The surprisingly expensive Amish fan heater

Via Consumerist, I found this rather cheeky ad.

Amish fan heater

Click for the whole thing, including reams of text. The Consumerist version of the same image is here.

You can buy one of these "Heat Surge" fireplace-shaped heaters for a mere $US587 (plus extra for optional, but included by default, remote control and extended warranty!) from their main Web site. But if you plough through the advertorial and call before the "order deadline" and do whatever else they say you have to do to get your special claim code and then enter it on this other site, you can get a heater with its special allegedly-made-by-real-Plain-Folk mantel for "just two hundred ninety-eight dollars"!

The Consumerist's ridicule centred around the Photoshoppery visible in all of the images - particularly amusing given the touted Amish connection - and the fact that this "advertorial" is disguised as a real USA Today article.

I concur with their derision. The images, in particular, remind me of the quickie that'll-do pictures you see illustrating Onion articles - not least because The Onion uses much the same layout as USA Today (or possibly vice versa).

But I was also intrigued by the claim that this "work of engineering genius from the China coast" could in some way save you money.

The heater has a quoted "5119 BTU's" (sic) of output. The British Thermal Unit is a measure of energy; BTU ratings for heaters are actually BTU per hour. 5119 BTU is 5,400,831 joules, a joule is a watt-second, 5,400,831 watt-seconds in one hour is almost precisely 1500 watt-hours per hour.

So this thing is a 1500 watt fan heater, with what looks like a less than totally convincing fake-fire effect.

I'm guessing 1500 watts of heater element, plus maybe 50 watts for the fan and lights.

And it "uses less energy than it takes to run a coffee maker"!

Well, if your coffee maker draws more than 1500 watts, then yes. Small domestic "Mr Coffee"-type machines actually usually consume something like 900 to 1200 watts.

And your coffee machine doesn't run at full blast all day.

The vendors of this highly decorated fan heater enjoin you to "leave it on day and night" - which actually isn't a very safe idea for most fan heaters, but let's give them the benefit of the doubt and presume that this big chunky heater won't set the curtains, or itself, on fire if left unattended. If you do run it all day and night, though, then if you're paying ten cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity, it'll cost you three bucks sixty a day to run it.

Over a three-month winter, you'd pay about $US330.

To be fair, the "Saves Money" page of the Heat Surge site clearly tells you how much power the heater consumes (only 750 watts, on "Medium"!), and that it'll cost "about 12 cents an hour" to run at full power, at a presumed eight cents per kilowatt-hour, which isn't much lower than the US average. And their advice about only heating the rooms you're using is sensible enough. But, you know, duh.

This heater would be even cheaper to run, and much easier to move from room to room (a major selling point!) if it didn't have the silly mantelpiece and lit-up fake fire.

And wouldn't you know it - those technological geniuses "from the China coast" have just in the last fifty years or so invented amazing "fan heater" gadgets. You'll be astonished to learn that these devices are much more portable than this large and cumbersome fireplace-shaped device. And they can be purchased at any discount store for, oh, approximately nothing!

Which'll save you enough money to run one all winter.

2 Responses to “The surprisingly expensive Amish fan heater”

  1. peridot Says:

    How would the absence of the lit-up fake fire improve the efficiency with which this thing converts electricity into heat? I mean, doesn't it *all* go to heat sooner or later, and virtually all in the room the heater's in? (I guess a little might escape in the form of light shining out a window.)

  2. Ceiba3D Studio | A comforting lie Says:

    […] LCD hands on a quartz watch is a skeuomorph. So is an electric heater that’s trying to look like a wood […]

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