ON YOUR SIDE: Stay safe when using space heaters

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Temperatures in the evenings are dropping rapidly, and many are looking for ways to keep warm. For those considering a space heater, be warned - some brands are better and safer.

Look for a heater with a safety cut-off switch. Consider the type of heater and the size and location of the space you want to warm.

Heaters are safer than they used to be but still cause numerous house fires and deaths.

Consumer Reports tested 19 portable electric heaters to make sure they have adequate safeguards. This test assessed 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 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, like furniture, paper, clothes and curtains at least three feet away."

"Drapes and fabrics can easily contact any heater in a typical home," said Peter Sawchuck, Consumer Reports tester. "And this is the only electric heater to ignite the fabric in the tests."

Because of potential risk of fire, Consumer Reports judges the 'Optimus Heater', model: h-5210, a "Don't Buy:Safety Risk."

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 test measure performance to see how quickly each heater can comfortably warm a room.

In the end, Consumer Reports named the $40 'Holmes Portable Heater', model: hfh436, a best buy. It passed all of Consumer Reports' safety tests and can quickly heat up a room.

Consumer Reports is asking the Consumer Product Safety Commission to recall the Optimus h-5210 heater. It's also says, if you have one, stop using it and ask the retailer for a refund.

Optimus says it fixed the 2012 models, and the heaters Consumer Reports tested were 2011 models.

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