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Six heaters fail safety tests: CHOICE

Our experts explain which electric heaters to avoid this winter.

Consumer group CHOICE has found that six of the 15 heaters tested in their latest review have failed safety testing. 

"Now that the temperature is dropping, many Australians are purchasing electric heaters to help them stay warm. Electric heaters are a popular option, as they're portable and usually cheaper to buy upfront than other heaters," says Chris Barnes, CHOICE heating expert. 

"However, recent CHOICE testing has found that a number of heaters have failed safety testing, so it's important to be careful when it comes to purchasing one for your home. CHOICE recently tested 15 electric heater models, and six failed our safety tests. This is quite a high number that we haven't seen before."

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The results of our latest heater test are a timely reminder that using heaters can be hazardous, so buying a good model and operating it safely is key. 

"We strongly recommend purchasing a heater that has a timer and an automatic shut-off if you can, so you don't accidentally leave it on overnight or when you're not home. You should also generally never use a heater in the bathroom or let it come into contact with water," says Barnes.

"It's also worth being wary of particularly cheap heaters. While a few cheap heaters do well in our tests, more often than not it's the inexpensive models that perform poorly or have safety issues. This can be due to use of lower quality components, or less of a focus on optimal design. Check out CHOICE's reviews before you buy to make sure you're not purchasing a dud." 

Media contact: Katelyn Cameron, 0430 172 669, 

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Editor's notes: 

What should you do if you own one of these heaters? 

CHOICE has contacted each of the manufacturers of these heaters to advise them of the results of the safety test, so they can investigate and act accordingly. Those who have replied are taking the concerns seriously. We have referred any heaters that failed our safety tests to the ACCC, who will work with manufacturers to determine whether or not a recall of these products is necessary. 

How do we test heaters? 

The tilt test and 'knock over' test

One of the safety tests we perform is the 'tilt stability test' to see how easily each heater can be knocked over. We then perform another test where we lie each heater on its side, to simulate it being knocked over, and see how quickly the tilt switch or thermal cut-out feature shuts the heater off. This is an important test to ensure that the heater is not going to cause damage to your home, itself or cause a fire if it's accidentally knocked over. In some of these cases, the safety mechanisms either didn't work or the model didn't have them.

The towel drape test

Another test that some of these heaters failed was our 'towel drape test'. We drape a towel over the heater while it's on full power. Our expert testers check that the heater doesn't overheat and that its thermal cut-out feature shuts the heater down before the towel or the heater are damaged. The reason we do this test is because we simulate how people often use their heaters in their home - for example, draping clothes over a heater to dry them or warm them up, or if something was to accidentally fall over the heater. 

We failed three heaters on this test because they buckled or were deformed or damaged after this test.

The cord anchorage test

We also test 'cord anchorage': how securely the cord is attached to the heater. A power cord that is not securely attached to the heater could result in various electrical faults which could cause damage or even fire.

This test is based on the electrical safety standards in Australia and New Zealand. Our experts perform a series of 'pull and twist' tests on the cord to see if it moves more than a few millimetres. 

The heaters are also assessed on the type of electrical connection they have and its electrical strength, an important thing to check to ensure the user is not at risk of electrocution.

Heat safety test

The testers also measure surface temperatures at various points on the heater.

"The point of a heater is to heat the room, not the heater itself. If it can heat the room whilst staying cool (relatively) to the touch then there's less risk of burning yourself on it," says Chris.

All the heaters in our recent review were within the recommended limits.