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Consumer Reports: Finding a safe space heater

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Posted at 7:45 AM, Oct 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-26 08:49:54-04

(CONSUMER REPORTS/WTVF) — With the temperatures dropping, you may be looking for ways to keep warm around your house. And when a sweater or an extra blanket isn't enough, then it may be time for a space heater.

Space heaters like this are great at warming up those chilly or drafty spots around the house. But you want one that not only heats well but does it safely.

When it’s chilly, a space heater can provide a little extra warmth, but they can also be dangerous. Statistics show space heaters are involved in one-third of all home heating fires, so safety matters.

“We run a series of safety tests to identify heaters that may pose a burn risk. The safest space heaters shut off automatically if they become too hot or if they’re knocked over,” said Paul Hope, Consumer Reports Home Editor.

And does the heater have the potential to ignite flammable fabrics? This test checks for that and assigns a POOR rating if the heater ignites cotton fabrics on its hottest setting.

CR says choosing the right space heater for your home comes down to what you want your space heater to do.

“You need to consider if just want to warm yourself up or are you trying to heat the entire room. Our tests have found not all models do both well,” said Hope.

This mannequin is equipped with four temperature sensors four to record and measure how well a heater can spot heat. And in this chamber, testers assess how well a heater can warm up a standard sized room.

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The Vornado scores excellent for spot heating and passes CR’s safety tests with flying colors.

If you want to heat a whole room and yourself, a Comfort Zone delivers. It earns an excellent rating in CR’s fire safety test however it is hotter to the touch compared to other models. Still, it’s a CR Best Buy at $50.

If you have kids or pets and you’re concerned about hotter surfaces, CR says a Lasko Bladeless Tower is a good alternative for $100. It does well at safely heating a whole room, as well as spot heating.

And a few safety tips: Never use extension cords with portable space heaters, and keep your heater on the floor, at least three feet away from anything that can burn.

A lot of people like smaller, personal sized space heaters. They're less expensive and easier to move around. But Consumer Reports says even the best performing personal heater scored just so-so for spot heating in their tests.