This blog has a section devoted to products of poor quality &/or design (see Quality Fail), but this post stands alone for an exceptional failure which could endanger people and property.
The product is a large, standalone propane patio heater manufactured by Shinerich Industries in China. They are marketed in the U.S. under names such as “Charmglow”, “Fire-Sense”, “Blue Rhino,” and are commonly sold in “big box” stores and on Amazon.
In March, 2014, a gust of wind (est. 15-25 mph) blew the top reflector off! The metal screen had totally failed and broken apart. It was the only support for the hood. The metal was degraded to the point where it crumbled like a potato chip.
Play this video to see more details:
The heater was only used 10-15 times, and appeared to be in good condition, with only minor exterior corrosion. The unit was not being used at the time, so there was no fire danger.
Had it been on, with people gathered around, they may have been seriously burned by red-hot metal pieces. Even with the unit flame off, the large, heavy reflector could have injured someone or gone through a window. It flew about 15 feet away from the base, but not toward the house–we were lucky.
The metal screen was clearly not suitable for use. As a comparison, I tested a similar unit (nearly 7 yrs. old) owned by a neighbor, and the screen material was strong–it withstood light hammer blows with no bending or cracking.
But nobody was hurt…
In early April, I reported this failure to the manufacturer, to CSA (they certify these), and to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission. I have kept samples of the metal screen, and offered to submit them for forensic investigation. CSA has not responded to my reports or offer of samples of the screen. I believe part of this is because there were no injuries or other damage, and CSA knows that the manufacturer subverted or avoided the surveillance in the factory to use a substandard metal, not certified for use in a propane flame environment. In other words, “CSA Certified” is no guarantee of a safe product. But again, “Nobody got hurt and you don’t have any damages to claim,” is probably the main concept that applies here.
On Amazon.com, there was a similar report involving a 2 yr. old unit (ours was approx. 4 yrs. old), but I have not been able to get any more details. This is disturbing, because there may be hundreds of these waiting to fail. In the 21st century, there are certainly high quality metals that have been designed for this use, but Shinerich did not use such a metal on this particular unit. We now have a large large, useless heater that would be cheaper to replace than repair. If there is any news on this situation (contact from CSA, etc.), I will create a new post.