Friday, September 18, 2015

Product Review: Comfort Zone Model CZ442WM Ceramic Heater

So, winter is approaching. It was a very hot summer in many regions of the country this year. The prediction is it will be followed by a very cold winter. Are you prepared? Even those people who lived in a fixed residential housing situation like a detached house, townhouse, condominium, apartment or loft may find that it might be nice to have a little supplemental heat in the areas of the home you are occupying during various times of the day.

Then there are those people who choose to live an alternative lifestyle in a converted van, school bus, utility trailer or any of a variety of commercially manufactured RV's. Some of you may have chosen some form of “tiny house” or possibly a yurt. There are a variety of ways to heat any of these options ranging from wood, pellets or coal to passive or active solar heating.

I've tried several ways of heating the limited space in My McVansion, my tiny house on wheels built into a high top conversion van. Here's a unit I found that I'm extremely pleased with. The fact that it's form factor takes up minimal space in my tiny 50 square feet of living space is also important to me. What amazes me is that watt for watt, this little heater delivers better than other larger heaters have in my particular case.

Introducing The Comfort Zone CZ442WM Ceramic Space Heater

This small, plastic cased, ceramic heater is about one-third the cubic size of the typical, all metal cased, milk-house utility heater of the same power rating, 1,500 watts. Both units cost about the same to purchase. I have one of each. I can't say the milk-house utility heater doesn't do the job. It does. But, it takes up so much more space in my tiny amount of “real estate.”

Another thing I like about the small Comfort Zone ceramic heater is that it doesn't have the metallic sound of the milk-house utility heater. Because it's case is plastic and feels very substantial, there is some fan sound, of course, but it doesn't tend to have that metallic ringing sound that an all metal case heater has.

I find it easier to place the small ceramic heater in my limited space. I can put it on the floor and easily navigate around it in my tiny floor space. Or, I can set it on any of four flat “counter” surfaces at different heights in the van and aim them at the area I want to warm up the fastest. The metal milk-house utility heater is so much larger that it becomes an obstacle on the floor and renders unusable most of the rest of the counter it's on.

I read a seveal user reviews and a few people complained the thermostat wasn't very effective. My experience is that the thermostat was a bit quirky acting from time to time. But, I think it was mostly caused by the location of the heater. Since we know heat rises, if you put the heater on the floor the cool air from any source is going to begin filling in the lower part of my van or a room, so the thermostat will react to that. It may be warmer up higher in the room, but the thermostat will react to the temperature acting on it wherever it's located.

The controls are easy to read and use. Both the metal milk-house heater and the Comfort Zone have built in safety switches. If for any reason the heaters are tilted or pushed over, the heaters shut off instantly. On occasion this was annoying, but only because I did something to upset the unit. In matter of course, this is a great safety feature and it works perfectly. I'd rather be annoyed at my clumsiness than incinerated into a “crispy critter” by a fire that shouldn't have happened. The Comfort Zone heater also has an automatic overheat protection system. Just one more level of safety.

Both of the units are priced in the same range, but I'm partial to the looks of the Comfort Zone ceramic heater. It's small size and design of the unit make it very attractive compared to the larger metal unit.

One important matter to realize with either of these units is that you need a good source of 110 volt AC power. This is usually not a problem if you are living in a traditional fixed residential unit of some kind. It also may not be an issue if you are living in a relatively fixed tiny house. However, for the mobile set, it's a different story. Unless you have a massive battery bank or a huge solar panel array, you are not going to use this heater from battery power. The heater draws 12.5 amps that equates to 1,500 watts. If you do the math, it equates to the heater drawing about 125 amps at 12 volts draw from a battery bank over an hour. In my case, it would deplete the usable power, calculated at 50%, of my 245 amp hour, AGM, deep cycle battery in one hour. It might be a little longer than an hour depending on the length of the on-off cycles determined by the temperature and the thermostat setting. So, unless you have a nice generator or access to shore power, you're going to want another form of heat for certain times, like propane.

