Consumer Reports: Safe and efficient space heaters

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With the cold weather in place, many turn to space heaters to keep warm, but they can also be dangerous. (WPVI)

Winter has officially arrived. And with the cold weather in place, many turn to space heaters to keep warm.

But they can also be dangerous. Forty percent of home heating fires are caused by space heaters.

Experts at Consumer Reports tested heaters to find ones with warmth and safety.

They tested a variety of shapes and sizes, from personal-sized portable heaters to larger units.

"When we test heaters, we check to see how fast they warm a room and we also check to see how well they spot heat an individual," said Peter Sawchuk from Consumer Reports.

They used a mannequin which is equipped with sensors that measure how much warmth a space heater can provide through spot heating.

The smaller, personal sized space heaters struggled in this important test.

Consumer Reports says for a little more money you can get one that's slightly larger but still very portable.

It recommends the $70 dollar one from Comfort Zone.

And since space heaters can be a fire hazard, Consumer Reports also looks at how safe each one is.

Testers measure the surface temperature of each heater to see if it gets too hot to the touch.

"In most cases, the heaters are pretty cool but if you do have pets or children stay away from heaters with metal surfaces and large areas that are easy to contact," said Sawchuk.

The next test mimics what would happen if something flammable comes into contact with a space heater.

"Always keep your space heater at least three feet away from flammable objects. And never use an extension cord," said Sawchuk.

Consumer Reports says look for a space heater with a tip over switch that turns the heater off if it's knocked over and an overheat sensor that shuts off the heater if it gets too hot.

The recommended Comfort Zone heater offers those safety features.

And if you'd like a larger space heater, so does the Lifesmart for $100 dollars.

Consumer Reports says keep in mind that larger space heaters don't necessarily offer more heat than smaller ones.

However, they're meant to stay in one place so they're a good option as a permanent heater in a larger room.

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