Electric Toaster Runs Amok

salton.png Warning: Toaster covers may be dangerous to your health. That is, if you own a SaltonCook’s Essential 4-slide-wide electric toaster, which was voluntary recalled because of a tendency to turn on automatically and ignite items placed on top of it. The toaster was made in China. According to a release by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with the online retailer QVC:

QVC has received information that ten toasters reportedly turned on spontaneously, including one incident of fire damage to kitchen cabinets and two incidents of toaster covers burned. No injuries have been reported.

Maybe a toaster cover just isn’t a good idea after all, given this online review at eopinions:

We have, or I should say “had” a Sunbeam 3910 two slice toaster. We leave it plugged in, and covered with cloth toaster cover. It spontaneously started up, after we had been in bed for over an hour. We heard the smoke alarm and the kitchen was filled with an acrid smoke. For some reason the toaster started and caught the cloth toaster cover on fire, which in turn melted the plastic shell of the toaster. After unplugging the toaster and cleaning up the kitchen I plugged the toaster in and it apparently worked perfectly. I have no idea what happenend.. I do know that nothing had fallen into the toaster, and nothing had pushed the “start” lever down to initiate operation.

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2 Comments

  1. March 18, 2010 12:40

    Cheers Mark, and thanks for sharing that. I must admit I always leave the toaster conected to power (though I never store things on top of it).

  2. Mark Byrne
    March 10, 2010 13:15

    I was involved in the design of a replacement controller for a well known toaster company in the mid 90′s. The original design, which used a 4 bit microcontroller, had exactly the same problem, it switched itself on randomly.
    Items like this commonly use a very cheap capacitive dropper power supply which means that the micro supply voltage is subject to a lot of the noise on the mains. If you connect a mains relay coil in series with its own normally closed contacts you will get a very good mains interference generator. Using this plugged in next to the toaster we found that it would rarely last more than a few minutes before it switched itself on.
    The replacement design used a Microchip PIC16C55. The software was designed such that the watchdog timer reset the PIC about once every 600ms if no toasting function had been requested by the user. The capacitive power supply was improved but using the interference generator we could still get the toaster to come on, but very much less frequently than the original design. However it only stopped on until the watchdog timer reset the PIC.
    The moral of the story is only connect power to domestic equipment when you want to use it and don’t put combustible materials on top of something that is designed to get very hot.

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