Bottom Line

Here's my bottom line. I really like and am pleased with this Comfort Zone ceramic heater. I got the heat from my metal milk-house utility heater, but it just took up so much more room to accomplish the same job. Plus, I just didn't enjoy the metallic sound it made in my tiny space.

I used my milk-house utility heater one winter (when I had shore power available). I used this small ceramic heater the next winter. I was much more impressed overall with the Comfort Zone, which I acquired on a lark. I just wanted something smaller and more space efficient. I've probably had six or eight of the milk-house heaters over the past 30 years. They always did the job I expected. But, that was then and this is now.

Will it keep you warm on a frigid, sub-zero temperature night with a 30 mile per hour wind blowing? If you're in a van or similar mobile lifestyle habitat, let's be realistic, probably not. In that case I might supplement my portable propane heater with this ceramic heater and, of course, I would require shore power or a gen set to do that. What if you're in a well insulated fixed residential situation, in a small room, the size this heater was designed for? Most likely it will or at least keep the chill off.

The unit is rated at 5,120 BTUs. My portable propane heater is rated at either 4,000 or 9,000 BTUs. At 9,000 in my tiny space, it takes just minutes to turn my van into an oven. On the flip side of the coin, I wish the 4,000 setting were actually 5,000, it would be perfect. The Comfort Zone ceramic heater does a very nice job of keeping things comfortable in a van environment in cool temperatures in the 15 to 40 degree range with a slight wind blowing. I believe it will do a very adequate job in a well insulated fixed residential environment.

There are several different kinds of electric space heaters. Each has its pros and cons. These ceramic space heaters are best at providing quick quick heat and directional or personal heat. They are well suited for providing a strong, intense heat and for an active home (mobile or fixed) environment. They are good at providing a quiet, slow and steady heat. In general, I have found the Comfort Zone CZ442WM ceramic heater, fulfills pretty much all of my requirements for an economical, durable, attractive and efficient space heater with a tiny foot print.  

I have included links for both the Comfort Zone CZ442WM ceramic heater reviewed in this article and the Patton Milk-House Utility Heater, also mentioned in the review. And, I remind you I am an Amazon affiliate and will receive a small commission if you purchase anything through my Amazon links. I hope you do and appreciate your support. Importantly, it costs you nothing, you pay the same price if you use my link or not.  


Nancy Vogl said...

Ed, Nancy Vogl here! I'm going to order this heater (through your link) for my six-month Nancy Vogl's Bureau Tour. Thanks for the very thorough review!

Steve said...

These little electric heaters are great in RVs. There is very little fire danger from them unless you kick off your blankets and cover them. However, the portable propane heater is a high risk proposition. In addition to the fire hazard, a propane heater uses the oxygen in the RV for proper combustion (propane heaters for RVs are vented for outside air). Even leaving a window cracked for air may not be enough to mitigate the risk.

In my days as a beat reporter, I saw body bags filled by each of those risks; and on my San Diego waterfront beat, I saw the remnants yacht after a propane explosion.

If you are acutely aware of the hazards, you can use these things and minimize the risks; screw up and your dead.

A warning from a 10-year full timer hoping to take to the road again. Be careful, Ed.

Anonymous said...

Does the cord get warm on the Comfort Zone heater, or does it stay cool?

Ed Helvey said...

I've not experienced the cord getting hot. I have a fairly heavy gauge 50'AC power cord I power the van with. Nothing gets hot. Once I get the van warm, I often will drop it back to the lower power heat settings So, the heater isn't on all the time.

Thanks for asking.


Anonymous said...

Can this be used with an extension cord then power strip (with heater plugged into the power strip)

Ed Helvey said...

It's going to draw 1500 watts at full power. I think it's 900 at low power. In either case, this is a pretty hefty load. You'll want a very heavy duty extension cord rated to 15 Amps or more for the distance of 25 to 50 feet. Personally, I would not put it through a power strip. It seems that if you are going to use a power strip you're contemplating adding more things to the circuit. I think it potentially could get dangerous and become a serious fire hazard.

Be very careful. Death is permanent I've been informed. Thanks for asking.