Consumer Reports Tests The Amish Heater

You’ve seen the ads where the hard-working Amish folk are handcrafting miracle space heaters and no doubt scoffed at their absurdity and marveled at their Photoshop skills- but do the darn things work? Consumer Reports investigates in this video.

The ads claim that the “roll-n-glo” heaters slash heating costs. However, heating a room with electricity (and “flames” provided by two 40watt bulbs) costs twice as much as gas. The only way you’ll save money is if you turn the heat way down in the rest of the house. “If you’re looking for a heating miracle, keep looking, many other heaters will heat small spaces for a lot less money,” says Consumer Reports Bob Markovich.

The Amish Heater [Consumer Reports]

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  1. LuluStarPony says:

    But…but…but the Amish never lie!

  2. TheSpatulaOfLove says:

    Rule #1 of being a Consumerist:

    If you see the ad so much that you can probably recite the whole thing by heart, it’s most likely a scam.

  3. SonicMan says:

    Um, sure. If you compair it to Gas. But I saw these things selling over the summer. When Oil was WAY up there. So if you look at it from Oils High or close to its high, you would save money.

    These are just electric heaters made to look pretty, thats it.

    • Skankingmike says:

      @SonicMan: which is why at the end they say to get a cheaper more effective space electric heater with a temperature gauge.

    • chris_d says:

      @SonicMan:
      Just so you know, when they say gas, they’re not talking about gasoline. They’re talking about natural gas. A lot of people confuse the two. The price of natural gas is not directly determined by the price of crude oil, although it is somewhat influenced by it because the two are interchangeable in some industrial heating systems.

      I’m not convinced that you can save any money this way. Heating with electricity is WAY more expensive than natural gas. Consider this: a significant portion of electricity in the U.S. is generated with natural gas — maybe 15-20%. Assume your power comes from a combined cycle plant (which are the most thermally efficient); about 60% of the energy is turned into electricity. Your electric heater is about 98% efficient, but let’s just leave it at 60%. A condensing natural gas furnace, on the other hand, is as much as 92% efficient (I’m going from memory here; might be a little off). And we’re not even considering electrical line losses, cost of plant maintenance, etc, which make electric heaters just plain more expensive.

      What would be a much wiser thing to do is if you have a forced air heating system (most modern homes or modernized older homes do) is to close off unused rooms and shut the vents to those rooms off (or greatly reduce the air flow) from your heating system. Now you’re using the cheaper fuel and not heating unused rooms so much. In my parents’ house, this results in a couple of lightly-used rooms being about 55 degrees in the winter and keeps the heating bills down. Plus you don’t have to spend several hundred dollars on one of these “Amish” heating things.

      • wiseoldduck says:

        @chris_d: I assumed in speaking of oil prices he was considering those who use heating oil rather than natural gas (or electricity).

      • kmw2 says:

        @chris_d: We do save money by heating partially with electric space heaters – we heat with oil and have an old and single-zone heating system where the main thermostat is in a room on the bottom floor we never use! So we keep the house at 55, which keeps the upstairs uncomfortably warm at 70, and for the rest of the house we either use small portable space heaters when we’re actually in the room, or a sweater. Using this method we’ve decreased heating costs (adjusted for price differentials) by about 20% this winter. I wouldn’t use i as a whole-house solution, though.

  4. bohemian says:

    The Amish people in those ads looked like people they pulled off the street and put Amish styled facial hair on. I didn’t know the Amish were into designer jeans and sweat shirts. Didn’t most of them used to shun being photographed also or has that kind of died off?

    • SonicMan says:

      @bohemian: I do not think they are really worried about a Photograph stealnig there soul.

      • SunnyLea says:

        @SonicMan:

        Cute, but bohemian is right. Most Amish will avoid being photographed. If you look, you will notice that most photographs of adult Amish are from a distance or from behind.

        Most believe it violates the commandment about graven images.

    • Homerjay (insert star here) says:

      @Bearded Rapper: WOw. You seriously got bitch-slapped.

    • Tmoney02 says:

      @bohemian: yeah the Amish on the commercial are the most laid back Amish in the world, if they are true Amish.

    • CumaeanSibyl says:

      @bohemian: A lot depends on the particular bishop, and there are some Amish sects that are pretty liberal about modern technology — but I don’t really know about jeans and sweatshirts, even if they were purchased secondhand.

      • MrEvil says:

        @CumaeanSibyl: Missouri Amish use electricity and power equipment, but only for work. Some do own cars in order to travel.

