Are you the publisher? Claim or contact us about this channel


Embed this content in your HTML

Search

Report adult content:

click to rate:

Account: (login)

More Channels


Showcase


Channel Catalog


Channel Description:

Consumer Reports

older | 1 | .... | 33 | 34 | (Page 35) | 36 | 37 | .... | 106 | newer

    0 0

    Exterior paint colors that sell—or repel

    More than one in 10 Americans plan an exterior paint job in the next year, based on a nationwide survey from the Consumer Reports National Research Center. Most cited tired paint, but almost half wanted a different color to boost their home’s resale value. Popular combos from our Facebook fans include Mediterranean yellow with white trim, and light brown with cream trim and hunter-green shutters. You’ll find similar schemes on real-estate hot lists.

    Suppose you prefer other colors. We spoke with real estate agents and paint experts, such as members of the Paint Quality Institute, an industry group, about colors to choose and a few to skip, whether you’re selling or staying put.

    No matter what color you choose, you'll need a good paint that lasts. In Consumer Reports tests, Ace Hardware’s Royal Exteriors now rivals Home Depot’s Behr and Lowe’s Valspar, two of our top satin and semigloss paints. As with the Behr and Valspar, both Ace paints have a lifetime warranty and endured the equivalent of nine years outdoors without cracks. And at less than $30 per gallon, they cost up to $11 less. But the home-center brands proved to be better at fending off dirt and mildew. A newcomer, Behr Marquee, also looks good so far.

    Here are colors to consider and others to overlook:

    —Ed Perratore

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2007-2013 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0

    Best air conditioners for comfort and quiet

    Room air conditioners just got cheaper to run, thanks to stricter standards that require Energy Star models to use at least 15 percent less energy than the minimum allowed. That can save you about $90 over the life of the unit. And tougher standards will affect all models manufactured for next year’s cooling season. Meanwhile, Consumer Reports' new comfort tests show that this year’s best room air conditioners can help you chill more quickly and quietly right now.

    Our new tests now include how well the models cool the area they’re sized for. The small GE AEM05LS, a CR Best Buy at $210, and large LG LW1214ER, $350, aced those comfort tests. So did the GE AEM12AS, $390. But failure to restart itself after we reduced the voltage in our brownout test makes it a bad choice where power is iffy.

    Most of our picks, when set on low, were about as quiet as a dishwasher. The Friedrich Kuhl SQ05N10B, $575, proved whisper quiet. It’s also the first room air conditioner we’ve tested that let’s you turn it on from your smart phone or tablet before you get home. The noisiest of the bunch was the GE AEM08LS, $270, but it had very good scores for comfort and is excellent in brownout conditions.

    Check the results of our latest air conditioner tests for a model that fits your needs. But don’t buy too big. A smaller air conditioner that hums steadily along is more efficient and better at dehumidifying than a larger one that cycles on and off. Figure on 20 British thermal units (Btu) for each square foot you’re cooling and then factor in more if you have high ceilings, large doorways or windows, and if the room is in direct sunlight. Here are recommendations from Energy Star on how to properly size an air conditioner.

    —Mary H.J. Farrell

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2007-2013 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0
  • 05/01/14--02:59: Best way to stop bug bites
  • Best way to stop bug bites

    Summer’s insects can be more than annoying—they can also make you sick. Ticks carry Lyme disease and mosquitoes spread serious illnesses such as West Nile virus. Bill Gates has even declared the mosquito to be "the deadliest animal in the world" because it spreads malaria, which is linked to more than 700,000 deaths a year. While few of those deaths occur in the U.S., several other tropical, mosquito-borne diseases are heading this way, including dengue fever and a new worry this year, Chikungunya virus, or ChikV. It's now in the Caribbean and can cause fever, severe joint pain, and a crippling arthritis.

    So how do you keep the bugs from biting? Our tests over the years have found that certain insect repellents, especially those with the chemical deet, can help keep mosquitoes and ticks away. But our safety experts worry that the products might pose risks to people and the environment.

    “Deet and other chemical-based repellents should be used only if other safer methods don’t work for you,” Urvashi Rangan, Ph.D., executive director of the Consumer Reports Food Safety & Sustainability Center, said. “People should first try safer ways of avoiding bugs, such as wearing protective clothing and avoiding scented products when outdoors.”

    Here are 15 expert tips on keeping the bugs away without dousing yourself in potentially dangerous chemicals.  

    For mosquitoes

    • Stay inside or in screened-in areas during mosquito hours. The bugs like to come out during sunrise and sunset, and in early evening.
    • Cover up. During mosquito heavy hours, put on long sleeves, long pants, socks, and closed-toe shoes.
    • Plug in a fan. It will help you keep cool and keep mosquitoes from landing on you when you’re outside on your deck or patio because the insects are not very efficient flyers, even in wind speeds of as low as 5 mph.
    • Buy outdoor LED or yellow bug lights. Use them on your porch and around your house because they won’t attract pests like other lights might. (Read our light bulb buying guide.)
    • Light citronella candles or tiki torches. These standbys work as mild insect repellents.
    • Keep mosquitoes from breeding in your yard. Dump out any water-filled containers, such as birdbaths, tires, wheelbarrows, and wading pools. Clear away decaying leaves and ivy on buildings and on the ground, because mosquitoes like cool, dark places to rest during the day.  

    For ticks

    • Wear light-colored clothes. They can help you spot ticks. Also stick with long sleeves, long pants, and closed-toe shoes. Tuck your pants into socks, wear boots, and pull your hair back into a hat.
    • Check your clothes and skin for ticks when you get inside. They have to be on you for at least 36 hours to transmit Lyme disease. Even if you see no ticks, it’s smart to shower and wash your clothes, or at least toss them into a dryer to kill any ticks.
    • Inspect pets, too. Always examine your animals for ticks after they come into the house from being outside.
    • Keep your lawn mowed. And try to let as much sun into your yard as possible. Ticks prefer long grasses and shady spots. (Read our lawn mower buying guide.)
    • Consider putting up a fence. One way to keep the ticks away is to prevent deer and other large animals that can carry them from wandering around on your property.

