Posts Tagged ‘review’

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

December 8, 2011

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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Interesting LEDs from Cooper Lighting and Commercial Electric

November 1, 2011

There are a couple of interesting LED recessed (or sort of recessed!) lighting fixtures that we’ve tested recently that are worth sharing.  I wouldn’t consider either one the CREE-killer (the CREE CR6 is still my head & shoulders above the rest favorite residential LED fixture).  But each might be a workable option in some situations.

First is Cooper Lighting’s ALL-PRO LED.  This product provides another options for “wet” locations, and at a lower price point than the HALO fixture previously reviewed here.  The dimming seems to work.

Cooper Lighting All-Pro LED Fixture

A couple things I don’t like are the 3000K rating which means it’s in the very white (some say blue) color range.  For comparison the CREE CR6 is a much warmer looking 2700K.  The other big downside for me is the 81 “color rendition index” compared to the CREE 90.  A higher number means things look truer to their natural color to the human eye.   At a rated 14.6 watts, it’s very efficient, but not as good as the CREE.

Price wise, this is comparable to the CREE and cheaper than the HALO.  If you need a wet-rated fixture, this is a worthy choice.

Next up is the Commercial Electric Light Disk.  The light quality is similar to the above product at 3000K and a CRI of 80.  OK, but not on par with the CREE CR6.  However, it does have two big advantages going for it.  It is brighter that either the CREE or the Cooper products.  Not hugely so, but brighter.  Commercial Electric  LED Disk Light

And the big feature in it’s flexibility is the ability to fix in either 5″ or 6″ cans or, uniquely surface mounted right on a 4″ junction box–a surface mounted fixture with a recessed light look.  There might be some very useful applications for this, from closets to simple retrofits would you want a sleeker modern look to replace a clunky looking surface fixture. 

We’ll keep evaluating and reviewing as the technology evolves, and we’ll keep you posted on anything interesting.

Cheers,
Mike

“Amish” Heaters: Trick or Treat?

October 20, 2011

OK, one sign of halloween, as made clear from his zombie post yesterday, is that Jason has been watching (too many!) horror movies.

Example of an Amish Heater Ad

The ads are different this year, but the advice is the same--don't waste your money on the so-called "Amish" heater.

But the other sign, all too predictable over recent years, is that those darned full-page “Amish” heater (the Heat Surge…or it is the Heat Scurge?) ads are running again.  Miracle?  No.  But predictable and scary, maybe even scarier than one of those Zombie movies.  And from the ad, it looks like Sears has joined the game.

And although they’re now advertising the ” Heat Surge HT” with their trademarked “Hybrid-Thermic” technology, it doesn’t change what we’ve talked before (see reviews and commentary here, and here, and here, for example).  I won’t spend a lot of time on the retread except to warn people NOT to waste their money.  A lot of hype, expensive ads, and a tremendously overpriced product.  This gets my “Don’t Buy” recommendation once again.

In some circumstances, space heaters can help, but in most homes it’s usually less expensive to heat your whole house with gas or oil than it is to run even a couple electric heaters.  And even then, you can find units that will deliver the same heat at a much lower price (albeit without the goofy ad).  Save your money.  Make your home more comfortable and save energy with both simple tips and more extensive–and  smarter–home improvements like insulating and air-sealing.

Thanks,
Mike

More commentary on the CREE CR6

January 1, 2011

I received a comment on yesterday’s post about the CREE CR6.  Rather than leave the comment and the response buried in a comment section, I’ll pull this out into a front-page continuation of yesterday’s post.

David B. wrote:

Mike, not to be a spoil-sport, but I don’t think a $50 light bulb is worth getting excited about. First, LED’s don’t use dramatically less energy than a CFL (the $200 savings is compared to an incandescent). Second, if a product can’t pay for itself in a couple of years, most people aren’t going to bother.  Finally, the 35,000 hour life expectancy is a bit misleading. That works out to more than 20 years at 4 hrs a day (someone energy conscious enough to spend $50 for a bulb is probably obsessive about turning off lights that are not being used presently).

While LED’s offer some aesthetic and performance advantages over CFL’s, the price probably needs to drop below $10 before they make any sense.

Hi David,

The right LED lighting makes a lot of sense right now!  And I’m going to get excited anyway!   On a New Year’s morning, here’s a thumbnail version of the reason why.

I like the non-energy performance and appearance of the CR6 and LR6 better than the incandescent they replace.  And some people like “better” over “cheaper”.   When “better” is cheaper than “cheaper” that’s even better!  (Whew—try saying that fast five times.)  And over the life cycle, these certainly are less expensive.

