Commentary: “Amish Fireplaces”

By now, we’ve all seen the commercials and advertisements for the Amish fireplace. It’s basically an electric space heater dressed up with a wood mantel and made to look like a fireplace. And it can be yours, FREE, if you just purchase the mantel!

It’s supposed to save you tons of money on your heating bills. MSNBC.com’s ConsumerMan column has a more in-depth explanation of this ruse.

The “Amish fireplace” mantel costs $337. For another $18, you get a remote, and a 2-year extended warranty will set you back another $36. Of course, there’s a $49 charge for shipping and handling. So the heating component is free, free, free! /sarcasm/

So who in their right mind would pay $440 for a glorified space heater? While I can appreciate Amish craftsmanship, I doubt it’s worth that much. And who knows how much of the

The Heat Surge technology claims to crank out 4,606 BTUs of energy — “Heat Surge infrared technology safely heats a room faster and more effectively than typical space heaters.”

Well, my $35 oil-filled, radiator-style electric space heater puts out 5,115 BTUs on the high setting, and within 20 minutes, our formerly-cold porch room is comfortable enough to use. Another 15 minutes, and the ambient temperature meets that of the rest of our home.

In general, space heaters only warm up small areas — one room. And to reap the “benefits” of space heaters, you need to turn down — or turn off — the heat to the rest of the house. Otherwise, you’re paying for two heating sources.

Also keep in mind that in most areas, electricity still costs more than gas — so whether or not you save money remains to be seen.