PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Sales of portable space heaters start to take off this time of year and while they may keep you and your family warm during the winter months, they can be dangerous.

Space heaters cause around 1,700 house fires and some 70 deaths every year.

Consumer Reports just tested 19 portable electric heaters, checking 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 Space Heater, the sensor did not activate in time. The test fabric caught fire in a matter of minutes.

The Optimus heater also failed a second test. In this one, a folded cloth that simulates a drape was placed on it.

Like most heaters, the Optimus carries a “risk of fire – keep combustible materials, such as furniture, paper, clothes and curtains at least three feet away,” warning.

“Drapes and fabrics can easily contact any heater in a typical home. And it was the only electric heater to ignite the fabric in our test,” Peter Sawchuk from Consumer Reports said.

Because of the potential risk of fire, Consumer Reports judges this heater a “don’t buy: safety risk.” It’s the Optimus model H-5210.

Consumer Reports also used an infrared sensor to measure surface temperatures. The bar on the heater gets hot enough that it could burn you if you grab it. It’s the Sunbeam Space Heater model SQH-310.

Other tests measure performance in a chamber outfitted with temperature sensors. Testers measured how quickly each heater can comfortably warm a room.

In the end, Consumer Reports named the $40 Holmes Portable Heater a “best buy.” It’s model HFH-436.

It passed all of Consumer Reports’ safety tests and can quickly heat up a room.


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