Don’t waste your money: Dangerous space heaters

Posted at 7:31 PM, Oct 09, 2012
and last updated 2012-10-09 19:31:21-04

Sales of portable space heaters start to take off this time of year. But be aware, space heaters can be dangerous. They cause around 1,700 house fires a year and some 70 deaths.

Consumer Reports just tested 19 portable electric heaters and checked to make sure they have adequate safeguards. One test assesses whether the overheat sensor shuts the heater off before it poses a fire risk.

With the Optimus H-5210 space heater, the sensor did not activate in time. The test fabric caught fire in a matter of minutes. The Optimus H-5210 also failed a second test where a folded cloth simulates a drape placed on it. Like most heaters, the Optimus carries a warning: “Risk of fire — keep combustible materials, such as furniture, paper, clothes and curtains at least three feet … away ...”

Consumer Reports says that drapes and fabrics can easily contact any heater in a typical home. And this is the only electric heater to ignite the fabric in its tests. Because of the potential risk of fire, Consumer Reports judges the Optimus Model H-5210 heater a Don’t Buy: Safety Risk.

Consumer Reports contacted Optimus and test results the company provided show a potential safety problem with the H-5210 heater. A spokesperson says the company has fixed models manufactured for 2012. The heaters Consumer Reports tested — 2011 models — were purchased earlier this summer.

Consumer Reports is asking the Consumer Product Safety Commission to recall the Optimus H-5210. It urges anyone who owns he heater to stop using it and ask the retailer for a refund.

Consumer Reports also uses an infrared sensor to measure surface temperatures. The bar on the Sunbeam space heater model SQH310 gets hot enough that it could burn you if you grab it. Other tests measure performance to see how quickly each heater can comfortably warm a room.

In the end, Consumer Reports named the $40 Holmes HFH436 portable heater a Best Buy. It passed all of Consumer Reports’ safety tests and can quickly heat up a room.

No matter which portable heater you use, Consumer Reports says it’s very important to keep furniture, bedding and curtains at least three feet away from the heater.