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
Kenny, thank you for writing the longest, most grammatically incorrect comment in the history of this blog.
i fell for it too. i live in a very temperate part of washington state. although it does get below freezing here, it rarely stays for long. so after talking to the dealer and listening to all the hype, i bought on to heat a 900 sq. foot daylight basement. it did make it a little more usable, but really all it has done is raise my electricity bill by around $100 for the last 3 months. going to try and sell it, and put in a small wood stove like i should have in the first place. have a buddy who bought one for a small rental house he owns, and although it heats the whole house, it has only saved around $4 a month on his tenants electricity bill. we both feel like we have thrown away $400+ on these things. cozy Will this unit match up with Sunheat?
soooooo what should we do to keep our rooms warm ....... buy a blanket i say lol cost about $20 last along time and cost nothing to run every month
This is my second year with the sunheat heater and I've seen my propane bill take a dramatic drop. The first year my propane usage dropped by about 30%. If you heat with propane you know this is a substantial savings as propane in most areas is at least $1.99 per gallon. I also watched my electric bill and the increase was hardly noticable. The sunheat heater saved me at least $350.00 the first year which means the heater has basically paid for itself in the first year. I have several neighbors that will tell you this also because they have this style of heater. My father in law heats a one bedroom apartment with one of these and saves huge compared to the 220 baseboard heaters the apartment has in it. He has tried heating with conventional heaters before and cannot keep an even heat like he does with the sunheat.
I sent an e-mail to the Bob Villa organization complaining about his endorsement of a product that, by the laws of physics, simply CANNOT produce more heat output per KWH than any other electric resistance heater. I received a response from his client touting the supposed health advantages of the differences in ion output (about which I know nothing) but the writer said nothing about any claims of efficiency. The earlier posters here who make favorable comments regarding efficiency are sincere in their wishes, I am sure. But unless you have a way of measuring the results in identical circumstances between these expensive infrared heaters and "plain Jane" cheap resistance heaters, your anecdotal stories just can't be believed. It is PHYSICS 101!!!
From a purely pedantic point of view an electric heater will be more efficient than a natural gas heater - simply because all (100%) of the electrical energy that you put into a simple resistive circuit comes out as heat, whereas for a natural gas heater you will lose some energy in warm gases that are released via the chimney/flue. Modern furnaces do a pretty good job of capturing heat though, so efficiencies >90% are normal. Whether a heating system is more cost-effective will depend on the relative prices of electricity and natural gas from your local utility. Where I live natural gas is *much* cheaper from a $/Joule perspective. I've seen a number of similar advertisements for electrical heaters. All seem to be full of bunk and pseudo-scientific half-explanations. That companies can afford full page advertisements to sell pure snake oil is an indicator of the poor quality of education today.
Great comment Tony. I guess we'll just have to keep doing our best to inform the <del datetime="2009-11-04T18:20:34+00:00">uneducated</del> ignorant masses.
What an energy Hog these are. Right up there with the electric water heater, and outdoor hot tubs. These things should have a huge carbon tax on them. We get tax credits on energy saving devices so we should tax these monsters to death. Buy a snuggie or an electric blanket and put the extra money into other conservation measures around the home.
I have a SUNHEAT and it did cut my bills in half, compared to using the electric heaters on the wall. It's true that it is not meant to heat the whole house but a room of about 1000sqft, so that may be a down side if you have a big house. It is very effiecient. It uses quartz, infrared, cooper to heat. It runs on a little less than 5 cents an hour or about a $1 a day if used 24/7, but because it the way its built, it doesn't need to run at the full 1500 watts all the time, but mostly just when it starts up. Do any of you actually have a SUNHEAT that commented? From my experience it was worth every penny.


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