I disagree with your statement that “if a product can’t pay for itself in a couple of years, most people aren’t going to bother”.  That is a common fallacy in the energy-efficiency world, and it ignores the real reasons that most of our customers pursue energy-efficiency, namely for comfort, health & safety, durability of the home, and even aesthetics!  Energy-efficiency is often a nice way to pay for these benefits for many people.  And examples of this abound.  Windows is one—and we see payback on windows stretching to 40 years-plus in some cases.  [By the way, this doesn’t mean we don’t educate people about the low-hanging fruit of air-sealing, insulation, duct-sealing, etc.  We install more of those services than windows.]   What’s the payback on a granite countertop?  A sofa?  An Xbox?  A trip to the Grand Canyon?  What’s the payback on making your daughter’s bedroom more comfortable all summer or winter? 

As I’m sure you’re aware, many people don’t like and won’t use CFLs.  And even though I used them in recessed light applications, the quality was inferior than incandescents in characteristics including light quality, color rendition, and dimmability.  And that means that the stuck with incandescents.  I’ve noted this in the California market, for example.  In these cooling climates—and high electricity rate markets—in particular this is a shame.  Not only are people forgoing the savings on the lighting side, but the inefficient lighting is dumping heat into the space that they there pay to remove with air-conditioning.  A double whammy.  Having a product that people are willing to use is a game changer.

In new construction applications, or retrofit applications where trims are being installed (or replaced) anyway, the cost is the CR6/LR6 is actually overstated by about $10—because it includes an integrated trim already.  Plus, installation is quicker than with a two-step trim-lamp-process.  Not much, but minutes add up.

In some high-bay applications with 9-, 10-, or higher ceilings, a 35,000 hour life (or a 50,000 hour life in the case of the LR6) is a huge deal.  Some people have to pay a professional to change their lamps—and avoiding this covers the cost of the LEDs even without the energy savings!   This is certainly true in commercial situations as well.  You may be handy and not afraid of heights or ladders (and have the appropriate ladder), but for some people this is a very important factor.

I’ll note that it took me three tries to find these at the Home Depot in NY—because they’d already sold out at the first two and they were waiting on the next shipment.  So some people are recognizing the value already. 

These already make sense.  We don’t need the price to change a penny for that to be true.  I do agree that they won’t have broad market appeal at that price point yet.  I’ll expect the prices to drop steadily in the coming years.  They have already dropped over the last 18 months.   But people can feel good about starting savings today.

Happy New Year!
Mike

CREE CR6 Review–A bright spot in efficient lighting!

December 31, 2010

The long-awaited full review!  And let me cut to the chase:  When it comes to LED recessed lighting, right now CREE is the top choice, and the new CREE CR6 stands strong alongside its LR6 sibling.  The CREE CR6 is a winner!  I’ve tested a dozen different makes over the last month, and the CR6 and LR6 beat all the competition hands down.  (I’ll provide a review of the others over time—but I won’t tease you waiting for the answer about which is best–CREE wins.)

Unlike some of the energy-efficient lighting involving significant performance compromise, the Cree CR6 holds its own against the 65-watt incandescent recessed bulb it is intended to replace.  In fact, I like it better!

Available in a “warm” (2700K, for you technical types), it looks great.  Its high CRI of 92, objects it lights look like you’d expect and don’t take on a ghastly pallor. 

CREE CR6Performance-wise, it came on instantly just like an incandescent.  That sets it in stark contrast from most others we’ve tested. It also seems to dim almost as well as an incandescent and better than even the best dimmable CFLs we’ve tested. In terms of brightness, it’s rated at 575 lumens, however perhaps because of better efficacy (how much light leaves the fixture v. how much gets trapped) this seemed brighter than its CFL competitors.   (Note:  the LR6 has a higher lumen rating at the same 10.5 watts.)  The CR6 has great dimmability when matched with a Lutron Diva dimmer.  Unlike most of the LED competing products, the individual LED diodes are not visible—instead we see a warm, very uniformly glowing surface.  It’s a beautiful light that I like better than the incandescent it replaces!  When energy-efficiency comes with better performance, it’s a no-brainer!

The unit is rated at 35,000 hours—something I obviously haven’t had the ability to test yet!  I can report that the CREE LR6’s are still performing great after almost two years of daily use.  The long life span makes them an excellent choice in harder to reach ceiling fixtures.

The CR6 was very easy to install, and it worked great in the three different 6” housings that I tried it with.  Both the CR6 and the LR6 (and the LR4—which I also like!) come with an integrated trim.  The only downside of this is that if you have an existing trim you really like, you can’t use it with the CR6.  The CR6 trim looks great, though, better than most of the trim kits it replaces, and I would gladly remove existing trims to use this.

The price may shock some.  It’s going to be in the $50 to $65 range.  I purchased mine for $49 at a Home Depot in New York, where NYSERDA subsidizes the cost.  But at 10.5 watts, it should save you an estimated $200 or more over its life, depending on your electric rates. 

I’ve had trouble locating the CR6 locally.  And it’s still hard to find.  But it is available through Amazon.  I got mine at a Home Depot under what appears to be their Ecosmart house brand.  (They also sell other LED products under that branding—so make sure you get the right one “powered by CREE”).

As mentioned previously, the CR6 and LR6 are not yet rated for wet locations—although I’m told those products are on the way.  If you have a wet location application (like a shower), the Halo LED Module product is a good, albeit more expensive, choice.

