Friday, August 01, 2014

Corn Is Crashing

The prediction of a record corn crop this year has sent prices tumbling almost 25% from year ago levels to $3.76 per bushel.

This is also well off the record highs of $8.00/BU seen during July of 2012.

So last year's price of around $225/ton for bulk fuel corn should also see a decrease. It's still too early for the fuel corn dealers to set the 2014 - 2015 prices, but I'll let you know as soon as they decide.

You can also check the Fuel Cost Comparison Chart for updated pricing on corn and 7 other home heating fuels.

FYI: Corn fuel at $225/ton (last years price) works out to around $23 per 1 million BTUs which is $5 more per 1mil BTUs than natural gas, and $10 less per 1mil BTUs than fuel oil.

Friday, July 04, 2014


Sunbeam Products of Boca Raton, Fla., is recalling about 151,600 Holmes ceramic heaters.

This recall involves Holmes oscillating ceramic heaters sold in black, purple, red, blue and white.

The firm has received 132 reports of units that unexpectedly stopped working and/or overheated, resulting in 1 report of smoke inhalation and 10 reports of property damage involving burned flooring.

The rectangular heaters (shown at left) included in the recall are about 12 inches tall, 8 ½ inches wide and 5 ½ inches deep and have model number HCH1823M printed on a label on the bottom of the product.

The ceramic heaters can overheat, posing a fire hazard to consumers.

The heaters, manufactured in China, were sold at Fred Meyer, Target, Walmart and other retailers nationwide from August 2013, to March 2014, for about $30.

Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled heater, unplug it and contact Sunbeam Products, for instructions on how to obtain a full refund.

Consumers may contact Sunbeam Products at (800) 834-0056 anytime.

FYI: Another Holmes space heater I wouldn't want in my home is the Holmes HFH111T-U Desktop Heater with Fan.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

5 Things You Need To Know About Portable Air Conditioners

Whynter Portable Air Conditioner 
One of the best ways to keep you and your family cool during the hot weather is with a portable air conditioner; especially when the use of a window air conditioner is restricted by regulations or irregular window construction.

Picking out the right portable air conditioner to fit your needs is easy if you know all the facts. Here then are 5 things you need to know about portable air conditioners before you spend your hard earned cooling dollars.

1. what is EER?
EER stands for energy efficiency ratio and is a numerical guide to help you compare the energy efficiency of different models. The EER of most units ranges between 8.5 and 11; the higher the number the better. If the EER is not stated you can figure it out for yourself by dividing the unit's wattage into the BTU rating.

2. What's the difference between single hose and double hose portable air conditioners?
All portable air conditioners need at least one hose to exhaust the hot air generated by the compressor. So the primary difference between single and dual hose models is where the intake air comes from. A single hose model intakes air from the room and recirculates it just like a window air conditioner. While a dual hose unit intakes air from the outside through one hose and exhausts the heated compressor air from the other.

3. Are dual hose models more efficient than single hose models?
There is no quantifiable evidence that I can find, (and believe me I've been researching this for quite a while) that a dual hose model is more efficient than a single hose model. As a matter of fact, I can't find one instance where  a dual hose model has a lower EER than a single hose unit where the BRU outputs are equal.

However, I can tell you this: In most cases, portable air conditioners with higher BTU outputs are more  efficient than units with lower BTU ratings simply because incrementally, it  doesn't take that much more power (watts) to run a larger compressor.

For instance, the Whynter Dual Hose 12,000 BTU ARC-12SD draws only 18% more power than the Mobile Comfort single hose 8,000 BTU KY-80, yet delivers 50% more BTUs of cooling.

4. Are portable air conditioners with heaters a good deal?
Portable air conditioners with heaters are a real convenience and a good value. However, heating capacity varies a great deal between models based on which type of heater is used in the unit. Some models use a separate electric heater, while others run the existing compressor in reverse for heat just like a central air conditioner's heat pump.

Those that use a heat pump have the capacity to heat approximately the same area that they cool. Those that employ a separate electric heater heat only 30% of the area the unit is capable of cooling.

Besides the convenience of having two appliances in one, the price is nearly identical to a similar size unit that offers cooling only.

5. Are portable air conditioners expensive to run?
Surprisingly, even the most powerful 14,000 BTU model consumes only 1,250 watts versus 1,500 watts needed to run a typical electric space heater.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Pros and Cons of Infrared Fireplace Inserts

Classic Flame 28" Infrared Fireplace Insert
I first noticed the inclusion of quartz infrared heaters into the design of electric fireplaces and inserts at the beginning of the 2012 heating season.

