Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Amish Fireplace Scam

Claiming to reduce your energy bill all while keeping you nice and toasty during cold weather, the Amish Fireplaces are nothing more than space heaters manufactured in China and will make you electric meter spin like a wild top!

The good news is that the mantles are made in Ohio in plants that employ some Amish!

American Advertising at its best-Outrageous claims that tug at your heart strings by showing pious Amish "hand crafting" the mantels!

BUYER BEWARE! Caveat Emptor!

How Miraculous is the Amish Fireplace?
'Free' 1500-watt made-in-China space heater costs $300Read more:
By David
February 4, 2009 There is a sure-shot way to perk up the ears of a consumer writer: Hand him an advertisement for a product that claims to be a "miracle." This is what happened to me recently when a neighbor asked me to check out his latest purchase.
Upon entering his living room I saw what appeared to be a small fireplace tucked inside a wood cabinet, and next to that was a large unopened cardboard box. "They were giving two of these away free to each household," my neighbor said. Then he added, "With shipping, both of them cost me $600.00."
While I was trying to figure out why he paid $600.00 for two free products, my neighbor gave me a large advertisement that described his recent acquisition.
"Amish Mantel and Miracle Invention Help Home Heat Bills Hit Rock Bottom," blared the headline on the ad. "The HEAT SURGE miracle heater is a work of engineering genius from the China coast, so advanced you simply plug it into any standard wall outlet," the ad proudly stated.Read more:
This was just too good to pass up, so I ran home, jumped online and headed straight for the manufacturer's Web site. However, the search for their Web site popped up other sites where consumers were asking questions about this "miracle" heater.
"An Amish heater? The Amish don't use electricity," said one blogger.
"Isn't this a scam because the photos are of Amish people but the Amish don't allow their picture to be taken," said a poster on another site.
Valid questions that deserved accurate answers.
Amazing free miracle!
Officially called the "Amish Fireplace," the product is really an electric heater marketed by an Ohio-based company called Heat Surge. With huge advertisements in major publications, as well as on TV, Heat Surge based its marketing campaign on a tried-and-true advertising concept: Use power-words such as "free," "amazing," and "miracle" to get the attention of the buying public.
Add into the mix that the product is certified by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and has the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, and you have the makings of a grand marketing campaign.
However, in the case of getting a "free" heater, it didn't take long for consumers to figure out what was free, and what wasn't.
"An ad in USA Weekend was for 2 free heaters. When I called, you had to purchase the mantels from the Amish, but the ad said how to get 2 free heaters. The ad was very misleading. Unfortunately there is nothing free," complained Evelyn, of Las Vegas, Nevada.
Reading the ad closely helps to explain the "free heater" claims. In essence, Evelyn could have purchased the heater by itself for $249.00, or if she bought the Amish Oak mantel for $298.00, the heater would be thrown in "for free." So to get the "free" heater she would need to spend $298.00 for the wood mantel, which didn't include the cost of shipping.
How amazing is it?
According to the ads, the Amish Fireplace produces an "amazing" 5,119 BTU. However, "any 1500 watt heater will provide that amount of BTU, so there is nothing really 'amazing' about that from an engineering standpoint," said Dr. Fiona Doyle, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley.
"Whether a space heater costs $40.00 or $300.00, 1500 watts cannot magically be converted into more BTU. The maximum amount of heat energy is 1500 watts and it cannot produce more than that," Dr. Doyle said.
Heat Surge also claims the heater can drastically lower your heating bills, but according to the U.S. Department of Energy, space heaters will cut your bills only if you heat one room and then move the heater to another room, heating just one room at a time. The rooms not being heated will need to be kept at 50 or 60 degrees.
As for the cost per hour, there are many variables to take into consideration.
"It will all depend on where you live, the rates from your electric company, and other things such as how well your home is insulated," said Professor Doyle.
Made in China
The advertising says, "The HEAT SURGE miracle heater is a work of engineering genius from the China coast," but many consumers have questioned just what's so miraculous about it.
"The heating unit is made in China," said Heat Surge Vice President David Baker. "These heaters are being called a miracle because they have what's being called the 'Fireless Flame' patented technology that gives you the peaceful flicker of a real fire but without any flames, fumes, smells, ashes or mess. The patented 'Fireless Flame' looks so real it amazes everybody," Baker said.
Hence, the "miracle" is in the looks of the heater, not the heater itself, which might explain why the advertising says that the heater is the "Latest home decorating sensation."
Miracles aside, the Amish Fireplace also proudly proclaims that it has received certification from Underwriters Laboratories (UL), but consumers need to be aware of exactly what that means.