    For both pests

    • Try a plant-based repellent first. Examples include Repel Lemon Eucalyptus (which has a synthetic version of a naturally occurring chemical) and Natrapel or other products that contain 20 percent picaridin (a chemical similar to a compound in black pepper). In our 2010 tests (Ratings appear below), both worked for at least 7 hours, though the Repel product has since been reformulated with less of the active ingredient and so no longer appears in our Ratings chart. The risk of side effects for both is low, but the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says not to use the Repel product on kids younger than 3.
    • When you use deet, keep levels low. If a product with 15 percent deet keeps bugs away for 8 hours or more, as our tests found, one with 98 percent deet has to be even better, right? Actually, no. Off Deep Woods Sportsmen mini pump spray (98 percent deet) is claimed to provide maximum-strength protection for up to 10 hours. But products with 95 percent or more deet have been linked with serious side effects, including seizures, slurred speech, and coma. It can also cause eye irritation and allergic reactions. Our experts recommend using no more than 30 percent deet, ever. If you’re, say, on an overnight camping trip and need long-term bug protection, reapply a product with 15 percent deet (such as Off FamilyCare Smooth & Dry spray) and use it sparingly. Each application will protect you from mosquito and tick bites for at least 8 hours.
    • Think twice about using deet if you’re in a high-risk group. Children, seniors, and people with weakened immune systems should use deet only with extra caution. The American Academy of Pediatrics says not to use it at all on infants younger than 2 months.
    • Apply repellents outdoors, and only to clothing or exposed skin. Wash repellents off before you go to bed, and wash clothes before you wear them again.

    What not to do

    These products either don’t work well or aren’t worth the risks:

    • Products with more than 30 percent deet, such as Jungle Juice 100. The potential side effects aren’t worth it.
    • Off Clip-on, a device that attaches to your waistband or belt and uses a fan to circulate a repellent around your body. The active ingredient, metofluthrin, can pose risks to your nervous system, and our tests found that it didn’t work very well anyway.
    • Wristbands with repellent claims.
    • Garlic or vitamin B1 pills.
    • Devices that give off sound waves designed to keep insects away.
    • Backyard bug zappers. (They might actually attract mosquitoes.)
    • Also avoid tight clothes (which mosquitoes can penetrate), dark
      clothes (where ticks can hide), and strong scents, which may attract pests.   

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2006-2014 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0

    Avoid these mattress store tricks

    If you think shopping for a car is a nightmare, just try buying a mattress.

    The industry uses lots of tricks to make it difficult to compare models and dicker for a better price.

    For instance, sometimes manufacturers sell the identical or nearly identical mattresses to different retailers with exclusive model names. In other cases, all retailers get the same model names, but the manufacturer sets a minimum price below which stores are not permitted to advertise and/or sell. Retailers that violate the rules risk losing advertising support money from the manufacturer or having the mattress line yanked form their stores entirely.

    And then there are the little tricks that some mattress stores use. “They’re pretty prevalent. The stores are out to gain as much of profit margin as possible," said Tom Wholley, president and owner of Connecticut Mattress.

    Here are some of those tricks to watch for.

    You’re required to buy a mattress protector or box spring.  Even one of our own staffers fell for this one. The store tells you that if you don’t spend an extra $80 or so for a mattress protector covering, you’ll automatically void the manufacturer’s warranty. Don’t bet on it. (Of course, if you’re concerned that Fido might have an accident on your new $1,000 mattress, a protector might be a good idea. And your warranty claim could be denied if your mattress is so soiled and unsanitary that the company cannot conduct a safe inspection.)

    We've also heard of retailers' trying a similar tactic to persuade customers to pay extra for a box spring. As long as the mattress is properly supported, for example on a platform bed, there’s no need for a box spring, and you won’t be voiding the warranty, Wholley says. (Check for extra support requirements for queen- and king-size frames, such as a rigid center bar and fifth leg.)

    What to do: Don’t just listen to the salesperson. Read the warranty before buying. (Federal law requires a retailer to show it to you before you make a purchase.) If there’s anything you’re not sure about, ask for a written explanation or, better yet, contact the manufacturer.

    We’ve got the same mattress for less. With some mattresses being sold with exclusive model names, a retailer may show you a mattress that it says is identical to a competitor’s model, offering to beat the other store’s price. But it may in fact be a lower-quality model, not an equivalent one.

    What to do: If you've found a mattress you love and tried searching for it in other stores without success, it’s probably an exclusive label. If a competitor shows you what it says is an equivalent model by the same manufacturer, compare specifications. Among the attributes of an innerspring mattress, for example, that you should compare are the foam and padding and coil spring type and count. Of course, if you’re in a walk-in store, you should lie on the mattress to make sure it feels the same as the one you tried and liked elsewhere. If a retailer won’t show you the specifications, shop somewhere else. Remember that comparing specifications works only within the product line of a given manufacturer.

    Check our buying guide and Ratings for information on mattresses, retailers, and brands.

    It’s an amazing sale. Consumer Reports’ mattress shoppers found that you indeed may find better prices on holiday weekends. But don’t simply assume that a promise of huge savings, such as 50 percent off, is a great deal no matter when you see it advertised.

    To find out for ourselves, we searched online for a queen-size Serta mattress that we knew had a manufacturer minimum price restriction of $1,074. Not surprisingly, every retailer we checked was advertising it for exactly that price. But while some stores also listed $1,074 as their regular price, others said they usually offered the mattress for much more. One website, for example listed its regular price as $2,148. Another showed a regular price of a whopping $2,685, representing its “sale” price of $1,074 as a savings of $1,611. “That’s the biggest farce,” Wholley said. “Nobody ever sells that bed for that much.”

    What to do: Don’t get taken in by promises of huge savings. If you find your favorite mattress at other retailers, there’s a good chance it’s being marketed under a minimum price restriction. The price that most retailers are charging is likely the lowest the manufacturer allows. You should never pay more than that.

    But don’t stop there. Try negotiating. A retailer might be willing to sell below the minimum allowed price and risk having the manufacturer find out. Or it might offer to throw in extras, such as pillows, that mattress protector it tried to get you to buy, delivery, and/or no-interest financing. For that minimum-price-restricted mattress we checked, Sam’s club was advertising 1,074, just like other retailers, but it was also offering a $300 Sam’s Club gift card.

    If the mattress is being marketed as an exclusive label model or if it carries the name of the retailer (for example, the Sears-o-Pedic) instead of the manufacturer, the store probably can charge whatever it wants, which may give you plenty of room to negotiate. Even if you can’t find an equivalent mattress at a competing retailer, you can threaten to walk out of the store or actually do it. (Leave your phone number in case the store decides to agree to your price or make you a counter offer.) There’s probably little room for negotiation if you’re dealing with a discounter, such as Walmart or Costco, or with a mattress that’s being sold directly by the manufacturer, but you can try anyway.

    Satisfaction guarantee. If you don’t like it you get your money back, right? Not necessarily. A satisfaction guarantee could mean that you’re allowed only to exchange the mattress for another model of up to equal value or one that costs more if you pay the difference. In addition, you could incur disposal and delivery fees that might leave you anything but satisfied.

