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#150772 - 11/04/06 11:55 PM Portable furnace or Infrared heater questions.
HomeDad Offline
connoisseur

Registered: 12/29/05
Posts: 3301
Loc: Central,California
I know many of the good folks here live in much colder climates than I do, so I'm hoping that someone can give some advice on a portable room heater.
My wife read an article in the local paper about the Krystal portable furnace and now is gung ho about reducing our normal $500.00 a month winter propane bill.
I looked on the internet and found another product by Eden that was a couple hundred dollars cheaper. But to be honest I don't know anything about these products or how well they work, all I know is that when my wife uses the small heater she bought at Target for around $20.00, if she turns on too many lights at the same time it always manages to blow a fuse in the house, and tends to really drive up our electric bill. Any advice would be appreciated.
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#150773 - 11/05/06 07:14 AM Re: Portable furnace or Infrared heater questions. [Re: HomeDad]
real80sman Offline
connoisseur

Registered: 05/16/02
Posts: 1174
Loc: Ontario, Canada
Michael,

Since there are no by-products produced from electric heat, it is virtually 100% efficient. (Save for the power used by the fan) This means that no matter how they "fancy it up", 1 watt of electricity equals about 3.4 btu's. The most a standard 15A outlet can give you is ~5200 btu's. So the output of the $600.00 "Krystal" will be no more than your exisitng $20.00 heater. And it will use the same amount of power.

Krystal Specs (2nd page)
Specs from a $50 Special
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Epic 80/600 + M3's + M3 Algonquins + M2 Computer + EP125
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#150774 - 11/05/06 11:28 AM Re: Portable furnace or Infrared heater questions. [Re: HomeDad]
bridgman Online   content
axiomite

Registered: 08/25/04
Posts: 6027
Loc: Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada
Seconded. Really cheap electric heaters may be noisy, dangerous, and have fans that are too small to spread the heat around optimally, but they're all equally efficient.

If you're GOING to use electric heat, the Krystal seems like it might be a bit more comfortable than the $20 heater since it has a larger heat exchanger/fan so the air doesn't get "cooked" but I have no idea how they can claim higher efficiency or less effect on humidity.

Heaters don't remove humidity from the air, they just raise the temperature which allows the air to hold more water, reducing the RELATIVE humidity. Houses get dry in the winter because the outside air is cold and dry to begin with, not because of your heating system.

Honestly, there is no free lunch with home heating. Your options are basically :

- insulate and close off drafts (blowing insulation into the attic between the roof joists makes a big difference if this isn't already done)

- spot heating or playing with HVAC to mostly heat the rooms you are actually in, letting the others get a bit colder

- looking into whatever fuel is cheap in your area and is likely to stay cheap for a while -- occasionally this includes electricity, but more commonly something like wood or even corn

If your propane heat isn't real efficient, look into improving that, but most propane heaters are pretty good these days.

Bottom line; unless electricity is real cheap in your area this doesn't seem like a good use of $$. Any "savings" would come from using electricity rather than propane, ie if propane prices had gone up much more than electricity prices, to the point that electricity was now cheaper per BTU than propane. It's possible, but I doubt it.

Note that (a) the Krystal brochure uses .08/KWH in their example but AFAIK we're all paying almost twice that once you include distribution costs, and (b) nearly all of the testimonials talked about how much their GAS costs had gone down, not how much their TOTAL utilities had gone down.

If you happened to live in an area where electricity was really cheap at certain times of the day then going with electric heat might make sense for you -- even so, you would only want to consider that Krystal furnace if you were confident that you would get your money's worth in ways other than efficiency. I'm not saying it *is* quieter or more comfortable, just that it *might* be.

EDIT -- one last point; depending on how cold it gets in your area it's possible that an electric heat pump might work for you, but California has a huge range of climates so it's hard to tell without knowing your specifics. Heat pumps are very efficient when it is only "cool" out, but when it gets real cold the heat pump turns off and the system falls back to electric heat.


Edited by bridgman (11/05/06 11:54 AM)
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#150775 - 11/05/06 12:43 PM Re: Portable furnace or Infrared heater questions. [Re: bridgman]
HomeDad Offline
connoisseur

Registered: 12/29/05
Posts: 3301
Loc: Central,California
Shawn and John,
Many thanks, that is exactly the kind of information I needed.
Unfortunately propane and electric prices are high in Calif.
We have two propane heating units in the house that are separate for the upstairs and the downstairs, I'm trying to find a way to isolate a couple of rooms, the kids and ours (upstairs/downstairs) without using both heaters to heat the entire house.
What I think I'll try to do is use the portable inexpensive space heaters in the 2 target rooms for a month and compare my electric costs to the savings in propane costs. The temps here rarely drop below 20F at night, but the wind helps cool things down since it is always blowing between 15 and 60 mph, and for a native Californian that's getting cold.
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#150776 - 11/05/06 12:59 PM Re: Portable furnace or Infrared heater questions. [Re: HomeDad]
bridgman Online   content
axiomite

Registered: 08/25/04
Posts: 6027
Loc: Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada
Sounds good. If you don't feel like waiting to find out, it's not hard to estimate your relative costs between electricity and propane, if you can rustle up electricity and propane costs in your area plus a bit of info on your propane heating equipment.