        It’s just up to their particular group how much they partake in modern conveniences.

        • HogwartsAlum says:

          @MrEvil:

          I had Amish neighbors for a while in MO, and they didn’t use it. It does depend on the church. They would have people to drive them places they couldn’t go in the buggy, but none of them owned a car.

          They make awesome neighbors. They’re overall very nice people.

        • Sam I Am says:

          @MrEvil: Are you sure you aren’t referring to Mennonites? I’m originally from Missouri and there was a large Mennonite population in our area. They dress quite similarly to Amish so it would be easy to confuse them, but they are different from one another.

    • N.RobertMoses says:

      @bohemian: I have seen Amish drive cars, wear sneakers and use iPhones.

    • fatcop says:

      @bohemian: Rent The Devil’s Playground.

    • karmaghost says:

      @bohemian: Amish tend to make allowances within their individual communities on what kind of technology they accept, but overall they shy away from technology the most. Mennonites are similar, but generally they accept technology more than the Amish. If you see someone who looks Amish on TV, or driving a car, or in a grocery store, etc., they’re likely not Amish but actually Mennonite. But that’s not always the case. Yay central Pennsylvania!

  5. Meathamper says:

    Consumerist people, I know you’re owned by Consumer Reports and stuff, but please, keep the Consumer Reports plugs to a minimum please. I know it’s a slow news day, but still.

    • XTC46 says:

      @Bearded Rapper: Id rather see consumer reports plugs than tons of other advertising… atleast this goes in line with what that consumerist is here for. Ofcourse, you are welcome to buy this blog, pay its staff, and not plug anything.

    • Saboth says:

      @Bearded Rapper:

      Umm dude, if Consumer Reports shelled out good money for Consumerist, I think they can plug themselves all they want. It’s not like Consumer Reports is out there plugging Ford, or GE or whatever, their mission is pretty much in-line with Consumerist.

    • hills says:

      @Bearded Rapper: Keep it coming- without Consumer Reports who know what would have happened to our beloved Consumerist?! I think they’re a great combo!

    • Elcheecho says:

      @Bearded Rapper: i like the posts. keeps me from looking up the best small cars of 2009. the “as seen on tv” article was awesome.

      Consumerist: please don’t overcompensate and post less CR stuff than you might otherwise.

    • Pink Puppet says:

      @Bearded Rapper: Wait. You’re complaining about Consumer Reports on a site called Consumerist? Consumer Reports that are of an interest to the consumers that read Consumerist?

      I could keep abusing my italics tag, but I think maybe my point has been made.

    • rfjson says:

      @Bearded Rapper: I really like the inclusion of CR content.

    • lincolnparadox says:

      @xtc46: My sentiments exactly. I’d rather have The Consumerist be beholden to Consumer Reports, instead of have the Consumerist gone forever.

    • Skankingmike says:

      @Bearded Rapper: You must be silly to think that some how consumer reports is bad.

      I mean you would rather what? a for profit company own a consumerist site where we can go for information and bitching about lack of consumer rights?

      yes brilliant.

      /s

    • andrewwied says:

      @Bearded Rapper: I like the content. I welcome more CR inclusion.

    • MrsLopsided says:

      @Bearded Rapper: Apparently many Consumerist posters prefer rants and baseless opinion over CR research-based conclusions.

    • YellowDucati says:

      @Bearded Rapper: CR Posts are good in my book. Keep them coming.

    • SunnyLea says:

      @Bearded Rapper: Just adding myself to the chorus — I’ve been enjoying the CR material. Especially this article, because you know we’ve all been wondering about these Amish “Miracle” heaters.

    • Tmoney02 says:

      @Bearded Rapper: Going in with everyone else and saying the same thing as andrewwied for the most part.

      “I like the content. I welcome more CR inclusion.”

      I would add that this includes this particular article and the one about tv products. I love knowing if this stuff that is peddled late at night actually works.

      • Pink Puppet says:

        @Tmoney02: Chiming in on that note: I love seeing the stuff from commercials being reviewed. I’m curious about a lot of weird little things, but it isn’t like I’d buy them just to see if they work, y’know?

    • chris_d says:

      @Bearded Rapper:
      I appreciate these CR reviews of products hawked on TV. I say keep ‘em coming as long as they are informative and interesting.

    • Xerloq says:

      @Bearded Rapper: So you’re mad that you’re getting CR bits for free when you’d otherwise have to pay for them? You don’t understand Consumer Reports…

    • CumaeanSibyl says:

      @Bearded Rapper: Check out the “Consumer Reports” tag — Consumerist has been posting CR stuff since its inception, and quite frequently too. It makes perfect sense.