    What to do: Read the purchase terms and conditions carefully before buying, including the return and exchange policies. Compare the policies among retailers.

    Anthony Giorgianni

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2006-2014 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0

    New Samsung refrigerators showcase your food

    Door-within-the-door refrigerator compartments that provide easy access to often reached for items such as beverages and condiments, have been showing up on more French-door bottom-freezers in recent years. Kenmore calls the feature its Grab-N-Go door, while LG dubs it the Door-In-Door. Samsung is getting in on the act with its new line of Food Showcase refrigerators, including the first side-by-side model to feature the popular hidden compartment. Testing is underway in our refrigerator labs of two models: the Samsung RH29H9000SR, $3,000, and the Samsung RH22H8010SR, $2,500.

    Both models are counter-depth, so they offer the sleek look of a built-in for thousands less, with claimed capacities of 22 cubic feet. The stainless-steel units also come with high-efficiency LED lights and a slim in-door ice maker that maximizes storage space in the freezer. The Samsung RH29H9000SR is priced higher because of its "Metal Cooling," a stainless steel panel on the interior of its showcase door that's supposed to maintain consistent temperature throughout the door. 

    Temperature performance is one of the things our engineers are currently testing on both Samsung models. They're also measuring how much energy the refrigerators use, the amount of noise they generate, and how easy they are to use, for example with the presence of additional convenience features, such as adjustable shelves and touchpad controls. Samsung boasts a pretty good track record in the side-by-side category. In fact, it currently has the top-rated model, the Samsung RS265TD[WP], $1,300, which was very good or better in all of our tests. The brand also has some less impressive models, so be sure to check our refrigertaor Ratings carefully.  

    —Daniel DiClerico (@dandiclerico)                   

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2006-2014 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0

    How to boost BBQ flavor and your grilling skills

    Looking to up your outdoor cooking menu beyond burgers and steak? Here are three simple and inexpensive ways to add versatility to a basic gas grill. Of course if your grill is a goner, you may want to consider replacing it before trying these tricks.

    Smoky flavor without a smoker. Soak wood chips in water for an hour, drain, and wrap in heavy-duty foil ( 1 cup per pouch). Hickory, oak, mesquite, and pecan are some of the flavors available. Poke holes in the top of the pouches and put them under the grates above a burner. Use two for a midsized grill, four for a large. Turn the heat on high until the pouches smoke, then lower the heat to about 350° F. Check with a temperature gauge.

    Low and slow. Cook briskets, pork shoulders, other tough cuts of meat, and whole fish or poultry on your grill. Start by preheating the grill. Once it’s warm, set one burner to high and turn off the other. Place the food over the burner that’s off. If you have a three- or four-burner grill, keep only the front and back or outside burners on; put the food over the burners that are off. Keep the lid closed to keep in the heat.

    Pizza and grilled vegies. The grill aisles at home centers and hardware stores are filled with pizza stones, baskets, and rib racks. White pizza stones are harder to keep clean than darker ones, but all get blazing hot and require watching so that the pizza doesn’t burn. Look for grill baskets with small holes to let juices drain and high sides so that shrimp, scallops, and cut-up veggies, chicken, and meat don’t fall out when you’re flipping them. Before you head to the checkout with a rib rack, take it over to the grill display to make sure you can close the grill lid with the rack inside. Our tests have found that stainless-steel gadgets can be cleaned with steel wool or stainless cleaner. Porcelain-coated tools are more fragile, so use a plastic scrubber.

    The best midsized grills
    Unless you routinely cook for a crowd, a midsized grill, which typically has room for 16 to 30 burgers, will likely suit your needs. Our top three had excellent high- and low-temperature performance, and indirect cooking and were very good at preheating.

    For more choices and more sizes see our full gas grill Ratings and recommendations.

    —Kimberly Janeway

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2006-2014 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0
  • 05/08/14--13:44: Best mom-friendly cars
  • Best mom-friendly cars

    Quality, safety, and value are top factors for new-car buyers and are certainly not lost on moms looking to buy the right family car. Hitting all these attributes in a vehicle that is also kid friendly can be a challenge, but our experts have found 20 of the best, least-expensive mom-friendly cars that are appealing to mothers, and fathers, with children of varying ages.

    To compile this list, we started with those models that meet Consumer Reports' stringent criteria to be recommended, based on reliability, safety, and overall road test scores. Then we filtered further with a close look at crash-test scores and predicted owner costs. In addition, we looked at how the vehicles fare for families with small children, school-age kids, and for teen drivers. All fit child passengers comfortably, but we don’t recommend that teens drive SUVs because of their higher stature and risk of rollover. Only the best cars by these measures made our list of the best mom-mobiles.

    Check out the list below and click through to our model pages for more details, including Ratings, reliability scores, and pricing. (For advice on the car buying process, see our new car buying guide.)

    Toyota Corolla

    Redesigned for 2014, the new Corolla has landed right on target, and it now ranks among the top models in its class. It combines the practicality and frugal fuel economy that compact-sedan buyers want with more interior room, and upgraded amenities. Fuel economy remains excellent at 32 mpg overall with the CVT, and it boasts an impressive 43 mpg on the highway. Interior upgrades include standard Bluetooth connectivity and a touch-screen radio with simple controls.

    Make/model Purchase price Cost/year over 5 years Overall mpg
    Toyota Prius $26,750 $5,750 44
    Toyota Corolla $20,652 $5,900 32
    Honda Civic $21,605 $6,100 29
    Hyundai Elantra $18,445 $6,300 29
    Subaru Impreza $21,345 $6,700 27
    Mazda3 $21,740 $6,850 33
    Honda Accord

    The Accord is roomy, nice to drive, well equipped, and very fuel efficient. Its 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, when matched with the smooth continuously variable transmission, squeezes out an excellent 30 mpg overall and 40 mpg on the highway. (We don’t recommend the 3.5-liter due to audio system reliability issues.) Inside, you are treated to one of the best driving positions available, with comfortable seats and terrific visibility. All Accords have a standard backup camera, rare among family sedans, but very welcomed.

