GREENSBORO, N.C. — Space heaters are great at warming up those drafty spots around the house. Of course, you’ll want one that heats well and does it safely. That’s where Consumer Reports comes in, with recommendations on the best heaters plus tips to keep your family safe when using them.
When it’s chilly, space heaters can provide a little extra warmth. But they can also be dangerous. Statistics show that they’re involved in one-third of all home heating fires, so safety matters.
CR runs a series of tests to see if the heaters it evaluates are compliant with the latest safety standards. For example, there’s one to determine if the surface gets hot enough that there’s a burn risk.
And does the heater have the potential to ignite flammable fabrics? There’s a test to check for that, and CR assigns a rating of Poor if a heater ignites cotton fabric on its hottest setting.
CR says choosing the right space heater for your home comes down to what you want it to do.
Do you want to spot-heat and just warm yourself up, or do you want to warm up a whole room? CR’s tests have found that not all models do both well.
A mannequin is equipped with four temperature sensors to record and measure how well a heater can spot heat. And a chamber is used where testers assess how well a heater can warm up a standard-sized room.
The Vornado VMH600 for $160 gets a score of Excellent for spot-heating and passes CR’s safety tests with flying colors.
If you want to heat a whole room and yourself, the Comfort Zone CZ499R delivers. It earns a rating of Excellent in CR’s fire-safety test, but it’s hotter to the touch compared with 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 the Lasko AW315 Bladeless Tower for $100 is a good alternative. It does well at safely heating a whole room as well as spot-heating.
And remember two more safety tips: Never use extension cords with portable space heaters, and keep your heater on the floor at least 3 feet away from anything that can burn.