If you're going to be running inexpensive electric heaters while you sleep try to be really careful about fire -- electric heat is inherently safe but small heaters can get really *hot* and be a fire risk if they're near anything flammable. Easiest thing to do is to pick up a couple of loose ceramic tiles next time you're in a home improvement store -- they're a buck or less in an ugly pattern, totally fireproof and pretty good insulators to boot. Try to find 18x18 tiles if you can.

I'll just pass on the following advice from my parents :

"If you're cold why don't you put on a sweater and some thick socks ?"
_________________________
HT: M60ti/VP180/QS8, SVS PC+ 20-39, EP500
Music: M5HP, Sierra-1, M40ti
Idle: M2ti, M3v4, VP100
John

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#150777 - 11/05/06 01:10 PM Re: Portable furnace or Infrared heater questions. [Re: bridgman]
HomeDad Offline
connoisseur

Registered: 12/29/05
Posts: 3301
Loc: Central,California
Quote:

"If you're cold why don't you put on a sweater and some thick socks ?"



LOL, That's the first thing my wife said last year when we got a $600.00 propane bill.
Thanks for the suggestions John, I'll try them out.
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A computer once beat me at chess, but it was no match for me at kick boxing.

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#150778 - 11/05/06 01:17 PM Re: Portable furnace or Infrared heater questions. [Re: HomeDad]
real80sman Offline
connoisseur

Registered: 05/16/02
Posts: 1174
Loc: Ontario, Canada
Also, these have really come down in price. More atmosphere than a little black box.
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Shawn

Epic 80/600 + M3's + M3 Algonquins + M2 Computer + EP125
I think I'm developing an addiction.

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#150779 - 11/05/06 01:37 PM Re: Portable furnace or Infrared heater questions. [Re: real80sman]
HomeDad Offline
connoisseur

Registered: 12/29/05
Posts: 3301
Loc: Central,California
Shawn, Great suggestion, I never even thought of going that way, We have a fireplace in our master bedroom that I've used at most twice, that may be a candidate for an electric insert, and my wife loved the idea of the freestandindg stoves for the kids room and the guestroom.
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A computer once beat me at chess, but it was no match for me at kick boxing.

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#150780 - 11/05/06 02:10 PM Re: Portable furnace or Infrared heater questions. [Re: HomeDad]
michael_d Offline
connoisseur

Registered: 07/23/04
Posts: 4191
Loc: Up yonder
I take you don’t have gas seeing how you’re using propane?

We don’t have gas where I live either and our choices are between propane, fuel oil and electricity. Fuel is about $2.60 a gallon, propane is $2.25 a gallon and electricity is $.18 kilowatt hour. I think all three of those are the highest in the country. Seeing how I’m heating 4700 square foot, this is a topic that I have an interest in.

As John already mentioned, sealing up your home should be step #1. Pull a negative pressure on your home with a fan and go around all the doors and windows with an incense stick. You’ll find the leakers pretty quick. The best way to do this is to call someone over to do a home efficiency evaluation. They will take the entrance door off the hinges and then put a door blower on it. Then they read the air exchanges and give you a summery report of how well it’s sealed up. When the guy has his fan up and running, you go around the house (on the inside) and look for leaks with smoke. We used to get reduced finance rates on homes here in Alaska if they would meet a particular level of efficiency (up to 2%). I put a lot of work into my home to get this interest rate. When I had the rating test done, the guy couldn't believe how tight is was. At that time it was the only scribe fit log home in the state that ever got the five star plus rating. Afer it started to settle and things started moving around, it started leaking. I went from useing 150 gallons durring the coldest month to 400 gallons. After getting that $800 fuel bill, I checked it for leaks again and sealed it up everwhere I could find leaks (mostly around the doors and windows). I'm back down to using very little fuel.

If you don’t want to do that and still want to go with a portable heater, I can’t help you. I think they’re all junk and unsafe and I’ve responded to more than one home fire because of the damn things. The only thing I’d consider would be Toyo. They are very efficient and maintenance free. They just run and run and run. (My buddy is a heating tech and he sells and maintains these things)

They run off #1 fuel oil or kerosene, and are easy to install. They are very popular in Alaska. They are direct vented, so you cut a 2.5” hole in your wall and stub out the exhaust. You’ll also have to run a fuel line to it and have a fuel oil tank (which may suck for you).

http://www.toyotomiusa.com/products/LaserVentedHeaters.php

If you are interested in installing one of these, give me a holler. I can get you any information you’d like.
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#150781 - 11/05/06 03:21 PM Re: Portable furnace or Infrared heater questions. [Re: HomeDad]
duckman Offline
devotee

Registered: 01/09/03
Posts: 315
Loc: kansas
A friend of mine has what amounts to a small oil filled radiator heated electricly. It has some kind of temp control- maybe a thermostat. There's no fan, no exposed element, it just gets gets quite warm. It's gonna spin the meter like anything else, but it's a much better "quality" heat and looks a lot safer than most. It's on wheels and he just rolls it out of a cabinet and plugs it in. Uses it in his hobby room in the evenings.
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