Amish Miracle Heater is Anything But

The New York Times notes that the Roll-n-Glow "miracle heaters" are going out the door by the cartload after the Amish carpenters, well known for their use of high tech electrical appliances, have finished building them. So what is the miracle?

The Miracle is in the marketing. Amish carpenters do actually make the mantles;mantels; according to the Times,


[company VP] Mr. Baker credits the Roll-n-Glow's success in large part to the association with the Amish — a partnership that he said began in 2007 soon after an executive at Arthur Middleton, Heat Surge's parent company, befriended an Amish builder.

The company was looking to sell electric fireplaces and decided it would be advantageous if Amish workers made the mantels instead of foreign ones. Or, as Mr. Baker put it: "It became clear through test marketing the American population is infatuated with — and understands the quality of — an Amish product."


But in fact it is just a dumb electric heater, notwithstanding what the company says:

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 about as much energy to run, as some coffee makers. Yet, it produces an amazing 5,110 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 and comes with a full 30-day Money Back Guarantee.

Of course, electric coffee makers don't run all day long at 1500 watts, electric heaters are all pretty much the same efficiency, every electric heater in the United States has to have Underwriters Laboratories approval to be sold, and 5100 BTUs is exactly 1500 watts, which everyone understands to be a circuit breaker full of electricity. They just convert it into BTUs to confuse.

And does it save money?

Sure. If you turn the heat off everywhere else in your house. As the site says,

If only one room is occupied why heat the rest of the house? For single people and couples zone heating makes perfect sense. Even people in California and Florida are flocking to get them so they may never have to turn on their furnace all winter.

But the electric heat you are getting costs about twice as much per watt as gas heat.

Even Vice President David Baker sees the contradictions, and tells the Times:

"I think a lot of it goes back to the irony of the Amish and an electric fireplace," he said. "How can that be? It's like skintight baggy pants."

Engineering consultant Lee Devlin summarizes his objections to the heater in his blog:

My objection to the company is that it uses deceptive advertising practices such as:

1. Implied scarcity of the product (and then trying to sell 2 to each customer).
2. Misrepresenting the potential for energy savings.
3. Significantly overcharging for the heater based on the price of products that perform the same function.
4. Associating the company with the Amish in an effort to coopt attributes like honesty, hard work, integrity, and high quality workmanship.
5. Inducing the customer to act quickly with a "discount code" that expires in 48 hours.
6. Upselling an extended warranty.
7. Implying that UL certification for a heater is 'coveted'. No legitimate company would sell a heater in the U.S. without it.
8. Implying that customers are getting something for 'free', when free means spending a minimum of $385.

See Also:
Those Slow-Teching Amish
Amish Love that Crazy Solar Thing

Tags: Alternative Energy | Appliances | Appropriate Technology | Electricity

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