Popular space heater fails Consumer Reports' test

Consumer Reports: Don't buy Optimus H-5210

With fall almost here, sales of portable space heaters will start to take off. But be aware, space heaters can be dangerous. Heaters cause around 1,700 house fires a year and some 70 deaths. Consumer Reports has an important safety alert on one widely sold heater.

Consumer Reports just tested 19 portable electric heaters. Peter Sawchuk checked to make sure they have adequate safeguards. One test checked whether the overheat sensor shuts the heater off before it poses a fire risk. A cloth caught fire with the Optimus model H-5210 space heater, because 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 that one, a folded cloth that simulates a drape was 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."

"Drapes and fabrics can easily contact any heater in a typical home. And was the only electric heater to ignite the fabric in our test," said Sawchuk.

Because of the potential risk of fire, Consumer Reports judged the Optmus model H-5210 a "don't buy: safety risk."

Testers also used an infrared sensor to check surace temperatures.  The ba on the  Sunbeam SQH310 got so hot it could a person who grabbed it.

Other tests measured how quickly and comfortably each heater could warm a room.  In the end, the named the $40 Holmes HFH436 a best buy. It passed all of the safety tests.

Consumer Reports contacted Optimus, and test results the company provided showed a potential safety problem with the H-5210 heater. A spokesperson said the company has fixed models manufactured in 2012. The 2011 heater models Consumer Reports tested 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 the heater to stop using it and ask the retailer for a refund.

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