From a marketing perspective, expanding into the electric fireplace product line is a no-brainer given the popularity of quartz infrared heaters in general.

But are infrared inserts just a gimmick, or do they provide additional benefits not found in conventional inserts?

Superior Heat Quality
If you already own an infrared heater you don't need to be convinced that its moist, even heat creates a more comfortable environment than the harsh, arid heat that comes from an electric coil heater.

And if you've never experienced the difference you'll be pleasantly surprised when you do.

More Powerful Heater
The typical electric insert comes equipped with a standard electric coil heater rated at 4,600 BTUs, or the equivalent of 1,350 watts.

A quartz infrared heater, by comparison, is rated at 5,200 BTUs, or 1,500 watts which works out to 10% more heating power.

And, since it has a radiant heat source that directs its warmth to inanimate objects such as funiture, which retain heat, it uses less energy to maintain the room temperature.

Flame Display
The identical flame display is used for both infrared and non-infrared inserts of similar sized models within a brand name's product line. For example, the same SpectraFire flame display is used in all of Classic Flame's 28" models.

Although the flame display quality isn't an issure for the purposes of this article, it's understandable why it would be more important than the type of heater for some consumers

By the way, the reviews I've read for the Classic Flame SpectraFire flame display have been good to outstanding.

Heating Area Coverage

I don't know why everyone who sells infrared heaters claims they will heat 1.000 square feet, but they persist in doing so. I know my 1,500 watt DR Heater will comfortably heat around 600 square feet of my Boston condo, but that's about it. There are just too many obstructions (doors, walls) that prevent a heater of this size from reaching every corner of a home's layout.

Or, if you have an open floor plan, it's impossible for any 1,500 watt heating appliance, quartz or otherwise, to keep up with the demand.

So the answer is yes, a radiant heater will do a better job at heating larger areas than most conventional heaters, but it's not going to heat 1,000 square feet unless it's a self contained room in a home built to LEED standards.

Although the additional cost of an infrared heater is not mentioned as a drawback by people who have purchased and reviewed them, it might be a deterrent to some.

Fireplace Inserts Are Versatile
Electric fireplace inserts are popular with RV owners as an after market installation. They can also be used as a stand alone heating unit or, if you're into woodworking, you could custom build a mantle and surround to suit your taste.

Come see our collection of infrared and non-infrared fireplace inserts today.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Improve Your Fireplace's Efficiency With An Electric Fireplace Insert

Nothing beats kicking back in front of a roaring fire with an adult beverage and your favorite  pet or human, and watching 90% of the heat go up the chimney.

Besides, after four martinis who really cares?

Well folks, with an electric fireplace insert, you can now drink as much as you like secure in the knowledge that 100% of the heat is radiating into the room and not going up in smoke.

All kidding aside, the typical wood burning fireplace is only 10%-15% efficient. And when the fire dies down the fireplace actually works in reverse and sucks the heated air out of the room and up the flue.

By contrast, an electric fireplace insert (also called a plug-in firebox) is 100% efficient, eliminates the hassle of dealing with firewood, and keeps your family room free of harmful airborn particulates and ash residue.

Getting Started

Measure the width and height of the fireplace opening.
Inserts are availble in many different widths ranging from 18" to 33". The width measurement refers to the viewing area. The actual width of the firebox is 1" wider than the viewing area owing to the flange that runs along the vertical edge on either side of the insert.

Some models also include a trim kit to cover the space between the insert and the fireplace opening. Other model types come with a flush mount kit for in-the-wall installations.

Choose Your Options
Once you've chosen the appropriate size firebox, the available options are usually limited to what the manufacturer offers for that particular size. Here are some of the choices that are usually offered.

Heating Unit
Most models come equipped with a conventional electric space heater rated at 4,600 BTUs, or the equivalent of 1,350 watts. A popular alternative to the conventional heater is the radiant type powered by quartz infrared tubes. The infrared models generate 10% more heat with a rating of 5,200 BTUs, or 1,500 watts.

Flame Display
The realistic quality of the flame display and log sets has really improved across the board. Each manufacturer gives their flame display a brand name such as the Classic Flame Spectrafire or Dimplex Multifire.

The flame display itself can emanate from either a log set or a bed of glass pebbles for a contemporary look. Most flame displays offer multiple settings to shape the color and brightness effect to suit your mood.

Standard Features
All units come with a glass enclosure and a remote that lets you control all fireplace functions from the comfort of your easy chair.