Space heaters put to the test
Published Thursday, November 4, 2010 11:30AM PDT
When it comes to space heaters, there are lots of choices. There are floor models, and ones you can also mount on the wall. And then there's the Heat Surge that looks like a fireplace.
Consumer Reports tested 13 space heaters ranging in price from about $30 to more than $500. Most are 1500 watts.
"Heaters that use the same amount of watts produce the same amount of heat. But they differ on how well they can maintain a set temperature and what features they offer," Jim Nanni of Consumer Reports said.
Testers use a special chamber to assess space heaters. Sensors measure the temperature in different parts of the room, checking how evenly heat is distributed.
The $550 Heat Surge wound up at the bottom of Consumer Reports' ratings.
"The heat surge lacks a thermostat. That's what helped the best heaters we tested stay within three degrees of the set temperature," Nanni said.
The $35 Soleusair heater didn't have a thermostat either, which should be a key feature at any price.
In the end, top ratings went to the Honeywell model HZ 617C for $90. It's excellent at controlling temperature.
But Consumer Reports says don't count on it, or any space heater, to slice your heating bills on its own.
"Unless you turn the heat down in the whole house and just use a space heater in one or two rooms, you won't see much of a savings," Nanni said.
Adding insulation, especially in the attic, is a far better way to cut your energy costs.
Safety features on electric heaters have improved. Nevertheless, they're linked to hundreds of fire-related injuries and deaths each year. Consumer Reports says never leave a space heater unattended and before using one, check the power cord to be sure it's in good condition.
And you never want to use an extension cord they can overheat and cause a fire.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Chris Olsen