SEATTLE -- A Consumer Reports investigation reveals many appliance fires in the home are sparked by the products themselves.

In the U.S., home appliances cause nearly 150,000 fires a year, resulting in 150 deaths, nearly 4,000 people hurt and a half a billion dollars in property damage.

The Consumer Reports investigation found more than 15 million appliances have been recalled in the past five years that could cause a fire. Almost half of the recalled units were dishwashers, followed by refrigerators and toasters.

The report also revealed faulty appliances causing the most fires were stove top ranges, followed by dryers, air conditioners, refrigerators and dishwashers.

Consumer Reports found two main reasons why appliances caught on fire. One reason was human error, such as leaving food cooking on the stove and walking away. But half the fires were due to the products themselves. Products with appliances appeared to be mechanical, electrical or design flaws.

Why have there been many recalls because of fire hazards? Consumer Reports says appliances have gotten a lot more complex and high tech, which means more things can go wrong. Many of the recalled products are made overseas.

Consumer Reports suggestions five ways to protect yourself:

1. Register new appliances. That way, you'll be contacted right away of a recall.

2. Don't run the dryer or dishwasher overnight or when you're away.

3. Clean stove ranges and hood, especially for grease.

4. Clear out dryer vents.

5. Inspect power cords.

The full report on appliance fires is available in the March issue of Consumer Reports.

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