By Susan Koeppen

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Home appliances cause an estimated 150,000 fires a year, resulting in 150 deaths and more than $500 million in property damage.

Now a new Consumer Reports investigation has turned up disturbing findings.

While many of those fires are due to human error, Consumer Reports found a troubling number are actually caused by defective appliances.

The fire that spread through one home started in the kitchen. The cause – a toaster, according to fire officials.

“It was just horrendous, just horrendous. What wasn’t destroyed by fire was destroyed by smoke and water damage,” Beverly Uberti, a homeowner, said.

Another fire, homeowners say, started in their dishwasher while they were out of the house.

And according to fire officials, a fire in a separate incident started in a microwave, even though the homeowners say it wasn’t in use.

Consumer Reports reviewed 69,000 reports of house fires blamed on appliances between 2002 and 2009.

Their investigation found a significant number were not caused by human error.

“We found at least 23 percent are clearly attributable to problems with the appliances – mechanical, electrical, or design flaws,” Dan DiClerico, of Consumer Reports, said. “In some instances, the appliances turned on by themselves.”

Faulty appliances causing the most fires were ranges, followed by dryers, air conditioners, refrigerators, and dishwashers.

“In the last five years, more than seven million dishwashers have been recalled due to defects that could cause a fire. And nearly eight million other appliances have been recalled for fire risks.”

To check if an appliance you own has been recalled, you can go to

But why are there so many recalls due to fire hazards?

“Appliances have gotten a lot more complex, so more can go wrong. And many recalled products are being manufactured abroad, the majority in China.”

Consumer Reports says until appliance design and quality are improved, homeowners are left to wonder if the appliances in their homes are safe.

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