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January 15, 1999

CPSC Sues Cadet Manufacturing Co. Over Defective Electric In-Wall Heaters

Update: Recall Issued

CPSC Sues Cadet Manufacturing Co. Over Defective Electric In-Wall HeatersWashington, DC (SafetyAlerts) - The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced today that its staff has filed an administrative Complaint against Cadet Manufacturing Co., of Vancouver, Wash., alleging that certain Cadet and Encore brand electric in-wall heaters present a substantial product hazard. The Complaint seeks a recall of 1.8 million heaters distributed mainly in California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming.

In its Complaint, the CPSC staff alleges that FW, FX, LX, TK, ZA and certain Z model heaters sold under the Cadet or Encore brand name are defective and can overheat from restricted airflow or from failure of internal components and catch fire. Flames, sparks or molten particles can spew through the front grill cover of the heater into the living area of a residence, putting consumers at risk from fires, including burn injuries, smoke inhalation and property damage. The heaters also can become energized creating a risk of electric shock. CPSC is aware of 183 heater malfunctions, which includes 131 reports of heaters emitting flames, sparks or smoke. These incidents have allegedly resulted in three deaths, two serious burn injuries and property damage claims exceeding $1.2 million, which include four partial or total house fires.

The Commission staff filed the Complaint after negotiations with the company and its representatives failed to result in a voluntary recall and replacement plan acceptable to CPSC. In seeking a recall of the heaters, the Complaint calls for adequate public notice of the hazard and a remedy within a reasonable period of time.

In October 1997, Cadet recalled its FW, FX, LX and ZA model heaters to replace defective over-temperature black plastic limit switches. By December 1997, Cadet had unilaterally changed the recall agreement it entered into with CPSC. Cadet informed CPSC that it could no longer pay the full costs of the recall, and that the number of heaters involved were 1 million rather than the 190,000 Cadet had previously reported to CPSC.

During the course of its ongoing investigation, CPSC discovered additional problems with the heaters involved in the 1997 recall as well as problems with some other Cadet and Encore models, bringing the number of heaters involved to 1.8 million. Besides the over-temperature black plastic limit switch defect, the heating elements and internal wiring connections are defective and likely to fail.

The heaters that are part of this Complaint are FW, FX, LX, TK, ZA and certain Z model heaters sold under the Cadet or Encore brand name. The brand name is located on the heater's grill and the model is located on a label on the front of the internal heater assembly. Before removing the grill to check the heater assembly for the model, consumers must disconnect the power supply to the heater or fuse box. FW, FX, LX, TK, ZA and certain Z model Cadet and Encore brand heaters cannot be repaired and need to be replaced. Even if consumers have had the heaters' over-temperature switches repaired, the heaters have additional problems and need to be replaced.

While the Commission staff pursues an acceptable recall and replacement plan, consumers with FW, FX, LX, TK, ZA and certain Z model Cadet or Encore brand heaters should take the following precautions when using the heaters:

Inspect the heaters for lint and dust buildup.

  • Keep the heaters clean and free from lint and dust buildup. Remember to turn the power off when cleaning the heaters.
  • Keep furniture, drapes and other flammable materials away from the heaters.
  • Make sure every floor of the home, especially near bedrooms, has at least one fully operational smoke detector.
  • Have a well-defined and rehearsed escape plan and an alternate escape plan in the event of a fire.

The Commission staff urges anyone who is aware of any instances in which a Cadet or Encore brand heater has malfunctioned or who has questions about this announcement to call CPSC's toll-free hotline at (800) 638-2772.

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