Amish electric heater! Miracle heat! Amazing new technology! Free electric heater! Energy Saving fireplace heater! You’ve seen these full page ads in the newspaper and since they continue to show up, I can only guess that they are so successful that thousands of buyers are being ripped off every day. In fact, the soon to be disappointed are probably in a hurry to take part in this scam since it is a limited time only, free offer and their zip code is miraculously and thankfully included in the next region recently opened for new orders. Well in terms of electric heating efficiency, you guessed it… this is a not a new and amazing miracle heater.

Here is the 2013 update of my perennial, portable electric heater review. Since Precision Comfort Systems in Westfield is known as the heating and cooling specialists in the Indianapolis area, we get many questions about the energy savings claimed by full page ads featuring plug in portable electric heaters. Despite giving you enough text for a long breakfast read, most of these claims are very misleading. In fact, for many families, these plug in portable heaters can actually double their energy bill.

Here’s the truth. When you create heat with electricity, you have only a few options. Most whole house electric heating systems in the Indianapolis area are heat pumps. Heat pumps and especially geothermal heat pumps are fantastic! The only other electric heat option is to put electricity into some type of “resistant conductor” and this causes the conductor to glow warm and thus gives off some type of heat. You are already familiar with this type of electric heat. It’s in your toaster, your hair dryer, electric stove top and oven, electric clothes dryer, incandescent light bulb, heat lamp… you get the idea. I like to refer to it as simply toaster heat.

Here’s the science. All electric resistance toaster heat is exactly the same (poor) efficiency. You will always get (a relatively small amount) 3413 units of heat (BTUs) for each unit of electricity (kWh) you put in. No variations. No miracles. No new efficiencies from the Amish. Compare this to a heat pump at 2 to 3 times the efficiency or a geothermal heat pump at 3 to 5 times the efficiency. So adding one of these plug in portable electric heating units normally increases your family’s energy costs.

There could be one exception where you would save some money. If you can tolerate your home at a low (example) 55 to 60 degree temperature and then use a portable electric heater in a single, small room kept at 70, you might save some money. But this depends on the type of heating fuel and heating system you use. You may only break even for all the discomfort of a cold home.

One more comment. By electrical code, if the advertised portable electric heater plugs into a normal wall outlet, it can only be 1500 watts maximum. So it is never “more powerful” than the same 1500 watt unit you can buy at the local discount store for as little as $12.00. (That’s right, only $12. That’s not a misprint. Compare to the $300 and $400 price for the quaint, country built, rip off heater.) If you really need a little “spot heat” in your home and do not mind a little increase in your energy costs, look over the choices in the discount store and upgrade to a heater that includes several built-in safety devices. Read more on Portable Electric Heater Safety.

Or, your best solution for any home comfort problem, call Precision Comfort Systems. We are the heating specialists that tell the truth.

This has been my annual portable electric heater review and now I will file it away until next year. With the outrageous profits being made in this scam, I’m sure the ads will continue. By the way, your zip code, regardless of the number, has just been added to the list of zip code areas from which we are now accepting calls.