Sunheat Infrared: Does it live up to claims?

Looks nice, but worth the money?

Looks nice, but worth the money?

Winter is approaching and it's getting cold outside, so it's time to put on sweaters in your homes to stay warm (to really save energy) or just turn up your heat (boooo!).  But let's all be honest, as much as we say we can just bundle up inside, nobody likes getting out of the shower or waking up to a cold room.  Recently my interest was piqued about a heater I saw an ad for in Popular Science no less.  The claim at the top of the page was very inticing.  It read: SLASH YOUR HEAT BILL UP TO 50%

Wow!  How can anyone turn that down.  I wold love to pay 50% less for heating.  But how?  Well...that is where things get a little tricky.  The product is called SunHeat and the marketing gurus advertise it as an infrared heating system.  From their web page:

The Original SUNHEAT electronic zone heater is the safest, most energy efficient infrared heater on the market; available only from authorized SUNHEAT dealers. SUNHEAT infrared heating technology is the most efficient way to turn electricity into heat, with high cost of heating fuels; electricity is more affordable than ever.  SUNHEAT lets you turn down the furnace and put heat where you live.

Sounds too good to be true? But wait, there's more!  In their Energy Comparisons section they claim:

In addition, calculations show that the SUNHEAT™ will heat more efficiently than the Heat Pump. With today's spiraling gas, propane and fuel oil costs, it’s obvious that this system can offer you tremendous savings.

More efficiently than a heat pump?  So why exactly can't we see these calculations?  I love it when sites say "calculation show" and then don't SHOW THE CALCULATIONS!!!

And what about this "Infrared Heating System"?  Simple:  The Sun transmits its heat to the Earth with Infrared Radiation.  The SunHeat heater has the word "sun" in it, so ipso facto it is an infrared heater.  Not so fast.  According to Laren Corie of Thermal Attic:

The SunHeat heater, is not a radiant/infrared heater. It is a convective, heater, which does all of its room heating via forced air. It does not supply any infrared heating to the room (besides an insignificant amount from a little warmth of the box) It does the same as a $20 WalMart electric heater will do, at the identical efficiency.

So why does SunHeat call their product an Infrared Heating System?  Probably because it sounds cooler than convective heating system.

I found a blog, Frontlaven, that actually has a pretty good review of the Sunheat.  From his review:

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.

and then:

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.

Bottom Line:

While SunHeat advertises itself as Energy Efficient and able to "slash your heating bills" I just dont see how it is better than a regular convection space heater you can buy at Wal Mart.  The SunHeat will not replace central heating if you have it.  It is a space heater!

As far as saving energy, I'd like to know what they are using for a baseline.  Sure, it probably saves energy compared to heating your home with your oven, but I have central heat with Natural Gas.  Is it going to save me energy?  I have a 3 story town-home, so I would probably need a few of these things to keep it comfortable (for my wife of course.  I sacrifice my comfort to save energy - if you believe this you should buy a SunHeat).  I dont think an electric powered heater is more efficient than natural gas heating.

The nice thing compared to central heat is that you can heat just one room at a time, meaning you don't have to heat "wasted space".  But (according to the Frontlaven review) the SunHeat consumes 1446 Watts!  That's no small amount.  I'm not sure that this is any more efficient than my natural gas heat.  The advertisement from Popular Science claims you can heat up to 1000 sq. ft. for "pennies a day".   Well, only if you had the thing on for less than an hour.  If you used it an hour and it consumes about 1500 Watts (1.5 kWh) and a you pay for electricity at a  rate of $0.10/kWh that comes out to be 15 cents.  I wouldn't call that pennies.  I would call that 1 dime and 1 nickel.  Ok, Ok, I'm nitpicking. The question is could the SunHeat really heat your space just by staying on for 1 hour, and would it cost you less than what you are currently using?  Until you know these answers you don't know if these claims are true!

I'm all for a product trying to market itself, as long as the marketers aren't trying to take advantage of people who don't know to much about energy conservation products.  By nature, energy saving claims are easy to make (I have the most efficient mousetrap!).  Especially when marketers aren't required to provide any data to back up their claims.  If you do want to buy a SunHeat heater, then ask them if they have any studies and calculation to back up why their heater is the most efficient and how exactly it will save you money on your heating bills.   If you can't see the data, then don't waste your money!

