Fireproof Safe Reviews Consumer Reports - We tested six high-tech safes over several weeks and decided that the best fire safety is the large SentrySafe - SFW123C with easy-to-use combination lock and movable shelves. For files that depend on document storage, the Honeywell – 1108 accommodates Legal size documents and also has a high UL fire rating.
We read user reviews from Amazon, Walmart, and Home Depot to understand what features consumers think fire safes should have. Based on this research, we look for fireproof safes that protect documents, electronics and small valuables from fire and/or water damage. Because this type of safe is not designed to hold firearms or be 100% anti-theft, we did not include gun safes or anti-theft safes in our final selection.
Fireproof Safe Reviews Consumer Reports
We decided to include a range of sizes from portable (under 15 pounds) to larger, anti-theft safes (over 80 pounds). Although heavier safes are not completely burglar-proof, they are not easy for an intruder to grab. A bank safe is the safest place for valuables, but for jewelry, passports, hard drives, and other items you want to access frequently, you should consider purchasing a fireproof safe for your home.
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We also refined our search by selecting fireproof safes rated by UL, LLC, formerly known as Underwriters Laboratories. UL is a non-profit organization that sets safety standards and certifies the testing of products to ensure they meet those standards. We chose to review only those safes that were UL rated.
UL tests safes by placing them in a large oven and exposing them to high temperatures for long periods of time. Most UL-rated home safes maintain the temperature below the desired interior temperature and humidity for 30 minutes when the outside temperature of the safe is 1,550°F. This general classification standard is based on data related to home fire temperatures and extinguishment times. Other longer UL tests at higher temperatures—such as one hour at 1,700°F or two hours at 1,850°F—are less common for personal safes.
To be considered safe by UL as a paper document fireproof, the internal temperature of the safe must not exceed 350°F during the test. You'll often see manufacturers advertise a UL 350 rating, which means the safe has been tested to paper security standards. Digital media and film have lower internal temperature limits: 125°F and 150°F, respectively – such protection is much more expensive.
Unfortunately, UL does not test the safe for water resistance, which is important in the event of a house fire, when firefighters can submerge the safe in water. However, the private testing company Intertek tests for water resistance, and most of our finalists received Intertek ETL certification based on these tests.
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UL Fire Rating: We recommend purchasing a safe with the highest possible UL fire rating within your price range. The standard UL 350 rating (see above) is good for paper documents. The best UL rating we tested ensured the safe's contents would stay below 350°F in a hotter-than-usual 1700°F fire, but it's still not designed to protect film, computer discs, pearls, or other valuables that can be damaged by baking temperatures.
Internal and external dimensions: Consider what items you will store in your safe and what will fit inside. Ideally, the safe should be kept hidden, such as in a closet, so make sure its exterior dimensions fit where you want it.
Weight: The small safe is easily stored on the top shelf of the cupboard. However, weight has its advantages, as a large safe – 50kg or more – would be difficult for a thief to remove.
Waterproof: ETL's independently verified waterproof ratings are a plus. Be sure to check the safe manufacturer's water resistance information.
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Lock options: The safes we tested had either a key lock, a combination lock, or both. Key locks are simple - just keep track of the keys. Combination locks offer similar protection, but you only need to track a code instead of a physical object.
Mounting options: None of the safes we tested were designed to be fully anti-theft, but one of the First Alert models comes with a mounting kit to bolt the safe to the floor. While a determined criminal could open a broken safe, this feature is likely to deter the casual criminal.
We measured the inside dimensions of each safe and collected items that some people might keep inside, such as passports, jewelry, jewelry boxes, hard drives, documents, and hanging files. We've compiled this information about what each safe can hold in the table below.
The SentrySafe – SFW123CS and First Alert – 2087F are large, mobile shelves that can accommodate most items. The shelves of both safes are made of cheap plastic, but are handy for organizing valuables. If you need to store something tall, these safes are the best choice.
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The SentrySafe – 0500 is the only safe we recommend keeping on the top shelf of your closet because it's small and light enough to carry easily. Honeywell safes have briefcase-like handles, but when filled, the safes were impossible to carry.
We weren't able to test fire resistance as thoroughly as UL, so we took into account each safe's UL rating for how much heat it can handle. Remember that UL 350 is good for paper, but beads, computer boards and most plastics will be destroyed at these temperatures.
In order to practically test the usability of each safe, our team stores many items over the course of two weeks. During this time they had to learn combinations and track the keys and then report their experience.
Overall, our team agreed that the quality of the safe's keys was poor. All security device manufacturers offer ways to replace lost or broken keys for a fee of about $30. It is a good idea to keep the key identification number in a safe place, as it is necessary to replace a lost or damaged key.
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Our team was also surprised by the safe's fragile plastic handles, which again showed that the primary function of these safes is fire protection, not burglar protection.
The combination locks reminded our team of their high school lockers and were not difficult to use. First Alert – The 2087F's four-digit dial familiarizes users with the instruction manual and was less user-friendly.
Another thing to consider is the dehumidification needs of the safe. Most safes we tested recommended airing the safe for about 30 minutes every two weeks. The humidity in the safe could also be regulated with a desiccant bag, such as the bags supplied with the SentrySafe – SFW123CS, which absorb moisture from enclosed spaces.
All safe manufacturers recommended that sensitive items, such as complicated watches or jewelry, be sealed in an airtight container before storing them in the safe. None of the safes we tested were intended to contain pearls, computer discs, audio-visual tapes or photographic negatives.
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The largest and heaviest safe we tested, the SentrySafe – SFW123CS, was our number one choice for its easy-to-use combination lock, spacious interior, strong UL fire rating and ETL water resistance.
We had no problem opening SentrySafe. The SentrySafe was much easier to use than any safe, as its dial provides strong tactile feedback after each tick. We also appreciate the ability of SentrySafe. It has the largest interior volume of our finalists, and a larger item like a jewelry box or briefcase could easily fit inside.
SentrySafe is UL rated to withstand temperatures up to 1700°F for one hour and keep the interior below 350°F. This safe also received a UL explosion rating, which no other safe has, meaning it is not sealed in a way that would cause an explosion in a very hot glow fire. SentrySafe also offers an ETL water resistance guarantee that protects contents for up to 24 hours in 8 inches of water.
The SentrySafe has a roomy interior that can hold large items, strong UL and ETL fire resistance ratings, and a user-friendly combination lock.
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While the sturdiness of the SentrySafe inspires confidence, we were concerned that its cheap plastic handle might tear, effectively trapping your item inside until it can be repaired. This problem was by no means unique to SentrySafe – all safes in this price range have plastic parts.
Despite this drawback, we liked the SentrySafe's compact, nondescript appearance and ease of use. The SentrySafe – SFW123CS is affordable, and with its strong UL and ETL ratings, unique burst warranty, and additional desiccant bags for moisture management, it's our top pick.
Our top pick for hanging files is the Honeywell – 1108 Molded File Chest. Two of the fireproof safes we tested were designed specifically for hanging files, the Honeywell – 1108 and the First Alert – 2037F. Honeywell immediately
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