Fridge Freezers And Fire Safety
As refrigerators have to run every day, all-year round, they are definitely appliances that can create a fire safety risk. The risk of fire is, however, comparatively low when you consider that nearly every household with electricity has a fridge, and you rarely hear of fires caused by fridges; but that doesn’t mean that they don’t happen. Over the past few years, there have been a number of articles written about fridge-freezer backing materials and the fire-safety risk that they can pose.
Because all refrigeration units need to be kept cool, they need insulation. However, insulation is flammable. For that reason, it’s important that it is protected and covered in case of a fire. This is why backing is used. Made from either metal, aluminium laminate or plastic, backing protects the insulation. The type of material used is very much dependent on the brand, manufacturer and model that you own or are looking to buy.
So what’s the problem? Well, a lot has been written about backing in particular, and this has been driven by many recent studies and tests into the flammability of backing materials – especially plastic.
What’s Wrong With Plastic?
As aforementioned, a number of studies and tests have been performed that look into the feasibility of plastic backing.
One group at the forefront of these studies has been consumer watchdog ‘Which?’. In late 2017, the watchdog called on fridge manufacturers to stop producing refrigeration units that used plastic backing due to the material being flammable. This even led the watchdog to take the rather bold stop of listing all fridges with plastic backing as ‘Don’t Buys’ – irrespective of how else they performed as a refrigerator.
However, faced with government inaction and warnings not being heeded by certain manufacturers, the watchdog committed to fire testing the backings of 80 refrigeration units across all major brands. They did this by exposing each backing sample to an open flame for 30 seconds. If the material wasn’t able to withstand the heat and the flames, it was labelled as a ‘Don’t Buy’. This has led to the watchdog deeming 100s of fridge as ‘Don’t Buy’.
The London Fire Brigade has called on the industry to stop constructing plastic-backed refrigerators, and ‘Which?’ has criticised the governmental Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) for its perceived inaction.
How Do You Know If Your Fridge Has Plastic Backing?
This can be a difficult one to work out if you’re not really sure where to look, and what you are looking for. However, if you know your make and model, you could always consult ‘Which?’ to see if your fridge and/or freezer has plastic backing. The watchdog even has a tool to easily check if your fridge freezer model uses plastic, aluminium laminate or metal backing.
What If Your Fridge Freezer Has Plastic Backing?
If you find out that you already own a fridge, freezer or a fridge freezer that has been constructed with plastic backing, you’re likely worried about what this means. Do you need to get rid of it? Well, despite ‘Which?’ recommending that you shouldn’t buy plastic-backed refrigeration units, they are well aware of the high costs of fridge freezers to consumers. Not only that, but the chances of a fire being caused by a refrigeration unit is, as aforementioned, quite low. Research performed by ‘Which?’ in early 2018, using government data collected on fires, showed that only 8% of fires caused by appliances being faulty were as a result of a fridge and/or freezer.
Additionally, it’s important to note that the backing itself is not a potential source of causing a fire. Rather, it is the material’s flammability that makes it dangerous as it can spread fire.
With that said, the chances of a household fire is low. There are many plastic-backed refrigerators still being sold on the market today, and the government hasn’t made any moves to stop this from being the case.
5 Tips To Minimise Fridge Freezer Fire Risks
- Don’t block vents, and keep areas around your appliances clean to ensure there is no build up of grease or dust
- Plug any refrigeration units directly into the wall, rather than using an extension lead
- If your fridge and/or freezer is making strange noises, unplug it and contact a qualified fridge repair company
- Smoke alarms should always be fitted in any property, and a heat alarm in your kitchen can give you a warning without being set off by fumes from your cooking
- Keep it away from escape routes – in the event that your fridge were to create a fire, you’ll want to make sure you have an escape route