Tuesday GE issued a recall of 33,500 Zoneline heating and air conditioning units due to an issue that could result in the appliances catching fire. When the unit is used with the vent door opened, moisture from outside can accumulate near the electrical components inside the device and lead to a fire.
Who makes this product?
The product was manufactured in China and imported by GE Appliances.
Which products are affected?
The part is a bit confusing, so we'll list the affected model prefixes and serial numbers:
- Model Prefixes: AZ4OEO9E, AZ41EO7E, AZ41EO9E, AZ41E12E, AZ41E15E, AZ61HO7E, AZ61HO9E, AZ61H12E, AZ61H15E.
- Serial Number(Begins with): AT, AV, AZ, DT, DV, DZ, FT, FV, FZ, GS, GT, GV, GZ, HT, HV, HZ, LT, LV, LZ, MT, MV, MZ, RT, TV, TZ, ST, SV, SZ, TT, TV, TZ, VS, VT, VV, VZ, ZS, ZT, ZV, ZZ
How widespread is the problem?
Most of these devices are used in commercial locations and apartment buildings. So far GE knows of three fires that have been started by these heater/AC units. So far, there are no reports of injuries or fatalities and property damage has been minor.
What can be done about it?
If you have one of these devices, you should contact GE at 866-723-2697 to schedule a free repair. If you need to use the heater in the meantime, there is a lever inside the front panel that indicates that the outside vent is closed. With the vent in the closed position, the unit should not experience moisture build-up. If you are checking that lever yourself, make sure the unit is unplugged. If you live in an apartment building it is probably best to contact your building maintenance supervisor.
What does this mean?
Well it means GE put a fire hazard in your apartment or office. While the information on the exact cause of the fires is limited, it looks like there is a problem with two short-circuited electrical parts inside the unit, that when combined with moisture fail spectacularly. The most shocking part to me is that any device that is exposed to the environment has to be designed with particular attention to water getting into it. Unless GE was planning on selling these things only in the Mojave, the Sahara, or the Atacama deserts, it is common knowledge that it rains in this world. Heck if you are going to make a product that lives outdoors that can't withstand being exposed to the rain, you may as well go all the way and make them out of cardboard. At least that way, the piece of junk will fall apart before it catches fire.
Thankfully, no one has been hurt by these devices yet. If the temporary vent fix works as well as GE says it does, making sure it is closed should get rid of any immediate risk. I suppose the downside is that if you're like me, and enjoy a bit of fresh air mixed in with your heater or air conditioning, you're out of luck until GE comes out to fix those electrical components. For the $1,000 to $1,200 that GE was selling these things for, you'd figure that they could have made them a little better, or at the very least checked the quality before they imported them.
Now, when you read that no injuries have been reported you're probably suitably relieved, and hopefully you're right. However, not all product issues are caught before disaster strikes. Case in point, our firm is currently litigating a products liability lawsuit against the maker of a different model of HVAC unit following a fire that seriously injured a young man as he lay sleeping in a hotel room in Midland, TX. In that case, the product had been recalled, but there was a failure that resulted in the defective unit being left in service. Suffice it to say, a product that can suffer electrical fires is something that should always be taken seriously.