"When any product has UL certification it means the manufacturer submitted the product to us and we ran it through a battery of tests to make sure it meets the applicable safety standard," said John Drengenberg, an electrical engineer at Underwriters Labs for more than 40 years, and the current UL Consumer Affairs Manager.
"We test products for fire, electrical shock and mechanical hazards, so our sole responsibility is to test for safety, not if a product is a miracle, or even if it works," Drengenberg said. "A good example would be a vacuum cleaner that has earned UL certification. We don't even know if it picks up dirt because our job is testing the safety of a product, period."
The Heat Surge advertising also heavily promotes the fact that the product has earned the Good Housekeeping Seal, so we wanted to know exactly what that means.
According to a Good Housekeeping spokesperson:
"In order to earn the Good Housekeeping Seal, the Good Housekeeping Research Institute evaluates a product to ensure it meets product claims and confirms that all product promises and directions are accurate. We verify that all information required or recommended on a label is provided. For categories in which there are accepted industry standards, we review the data to ensure the company has followed current performance and safety methods. If a problem about a Seal product is brought to our attention, we investigate it. Products that have earned the Good Housekeeping Seal carry a limited warranty: if the product proves to be defective within two years of purchase, Good Housekeeping will replace the item or refund the consumer."
In other words, it is what it is.
The Amish Connection
Although consumers have asked many questions about the supposedly miraculous heater, no subject has been brought up more than the Amish connection. Calling something an "Amish Heater" gives consumers the impression that the Amish -- who are known for their disdain of most technology -- are somehow responsible for inventing or manufacturing the heater.
However, the only connection the Amish have is in the making of the wood mantel.
"In response to the advertising that Heat Surge were doing in showing pictures of the Amish, we toured the facility where the mantels were being put together and we were introduced to people of the Amish faith," said Joy Bender, Vice President of Operations at the Canton, Ohio Better Business Bureau.
The Canton BBB learned the Amish-made mantel represented in the ad is crafted and assembled by local craftsman from Holmes and Geauga counties in Ohio.
But what about the issue of the Amish allowing their pictures to be taken?
"There are different sects of Amish. Some do not allow their picture to be taken, but some do," Bender said.
Questions have also been raised about the quality of the wood in the Amish-made mantel. In response to our questions, Heat Surge Vice President David Baker provided with the following statement:
"The entire mantle is of real wood, no pressed board. The oak mantle also is built with a true solid oak piece for the top as well as the trim. The cherry mantle also has a solid wood top and trim and is made of poplar with a cherry finish, not unlike many cherry finished pieces of furniture."
Although the Canton BBB received a few complaints about the quality of the mantel and heater, most of the complaints concerned the "miracle" claims in the advertising, as well as customer service issues.
"Heat Surge have taken steps to reduce the number of complaints. The demand for the product was much higher than the company anticipated. They really were not properly staffed to take all the orders," said the BBB's Joy Bender.
Not wanting to run up a big travel bill, I went next door and spoke with my neighbor, who said he was pleased with his heater.
"It looks nice in the room, the fake flames look good, and it gives off heat," he said. "But," he added, "I do wish I would have understood that I was paying $300.00 for basically what turns out to be a 1500-watt space heater."
I didn't want to tell my neighbor this, but I went home and checked the Target Web site, where I found a wide selection of 1500-watt heaters starting at $19.99. They didn't have an Amish mantel but when it comes to heat -- barring a miracle -- 1500 watts is, as Dr. Doyle reminds us, 1500 watts, no more no less.
Consumer comments
George of Charleston, IL December 18, 2009
A friend of ours gave us one of these "fireplaces" last week. I put it together, turned it on, and watched the disk on our electric nearly spin off its axis! What a joke. First thing I noticed when I opened the shipping container was the label "Made in China". I hadn't realized that the Amish had moved to China. There's nothing Amish about this piece of junk. Got a kick out of the advertiser stuffers in the envelope accompanying the piece of junk. Advertising for all types of vitamins and cure-alls for all that ails us.
Sandra of Concord, CA December 17, 2009
On November 24, 2008, I bought the Handmade Amish Oak Fireplace for 259.00 for the unit, 19.00 for the remote and no cost for shipping. This unit was one that, according to the email offer that I was sent was "THIS OFFER ONLY GOOD ON THE WEBSITE" and had only minor imperfections in the wood.
