Dr. Joan Bushwell's Chimpanzee Refuge

“Miracle” Heater

Our Sunday newspaper magazine section features a two page ad for a new “miracle” heating device that looks like a fireplace and features a “hand-crafted Amish mantel”. Check this out:

The HEAT SURGE miracle heater is a work of engineering genius from the China coast, so advanced you simply plug it into any standard wall outlet. It uses less energy than it takes to run a coffee maker. Yet, it produces an amazing 5,119 BTU’s. An on-board Powerful hi-tech heat turbine silently forces hot air out into the room so you feel the bone soothing heat instantly. It even has certification of Underwriters Laboratories coveted UL listing

The ad goes on to state that this device is so efficient that you can leave it on all day to keep you toasty warm, and for only pennies! Amazing! My, my, coveted UL listing!! Wow!!

Bullshit.

You can find more details on their website.

First of all, I’d wager that most folks don’t know a BTU from BTO or a BLT, and if 5100 BTU is even a significant amount of energy. Well, the first problem is that they don’t state the time interval. Is that BTU per hour, per day, per century? What? It’s like telling someone that your velocity is 16 feet. I assume that they mean BTU per hour. Why? Because if you read a little more on their site you discover that the unit has two heat settings, 750 or 1500 Watts. 1 BTU is about 1.055 k Joule and 1 Watt is defined as a Joule per second, so when you grind this out, 1500 W is 5119 BTU. Is that a lot? No. A typical furnace for a modestly sized home is probably around 75,000 BTU per hour and a larger home could have a furnace well over 100k BTU per hour. Clearly, this thing cannot heat even a very small home. It could not heat a single room by itself, assuming it wasn’t super-insulated (i.e., well beyond present standards).

Oh, and “uses less energy than it takes to run a coffee maker”? I don’t think so. We have a small coffee maker in our kitchen. It is rated for only 625 Watts. Granted, a very large unit might draw a bit more, but probably not 1500 Watts. Besides, coffee makers, like toasters, are not low energy devices to begin with.

At 1500 Watts, if you left this thing on all day as they advise you can, and your utility company charges 10 cents per KWH (mine charges more), you’re looking at $3.60 per day, or about $108 per month.

What we really have here is a simple resistive heater. You can buy an equally effective unit for somewhere around $40 or $50. They’re called space heaters. They’ve been around for a very long time in spite of the “engineering genius” work from China. The only genius here is a marketing ploy to wrap some hardwood around century-old technology and convince people it’s worth almost $600.

Comments

  1. #1 Katherine Sharpe
    January 21, 2008

    Nice take-down, Jim. I know a little more about the difference between BTU and BLT now.

  2. #2 T. Bruce McNeely
    January 21, 2008

    That ad looks like something out of Mad magazine.

    $600 for an electric fireplace that comes up to your knees?

    The workshop staffed with Amish is simply bizarre.

  3. #3 Jonathan
    January 21, 2008

    Yeah, thanks for that! That image of the Amish working on electric fireplaces is just cracking me up. It’ll have me chuckling under my breath all day!

  4. #4 Luna_the_cat
    January 21, 2008

    People like my mother buy these things.

    (Yet another reason why I would hate to think that “biology is destiny”.)

    Anyway, the Amish aren’t nearly as technophobic as the popular image of them, Jonathan — the prohibition is against becoming dependent on technology, not against using it, ever, or working on it. There’s a great variation in the degree of technology use between the different suborders of Amish, though. In fact, all the suborders seem to make a regular exception for medical technology. And they have communal or household telephones. New Order Amish can even own cars.

  5. #5 Bill from Dover
    January 21, 2008

    $1,800 is also pennies a day. 180,000 to be exact.

  6. #6 kemibe
    January 21, 2008

    Let me guess: This device goes in the same room you put your ROM machine, so you can heat your environment adequately before ducking in for your comprehensive four- or five-minute aerobic workout.

  7. #7 Tegumai Bopsulai, FCD
    January 24, 2008

    Well don’t keep us in suspense, how many BTUs does it take to make a proper BLT, assuming that the stereo is blasting BTO with the dial turned up to 11? Be sure to give us a breakdown on the various components: running the stereo, frying the bacon, toasting the toast.

  8. #8 Edward H Katz
    February 1, 2008

    Just saw the advertisement in USA Today, for the Amish Heater.

    Thank you Jim Fiore. Now I know why I went to engineering school. When will we start teaching basic physics in high school?

    I did the BTU/hr conversions to watts. The Amish heater is about 1500 watts. The heater would need over ~1 hr to produce 5119 BTU. (My coffee maker is rated at 1250 wtts.) Yep, a very expensive electric heater!

    My wife commented, that the Amish don’t use electricity.

  9. #9 S.Krishnan
    February 2, 2008

    BTU is a subliminal message to a senior “Buy This Unit”. It is not meant for engineers who sit and parse.

  10. #10 PZ
    March 7, 2008

    I may be weighing in late but did anyone notice the pictures of the Amish… Amish do not let people take their picture. Also, in the ad that I saw, the Amish ladies had short sleeves, another no no. And as for the Amish built mantle, I have heard that it is made from veneered particle board. True Amish furniture makers use only sold hardwoods in a piece of furniture such as this. Way to go Jim – spread the word. If you want true Amish furniture come to Pennsylvania.

  11. #11 Bill
    December 18, 2008

    How many BTU’s dose a coffie pot put out?

  12. #12 Chris Pugh
    December 19, 2008

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