Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sunheat Infrared Portable Heater (Random Product)

As smart as he is, my father sure is gullible when it comes to "practical" gadgets. Mind you this doesn't mean a touchscreen celly, Bluetooth in a car, or LED backlighting on a monitor. Instead, he's only interested in objects more grounded in necessary usefulness. Because Reno is located on the midline of the US, it does get cold here, sometimes hella cold. Around this time of the year, people start using their central heating systems and cranking up the thermostat. I'm not sure how much more it costs to heat a house during the winter, but supposedly it's a lot more money.

I guess one evening my father was wandering around the local Ace Hardware when, from the story I hear, he saw a guy hawking this device called a Sunheat. It's a portable heater that supposedly can "save you 50% on your heating bill", as stated from their website. Now you have to understand that this salesperson was pretty much standing on a soapbox, trying to get people to listen to his spheel. I'm sure he had a microphone set up and everything. If you've seen that Simpsons episode of the monorail or the one when Homer and Grandpa Simpson were trying to sell some Tonic, you can probably picture this in your head. Sketchy...I know.

Anyway, the main sales pitch of this item was that it was:
  1. Safe because it uses a fan to blow heated air out of the box, as opposed to most other portable heaters that require you to have nothing in front of it for a few feet in order to avoid a fire.
  2. Clean, because it only requires electricity as opposed to having a wood stove or wood fireplace.
  3. Some other bullshit about how it can heat a house evenly.
  4. Efficient because it has a temperature timer that shuts down the heater after a certain temperature is reached.
  5. Has a lifetime, washable filter.
My father was convinced that this heater would be a great investment, so he purchased 3 of them without even trying one out. I inherited one and have been using it for a few weeks now, so I can report on my findings.
  1. I tried to attach a piece of tissue paper to the front metal vent to see if it would catch on fire. After 30 minutes of the tissue being right up against it, it did not, so yes I guess it does pass the "safe" test.
  2. This is an unfair comparison. Portable heaters are for exactly that, portable heating. If you need extra heat in one room, you can take the heater into that room and it should do its duty. Portable heaters are not replacements for wood stoves or pellet stoves because these are supposed to take the place of a central heating system in older houses or if you live out in the boonies.
  3. I guess this device is supposed to heat a house evenly so that there is only a 2 degree difference from the ceiling to the floor. It can pull this off in one, 230 sq. foot bedroom, but if I try to have it heat 2 bedrooms and one hallway, which in total is approximately 522 sq. feet, it fails at this task since the hallway and secondary bedroom are dramatically colder than the room that the heater is located in. On their website it states that it can heat 500 sq. feet or less, so at least they are not over-embellishing even though I sincerely doubt it can evenly heat 500 sq. feet.
  4. Yes, the heater has 3 different modes: standby which drains 0 watts, heat & fan-on which drains 1446 watts, and fan-only which drains 18 watts. The fan-only mode is so that after the set temperature has been reached, the heating element will turn off, but the fan will continuing blowing out warm air until the heating elements cool off.
  5. The filter is hooked onto the rear intake vent via magnets. The filter is made of some material that looks like plastic so it's far from being a HEPA filter. Who knows if it even works.
Prior to receiving this, I was going to buy a portable heater that they had at Costco for $60. The main difference was that it did not have a fan and did not have a turn-off mechanism. If you compare this Sunheat with what I was going to buy, it seems like a pretty fair comparison, right? So what's the catch you ask? The price for this Sunheat heater was somewhere in the ballpark of $550-650. Yeah....WTF....exactly my thoughts too. It doesn't matter what this little heater claims to do or does not claim to do. That much money for a space heater is highway robbery, and of course my father who never researches anything prior to buying, just became another statistic. People like him are the reasons why companies like AOL still have subscribers.

I'm sure my $60 Costco infrared heater would've gotten the job done for 9% of the cost. I searched the web to see if anyone had reviewed this device but nothing came up. Why? Maybe because it is not a mass-marketed product made by a large company. I'm all for small businesses trying to make a something and earn a living and all, but charging that much money and tricking the ignorant shoppers of this world is a little immoral, don't you think? But of course when it comes down to it, it's the customer's fault they are uninformed.

So what's my "cut to the chase" take? This device is a space heater since it cannot heat a whole house. Space heaters can make things catch on fire, so if you use one, don't be a dumbass. If you're not going to use your central heating system to heat your house because it's either too expensive, you're too cheap, or you don't have one, don't make the mistake of comparing this Sunheat heater to a central heater because it's not the same thing. With that being said, the ballpark price for a space heater ranges from $20 to $165. Keep this in mind next time someone tries to charge you half a grand for a device that can only heat one room at a time. If my father would've just given me the money, I would be sitting in my room, warm and toasty, with a $60 Costco heater and a new Playstation 3.