And while you’re not home. That’s what we do with dehumidifiers and appliances in general. We don’t usually turn off the fridge before leaving for work. And those with dehumidifiers in a basement, crawlspace or any other overly humid area of the home, need to run them constantly for a reason. Air with an ongoing moisture saturation problem can lead to mold and mildew. That’s why we run them, often 24/7 and often while we are out.
As the report from ABC 9 WCPO attests, there have not been any injuries thus far. But there have been fires, together with property damage reported. And at least one distributor of the Gree appliances launched legal action against the manufacturer alleging defects in the appliances, together with alleged retaliation against the company - in this case, Soleus - after the latter reported the defects to regulatory authorities.
Here’s the kicker. According to the WCPO report, the Gree dehumidifiers were a pick of Consumer Reports, the much-respected consumer magazine that serves as an advocate for subscribers. Published by Consumer Union, the magazine routinely tests products acquired on its own dime in order to provide unbiased recommendations.
As a result of the reported fires and initial recalls that have since been expanded, Consumer Reports has taken the rare step of de-listing the product and recalling its ratings. The publication no longer recommends the product to its readers.
Don’t try this at home
The video of the burning Gree-manufactured dehumidifier was featured in the WCPO news report from July of last year. At that time, a recall had yet to be announced but has since occurred. Gree, along with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), issued the first of two recalls September 12, 2013. The recall was expanded January 30 of this year to include more appliances, this time Gree dehumidifiers marketed under the GE brand.
It should be noted that appliances marketed under many different brand names can originate from a single manufacturer as a contract manufacturer on behalf of the distributor. Thus, dehumidifiers carrying the brands Danby, De’Longhi, Fedders, Fellini, Frigidaire, Gree, Kenmore, Norpole, Premiere, Seabreeze, SoleusAir and SuperClima were all manufactured by Gree in China.
SoleusAir is the brand associated with the dehumidifier going up in flames, in the video. Complete details of the two recalls, that combine to include 2.4 million of the dehumidifiers, can be found here.
Gree USA took the step of issuing a “stop sale” order to all merchants vending the dehumidifiers that could overheat and catch fire. In the video, a voice is overheard to say that the flaming appliance, having been moved outside, was originally in his utility room. Consumer advocates of the recalled appliances say that consumers should stop using them altogether. Failing that (if they must be used in order to control moisture levels for health reasons and to avoid mold), the dehumidifier should only be used when the householder is home and in the immediate area. The appliances should never be operated when the homeowner is sleeping or away from the house, even temporarily.
Up in flames
Toxic fumes from burning plastic can also pose a health concern.
The CPSC reported 325 incidents concerning the initial recall, resulting in 71 fires and some $2 million in property damage. The expanded recall, involving the GE dehumidifiers manufactured by Gree, involved 11 reports of overheating without property damage, and five reported fires that resulted in $430,000 in property damage.
The saga that Soleus went through provides insight into the problem, long before recalls were first announced in September of last year.
Soleus International Inc. (Soleus), according to court documents, entered into a joint venture with China’s Gree Electric Appliances Inc. of Zhuhai, dubbed “Gree USA,” with products that would be branded “SoleusAir Powered by Gree.” The venture was consummated in 2010, and Soleus transferred all of its existing customer contracts and data to the new venture.
Supplier tried to warn manufacturer, to no avail
According to documents contained in a lawsuit launched by Soleus against Gree, Soleus began receiving complaints starting in 2012 that its low-capacity dehumidifiers were subject to catching fire. In spite of being told by Gree that there was no safety issue, Soleus conducted independent testing and determined there was, indeed, a manufacturing defect, in that the dehumidifiers were built using substandard materials, according to the views of the contractor hired to conduct the independent testing.
Soleus pulled the affected products off the market in November 2012 - almost a year prior to the initial recall in September 2013. Soleus also alerted the CPSC, noting that in its view the hazard was a threat to the consumer public.
According to the lawsuit, Gree retaliated against Soleus, shutting down production, increasing prices, and undertaking various other retaliatory measures that made corporate life difficult for Soleus and caused the company to lose market share.
READ MORE DEHUMIDIFIER RECALL LEGAL NEWS
Consumers having sustained fire losses due to the allegedly faulty dehumidifiers are also expected to file lawsuits in an attempt to claim compensation for fire damage, loss of contents and mementos, and to compensate for higher fire insurance rates.
At the end of the day, appliances are designed for unattended operation. Advocates in this case, for anyone still with a Gree-manufactured dehumidifier on premises, unattended operation is the last thing you should do…