CPSC recalls Optimus space heater we judged a safety risk

Consumer Reports News: May 15, 2013 05:38 PM

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The Consumer Product Safety Commission today announced the recall of two models of Optimus portable electric space heaters, including one model that Consumer Reports judged a Don't Buy: Safety Risk last year and asked the safety agency to recall.

We tested the Optimus H-5210, $25, along with 19 other models. In our space heater tests, we put terry cloth over each heater to see whether the unit's sensor shuts it off before it overheats. The Optimus was the only electric heater in our tests that set the test cloth on fire. Although manufacturers, including Optimus, warn against placing heaters near flammable materials, we think that curtains, pillows, and other items could come in contact with a heater in a typical home.

While Optimus claims to have fixed the potential safety problem on 2012 models—we bought our test models in 2011—the CPSC's recall of about 355,000 models includes the H-5211 (made in 2012) as well as the H-5210 we tested. No incidents or injuries have been reported. The CPSC confirmed that it was the results of our testing that led to the agency's investigation.

In the recall notice, the CPSC says it came to the same conclusion we had, citing that "the heater design can fail to prevent ignition of nearby combustible materials that come in contact with the unit, posing a fire hazard to the consumer." The models included in the recall were sold nationwide at Amazon.com, Best Buy Marketplace, Family Dollar, Heartland, Northern Tool, Rite Aid, and other stores.

If you own either model, stop using it and contact Optimus toll-free at 888-672-5832 (or via e-mail at return.optimus@gmail.com). Office hours are Pacific Time from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays. You'll have replacement options of either a comparable ceramic heater or one of the company's next quartz radiant heaters, Model H-5510, which should be available after August. While the CPSC's notice also says you can go to the Optimus Enterprise website and click on "recall" for more information, the link did not exist when we checked.

Before shopping for a space heater, be sure to check out our buying advice as well as the results of our space heater tests. Models that performed well in our tests include the smaller-room Holmes HFH436, $40, and the larger-room Duraflame 10HM4126-0107, $230.

Ed Perratore

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