Mini Cooper Confidential
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Convection Wall Heater

If you have an area of your house that could use supplemental heating, I recommend the Econo-Heat convection heater. My experience with Econo-Heat is in our "Three Season Room" (aka "Sun Porch" in warmer areas of the country) which so far this season, with its earliest snowfall in history, has been kept comfortably warm.

The Econo-Heat is a 24" square panel that mounts on the wall using 1" standoffs. It's completely silent and designed for continuous operation. Just plug it in, turn it on, and forget about it. The surface of the square, which is made of some sort of sturdy composite, gets very warm to the touch but not hot. So it's safe for kids, pets, and clumsy adults. The closer you are to the square the more you can feel the heat, but the general idea is that the whole room is kept warm via convection. I know, I was skeptical too, but as I said it actually does work. The wattage is fairly low, under 500 watts, so leaving it turned on all the time not only ensures it has a chance to warm the whole area, but also doesn't cost you too much. (Compare that to a traditional space heater which typically consumes 1500 watts and makes your electric meter spin like whirling dervish.)

econoheat.jpgI actually use two Econo-Heat units in our Three Season Room because its completely uninsulated, is a large room, and has lots of windows. (The manufacturer's website describes the square footage and other parameters necessary to determine if you need more than one unit.) I bought mine from the manufacturer, without checking Amazon first, where I could have saved about twenty bucks. As you can see in the photo, I haven't gotten around to painting the heaters yet, but that hasn't stopped me from considering them a welcome and toasty addition to my home.

Comments

Johnny

Hey Gordon... Wonder how long it will take yours to crack... I bought 6 and within one year, 5 of 6 of them developed large cracks across the heaters, some of them made crackling noises almost like the ceramic was delaminating (which upon inspection, some were visibly delaminating). I called support and the rep told me it was fine and to "caulk" the cracks. I wasn't comfortable with this especially since it says right on the panel "DO NOT USE IF DAMAGED." Since my replacements have arrived about one year ago, all 5 of them have developed large cracking across the face of the panel, some of them multiple cracks. The original which hadn't cracked at the time I had gotten replacements has now cracked. In all, 11 of 11 of these heaters I have had have now cracked up, delaminated and otherwise have significantly become a safety concern for me. I am considering filing a UL safety report on this product.

Johnny

Gordon Meyer

Well, Johnny, we'll have to see! Perhaps its like stucco, where cracks don't really have a negative impact. But you can bet that if I experience any problems, I'll write about it here.

Dan in Whittier, CA

I have one of these panels. I've been using it for three or four years now without a single problem. No cracks. Heats my 10x10 bedroom cheaply and nice. No cracks. I am buying more this winter.

DanR.

Econo-Heat

I bought my first unit over three years ago and had the same problem as it seems many people are having with this unit. At first I thought the dogs cracked the panel so I put a new one in and area away from being hit and still cracked. Next I thought that I might have made it too tight on the wall not giving it enough expansion room, still cracked. Next area you may want to look into is not just the expansion of the panel but the wall also. E-Cono Heat still selling the same units and they are not safe to use in your home in my opinion. If you are using one in your bathroom you may think about getting it out of there fast since they don’t just crack they also separate from the back panel and water could get into it and as I am sure we all know what happens when water and electricity mix. I am not sure what the problem is with these units as some seem to last for a year or two and others a few months. I am working on a system on my own that would pour over the wiring and form a solid unit that would not require gluing. By the way the photo above shows the units placed rather high on the wall. The instructions say they are to be mounted only a few inches above the floor. Having them lower they work much better, up high they only radiant heat out off the panel when low the draw the air off the floor and move up and out from the back of the panel causing the warm air to move around the room more and they can be wired in a series so you don’t have to plug them each in but only one. If you don’t know about wiring and amps I would contact your local electrician for help but I wired three unit on a 20 amp breaker with no trouble at all other then there cracking. Now trying a cove unit that mounts up by the ceiling and is made of all metal, not too bad to date and they cost less.

Gordon Meyer

Thanks for the comment. I'm still happy with the performance of the heaters. If you're considering one, it is worthwhile to read the reviews at Amazon (click the "saved about twenty bucks" link above to see them). As of today, there are 25 reviews, only one person mentions cracking, and the heaters have an overall rating of 4 out of 5 stars.

I promise that if I experience any problems at all, I'll update this page with details.

As to the question of height, mine are mounted about 8 inches higher than recommended. That's because of the electrical conduit mounted on the wall; the black tubing you see in the photo. Despite this, they're working as expected. I think "as expected" is an important point. Of the people who are not satisfied on Amazon, almost all of them were under the impression that these worked differently than they do. It's worth saying again. They're convection heaters. It's a passive technology so you have to leave them turned on all the time. If you're not comfortable with that, you'll likely never get the full benefit.

Jeff

Four out of five have developed cracks. When the first one went, they replaced it (the rep explained that a "manufacturing defect" was the cause but that problem had been corrected.)

Now, three winters later, the rest of them have cracked (except the replacement). Two of them I installed just last year. As others have described, one delaminated. The other crack is serious enough that the panel easily flexes. When I send pictures, I got a polite, so sorry note, and was offered a special "deal" of $49.95 to purchase replacements. This is about what I paid originally. No thanks.

I am really sorry these turned out to be such junk. Are there other such products on the market?

Lisa Vdven

My husband installed ours only 4 months ago and they have all cracked. They are our only source of heat besides a fireplace and some heated tiles in the bathroom. Are the cracks dangerous? Once it has cracked, do the cracks stay the same size or get larger with time? I'm a bit concerned as we have 3 little girls playing and living near them!

Gordon Meyer

One year later, and still no cracks or problems for me. I've posted my follow-up summary here: http://www.gordonmeyer.com/2007/10/convection-wall.html

Jay Ducharme

I bought seven of them to try to wean myself away from oil heat. Our home is 1026 square feet with average insulation. But we have low ceilings (7'4") which I'm sure helps. Even though we're below the recommended "1 heater for every 100 sq. ft." threshold, our house has so far remained between 68 and 72 degrees. But the deep New England winter hasn't fully settled in yet. I'm anxious to see how they perform when it's in the teens outside with howling wind. But so far so good, and thankfully no cracking (yet).

Jay Ducharme

As a follow-up, Gordon, I contacted Econo-Heat about the cracking so many people have complained about. Here's the prompt response I got:

"Some people drill the units to the wall as tightly as possible but this interferes with the expanding and contracting during the heating and cooling process. The result is cracking. We try to please all of our customers but alas it is not always possible."

That makes sense to me, and I hope that was the only problem. I noticed that the panels are quite brittle, so when I installed mine I made sure they were snug, but not overly tight. And for the record, the instructions specifically state not to over tighten the screws. So I hope I get a long life out of my panels.

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