GE recalls 1.3 million dishwashers due to fire hazard

After years of complaints about overheating and fires, the Consumer Product Safety Commission says GE is voluntarily recalling 1.3 million dishwashers sold nationwide from March of 2006 through August of 2009 for between $350 and $850.

The five brands involved are GE, GE Adora, GE Eterna, GE Profile and Hotpoint. Consumers are urged to stop using the dishwashers immediately, disconnect the electric supply and contact General Electric.

According to GE, the problem is an electrical failure in the dishwasher heating element. But based on an investigation by Consumer Reports earlier this year, this could be the tip of the iceberg.

Consumer Reports Senior Editor Dan DiClerico says while other appliances are certainly involved in fire-related incidents, including refrigerators, microwaves, and ranges, dryers and air conditioners, nearly half of he 15 million fire-related appliance recalls Consumer Reports reviewed were for dishwashers.

"When we first heard about today's dishwasher recall, we were kind of expecting it to be Whirlpool," said DiClerico. "In our investigation, we really looked closely at Whirlpool, which is the subject of a class action lawsuit that was filed last November."

DiClerico says part of the problem is complex electronics, where more can go wrong.

"Appliances have become a lot more complicated in recent years. They have microprocessors and electronic controls. Now, these innovations make appliances a lot more convenient and easy to use, but there can be unforeseen consequences and I think that's what we're seeing, more often than not, with appliance fires and recalls. It comes back to some sort of electrical component that's not behaving properly," DiClerico explained.

"The best advice we can give is when you purchase a new appliance, make sure you register that appliance with the manufacturer. That's really the only way that you're guaranteed to find out if, in fact, the manufacturer discovers a problem with the appliance and issues a recall," DiClerico added.

DiClerico also urges consumers to frequently check for recalls on all appliances and consumer products, at to make sure they're not already part of a recall you missed.