    Make/model Purchase price Cost/year over 5 years Overall mpg
    Honda Accord $23,270 $6,500 30
    Toyota Camry Hybrid $29,052 $6,500 38
    Toyota Camry LE $23,830 $6,600 27
    Mazda 6 $23,590 $6,800 32
    Subaru Legacy (2.5i) $24,189 $7,150 26
    Kia Optima $21,885 $7,200 25
    Chevrolet Malibu $26,030 $7,250 26
    Ford Fusion $33,180 $8,900 22
    Subaru Forester

    Subaru continues to put function over form with the Forester, with a space-efficient design, large windows, and big square doors. That recipe has resulted in the easiest access and the best view out of almost any vehicle, and one of the roomiest rear seats in the class, with copious head and leg room. The continuously variable transmission helps the deliver quick acceleration as well as a class-leading 26 mpg overall and 35 on the highway. We also like that our midtrim Forester 2.5i Premium has a power seat and a backup camera—handy features that some similarly priced competitors lack.

    Make/model Purchase price Cost/year over 5 years Overall mpg
    Honda CR-V $26,455 $7,200 23
    Subaru Forester $26,814 $7,200 26
    Hyundai Santa Fe Sport $28,370 $7,450 23
    Mazda CX-5 $28,090 $7,700 25

    To determine which models made the cut, we looked at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's Top Safety Picks and Top Safety Pick+ awards for 2014. To qualify for the Top Safety Pick award, vehicles must earn Good ratings in the moderate-overlap frontal crash test, side impact, rollover, and rear tests. as well as a Good or Acceptable rating in the small-overlap frontal test. The + award goes to vehicles that earn a basic, advanced, or superior rating for front crash prevention with the availability of a forward-collision warning system. In addition, our own tests measure dynamic safety, with wet/dry braking and accidence avoidance, and factor into our overall test score.

    For the value perspective, we used our owner cost data to find the least-expensive models to own in their class. These estimates include depreciation, fuel, interest on financing, insurance, sales tax, and average maintenance and repair costs. The charts above list the cost per year over five years. (Other time period breakdowns, including cost per mile, are available on the model pages.)

    For the family-friendly angle, we looked at how well the vehicles fit car seats, how much visibility for school-age kids and space for their gear, and which cars are best for new drivers.

    All combined, the list highlights those best all-around vehicles that are among the safest, cheapest to own, most reliable and family friendly cars on the market—just what mom deserves.

    Small cars, family sedans, and SUVs populate this list. We didn't include any minivans as we think these may be a somewhat obvious choice. The Honda Odyssey is a Top Safety Pick+ winner and is estimated to cost $9,600 per year. It is not as inexpensive to own as the minivanlike Mazda5, but it costs less to own than the other minivans on the market. Minivans are also the best for young and school-age kids with ease in installing car seats, great visibility, and tons of space. But minivans may not be the best choice for new driver's, as their seating capacity allows for many potentially distracting passengers. Studies routinely show that the more passengers a teen driver carries, the greater the risk for a crash.

    A number of models on the list were recently redesigned or updated for the 2014 model year, including the Subaru Forester and Toyota Corolla. In addition, plenty of vehicles also have great fuel economy, contributing to their low operating costs. Used versions of these models featured here are also compelling choices, where available.

    There are many ways to slice the market, but from this perspective, these are great, practical choices for mom.

    Happy Mother's Day!

    Liza Barth

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2006-2014 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0

    ‘Company Doe’ is Ergobaby, a maker of baby carriers

    Company Doe has been unmasked—at last. Ergobaby, a Los Angeles-based maker of baby carriers, today revealed that it is Company Doe. The company had sued the Consumer Product Safety Commission to prevent public posting of a report filed by public-safety officials in Maryland suggesting that one of the company’s baby carriers was linked to the death of an infant in 2011.

    Even after a Maryland district court ruled that Ergobaby’s product had not caused the child’s death and the report should not be filed on SaferProducts.gov, the CPSC’s product-safety complaint database, Ergobaby pushed on with secret litigation for more than two and a half years to keep all court records about the case, including the company’s name, sealed.

    But Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, Public Citizen, and the Consumer Federation of America intervened, filing a motion to unseal all court documents in this case, charging that it violated the public’s right of access to court proceedings under the First Amendment. A federal appeals court last month agreed, unanimously ruling that the district court was wrong to conduct months of secret litigation and ordering all court records in the case to be unsealed.

    Although those court records had not yet been unsealed, Ergobaby issued its statement today, revealing that it is Company Doe. Ergobaby also provided its own account about the incident that prompted the legal battle. According to the company’s statement, in 2011 an emergency medical team was called to help a baby in an Ergobaby carrier whose airway was blocked by a foreign object.

    “The experts and the court determined that the baby choked on a foreign object and it was a sad and unfortunate coincidence that this tragic event occurred in an Ergobaby carrier,” the company’s statement read, adding that “no Ergobaby carrier has ever caused a fatality.”

    Ergobaby also said that while it disagreed with the appeals court decision to unseal the case, it decided not to appeal. Founded in 2003, Ergobaby also owns Orbit Baby Inc., a maker of bassinets, car seats, strollers, and other baby products.

    “This case could have set a very troubling precedent,” Ami Gadhia, senior policy counsel for Consumers Union, said. “If a company sues to keep its name out of the complaint database, it shouldn’t be able to use the courts to hide its identity from the public. The court has helped preserve the integrity of the database, and it recognized the importance of transparency in court proceedings, which we think is critical.”

    —Andrea Rock

    More details about Company Doe v. Public Citizen:

    'Company Doe' might finally be unmasked, and that's a win for consumers

    Consumer groups aim to unmask Company Doe by unsealing secret court record

    Arguments made in 'Company Doe' case in federal appeals court

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2006-2014 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0

    4 hot summer products—and some not-so-hot

    The warm weather is here and we’re all spending more time outdoors. When you’re doing yard work, it’s good to have a capable mower that will get the job done quickly. And when you’re relaxing, a dependable grill can guarantee many tasty barbecues. Either way you should protect yourself with sunscreen and bug spray. Here are the best from Consumer Reports' tests.
     
    Lawn mowers. Unless you own a big piece of property, a walk-behind mower is your best bet. The self-propelled gas-powered Honda HRR2169VKA, $400, a CR Best Buy, had stellar mulching and bagging, plus impressive side-discharging. Easy handling and no-prime starting are other pluses for this mower from one of the most reliable brands.
    One to skip.
    The Troy-Bilt TB-230 12AVB25U, $300, self-propelled mower had very good mulching but only so-so scores for handling, ease-of-use, bagging, and side-discharging, which could make mowing a tougher task than it has to be.

    Gas grills. In our tests of gas grills, the midsized Char-Broil Gourmet TRU-Infrared 463251713 and Char-Broil Gourmet TRU-Infrared 463251714 performed equally well and at $400 each cost hundreds less than other top-rated models. Sold at Home Depot, they feature electronic igniters, side burners, infrared main burners, and coated cast-iron grates, which tend to be better for searing and maintaining even grilling temperatures.
    One to skip.
      Don’t be tempted by the $160 pricetag on the Back Yard Grill BY14-101-001-02. It scored very well for temperature range but did poorly on other tests for high and low temperature evenness and preheating.

