“Can’t seem to face up to the facts.” Those goofy heater ads are driving me crazy!

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Somewhere high on my list of favorite songs is Psycho Killer by the Talking Heads [and I really enjoyed the Modern Day Saints frenzied live version of the song from the Illinois bar scene in the late 1980s]. One of the lines from the song goes “you’re talking a lot, but you’re not saying anything”. And that gets me to today’s partial dissection of that full page Heat Surge HT ad that is staring me in the face right now. It has lots of words. Yes, it does have THAT going for it.  I would NOT buy the product, however.

Portion of the Heat Surge HT ad

Murkier than Fiction!

I will point out some of my “favorite” portions of the ad that might be worth a careful read so you can make sure you understand what they’re saying, and what they’re not.

  • Amazing technology! Or, I think, not so amazing after all. “Hybrid-Thermic heat technology is an engineering genius so advanced it actually uses a micro-furnace from the Coast of China and a thermal heat exchanger to perform its miracles.” Hmmm…I’m not saying that there aren’t fine products coming out of China, but I would hardly call this genius. And “a micro-furnace from the Coast of China”? Sounds rather pedestrian. Although I do suspect they’re able to have it manufactured less cheaply in China than in the U.S. Ah, maybe THAT is the genius part—they can make it for less, sell it for more, and make more money??
  • The unit “produces up to an amazing 4,606 British Thermal Units (BTU’s) on the high setting”. OK, let me see, 1 watt-hour of electricity produces 3.413 BTUs. If the high setting is 1500 watts (or 1.5 kilowatts), over an hour it would optimally produce…wait for it…5,120 BTUs!!!  This amazing technology is able to convert electricity to heat at a lower rate than some of the $30 heaters from the big box store! (Some of the electricity is used to create than nifty flameless fire glow, not heat.)  Thank goodness for the Coast of China engineering genius!
  • An infographic tells us that if we have the home thermostat set at 59 degrees, the room temperature might be, get this, 59 degrees! Well, yeah, because that’s what you set the thermostat at! Could a 4,606 BTU/hour raise the temperature of the room to 74 degrees? Yes. Doesn’t take a miracle to do that, though. The $30 space heater will do it, too. And, as we’ve discussed before, while space heaters (including super-dooper, amazing, miracle, trademarked Hybrid-Thermic space heaters) can be used for raising the temps of trouble spots, lowering your house temperature can create it’s own problems—frozen pipes, anyone? Condensation in cold rooms? Be careful, even if simple infographics don’t warn you of this.
  • The ad states the product is a “Consumer ‘Best Buy’ ” on the HeatReport.com website. Hmmmm…I can’t speak to the copywriter’s intent here, but this I did find it a bit confusing at first glance. On closer examination, this claim, citing reviews on a website that sure looks like its run by the Heat Surge folks, shouldn’t be confused with “Consumers Digest” or “Consumer Reports”. In fact, Consumer Reports had a nifty review of their previously named Heat Surge product—and the Heat Surge “Fireless Flame (registered mark)” aside, I wouldn’t call it a glowing report from Consumer Reports. Speaking of recommendations, this product actually makes my “Don’t Buy” list because I just don’t think it’s worth it?  It seems MSNBC’s Consumer Man came to a similar conclusion–and was worried about the potential for people to be misled by these ads.  Go figure!
  • How about that map!? It doesn’t mirror the DOE climate zone map. Or the more detailed maps I’ve seen other experts use. But that Heat Surge map did teach me a couple of things. For example, Phoenix is in the “Cold Zone”, the same as Boone, North Carolina. Miami is in the “Frost Zone”. Burlington, VT is in the same zone as Norfolk, VA and Seattle, WA. Go figure. We prefer to look at actual local weather patterns and “heating degree days” when consider the heating needs of a house. But then, I guess this map is to stagger calling—never mind that no time zone considerations come into play. Seems awfully complicated! Maybe an astute reader can give a better explanation!

I’ll wrap it up with a quote from the ad “if it does not have the Heat Surge name on it, you are getting ripped off.” I would have to disagree. In my opinion, exactly the opposite is true—unless you really like the aesthetics of that Amish mantle. It’s your money, though. You get to decide! Caveat emptor!

If you want to be more comfortable and save energy in your home, you’re generally better off getting the right home energy audit, and doing things like air-sealing and insulating properly.

You’ve probably seen the ads. Do you have a favorite part? How about any doozies from the Bob Vila Eden Pure ads? Or the Heat Surge’s equally lame cousin, the Cool Surge?  It’s an election year—I wonder if these guys write campaign speeches, too? Let us know what you think (Or just share your favorite Talking Heads song!)

Cheers,
Mike

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5 Responses to ““Can’t seem to face up to the facts.” Those goofy heater ads are driving me crazy!”

  1. Allison A. Bailes III, PhD Says:

    Yep, these things are high on my “Drives Me Crazy” list, too. Nice work debunking their claims, Mike.

  2. Larry H Says:

    Great job blasting these rip off artists. I have always been amazed how readily the Amish have accepted electricity. The ads are a classic play on the fear of losing. Human nature will try much harder to avoid a loss than work towards a gain. Sadly the ads must work because we keep seeing them. Kudos to Mike for his review of this scam.

  3. Beverly K Says:

    One of my favorites from the Heat Surge ad that we found in National Geographic a while back depicted that same map of the US, divvied up by ‘frost zones’ or whatever name they give to their random, horizontal delineation of the lower 48, and specified not only what specific times of the day each of those “zones” should await to phone the company for placing orders–but they stipulated that their offer would be valid only for orders placed “in the next 72 hours!” Right. Starting at what hour of which “frost zone”? (To say nothing of which DATE).

    Also, one of the accompanying photos showed a horse-drawn ‘lorry’ with a caption indicating that units were being expedited to awaiting customers. Mmmmm, now THERE’s an assurance of fast shipping.

    These ads do not drive me crazy at all–they have a very warm place in my heart (causing it to generate an amazing 4,606 British Thermal Units, for sure). We are like cats on catnip anytime we spot another of them.

  4. Eric uknuis Says:

    Very nicely done, and ” it’s once in a lifetime ” but you cant denounce psycho killer. I also personally hate when ads try to mislead the consumers through deseptive writing. If your products good then speak plainly. If it’s not the instead more money for better ads. More money for better research.

  5. Perry Says:

    I don’t know, people need heat right? Especially if they live in frosty cold frigid zones. 59 to 74 degrees is not nothing. In fact it is something. It’s 15 degrees. Therefore people are buying something. I’m sure the Amish mantles are very very nice too. Why complexify everything with cold facts. That’s all you’re giving us, cold facts. And what do cold people need more, heat or cold? I think I’ve made my point.

    These ads are combination hi-freaking-larious and out-flibbin-rageous! The claims are so utterly transparently ridiculous that they read like comedy, yet they’re infuriating because we all can imagine people falling for such nonsense. Good work, Agent Rogers!

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