While it's hard to resist a good bargain, basing buying decisions mainly on the lowest price may cost you in the long run, if it places your home or family at risk. Of course, your buying decisions do need to line up with the family budget, but you shouldn't sacrifice safety for any cost savings.
Buy Only Safe Products
How do you know if an appliance or product is safe to use? Look for safety certification on appliances, electrical tools or devices and other household products. Safety certification is not limited to electrical appliances but extends to a wide range of products and materials.
The gold standard in safety world-wide, is the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) Mark of certification. Underwriters Laboratories has been testing and writing safety standards for various types of products, appliances, materials and systems, since 1894. Though countries, states and provinces often have their own safety certification programs, such as the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) in Canada, along with additional electrical safety guidelines, the UL mark continues to be a very recognizable and trusted global safety seal of approval.
Just as you should know how many smoke alarms you should have and where to place them in your home, in accordance with your local fire safety regulations, consumers have a responsibility to find out what their local, state/province and national product safety standards are and should be able to recognize that seal when making a purchase. In fact, your property insurance broker may also need to know if certain products are certified, such as wood-burning heating appliances or other systems, before approving your home policy.
Buy products that are not only certified, but are from a trusted source or brand. There are many knock-offs in the marketplace and it's difficult to tell a fake from the real thing. Uncertified power bars are one such product that is often sold to unsuspecting consumers. A small and inexpensive product, but one that could pose a fire risk. And detection or monitoring products that you rely on such as carbon monoxide detectors, offer little value if they are not certified to operate as they should. Your best defense against such products? Look for the UL mark and other electrical safety certification. When buying vintage housewares or used appliances, be safe and check for certification, especially if you intend on using the item, rather than displaying it.
Be Pro-Active & Maintain Quality Product Control
Once the product is home, you can forget about it - right? Wrong! Now comes the monitoring to ensure it remains safe or is used in a safe manner. There are 10 reasons to read your product manual and the manufacturer's safety recommendations are important reading. I do know how frustrating those short appliance cords can be, but safety is an important product design element. That cord is short - for your safety.
Listen and watch for clues of deterioration or problems with your appliances that could signal a hazard. While frayed electrical cords are easier to notice, other problems can be subtle - you need to be watchful. I recently replaced my old cooking range after noticing that when I lifted the bottom element to clean the area, some fine dust would fall from the element connection at the back of the oven. A sign that the range insulation was breaking down and could pose a hazard. The benefit of replacing this range was two-fold - a safer and more energy efficient appliance. The newer cooking features were also a plus.
Underwriters Laboratories (UL) has very good tips for about safe products and preventive maintenance. Visit their site and learn more about safety, certification and product testing at www.ul.com.
Pay Attention to Product Recalls & News
All too often we listen to these important product recalls or news, but fail to take action. If the brand sounds familiar, inspect your appliance and follow the manufacturer's recall directions. Visit the U.S. Product Safety Commission for more information about product recalls and how you can report a product hazard.
Make Safety an On-Going Priority
When it comes to appliance use, think less of tradition and more about safety. Just because Grandma used that range for thirty years (and it still works), it does not mean it's safe. And what about those worn holiday lights that have graced decades of family trees and sustained only a few bandages along the way? They may not meet current electrical and safety standards. Discard and replace these strings with certified energy efficient holiday lights.
Underwriters Laboratories (UL) Appliance Safety Tips
Upgrade for Safety & Efficiency
While some signs of deterioration are very noticeable, others are not and wear and tear can make appliances or products less than desirable when it comes to operation and safety. What was the recommended safety standard a few years, may no longer be applicable. It may be time to upgrade an appliance or two. Practice good asset management by planning your appliance buying, making it easier on the budget, while taking advantage of appliance rebates, energy efficiency programs or retail deals.
The US government's Cash for Appliances rebate program makes it an ideal time to replace aging or unsafe appliances, while reaping such benefits as lower energy use, enhanced convenience and newer appliance features.
Find helpful appliance buying tips.
Find your state's information about the Cash for Appliances Rebate Program, and other Energy Star Rebates.
Follow helpful links and tips at Underwriters Laboratories about the Cash for Appliances Rebate Program
What to do With the Old, Unsafe Appliances?
While I'm a strong advocate of donating old or unused appliances, those products should be safe for others to use. If an appliance has been recalled or does not meet current safety standards, it should never be donated but should be disposed of properly in accordance with your local landfill regulations, or dealt with as per the manufacturer's instructions if recalled.
Learn about options for donating or disposal of safe appliances and products
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