Posts Tagged ‘scam’

Undercover Heating Investigation: Some companies make it hard for those trying to do the right thing

March 12, 2012

Recently a news station in Atlanta did an undercover investigation of a few local heating service companies.  Their investigation revealed that unfortunately some contractors tried to sell unnecessary parts and services to customers.  In fact, three out of four companies were guilty of this!

When asked to inspect a properly operating heater, many of the technicians found “problems” and recommended expensive, unnecessary repairs.  One actually said that the heater was leaking gas and it will “keep coming, and if the gas builds up, you know what’s going to happen.”  No, I don’t want my house to blow up, but I also want to trust that a technician will not try to scam me with fear tactics.  What is a customer to do?

Furnace Install

One way to find a reputable company is to look for things that differentiate them from the competition such as certifications and affiliations.  There are plenty of organizations which recognize a contractor’s good work.  As a customer, you want a company that goes above and beyond to exceed your expectations.  At GreenHomes America, we go beyond heating and cooling and look at a home’s overall performance.

Our franchises are Building Performance Institute certified which requires extensive training and successful testing.  Ask your neighbors.  A great company works to gain the trust of a customer for the long haul, not for just today.  You can’t do that if you don’t want to do the right thing.


“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 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!)


“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.


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!

They’re ba-ack: the rip-off portable heater ads

September 19, 2010

It’s not even Halloween yet, but with the changing season the horror of portable heater rip-offs are luring in unsuspecting victims with their full page ads.  

If you see this ad, hide your wallet and run! Don't waste your money.

And so, just like I need to rake the leaves every year, I have to sound the alarm.  We’ve covered this elsewhere:  Don’t buy the “Amish Mantle” heater with the “miracle” technology from China.  And making my “don’t buy” list again this year is also the Eden Pure Heater, even if Bob Vila smiles and offers you a Bob Vila coupon or a Bob Vila toaster.    I’m not the only one who’s warned folks about this.  Consumer Reports gives the Eden Pure heater a cool reception.   

As with the “MIRA-COOL” which I mentioned four weeks ago, generally, you should be very skeptical about ads for products that would seem to defy the laws of physics, tout miracles that they (and only they) have somehow tapped into, or that use a lot a scientific jargon and confusing units to try to make you think that’s the case.  If you want to save energy and save money (and be more comfortable), you’ll have to keep the heat in and produce it more efficiently.  You might be able to close off the entire house and only heat one room as a last ditch measure–but even that isn’t as easy as it sounds.  Often that room wasn’t engineered on all sides to keep the heat in.  And turning off heat in other areas of you home can lead to problems with plumbing, with furniture, and with the building structure.  It’s not as simple as plugging in an overpriced electric heater.   

Eden Pure’s humidity claims rely on some smoke and mirrors.  And while they are more “efficient” than a typical fireplace (many fireplaces actually rob homes of heat), that doesn’t mean an Eden pure is an better than the $30 heater you can buy at many stores this time of year.  Don’t spend hundreds of dollars on something than should cost you 1/10th the price.  Save your money–and put it into insulation and air-sealing.


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.


Cool Surge: A “Don’t Buy” Recommendation

July 23, 2009

Energy Myth:  The Cool Surge Air Cooler Can Defy Physics!  The reality is, it can’t!

We continue to get a lot of inquiries into the Cool Surge Portable Air Cooler.  As explained in my previous post about this scam-tastic offer, the Consumer Reports review, and elsewhere (like this Regruntled post), this doesn’t make sense for most people.  SAVE YOUR MONEY—DON’T BUY ONE!   There are better ways to stay cool.   

[August 2010 Update:  This appears now be marketed in a slightly repackaged manner as the MIRA-COOL.  Different name, same “DON’T BUY” recommendation.]

Another scam?!—the Cool Surge Portable Air Cooler

June 20, 2009

I occasionally read USA Today when I’m travelling.  Flipping through an edition last week, I came across an ad that looked a lot like the Amish Heater nonsense I commented on earlier.  Same type of incomplete and misleading information, same sleazy marketing hooks.  Digging deeper, it looks like it’s put out by the same company. 

My short recommendation:  Don’t buy this!  See what Consumer Reports has to say.

This “Cool Surge” window dressing is essentially a small “swamp cooler”, a fan that blows across water.  This can actually provide some cooling, but is really only effective in very dry climates like in the Southwest US, and even then this particular unit would generally be insufficient to even cool one room in most conditions.  But I’ll stick with my “don’t buy” comment even for those areas primarily because you can buy the equivalent equipment for 1/3 the price (less than $100, without the expensive national advertising campaign).  In humid climates like the Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, DON’T WASTE YOUR MONEY on a swamp cooler and certainly not this product!

The savings claims are silly, especially if you were to use their “glacial ice block”.  This is really just a freezer pack that you stick in your freezer—and guess what—you pay the electricity to freeze the block, but you run that electricity through your freezer rather than the bogus cooling unit.  The ad’s electricy claims don’t account for this.  Worse, and not captured by the Consumer Reports review, the waste heat from your refrigerator/freezer (you generate heat when your refrigerator is cooling) actually warms your house!  “Miracle” advertising—even full-page, color, miracle advertising—doesn’t change the laws of physics!

Bottom line:  don’t buy one of these—and don’t support misleading advertising.

[If you’d like information on staying cool and saving energy, see our cooling tips and cooling myths, or signup for our quarterly newsletter.]


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