Well the first few days it worked ok. I live in a small house and use the heater in the living room. I pretty much keep it on low all the time with the "flames" turned way down low and it keeps the temperature at around 68 to 70 degrees (depending on how cold it is outside). I have only turned the unit on high maybe twice and that is when I noticed my electricity bill go way up! I have also found that the closer you have the unit, the less you will feel the heat. It's seems like the heat by-passes you. But if you have it a few yards away, it seems to work a lot better.
Mike of Montgomery, PA December 11, 2009
Let me first say that I am a certified thermographer and a HVAC service technician by trade. I service residential, commercial, and industrial HVAC equipment. I have done studies where we installed new equipment – before and after – and in all cases I can say that the only variable that changed was the addition of new equipment – period! I started into the Thermal Image Field several years ago and own my equipment – I can safely say that until people wise up and take care of structural issues they can buy all the nice looking heaters they want – and set back and watch the electric or gas meter spin. I am just so shocked as to how many people buy into these “new” systems when in fact if people would correct there building deficiencies they would see a true savings. A lot of home owners will opt to lay out 8000.00 to 12,000.00 for a new A/C Heat system when in fact the average repair – plus my fee for the use of the Thermal Imager – would have ran any where from as little as 150.00 to 500.00 – this is the addition of insulation – door seals – and some real simple things we tend to over look. If you don’t intend to display this e-mail that’s ok – but please take 5 minutes to think about what I have wrote – really think about it. You might be very surprised!
Margaret of Lewisburg, TN November 21, 2009
I brought an Amish fireplace and it is now making an awful sound and caused my electic bill to from 36.00 to 95.00. Doesn't lower your heating bill. it triples them and makes an awful sound doing it
Valerie of Jasper, GA November 1, 2009
My husband bought 2 Amish Heaters thinking that he would save money on our heat in the winter and what happened was quite the opposite. Firstly, the heater is very noisy. Secondly, to make the heater blow on it's maximum output it still doesn't make much of a difference. We noticed that our heating bills went sky high. We NEVER use it. If there is a Class Action Suit we would like to be a part of it. Thank you.
Steve of Marshfield, WI October 23, 2009
We saw the advertisements for the "Amish" Heat Surge electric fireplaces on TV and decided to purchase one for our brother as a gift. We later purchased another for ourselves. Well, unless we sit directly in front of the fireplace, you can't feel the heat and it definitely does not even heat a room.
We then contact Jim, our brother/brother-in-law, and he said his does not heat anything. So it seems that we put out a lot of money for two worthless heaters. Contacting the company has been unsuccessful and with today's economic situation, we cannot afford to return the heaters unless we are offered a full refund.
We are out a lot of money (I don't have the invoices handy) and I believe it is around 600. We can't afford this as Steve is the only one working and reduced hours. We feel we were monetarily injured, scammed, and strongly believe a class-action suit should be filed again the company. From the reading of blogs regarding the same complaint, a lot of other people feel the same.
Jane of Marshfield, MA October 13, 2009
We ordered the heat surge with the cherry finish cabinet, very nice looking. We had it in a large living room, it worked fairly well in that room/ We would alternate between the heater and the furnace, trying to save on our heating bill. The amount saved on oil is questionable, but our electric bill trippled for the month we used it, due to that we use it now only as a fire place...fake fire for over 300.00.
For the month we used it our electric useage went from just under 200 kwh in October 2008, to 450kwh for November 2008. I have advised others looking into this product not to purchase it unless it is only for the fake fire.
Ambrose of Cresco, PA May 5, 2009
I purchased two Amish Heat Surge units in December 2008, one for our guest room, and one for our bedroom for over 700. The one in our guest room almost never gets used, I guess that is why it can still heat. By Tuesday May 5th 2009, six months later, the one in our bedroom died.
Cat;herine of Columbus Jct., IA March 5, 2009
Cat;herine of Columbus Jct. IA (03/05/09)Our Amish Roll-n-Glow Fireplace worked fine from October 2007 until December of 2008. Then the blower and heating element stopped working. The fireplace still glows, period. I was cautious when I ordered the heater, so paid for the extended warranty. This came to a total of 375.00, which I charged to my Chase Mastercard account. I have the Noverber 2007 statement to prove the transaction took place.
We really need the extra heat source since the main or great room was an add on to the original structure. This room is not heated as efficiently by our furnace as the rest of the house. We need to replace this heater, preferably with a more depend- able heat source. The 100.00 cost of shipping the heater back to Canton, OH for repair is not feasible, or economically possible at this time. We are retiries and like everyone else we are feeling the pinch in our budget. Turning up our thermostat is really not an option for us. Read more:

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