I heartily recommend the CR6 (and the LR6), and I’ve installed it in my own home!

What do others think?

[See more commentary on the CREE CR6.]

Thanks,
Mike

Heat Surge–A “Don’t Buy” Recommendation.

December 13, 2010

Arrgghh.  Those expensive full-page ads touting revolutionary heating hocus pocus drive me nuts.  And when the temperature drops, they pop up like blisters on a Grand Canyon hike.  Heat Surge?  How about Money Drain?  Please read the previous posts and save your money.   If you really want a portable electric heater (typically a very expensive way to heat!!–with savings only possible it you turn the heat way down in the rest of your home, something that could cause problems of its own!!), you can get the same result with models that are hundreds of dollars cheaper.   The expensive price doesn’t buy you better performance.  It buys big full page,  color ads in papers throughout the land.  (Ditto on the EdenPure.)   A summary of my review:  Don’t buy one!

MIRA-COOL: The only miracle is that these guys can get away will selling this stuff

August 21, 2010

Another goofy full-page ad with the same marketing hype and misleading information….

On the plane yesterday, I noticed the ad for the ”MIRA-COOL” air cooler.   “A new miracle air-cooler” looks a lot like snail oil in a different package.  I guess the purveyors of this nonsense think that by using the name MIRA-COOL, they can repackage the BS of the Cool Surge air cooler and skirt around the terrible reviews and warnings.  Pure nonsense.  Don’t buy this for the exact same reasons I encouraged you not to buy the Cool Surge.  Ignore the Scalding Zone, the Scorching Zone, and the Sizzling Zone.  Ignore this product. 

My apologies to William Shakespeare, but when it comes to the MIRA-COOL, a turd by any other name stinks just as badly.

If you want to stay cool, don’t waste your money.  Start with these simple cooling tips.

Thanks,
Mike

HALO LED lighting

November 6, 2009
HALO LED recessed lighting

HALO LED Recessed Lighting

Halo lighting has some  recessed LED lighting available.  It’s good stuff, and I wouldn’t hesitate to install it (in fact, I have installed it my own home).  Right now, I do like the CREE product better, but part of that is personal preference.  Some quick observations:

  • The HALO product is available in a 3000K temperature with a CRI in the low 80s.  The light isn’t quite as “warm” looking at the CREEs (the 2700K product), and the color rendition doesn’t seem quite as good to my eye.  And, personal preference, I prefer the warmer look in a residential setting.
  • The HALO LED isn’t quite instant on.  I experience a slight delay after flipping the switch before the light turns on.  It’s not a big deal, but again, the CREE product holds on advantage.
  • One important HALO advantage:  it is currently available with a “wet location” rating that you’d need in shower enclosures, for example.  CREE does not yet have product for this application.
  • The HALO products does offer a broader range of trim options than CREE.  If you need a particular style, HALO may be the way you need to go.
  • The HALO product–with trim purchased separately–was much more expensive the the CREE at local suppliers, as much as $60-90 more than the LR6.

My bottom line:  I like the CREE product better, and would chose it in most instances.  However, I wouldn’t hesitate to use the HALO–and it’s got to be HALO in wet locations right now.  I like either of them better than similar compact flourescent products.

Renewaire’s new bath fan is a winner!

September 11, 2009

As mentioned previously, Renewaire has a new line of bath fans.  As promised, I’ve installed one in my own home, and the preliminary results are in.  The fan is a winner.  Solid performer.  While I obviously don’t have longevity data on it yet, this is a fan I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend or install for our clients.  The one is definitely worth checking out.

Thanks,
Mike

Panasonic Bath Fan Recommendation

July 28, 2009

Must be product review day!  Some friends just had a question about what fan to get for their bathroom.  Great question.

Bath fans are important because they can remove the tremendous about of water vapor created by showing and bathing before it has a chance to create mildew or mold issues.  And they can be part of your home’s overall ventilation and indoor air strategy.

Too often, though, the cheapo fan—rattle boxes or noise makers, I call then—make a lot of noise, but don’t really move much air.  And some older fans can suck a lot of electricity even while they’re not helping much.

We use the Panasonic Whisper Series fans.   First and foremost, they work!  They have a great energy-efficient motor that really moves air very close to the nominal rating.  And as the “Whisper” implies, they’re very quiet—some models you really have to listen hard to hear at all.   And they’re reliable.  They are built to last and run a long time—continuously if needed.  An excellent choice.

I should mention that regardless of the type of exhaust fan you use, the fan should be ducted to vent directly outside.  Do not vent them into your attic—that’s a potential mold farm waiting to happen.  And even venting out a soffit isn’t a great idea, especially soffits designed to pull air up into the attic.

Thanks,
Mike

Addendum, Sept. 11, 2009:  I’ve just finished an initial evaluation of Renewaire’s new bath fan line, and it appears every bit as strong as the Panasonic line.  I can recommend it, too.


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