Last winter, in the middle of winter we moved from the sunny part of California to the snowy part of California. We quickly learned that this coming winter we would need to make changes in the heating that we used.

I heard about some infrared heating systems like: Amish heaters, then about the Eden Pure, then about Comfort Zone, then Heat Surge and Sunheat. We choose a Sunheat heater, and I’ll share the reasons why.

Winter heating Options

I have never lived in snow country as an adult. As a kid we lived in Colorado Springs, but daddy shoveled the snow and momma made hot cocoa and we ran around all day playing in the snow working up a sweat. Would love to go there again!

But it’s a entirely different experience dealing with the harsher realities of living in snow country as an adult. There are snow tires and chains to deal with just to get the cocoa, then there’s shoveling snow and god forbid that it should ever happen to you- frozen pipes!

Typically, there are just a few options to heating your home in snow country. The most popular are wood, pellet, oil and electrical/forced air heating.

Wood Heat

Last winter, in the middle of a eight inches of accumulated snow and ice we moved into a manufactured home. Because of the potential fire hazards that wood stoves present, especially for manufactured homes, the insurance is ridiculously high making wood heat an economic impossibility.

While wood heat requires killing trees, it’s still one of the most economical and reliable options for winter heating. And a lot of the fire wood sold around here is surplus from summer fires, so it does have its place in the eco-consciousness of it all.

I love wood heat. For starters, to me there’s something nostalgic and romantic about the smell of wood burning in the winter. It brings up memories of cinnamon cooked apples, smoky air and cold noses. And although no one has set up a workshop dedicated to its soul restoring virtue, splitting wood is one of the best therapies around, especially curative for adolescent boys with their own kind of energy to burn.

 

Wood heat is also all around one of the best options, especially when the electricity goes out – which of course it does – typically at the coldest part of the worst winter storm. Right?

Pellet Stoves

Pellet stoves are another great option. They typically have electronic igniters and pellet dispensers that keep the fire without you having to remember to add wood. They also burn fairly cleanly and easy to maintain.

They are a eco-friendly option to wood since they are made from commercial wood by-products, namely sawdust and particles. In the last few years there has been such a demand for the pellets, stores couldn’t keep enough of them stocked and suppliers couldn’t keep up with the demand. So folks would run to the store as soon as they heard a big storm was on its way and wipe the inventory out. So once again there we are sitting freezing without heat in the middle of the coldest storm of the winter. The only option was to buy a whole pallet of pellets and have it delivered directly to your home, which obviously requires both the space for dry storage and also the upfront cash around $300 last I checked. Not a great option for many middle class families, it certainly wasn’t for us.

Burning The Midnight Oil: Bad for your health and the environment.

 

Then there’s oil monitor heaters. Oil monitors burn kerosene oil. It’s a very popular option here in snow country. For us it was a huge problem. On many levels.

First the cost was outrageous – you are burning oil, kerosene really but definitely a part of the whole petroleum industry. Last winter was heater oil was around $3.50 a gallon – a tank is something like 100+ gallons. Which of course, you will burn. In my mind, as simple as it may be, that translates to burning money.

The oil company won’t come out for less than $400 at a time. So for us that $400 may last two or three months, but they won’t come out once a month to make it affordable for middle class folks on budgets. It’s $400 plus, and since you are pumping gas into the tank, you can go over $400 and the guy won’t stop filling until it’s full. I don’t know if that happens everywhere, but in our neck of the woods its standard practice. What a racket! Can you imagine what it does to those on the elderly and disabled on fixed incomes? Needless to say I wanted out.

Not only are the financial aspects of burning oil a problem, but the residual fumes from the burning oil caused allergic/toxic reactions for us. Burning, running eyes was the most common. It’s winter right? So what do the experts recommend? Open your windows and doors! Insane. Again, I may think in simple terms but I think someone’s making a whole lot of money off this whole system.

 

Propane, while it burns different oil, can present a lot of the same problems with no new advantages.

Electrical Heat & Portable Infrared Heating Systems

Traditional forced air heating is a great option and definitely has its advantages. Too cold? Turn the thermometer up, no problem, any 4 year old can safely work a thermometer right? The problem is more than it is too easy and completely inefficient in most cases. With electricity up to $.14 kHz, this gets expensive quickly.

Space heaters work great for heating very small areas but still aren’t efficient enough to justify using regularly to heat a home.

The new kid on the block is the infrared heating technology. It’s advertised as being the most convenient, economical and eco-responsible option available. This is where I started my research about infrared portable heating.

Electricity or Wood?

I try to do everything I can to be environmentally responsible. Really! I’ve been hand washing ziploc bags (recycle/reuse/reduce) for over a decade now. My kids, now grown, laugh when they visit home. “I forgot about mom’s ziplocs” and laugh as they carefully wash out the plastic baggies.

But when it comes to freezing temperatures just bundling up is risky; pipes freeze and cause major water loss/damage and health issues can arise, etc.

People here burn oil and wood, or use electricity/heat pumps, etc. Geothermal is not yet affordable for most folks. It creates an interesting dilemma for the eco-conscious. So what do you do? Kill trees or burn coal?

What all infrared heating systems have in common

I’m not going to explain the Infrared Heating Technology, I can’t get my head around it. But if you watch the video, it will help you understand a bit more.

What I can tell you is that for the most part, at least according to their specifications, the systems work the same. There are a few subtle differences that from what I have researched really don’t add to much.

Let’s start with what they all have in common:

  1. Infrared heating technology – They use the same basic technology. Some have 3 coils and others 4, it doesn’t seem to affect the heat output.
  2. Safe for kids and pets – since they use infrared heating surface areas don’t get very hot. They all are safe to the touch – no accidental fires and it’s safe for kids and pets. Which of course makes it the safer option above wood or pellet if you have small children around or pets.
  3. 1000 sq.ft & 5,000 BTUs, 1000 watts – They all heat about 1000 sq. feet and put out about 5,000 BTU and use 1000 watts of electricity.
  4. Will not reduce oxygen or humidity – They all use an air filter and do not “dry” the air as traditional heaters, even wood stoves do. So no nosebleeds from dry nasal passages and running electricity from additional humidifiers.
  5. Zone heating – All of the infrared heaters use the concept of zone heating. If you have a large house, or the flow of your house is broken up, you will need several units.
  6. Heat first and maintain temps – If you look further into the websites and advertising you will notice it says “supplemental heating” what this really means is you will need something to get the temperature up in your home but then can use this to maintain. The costs of oil,wood,electricity are minimized because you’re not spending money on cranking out the heat. You will need to get the house up to temperature warmth first and then the heaters will keep it at the same warm comfortable level.

Final Note

I just shared my experience! How do you heat things up? Furnace, Oil Heat, Wood Stove? Do you have a portable infrared heating system? My final statement is, Infrared Heating does not heat like other heaters. It does seem to maintain heat.

Guest Writer : Sam Daniels

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