Save Money / Consumer News

Can an 'Amish heater' cut your bills?

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A so-called handcrafted Amish space heater is getting a lot of attention in television, print and online advertising. The heater is built in to a mantle and claims to save you money. However, the heaters are radiating many complaints.

The ads for the Heart Surge heater feature a bearded man surrounded by Amish workers. The crew appears to be building mantels for what is being touted as a "miracle heater." But many customers say the heater doesn't work as advertised and has cost them more money on their power bills.

The Amish community would traditionally shy away from the media and cameras, but the group is featured in a nationwide advertising blitz for the Heat Surge heater.

The ads claim the heaters can save money on your heating bill and they tout the quality of "real Amish craftsmanship."

"I just felt their advertising was totally false," said Robert Slocum, a Palm Springs resident. "There is no saving whatsoever in your heating costs."

Slocum saw the ads for the Heat Surge heaters and decided to buy one for his duplex. Slocum says his space heater, which simulates flames, looks nice, but the energy savings he expected never happened.

"The first month I used it, it was $125, with a 20-percent discount," said Slocum, whose bill is usually $20.

Slocum's power bill from Southern California Edison jumped so high, he no longer uses the heater. When he turned on the heater for Eyewitness News, the wheel on the electric meter outside his home started spinning quickly.

The manufacturer claims the heater uses as much electricity as some coffeemakers, and only costs about 8 cents per hour on the standard setting.

The Heat Surge company told Eyewitness News, "Our heaters are best designed to be used with zoned heating, where you heat a room that you use the most. As explained in our ads, to experience savings, you will need to turn down your thermostat, and only heat the room you are using with the Heat Surge."

''The complainants tell us that is simply not the case. Actually, this thing of more like a power hog," said Bill Mitchell, Better Business Bureau of the Southland.

Mitchell says the BBB has received hundreds of complaints about the Heat Surge, including allegations that the heater trips circuit breakers, and of misleading advertising.

The ads claim you can get up to two heaters for free. But in order to do so, you have to buy the mantels, which start at $298 each.

The heating units themselves are actually made in China, but the company stands by its claim the mantels are custom-made in the heart of Amish country.

Heat Surge also says real Amish people not only build all of the mantels, they also appear in the ads.

If you're trying to cut costs on your heating bill, Southern California Edison tells Eyewitness News that space heaters in general are energy hogs and only designed to heat one room at a time.

Edison says space heaters cost about $23 per month for three hours a day of use.


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