    Insect repellents. For insect repellent, stick with a product that contains 15 percent to 30 percent deet, such as Off! Family Care Smooth & Dry (15 percent deet), about $6. Avoid any product with very high concentrations of deet, such as Jungle Juice 100 (98 percent), which can cause serious side effects, according to the health experts at Consumer Reports.
    One to skip. The active ingredient in Burt’s Bees All Natural Herbal is plant oils. That sounds good. Unfortunately, it was the worst in our tests at repelling mosquitoes.
     
    Sunscreens. Slather on Equate Ultra Protection SPF 50 from Walmart, which is a CR Best Buy at about $5 for 8 ounces. An adult should use about one fluid ounce of sunscreen every four hours.
    One to skip.
    All Terrain AquaSport SPF 30 was the worst in our tests against UVA rays. The good news is it doesn’t stain.

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2006-2014 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0

    New Craftsman gas mower provides a quieter cut

    Gas-powered mowers aren't known as shrinking violets. In fact, most of them are so loud you need hearing protection to mow your lawn. But Craftsman has bucked that trend with a new mower that's as quiet as some electric models. The Craftsman 37545, $340, is new to our lawn mower Ratings and narrowly missed Consumer Reports' list of top mower picks. But in a first among gas mowers we've tested for noise, it doesn't require the user to wear hearing protection.

    The Craftsman 37545 is a self-propelled, multiple-speed mower whose Briggs & Stratton engine and blade have been engineered for quieter operation. With this neighbor-friendly feature, you might expect it to fall short at mowing, its primary task. But if you mulch clippings, the most common mode for users of walk-behind mowers, you should find its evenness as impressive as we did. Where it did fall short was in side-discharge and bagging modes, though an additional blade in the package should give you slightly more complete, if noisier, bagging in those modes.

    We know this because Husqvarna makes the front-wheel-drive Craftsman 37545, whose deck is the same as that on the all-wheel-drive Husqvarna HU675AWD, $300, a single-speed, self-propelled mower. (That mower’s blade is the same as the spare blade shipped with the Craftsman 37545; see photo.) In fact, since we tested the Craftsman 37545, the retailer has debuted another quiet mower, the $500 Craftsman 37592, which has the same deck and blades but all-wheel drive. We plan to get that model in soon for testing.

    We favor rear-wheel drive over front-wheel because rear drive provides better traction, particularly up hills. Nevertheless, we judged the Craftsman 37545 better than most others for ease of use, which includes ease of starting the engine, operating the blade-stopping controls, shifting speeds, and adjusting the cutting height. We also liked its handling, a score that includes pushing and pulling.

    Whether or not you care about waking up your neighbors on Saturday morning, we’ve got almost 170 mowers, tractors, and riders in our extensive lawn mower Ratings. Be sure to view our buying guide before you hit the dealership, hardware store, or home center.

    —Ed Perratore (@EdPerratore on Twitter)

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2006-2014 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0

    5 ways to fight climate change—and save money

    The National Climate Assessment report released this week by the federal government brings new urgency to the issue of climate change. Forget the polar bears—well, don’t forget them, but don’t focus only on them. Climate change is in all of our backyards, in the form of higher temperatures, epic droughts, and severe flooding. It's argued that major policy change is needed to combat the problem, but individual acts can definitely make a difference. If you’re not already doing these five things, you should start.     

    Plug air leaks. Spend a few hours this weekend plugging leaks around windows, doors, and electrical outlets with caulk, weather stripping, and expandable foam sealant. If your heating and cooling system uses forced air, having the ductwork sealed properly could lower your bills by about $400. Ask your utility company for a free energy audit. 

    Stop wasting hot water. About 15 percent of the average household’s energy goes to heating water. Multiply that by 130 million or so households, and you’re talking huge consumption. If you’re still rinsing dishes before loading them into the dishwasher, stop. They’ll come out clean without this water-wasting step. And put a 5-minute limit on showers. Lastly, consider an upgrade to a hybrid water heater if your current unit is nearing the end of its life.  

    Lose the incandescent lights. These inefficient bulbs are being phased out, but they’re still on store shelves, and your home probably burns bright with them. Switching to CFLs or LEDs could save you upwards of $100 per year. Several top-performing LEDs in our lightbulb Ratings sell for under $20, and prices keep falling.

    Take charge of the thermostat. Hopefully you already have a programmable thermostat. If so, it’s time to reset it for the warmer months ahead. Every degree you adjust the temperature during sleeping and working hours translates into 2 percent savings. That means you’ll pocket another $200 while doing your part to turn climate change around.

    Don’t drive like a maniac. Dropping your driving speed from 65 to 55 mph could improve your fuel economy by 5 mpg. That will save you well over $100 this year, assuming you drive the typical 9,600 highway miles annually. (Check our guide to alternative fuel vehicles if you're considering an electric or hybrid car.)

    —Daniel DiClerico (@dandiclerico

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2006-2014 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0

    For mattresses, ovens, paint, vacuums, and more, cheaper is better

    Our laboratories test thousands of products each year, and we go to great lengths to make sure the ones you buy will work the way they’re supposed to and are safe to use. Sometimes, we’re also happy to report that lower priced versions consistently beat more expensive alternatives. These six products check all of those boxes.

    ––Mandy Walker

    Our battery-life tests include partially draining, then recharging, each battery almost 3,000 times over a 15-week period. We also measure how long a battery can supply power if you–oops–leave on your headlights. And we mimic frosty morning starts by testing the current that’s available at 0° F. The EverStart Maxx batteries sold at Walmart (about $80 to $90) beat batteries from other makers that can cost twice as much. For more details, check our car battery Ratings.

    Shopping tip: All batteries lose strength over time, even when they’re idle. Check the shipping code on the case to make sure the batteries are less than 6 months old. Some use a letter for the month (“A” for January) and a number for the year (“4” for 2014); others just use a numeric date. You'll find more shopping tips in our car battery buying guide.

    Some cooktops from makers of pro-style products look sharp, but they fall below less expensive versions in our Ratings. Recently a $900 KitchenAid smoothtop unit outperformed a $1,500 model from Jenn-Air, a $1,600 Miele version, and a $1,500 Thermador cooktop. Some of our tests include timing how long it takes the highest powered burner to heat water to near-boiling, and how well that large burner simmers a sauce on low without burning it. On the smallest burner, we use thermocouples to measure how low a pot’s temperature remains on a low-heat setting for 30 minutes.

