Queenstown motelier 'thankful' to spot bathroom heater fire

by Kim Bowden - Apr 23, 2024

A Queenstown motelier says he is "thankful" he was in a unit cleaning when a bathroom heater caught on fire several years ago.

The business owner tells Crux he was able to put it out "pretty quick" but the heaters have been an ongoing headache for him.

"I have 11 units, and every single one of them (the bathroom heaters) has been replaced at least once."

WorkSafe has extended its clampdown on Serene wall mounted heaters, which don't meet safety standards and have been linked to a number of fires (Image: Supplied).

He says he had his electrician onsite again just last week as the heaters in his motel are Serene models.

In February WorkSafe banned a specific model of the heater, manufactured in a specific month three years ago, but last week that ban was widened.

Although the models throughout his motel did not have serial numbers that matched those captured by WorkSafe's initial advisory, the business owner is now following up to see the impact of last week's update.

Since their installation, the owner has also had his electrician put timers on the heaters, as he had wondered whether guests were leaving them on for longer periods of time than intended.

"So now they switch off automatically between, I don't know, 15 or 20 minutes."

Another business spoken to by Crux, a group home builder in Queenstown, says it has included Serene heaters in its builds, and its supplier was quick to act on WorkSafe's initial advisory.

While records had shown just one of its customers impacted by the first voluntary recall, which came soon after WorkSafe's ban, they are unsure how many more would be affected after last week's additions.

In a statement yesterday, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment says after investigations by WorkSafe’s Energy Safety team, all Serene S2068 heaters that were imported, sold or installed after June 16, 2018, regardless of serial number, are no longer able to be used, sold or installed in New Zealand. 

“The S2068 heaters have undergone further investigations by Energy Safety and there is now sufficient evidence that there are potential dangers to people who have them in their homes,” Ian Caplin, of MBIE, says in the statement.

“Initially, some of the Serene S2068 heaters with specific serial numbers had been found unsafe. However, further investigations has found that all of the heaters in the series have safety concerns.”

The investigations have also found both the S2069 and S207T series heaters do not comply with electrical safety standards, and, as a result, MBIE is recommending voluntary recalls of these models too.

Mr Caplin says retailers in New Zealand have a responsibility to provide consumers safe to use products and if a fault is found provide options for a remedy.

“After receiving notification from Energy Safety, MBIE has taken steps to continue its conversations with suppliers to encourage them to proceed with voluntary recalls on the new models.

“While Energy Safety has prohibited the sale of the S207T heater, and the S2069 has had its approval withdrawn, New Zealanders still have the right to contact the retailer that sold them the heater and talk about their options under the Consumer Guarantees Act.

“While there is insufficient evidence for Energy Safety to prohibit the use of S2069s and S207Ts, there is a risk that these models may be unsafe, which would breach the CGA that states consumers in New Zealand are guaranteed safe and fit for purpose products.

“This means if you bought one of these heaters, you have the right to a replacement, with a similar product, or a refund from the supplier you bought it from.

“It’s great to see so many retailers and suppliers stepping up to the mark and supporting the recall, so we’d like to thank them for their continued co-operation.”

A spokesperson for Energy Safety tells Crux room heaters are declared "high risk articles", which means they need to be tested and Thord party certified by an agency recognised in New Zealand or Australia to ensure they meet a local standard (AS/NZS 60335.2.30).

In addition, a supplier declaration of conformity with the safety standard is required, they say.

"The Serene S2068, S207T and S2069 models originally had valid testing and certification documentation. However, recent testing and incidents have confirmed that this is no longer the case, which is the reason why Energy Safety has taken regulatory action."

The heaters

The S2068 heater is described as:

  • Wall mounted fan heater with step-down thermostat with pull-cord on-off switch, for fixed-wired installation in bathrooms and similar locations 
  • Available finishes include mirror polished stainless steel metal shell with die cast grille, and also known to come in a range of colours including white and black
  • Dimensions: 300 millimetres wide, 210 millimetres high and 110 millimetres deep

The S2069 heater is described as:

  • Wall mounted fan heater with blue LED power indicator
  • Metal body shell, grill and fan in finishes stainless steel or white
  • Approximate dimensions: 300 millimetres wide, 210 millimetres high and 110 millimetres deep

The S207T heater is described as:

  • Wall mounted fan heater with step-down thermostat control
  • Available finishes include stainless steel or white with grey wall bracket and cast metal grill 
  • Approximate dimensions: 375 millimetres wide, 220 millimetres high and 140 millimetres deep

Further information on the voluntary recall can be found here.

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