    • zacwax says:

      @Bearded Rapper:
      boo this man…boo him

      • catnapped says:

        @zacwax: Some people are more interested in the “Business is ALWAYS right, blame the victim, blame the victim, blame the victim” approach, apparently.

    • Tiber says:

      @Bearded Rapper: Why? Consumerist gets more material, CR gets popularity. The # of postings has gone WAY up since being bought out. You don’t have to read everything you know.

    • asplodzor says:

      @Bearded Rapper: If you don’t like reading them… Don’t click on them.

      I [and most of the other readers, judging by the comments] are very happy getting consumer products reviewed… on a consumer website.

    • jeebussez says:

      @Bearded Rapper: back when I used to work at Mervyns I actually had a subscription to the Consumer Reports magazine; it helped me identify which As Seen on TV articles were pieces of junk.

      I for one enjoy these sorts of things, although not necessarily in video form (I’d much rather skim the article and get to the gist of it), especially when they address ASTV products.

      Also, the Amish.

    • crazedhare says:

      @Bearded Rapper:

      I welcome the content, as I generally find Consumer Reports a trustworthy source and I’m happy to have increased access to their content. I was opposed to the incorporation of advertising on Consumerist, perhaps too much so, but this is just fine by me. My 2 cents.

      I also appreciate that this video post was summarized in the text – 9 times out of 10, I really don’t want to watch a video for this or that reason (work, listening to music, on my Blackberry, whatever), and I really appreciate just simply being able to read text.

      /luddite?

    • kmw2 says:

      @Bearded Rapper: I like it. It keeps the site from being entirely based on stories about people who got 5 nuggets instead of 6 or didn’t receive a sale price and got grief from a sales clerk.

  6. ScottRose says:

    Even if this was cheaper than other methods of heating a home, you’d have to amortize in the cost of the unit over the time of use (until it fails, etc).

    If people were just buying these to heat their homes inexpensively, they’d be making a poor choice as a $30-50 space heater from Home Depot (or anywhere) would instantly lower the heating cost. Again, all assuming that the electric heat is less expensive for the user than gas/oil/fission/etc.

    So the only reason to buy this thing is for looks, in which case the only question that need be answered by CR is “will this burn my house down?”

    Which is to say nothing of how sleazy those commercials seem — always made me think they had those Amish people enslaved somehow.

    “‘Tis a fine barn but ’tis no pool, English.”

    • TheRedSeven says:

      @ScottRose: “D’oh-eth”

    • Robert Synnott says:

      @ScottRose: “Again, all assuming that the electric heat is less expensive for the user than gas/oil/fission/etc.” – I’m pretty certain absolutely no-one in the whole world has direct fission-based heating. I certainly hope not.

      (Of course, people do have fission heating via electricity, and in Russia, via municipal steam heating)

  7. popomaticjeff says:

    haha! My mom called me all excited because she thought she discovered the best way for me to save money heating my house in the North East. She (who lives in FL) was talking about these Amish heaters.

    • Homerjay (insert star here) says:

      @popomaticjeff: Ugh… Your mom shouldn’t be allowed to own a TV.
      You might want to ask her if she’s sending any big checks to African royalty.

  8. matt1978 says:

    @Bearded Rapper: BOO to you. Now we know if that thing works or not. Please go off to a distant corner.

  9. rfjson says:

    I don’t understand how you can heat space. If space is mostly a vacuum, then there’s no way to heat space because there’s nothing there. If you blow hot air into space, then you’re not really heating space. You’re pumping hot air into space. At which point, the hot air isn’t going to stay hot for very long. It’s in space.

    Sounds like the scammy tip of a very scammy iceberg.

    • asplodzor says:

      @rfjson: “If we put a thermometer in darkest space, with absolutely nothing around, it would first have to cool off. This might take a very very long time. Once it cooled off, it would read 2.7 Kelvin. This is because of the ’3 degree microwave background radiation.’ No matter where you go, you cannot escape it — it is always there.”

      [imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov]

      Also see: [en.wikipedia.org]

  10. Snarkysnake says:

    You would have to be a retarded box turtle to fall for the amateurishly photoshopped ads that are flogging these things.