    Shopping tip: Electric smoothtops are easy to clean but can be damaged by dropped pots and sugary liquids. Coil tops are tougher but require more cleaning time. Our buying guide has more shopping tips.

    Paints from Farrow & Ball, $93 to $105 per gallon, and Benjamin Moore, $68, are widely used by interior decorators. But our lab tests show that Behr Premuim Plus Ultra (Home Depot's brand, which costs $32 to $34 per gallon) matched or did a better job covering dark colors, held up better to cleaning, resisted stains better, and left fewer roller marks. For the best choices in each paint category, see our Ratings.

    Shopping tip: Use eggshell and satin only on smooth, well-prepared surfaces because their shine can accentuate imperfections on the wall. A flat finish is the least stain-resistant, so it’s better for low-traffic areas. Semigloss is generally the easiest to clean but may tend to dull when it’s scrubbed. For more information and shopping tips, see our paint buying guide.

    For the times of year these and other products are at their deepest discounts, see "The Best Time to Buy Things, Month by Month."

    We replicate eight years of simulated use by pushing and pulling a 308-pound roller across each mattress 30,000 times, then we open up each to check for internal injuries. We also put sensors on 36 points of testers’ spines to see how well that line is maintained when they lie on their backs. And we measure how level the mattresses keep their spines when they lie on their sides. To see how easily a shifting spouse or Doberman could interrupt your reverie, we drop a 38-pound weight on mattresses with sensors inside and check how much vibration is picked up. In our most recent test, as subscribers can see in our Ratings, a $1,075 Serta rated higher in durability than a $4,800 Duxiana.

    Shopping tip: Specialty mattresses such as the Duxiana usually have a set price, but you can save at least 50 percent off list price for ordinary mattresses if you wait for a sale. We have other tips that will help you get the best deal in our mattress buying guide.

    Year after year, less expensive vacuums such as Kenmore and Panasonic ($250 to $400 recently) top our ratings, and pricey models from Aerus, Riccar, and Simplicity ($900 to $1,500) are just meh. To separate the great from the meh, we embed carpet with real cat hair (from groomers) and “dirt” to see how well vacuums can suck out both. We also see how well they clean bare floors. The tools and features are checked out, and we have a machine that measures the force needed to move the vacuums back and forth. For the full list of vacuums, see our Ratings.

    Shopping tip: A motorized brush cleans carpets better than only suction does. A brush on/off switch helps protect bare floors from scratches. Another tip from our vacuum buying guide: manual pile height adjustment, which can be matched to specific carpet thickness.

     

    To put ovens through their paces, we see how evenly they broil a tray of burgers and cook two trays of cookies and cakes. We examine the burners. And we paint a mix of eggs, lard, cherry-pie filling, cheese, tomato purée, and tapioca throughout the ovens, bake it on for an hour at 425° F, then turn on the self-cleaning mode to see how well it works. Maytag and Whirlpool ovens ($1,400 and $1,500, respectively) did a better job than professional-style models from Viking ($2,900 and $3,600) at cleaning up that tough mess and broiled more evenly—and they had more oven space. See our Ratings for the full details.

    Shopping tip: Focus on convenience. Some models come with racks on rollers to make sliding them in and out effortless. If you entertain frequently, consider a double wall oven so that you can roast a turkey and bake a pie at the same time. For more tips, see our buying guide.

    This article also appeared in the June 2014 issue of Consumer Reports Money Adviser.

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2006-2014 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0

    What's the best way to remove stains from granite countertops?

    Q. I recently purchased a house that has granite kitchen counters. When liquid from raw chicken dripped on them, I tried cleaning it with diluted bleach, but it seemed to dull the surface. I’ve since heard that bleach should not be used on granite.—Edward Beres, Pasadena, CA

    A. We have used bleach to clean difficult stains in our countertop stain test and have seen some (but not all) granite countertops possibly losing sheen where the stain was. We don’t know whether it’s the bleach or the remnants of the actual staining agent. You should follow the manufacturer’s advice and periodically seal the granite. You could also try OxiClean. Dampen it and let it dry on the spot.

    Before you shop, check our countertop countertop buying guide and Ratings of kitchen and bathroom countertops.

    Send your questions to ConsumerReports.org/askourexperts.

    This article also appeared in the June 2014 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2007-2013 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0

    5 biggest painting and staining goofs

    You can save about $800 by staining an average-sized 350-square-foot deck yourself, and about $4,000 if you’re refinishing a typical 2,300-square-foot house. But think twice: “Never again!” was the most common response from our Facebook fans who took on the project. Contractor gripes, though, included poor prep and painting in the rain. Here’s what to watch for, whether you pay a pro or do the job yourself:

    Rushed prep. Power-washing dirt and mildew and sanding a cracked or flaking finish are essential for new paint or stain to stick. Also be sure to sand glossy paint surfaces and replace crumbled caulking.

    Skipping the primer. Many of our top paints now have a built-in primer and might be your best choice. But some, including the Ace Royal Exteriors and Behr Premium Plus, require an initial prime coat—something we recommend for new wood or siding that’s especially weathered. Our advice: If in doubt, prime the surface first.

    Laying it on too thick. Paint and stain are more likely to fail if you apply too much at once. Paint can run and, after drying, might crack soon. And too much stain tends to sit on the surface without soaking in, forming a film that often peels prematurely.

    Working over wet wood. Most stains are meant for dry wood. Paint can blister when trapped moisture leaches out beneath it. And while we wish all stains could be applied and work well over wet wood, Behr and most manufacturers still recommend waiting for the wood to dry.

    Ignoring the weather. Many paint and stain manufacturers claim that their products can be applied in temperatures as low as 35° F. But for the best chance of success, you still might want to wait until the temperature is around 50° F—then check that it won’t dip for about 48 to 72 hours during the project. Telltale signs of a rush job are cracking, flaking, and blotches.

    The top wood stains from our tests
    Solid stains form a paintlike film that shows only the texture of wood grain.
    Our pick:
    Benjamin Moore Arborcoat Solid Deck & Siding, $46.

    Semitransparent stains soak into wood adding color, but grain is visible.
    Our pick: Behr Premium Semi-Transparent Weatherproofing Wood Stain, $37.

    Clear sealers soak into wood, showing grain but allow the wood to age naturally.
    Our pick: Thompson's WaterSeal Advanced Waterproofer, $23.

