Kevin Hunt: Sears Oven Glass Door Explodes


When glass shatters at 11:30 p.m. in an otherwise still house it's an instant fright night.

"I thought someone was breaking in at first," says Roger Denino of Westfield, Mass.

Fortunately, no break-in, but the source of the sound was almost as shocking: The outer glass door of the family's stone-cold Kenmore in-wall oven.

"It shattered on its own, spread out all over the kitchen floor," says Denino. "The oven was not hit or in use. I had to put my dogs outside to prevent injury from all the glass. However, my hardwood floors are scratched up."

The oven, and its stainless-frame with missing glass, has remained unused since that mid-August incident. Denino and his wife bought the house in 2010, Kenmore model 790-series oven included.

"The warranty is up," he says, "but this is a safety issue — even if the glass breaks into 'safer' small pieces."

Denino knows about "safer" pieces because he found many online complaints about "exploding" glass doors on Sears-issued ovens. The problem, he says, appears to be micofractures that eventually cause a rupture.

Sears, when contacted by The Bottom Line, took more than a month to respond to an inquiry about Denino's shattered oven door. It then seemed to blame the user:

"Damage to the glass," says Larry Costello, a Sears spokesman, "can be caused by a number of things, including using the door to push in an oven rack or an object striking the glass — both examples may cause a weakness and lead to failure over time."

The Bottom Line found multiple pages of complaints about shattered glass doors on Sear-issued ovens at the Consumer Product Safety Commission's SaferProducts.gov site. The federal agency compiles a database of complaints at the site for the public's use and encourages consumers, says spokeswoman Patty Davis, to report all safety-related incidents involving glass doors.

"We take all incidents involving shattering glass seriously," says Davis. "There are standards in place for consumer products that use glass which should lead to the glass breaking into nuggets and not shards, if the product shatters."

Seven owners of Sears model 790 in-wall ovens or stoves reported shattered glass doors in September alone at SafeProducts.gov.

Each sounded as surprised at Denino.

>> "The oven door exploded without anything hitting it, causing glass to be scattered in the kitchen. I have never seen an oven door s glass break in this manner."

>> "Last night the oven window exploded, throwing shards of glass as much as 20 feet. . . . We had been doing nothing unusual, just using the oven to heat some food. The window has never been struck with anything."

>> "After setting my Kenmore . . . electric range at 375 [degrees] to preheat and placed an aluminum pan in , I went upstairs with my two children, ages 2 and 4. I returned to the kitchen 10 minutes later . . . and noted a large amount of glass on the kitchen floor in front of the oven door. I then realized that the exterior glass panel of the oven door had shattered. . . . The radius of the glass was at least 5 feet from the oven. Very concerned and very thankful that my children were not in the kitchen at that time."

In each case, Sears responded with the same answer: "Sears Holdings takes product safety issues very seriously. We investigate each CPSC database incident report. We encourage our customers to provide additional information about incidents to our Customer Care Network, by calling 800-549-4505."

Costello says Sears ovens, including Electrolux and Frigidaire ovens, use tempered or "safety" glass that complies with Underwriters Laboratories Safety Standards.

"Although infrequent," he says, "glass used in oven doors may break. . . . The glass is designed to break into fragments with rounded edges if a failure does occur."

To avoid such a failure, Sears offers these precautions:

>> Do not close the oven door until all the oven racks are fully in place.

>> Do not hit the glass with pots, pans, or any other object.

>> Scratching, hitting, jarring or stressing the glass may weaken its structure causing an increased risk of breakage at a later time.

That does not make Denino and other owners of shattered-glass appliances feel any better.

"I should not have to pay for this," he says, "and I am lucky nobody was injured."

If Sears does not cover repairs when a shattered-glass oven or stove is no longer under warranty, it should make clearer the dangers when consumers purchase the appliance and display warnings more prominently in the manuals. And if this is "safety" glass, maybe it's time to consider stronger, safer over-glass standards.

Until then, when an oven glass door shatters, get out of the way — then file a complaint at SafeProducts.gov.

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