    But they ARE a metaphor for a lot of what passes for business acumen these days.The recipe goes like this :

    Take trusted imagery from some well known symbol or group (like the Amish or a venerable brand name),source the internals from China,where people work for slave wages because…they are slaves,then write a technically truthful ,but deceptive , advertisement and sell it like all hell until an even cheaper knockoff kills the market and then blithely go out of business a lot richer than you went in.

    Have I missed a step ? All we need now is to have Billy Mays start hawking these things.

    • m4ximusprim3 says:

      @Snarkysnake: buuut ii liiiikkee aaammmiisssh spaaace heeaaterssss. thheeyy maaake myy sheeeelll toooaassstyyyy.

    • Skankingmike says:

      @Snarkysnake: I wouldn’t say that the Chinese work for “slave wages” as the very notion of that statement is an oxymoron.

      The dollar to the Chinese equivalent exchange is high we scoff at them living on say 20 dollars a year (American) as impossible, but to them its a good earning.

      Some would argue that America has just as much slave labor between prison workers and illegal immigrants.

      • Snarkysnake says:

        @Skankingmike:

        Prison workers in America have been convicted in an open court of law.They enjoy the presumption of innocence until convicted by a jury that their attorney helps pick. The Chinese enjoy no such protection. Work in prison is a privelege,it occupies time in a constructive manner as opposed to being sodomized 18 hours a day. I know lots of prisoners (I’m a bail bondsman). They say that it keeps you from going insane with inactivity.

        Immigrants wages are not being held down by men with guns and military tactics.They could go legal, get a SSN and be covered by minimum wage laws and worker protection acts. Most choose not to. Their loss.

        • David Brodbeck says:

          @Snarkysnake: I suspect many of them would go legal if they could afford to and had access to the system. I know someone who immigrated legally, and it was a multi-year process that required hiring a lawyer at considerable expense. U.S. immigration laws are some of the most complicated in the world, and the INS is hopelessly understaffed and underfunded. At one point they lost his paperwork and told him the only way he could continue the process was to file a FOIA request for his own records.

          My theory is politicians don’t see any political benefit in making an agency run correctly that only deals with people who cannot vote.

        • asplodzor says:

          @Snarkysnake: 1 out of every 31 Americans is incarcerated or on probation.

          [www.reuters.com]

          / Just sayin’

      • jstonemo says:

        @Skankingmike: How many chain gangs do you see nowadays? We need more prison workers. They could do those jobs that most Americans don’t want to do.

        • ScottRose says:

          @jstonemo:

          I’ve heard that there aren’t enough jobs for Americans to do, whether they want to or not. Just a rumor tho.

          • asplodzor says:

            @ScottRose: Considering the nation’s official unemployment count (which counts between ½ and ¾ of all actually unemployed people) is 7.6% and rising, I would say that that’s no longer a rumor.

    • clickable says:

      @Snarkysnake: The sad, and frustrating, thing is that there are still enough suckers out there that someone’s making tons of money on this crap. Whoever came up with this scam will rake in a ton of money in a few months, even if by next season everyone will figure out that at best, his product is a vastly overpriced space heater, and it’ll stop selling like hotcakes. But meantime, whoever put this deal together got himself a nice fat bank account to tide him over till he figures out his next barely-legal scam.

      The saddest thing of all, of course, is that it’s not me. Damn those pesky ethics, always getting in the way of my making a fortune with sketchy schemes.

    • Tiber says:

      @Snarkysnake: Don’t forget the fact that they like to take advantage of stereotypes. If something is made by Amish, it MUST be high quality!

      At least this one isn’t limited to America, as every other book in China about moving up in the business world is supposedly written by a Jew.

  11. econobiker says:

    I saw the tv ads and pretty much figured that the Amish were building the WOOD part to surround some Chinese made electric heater…

    • SybilDisobedience says:

      @econobiker: Yep. I think they’ve even amended the ads somewhat in an attempt to make this more clear. The heater itself is Chinese-made. The wood mantels are (supposedly) made by the Amish. But since Americans associate Amish-made products with quality, and Chinese products with shoddiness, they’ve shrewdly marketed the entire unit as being “Amish-made.”

  12. Con Seannery is apparently an ADMIN... says:

    @Bearded Rapper: What is your major malfunction? This content is great, it serves to inform the CONSUMERS who read the CONSUMERist.

  13. Tim Marvin says:

    Next needs to be the shamwow!

  14. putch says:

    can you get CR to do a report on the shamwow?

  15. MeOhMy says:

    Have you ever seen an Amish person using an electric space heater? The entire concept is unbelievable from the start!