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ckmapawatt's picture
Mary, How much does your hardware store sell them for? My biggest complaint is that Sunheat usually sells them for way too much, and people believe that because of this, they will perform better than other electric heaters.
We love our Sunheat. We live in a split level home which was very difficult to heat evenly. It keeps the area that we always had problems heating at a comfortable temperature. Since we have been using this we no longer come home and turn up the thermosat and then turn it back down. Our furnace runs a lot less. Plan to buy a couple more this year! Love it, love it, love it!!!
Talk about ignorant..... When a product has an amperage or wattage rating on it; it is the maximum usage. It does not mean that it necesarily uses that amount constantly. My infrared heater has 5 quartz lamps and it hardly ever, if ever, uses them all at once based on my 70 degree setting for my home. It does not run constantly like my old ceramic heater did. It hardly needs to run at all per hour. I love my new heater and I am glad that I bought one.
I have had my 1500 sunheat now for about 3 years. we use it upstairs in the bedroom which also includes an open bathroom. dimensions are about 30' x 10' and 15'x 8 '. we live in washington state between portland, oregon and seattle, washington. I absolutely love this heater. I think it really matters on how well your house is insulated and if you have upgraded windows{lowe argon/vinyl} to see how well any heater is going to perform. Also your flooring. Upstairs we have carpet and downstairs we have laminate. we have a gas stove furnace in our livingroom that heats very well and our house was just insulated under our floors, but that laminate is hard to keep warm. We almost had a fire in our cadet wallheater do to a short and I have to tell you I feel safe with my heater upstairs.I only have it 1/4 of the way up and it does the job wonderfully. it cycles on and off....when it supposed to. if it doesn't get airflow it won't run {dirty filter}. they cost more, but the security is what I like. It's portable, it's safe .....and it does a perfect job for us......I did try it downstairs in our living room with the laminate floor but it didn't do as well....the floor is still cold{on a cold night} I do think the $500 mark for the 1500 is high, but I will definately look to purchase at a discounted price from an unhappy customer.....there are a lot of copycats out there, so you get what you pay for. Do you want steak ?..cost more than hamburger!
I bought my heater back in Nov 2007 and we have had great luck till this year when we were noticing it wasnt heating as well.So we took apart to find out 4 heating tubes were blown!Even worse I can't find them at the hardware store like we were told you could.I am not even sure how expensive these parts will be.We had it 4 winter seasons not running all the time so I don't think it gets as many hours as they advertise it will!I wish it was alittle easier to find the answers I need and wonder if anyone could help??????
i have a sunheat my house is about 500 sq ft liv.din.and kitch. it is small house, i am sitting in the kitchen right now and the heater is about 1o feet from me and my legs are freezing. it is an open consept just the sunheater is on and it is freezing obout 2 feet off the ground .equl. heat bull shit it works good if you put in a room and close the the ele. bill is 475.00 a month. i have left the sunheater on for a month straight because they said 1.50 a day bull shit. and i have enrg.saveing bulbs in the whole house. new windows new is a a 12x13 room with the the door shut the the floor is cold about 2 feet off the ground. {junk)
We have had one for three years. When we use it, the outlet cord overheats to the point where we cannot touch it and the outlet turns black. Obviously, they are drawing too much voltage.
THIS THING NEARLY BURNT MY MOMS HOUSE DOWN!!!! She gave this energy-gobbling P.O.S. in a panic and upon dismantling I seen they used WIRE NUTS to connect the heating elements to the internal wires. THESE WIRE NUTS WERE COMPLETELY MELTED IN PUDDLES ON THE UNITS FLOOR. It has 5-five inch quartz heat tubes and a giant 8inch one. This would be a guaranteed winner for lawsuit freaks. I turned it into an acrylic heater for my water prism parts.
i live in a very drafty old house my gas bills were 250 to 260 a month my light bills were 70 with out the heater i bought one of the sun heaters and i was impressed my heat bill went from the 250 to 50 a month my light bill went to 120 to 130 that meant that i was saving around 130 dollars if you do your math my sunheat heater runs 24 7 and never shuts off so i would say that it does very well i am going to get me another sunheater when i can save up enough money to put it in my kitchen but for right now i will have to run the one as for a 20 dollar walmart heater they did not heat the whole room and my cat gets burnt so i love my sun heater and always will they are very worth the money i saved the first year at least double what i payed for the heater
ckmapawatt's picture
Hmmmm...I'm a little skeptical of these claims.


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