grow. Keep hot foods above 140 until they’re ready to serve, and keep cold foods refrigerated until they’re ready to serve. Serve cold dishes on ice when possible. Don’t leave foods out for more than two hours. Are you serving food outside in hot weather? Cut that time to one hour, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends.

If you’re doing your summer party potluck style, keep track of who is bringing what so you can plan for safe storage and serving. Make sure there is enough space in your refrigerator so you can put the dishes in there when your guests arrive if you aren’t planning to cook or serve the dishes they bring immediately. Are you out of space? Keep a cooler of ice on hand with a digital thermometer to monitor the temperature. Store your drinks in a separate cooler to avoid opening it frequently and raising the temperature.

Don’t reuse the dishes you used to transport raw food outside to the grill. Put them in the dishwasher as soon as possible to avoid reusing them accidentally.

Whether you are cooking indoors or outdoors, paying careful attention to food safety while planning and celebrating will help you worry less and focus more on what’s important: giving your guests great memories.

How to Improve Indoor Air Quality While Cooking, Even Without a Range Hood

Are you thinking more about the indoor air you breathe? If you are, you aren’t alone. Awareness of indoor air quality has surged over the past few years, though for very different reasons. Last summer, millions in the Northeast U.S. looked for indoor air solutions as smoke from Canadian wildfires blanketed the region and led to a decline in outdoor and indoor air quality. During the COVID-19 pandemic, air cleaners were held up as a main line of defense against illnesses spread by bacteria and viruses.
Cooking’s effect on indoor air quality, and how cooking-related pollutantscan be reduced, has also been getting more attention. All cooking, whether done on gas, electric or induction cooking appliances, emits pollutants. An externally vented range hood may be the most effective way to minimize cooking-related pollution like grease, steam, smoke and odors.

Making sure you have proper ventilation should be part of your cooking process. But what if a range hood isn’t an option? While they are great tools for improving indoor air quality, installation and venting of a range hood can also involve significant costs and sometimes structural work. The good news is that there are still plenty of options available. While the solutions listed here aren’t all equal, they all will help improve your indoor air quality while you cook:

Downdraft ranges and cooktops: These appliances come with built-in ventilation that can capture grease, smoke and steam. Some, but not all, are externally vented. Others utilize a filter that removes pollutants before the air is recirculated back into your kitchen.

Over-the-range microwaves with built-in fans: If it’s time to replace your microwave, consider a model with a built-in fan. When installed above your range or cooktop, microwave fans filter and recirculate air. Many also can be converted to vent externally.

Ceiling fans: When combined with open windows, ceiling fans can help reduce pollutants while cooking by improving airflow.

Air cleaners: Many air cleaners are designed to remove cooking pollutants. Look for models with PM 2.5 CADR (Clean Air Delivery Rate). CADR is the value of clean air the air cleaner has been tested to deliver when looking at specific pollutants. PM 2.5 refers to particles 2.5 microns or less, the most common size of pollutants produced by cooking.

Beyond taking advantage of these appliances, home cooks can take a number of steps to improve their indoor air quality while cooking.

  1. Make sure your entire cooking area, from the range to surrounding counters, is free of grease and food residue.
  2. If you do have a ventilation hood or downdraft, turn it on before you start cooking and leave it on for at least 10 minutes after you finish cooking.
  3. Whenever possible, open windows while cooking.
  4. Take advantage of all the tools at your disposal to improve indoor air quality. For example, if you have a ceiling fan and microwave fan, use both, along with opening your window.
  5. Match the ventilation settings to the type of cooking you will be doing. For example, if you are using multiple burners or cooking with high heat, set your ventilation hood or other ventilation appliance to the highest level.
  6. Match the burner size to the size of the cookware, and don’t allow the flame to extend beyond the pan’s bottom surface.
  7. When possible, cook on back burners, where ventilation from ventilation hoods or over-the-range microwaves will be more effective.

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