    If it involved a miracle ventless technology for burning manure, then I’d at least think it might be plausible and do further research.

  16. mbz32190 says:

    What do you bet the mantle isn’t made by true amish people anyway?

    • jedo1507r says:

      @mbz32190: The mantle looks unsubstantial for the price.

      But this vs EdenPure, for the worst priced electric space heater award with gee-whiz technology that’s been shilled excessively…

      • RedwoodFlyer says:

        @jedo1507r: Notice they say wood finish in the ads…i.e. particle board would a layer of wood thinner than a Trojan.

        • jedo1507r says:

          @ComcastRedwoodFlyer: Yup, a polishing rag would rip it. It rivals the particle board desk that people throw out on the curb, after a while.

          These ads pander to the typical person who has an early ’90s 25-inch console TV with a set of Obama plates on top of the set, in their living room.

    • ScottRose says:

      @mbz32190:

      I don’t even think it’s made by false Amish people.

      There would really be no added value in having the factory workers dress in fake beards and hats.

  17. nakedscience says:

    @Bearded Rapper: You’re new here, huh?

  18. bishophicks says:

    Why hasn’t someone stated the obvious:

    These people are selling a 1500 watt electric heater for $350 or more. You can buy a plain ceramic heater with fan and adjustable thermostat for $30 at Home Depot.

    Also the ad boasts that the heater puts out about 5,000 BTUs. Awesome. That’s less heat energy than you get coming through a window on a sunny day.

    • catnapped says:

      @bishophicks: Of course, for those that don’t know, 1500 watts/51xx BTUs is the maximum you can get from ANY 120 volt plug in heater, no matter if it’s an “Amish” heater or that $10 POS from Wal-Mart.

      • David Brodbeck says:

        @catnapped: And there’s no trick to making an efficient electric heater. An ordinary light bulb converts about 90% of the power it consumes as heat. Electric heaters are very close to 100% efficient.

  19. HogwartsAlum says:

    This would be useless for me in any case, even if it did save money. No way am I going to spend $350 on a space heater unless it works without power in an ice storm!

  20. catnapped says:

    Don’t be surprised if someone who works over there (or is just paid to astroturf) comes over and “educates” us about the vast benefits of this wonderful device.

  21. Holo20 says:

    Thanks for this Consumerist, and Consumer Reports.

    I have been wondering about these heaters.

    • karmaghost says:

      @AlmiraFazoo: Wondering like “how is it that a society that has more or less shun modern technology is so good at making an electric heater?”

  22. RedwoodFlyer says:

    One of the vendors that was trying to get our contract for baggage handling had one of these in their lobby…. I’d lie if I said that it didn’t influence our decision to reject their offer!

    It’s an idiot beacon at its finest..

  23. Radoman says:

    The two most energy efficient ways to electrically heat a room in my opinion are:

    1) Oil Filled Radiator heaters. They’re cheap, and once they heat up, they stay hot for a while.

    2) Mica Thermic heaters. They cost a little more initially, but they heat up much faster than an oil filled heater. You end up staying consistently warmer with a mica thermic for about the same energy usage as an oil filled.

  24. MRT says:

    @zacwax:

    @Bearded Rapper: Booooooooo

  25. ninjatoddler says:

    The best way to heat up a room is to host a party. Well the cheapest way is to host a Monopoly board game party. That way, the guests are obliged to hang around for ever while keeping your place nice and warm. Drinks and food costs not included in expense report.

  26. fatcop says:

    The wood part is particle board. You can see it in the unfinished screw holes on the shot where they show stacked up pieces of finished wood waiting to be assembled.

  27. loueloui says:

    I really like Consumer Reports. they have always proven themselves to be a reliable, impartial, trustworthy source of information. I like them even better now that they’ve joined with Consumerist, and welcome their content.

    By the way wasn’t Vanilla Ice a ‘Bearded Rapper’? Hmmm.

  28. FLConsumer says:

    Who needs one of these when you have a snuggie?

  29. jdmba says:

    I got to enjoy the 1/2 hour version and noted so many crafty statements and inconsistencies, it was fantastic.

    1) Your heating costs will go down (no mention of electricty costs going up)
    2) Your energy costs will do down (disclaimer on bottom: based on climate and usage) <—- MY FAVORITE!!!
    3) Kid warming her hands in front of the flames in the middle (the flames are a picture, the heat comes from the grill near the top)
    4) “Our competitors use cheap pressboard, but we use a genuine wood mantle” (and points to the TOPMOST piece of wood).

    I love these commercials.