    —Ed Perratore

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2007-2013 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0

    Quieter vacuum cleaners that blast away dirt

    There’s nothing quite like a raucous vacuum cleaner to foul up the next episode of “The Voice,” terrorize babies and pets, and otherwise disrupt your home life. Sadly, most of the best vacuum cleaners in Consumer Reports’ tests are far from quiet—and a few we’ve tested are roughly akin to a blender or a noisy restaurant. But at least some manufacturers are listening, and have managed to combine both cleaning prowess and relative quietness in one machine:

    Upright vacuums. Upright vacuums cost less and clean a bit better overall than canister vacuums, though they’re also noisier as a group. And even the best typically make as much noise as a ringing telephone. Three models from Miele, including the Miele S 7210 Twist, $475, edged out other top picks in our noise tests (think of a TV at moderate volume). The Miele S 7210 Twist also aced our tough carpet-cleaning tests, and sucked up pesky pet hair with aplomb.

    Canister vacuums. With their added stability, long hoses and tools, canisters are the vacuum cleaners to buy if you have to haul your vacuum up and down stairs and get cobwebs out of corners. The bagless LG Kompressor LcV900B, $400, is roughly as quiet as the Miele upright, with similarly impressive results on carpets and bare floors. The bagged Electrolux UltraSilencer DeepClean EL7060, $500, sold at Lowe’s is even quieter and better on pet hair, though lots of repairs for the brand in our brand-reliability surveys have kept Electrolux canister vacuums off our winners’ list.

    Small vacuums. Looking for a compact vacuum that can tackle light jobs without a heavy racket? The Eureka Easy Clean 71B hand vacuum, $50, is the quietest of our picks, with superb pickup on the bare floors that typically define hand-vacuum cleaning. Impressive pet-hair pickup is part of that 5.5-pound package, though carpet cleaning—while okay—was a notch below our other top picks. Stick vacuums save you some bending and hands-and-knees maneuvers. The Hoover Platinum LiNX BH50010, $160, topped our scores overall, whisked away surface dirt and pet hair from carpets, and proved as quiet as the Eureka.

    Robotic vacuums.
    These Jetsons-like machines aren’t exactly cheap. But they let you take a hands-off approach to at least some of your vacuuming. The LG Hom-Bot Square LrV790R, $800, was the quietest of our two top picks and was very good at cleaning carpet and bare floors. The Roomba 760, $450, was a more diligent cleaner but made a bit more noise as it worked.

    —Artemis DiBenedetto

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2006-2014 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0

    A new risk of electronic cigarettes

    On the eve of publication of new research that raises a major safety concern about electronic cigarettes, eight U.S. senators last week called on the Food and Drug Administration to take a hard look at the devices and the ways they're evolving—and to consider the emerging risks as they move to adopt a final rule on electronic cigarettes.

    In a letter dated May 8, 2014, the senators referenced a study to be published this Thursday, May 15, in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research. While the study remains under embargo until then, a New York Times article published last week highlighted its key findings, namely that certain high-powered e-cigarettes—known as "tank systems"—can reach high enough temperatures that they emit some of the same carcinogens, including formaldehyde, found in traditional tobacco smoke. That's significant, since one argument touted by e-cigarette proponents, and frequently cited on sites that sell e-cigs, is that they don't produce the toxins associated with traditional cigarette smoking. 

    Do the FDA's proposed regulations for e-cigarettes go far enough? We don't think so.

    The forthcoming study is expected to show that the carcinogens are released via the vapor that the user exhales—basically the e-cigarette equivalent of secondhand smoke. "It is important that the [FDA] recognize the potential health impacts associated not only with the direct inhalation of liquid nicotine through e-cigarettes, but also the impacts that the emitting 'vapor' or 'plume' may have both to the user and any secondhand inhalers," the senators wrote.

    The letter urged the agency to take the new findings into consideration as it moves to adopt final rules and regulations on e-cigarettes, which have as yet been unregulated. Proposed regulations released by the agency in April are open for public comment until July 8. At the close of last week, the FDA site had already logged more than 3,400 comments from consumers, industry representatives, health advocates, and others.

    We'll report more on the study when it's released later this week. In the meantime, you can read the proposed rules and log a comment—or peruse the existing comments—on the FDA website. Interested in more information on e-cigarettes in general? Visit our Guide to E-Cigarettes.

    —Jamie Kopf

     

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2006-2014 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0

    Flooring that fails the foot traffic test

    You can try to avoid scratching, staining, or denting your floors, but you can’t keep from walking on them. That’s why the durability of a floor’s finish carries the most weight in Consumer Reports' flooring tests. And that’s what inspires the grandest claims from manufacturers. Alas, those claims aren't always borne out, especially among wood and bamboo floors. Some examples:

    Home Legend Strand Woven Solid Bamboo Toast HL40S, $3 per square foot at Home Depot, is said to have “a 7-layer Aluminum Oxide Finish providing protection from everyday wear.” This flooring was great at resisting scratches and stains and was impressive at withstanding color change from sunlight. But in our foot-traffic test, which measures how quickly surface wear becomes noticeable, the product scored only fair. Another Home Legend solid-bamboo flooring, the Home Legend Horizontal Solid Bamboo Toast BAFL24TO, $2, makes the same claim—and scored the same for wear.

    Among engineered wood flooring, the Millstead Red Oak Natural Click PF9356, $3, made in the U.S., did well against scratching and staining. Yet in our foot-traffic test it scored poorly despite an aluminum-oxide finish said to provide “10 times more abrasion resistance than ordinary urethane finishes.”

    And Pergo Max Natural Oak 90870, a laminate selling for $3 per square foot at Lowe’s, has a “Premium PermaMax wear layer with ScratchGuard Advanced surface protection” that “provides twice the wear resistance and superior scratch and scuff protection.” The flooring was indeed great at resisting scratches, as were most other laminates we tested. But the Pergo showed noticeable wear to its finish as quickly as the Home Legend bamboos.

    Our top picks in flooring products resisted wear from foot traffic, along with scratches and stains, better than others. See our buying guide for advice on which types to consider before reviewing the results of our tests of prefinished solid and engineered wood, laminate, vinyl, and ceramic-tile flooring.

    —Ed Perratore (on Twitter, @EdPerratore)

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2007-2013 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0

    Buckyballs creator finally agrees to recall magnetic-ball desk toys

    Bringing an end to a long-running battle, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has reached a settlement (PDF) with the creator of Buckyballs, Craig Zucker, who has agreed to a recall of those sets of high-powered magnetic balls and cubes that doctors say can pose life-threatening risks to children. (Watch the video below about the dangers.)

    The settlement calls for Zucker to provide funds for a Recall Trust overseen by the CPSC to provide refunds to consumers who own and return magnet sets. Money from Zucker also will be used to establish a website with recall information, including an online registration form to file a claim. Once the Recall Trust has been established, there will be a six-month deadline to file a claim. Get more details about the recall and the refund process.

    The CPSC urges you to stop using Buckyballs and Buckycubes and check for any loose magnets that might have become separated from the sets. Keeping them out of children’s reach and rounding up stray magnets that might have rolled under furniture or rugs is especially important. “Magnets that remain in the environment pose a major risk to children and adolescents,” said Athos Bousvaros, M.D., president of the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition.

    Read about the recent news about 'Company Doe' (Ergobaby) and the federal product-safety database.

    As we've reported, doctors from this association of pediatric gastroenterologists met with the CPSC in the summer of 2012 to express their concern about the increasing number of life-threatening injuries they were seeing in children and teens who had swallowed super-strong bb-sized magnets. They followed up with a study documenting the rise in such cases. Most magnet set manufacturers voluntarily agreed to stop selling their products. But Maxfield & Oberton, the company Zucker co-founded to manufacture and market Buckyballs, refused to do so, prompting the CPSC to file an administrative complaint against the company in July 2012, seeking a full recall.

    After Maxfield & Oberton dissolved in December 2012, the CPSC amended its complaint to include him individually. The legal battle intensified when Zucker countered by filing a lawsuit seeking to prevent the agency from holding him personally liable for complying with the recall.

    Ami Gadhia, senior policy counsel for Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, applauded the settlement and the CPSC for working to keep high-powered magnets out of the hands of children. “We have seen too many cases where children swallow these tiny yet powerful magnets masquerading as adult products and suffer serious medical consequences," she said. "This is the right move for parents and children alike.”

    —Andrea Rock

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2006-2014 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0

    The one toaster you need to make perfect toast

    With few moving parts and a simple design, you’d think that most toasters could make a decent piece of toast. But that’s not what Consumer Reports has found in its decades of testing toasters. In fact, only one toaster in our current Ratings gets excellent marks for making toast that’s not too light, not too dark, and that pops out perfectly browned slices batch after batch.

    The Calphalon Stainless Steel HE200ST, $60, is among the least expensive models in our toaster Ratings, but its ability to turn out evenly browned toast, time after time, was unsurpassed by the competition. It was particularly good at toasting at a range of intensities—ideal if your family members prefer different levels of light to dark. It also tackled a single slice carefully, leaving it nicely browned and not overdone. Special features include settings for bagels, warming and reheating, and defrosting. The four-slice version, the Calphalon Stainless Steel HE400ST, $80, was equally adept.

    What's new in toasters
    The quest for a perfect piece of toast remains elusive even as manufacturers add more bells and whistles to their toasters. But some models are getting close as evidenced by the nine models on our list of top toaster picks. Here are some of the new toaster features we’ve seen as well as recommended models that have them.

    Clearer controls. Some of the best models in our tests have easy-to-use touchpad controls, which are an improvement on the imprecise shade dials of old. We’re also seeing more LCD displays with a countdown feature that tells you how long until your toast pops.
    Toaster with this feature. Cuisinart CPT-420, $80.

    Motorized lifts. A few new models have done away with the traditional push lever in favor of a motorized lift that automatically lowers and raises bread.
    Toaster with this feature. Breville BTA840XL, $180.

    See-through walls. If you’re picky about the doneness of your toast, being able to watch it turn brown is a worthwhile feature. But don’t ignore overall performance.
    Toaster with this feature. Magimix Vision Toaster, $250.

    Special settings. Some toasters have a bagel setting that toasts on one side only, so you can brown the cut side and keep the other side softer.
    Toaster with this feature.  Hamilton Beach Digital 22502, $35., a CR Best Buy.

    Big names on small appliances. Because some people want small appliances that
    match their large ones, more and more large appliance brands are making countertop appliances. But don’t buy by brand alone as they may not live up to the reputation of their bigger brand mates.
    Toaster with this feature. Frigidaire Professional FPTT02D7MS, $60.

    —Mary H.J. Farrell

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2006-2014 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0

    5 kitchen appliance trends that live up to the hype

    If you're remodeling the kitchen, or just swapping out an old dishwasher, range, or refrigerator, you're probably hearing about a lot of innovations as you comparison shop. After testing hundreds of new appliances, we can tell you that some of the claims are little more than marketing mumbo jumbo. But there have been several legitimate leaps forward in the field of appliance design. Here are five to consider as you shop around.

    Steam-assist ovens. Promising speed, versatility, and healthful meal prep, combination steam/convection ovens have been making their way from restaurants into the home. This new type of cooker doesn't replace your main oven, so it's a luxury upgrade. But if there's room in the budget, we were impressed by the Wolf CS024 Convection Steam Oven, $3,800, which cooked a nicely browned 4-pound chicken in about 40 minutes. Or consider the affordable Cuisinart CSO-300, a $300 countertop model that also delivered solid results.

    Four-door refrigerators. This new spin on the French-door refrigerator provides an additional easy-access storage compartment, often with separate temperature controls. When it first came out a few years back, none of the models made our recommended list, raising doubts about its longevity. But more manufacturers have since come out with well-built four-door models, including Samsung, which leads the category with two recommended models. A newly-tested four-door Whirlpool narrowly missed our refrigerator picks list.    

    Double ovens. This innovation has followed a similar slow-building trajectory to four-door fridges. Double ovens now have their own category in our Ratings for gas and electric ranges, with many top scoring models. The beauty of a double oven is its versatility, since it lets you cook two dishes at two different temperatures at the same time. LGMaytag, and Frigidaire, are among the standout electric brands and LG, KitchenAid and GE scored well for gas models.       

    Third-rack dishwashers. Dishwashers have always had a utensil basket in the bottom rack. But we're seeing more models with a third rack designed to handle cutlery, as well as larger utensils like whisks and tongs. Bosch claims that the innovation expands the main dish loading area by 30 percent. The Bosch 800 Series SHE68T55UC, $950, is among the high-scoring models in our dishwasher Ratings with the feature.               

    High-end blenders. Even costing $400 and up, sales of these blenders have been climbing steadily, driven by health-conscious consumers who want to ply their diet with smoothies and whole-fruit juices. Among high-end blenders, Vitamix is the clear winner in Consumer Reports ratings, with four models making our picks list. Best of the bunch is the Vitamix 5200 for $450. Breville, L'Equip, and Waring are also worth a look.

    —Daniel DiClerico (@dandiclerico)  

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2006-2014 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

older | 1 | .... | 33 | 34 | (Page 35) | 36 | 37 | .... | 106 | newer