Name: Envi High-Efficiency Electric Panel Whole Room Heater
One of the most difficult challenges faced during colder months is finding a heating solution which meets five requirements: quiet operation, moderate energy consumption, heats effectively, easy to install/use, and possibly the hardest requirement to meet, looks good in the home. There are a few heaters out there that meet some of those five characteristics, but rarely all five. The Envi High-Efficiency Electric Panel Heater is a passive heating solution which seemed to have the makings of winner in all respects; we've just finished a month-long test run with the Envi and report our findings below...
Wall mounting hardware is included, which requires a screwdriver at minimum, but a common light task power drill is recommended, especially if you live in an older apartment or house. The wall mounting kit seems primarily designed for newer drywall construction, so you may require additional hardware to secure the Envi.
Performance: we talked at great lengths with eHeat founder and president, Mark McCourt, about the Envi and how it works. The Envi was designed to improve on the function and form of the flat panel Econo-Heater / Eco-Heater solution, utilizing a protective case around the panel heating unit, maximizing the fanless performance with a dual-stack convection setup within which lets the natural flow of cold-to-warm air rising do the work, all the while improving energy efficiency while maximizing the warmth factor. After less than a minute on, users can feel a current of warm air emanating up from top, drawing from the colder air from your floor at the bottom of the unit, creating a circulation effect which helps warm a room without the need of loud fans.
The Envi is specifically aimed at heating specific rooms of an apartment or house, modeling in many ways after Victorian-era heating, where a fireplaces were strategically placed in rooms where doors could be shut to maximize heating effects. When used in bathrooms, small bedrooms, or in our case, the home office, the Envi can heat up modest sizes spaces more than several degrees, making this especially a great heating solution for renters who live in apartments in areas like San Francisco, Chicago, New York and other cities with smaller spaces.
Our experience with the Envi is it requires a little more patience than the automatic heat blast of typical space heaters; it is not an instant-on solution, but more akin to floor heating in its use and effectiveness. The heater only requires between 150-450 watts of power, the variable power tuned by an easy-to-use dial at the top of the unit, so we'd leave it on a few hours before we needed to be in the room, close a door, then return to find the room comfortably warm instead of unnaturally hot or ineffectively cold (about 10-15 degrees). Goldielocks would have undoubtedly been pleased. Hook this up to a timer device, and you could further manage the heater's effectiveness and energy use to a specific schedule.
The Envi does require a properly insulated space, as we noted our drafty home office could sometimes erase the warming effects of the Envi if a chilly draft pushed into the room. No fault of the heater itself, but it does illustrate the limitations of the unit which passively heats a room. Also, placement of the unit will affect how much heat will be felt. Think of Envi as a small, warm fire; the closer you are situated, the more apparent the warmth. Our unit sits just behind us, warming our seated torso, but hardly felt by our feet.
What We Liked: we love the slim profile design and the sturdier quality of this improved design. The Envi operates quietly, heats up fairly quickly, and operates cool to the touch on the side panel, making it a safe choice for parents and pet owners. Installation was a 10 minute affair, and the economical operational costs are appreciated in a time when electrical costs during winter months can make a big dent in our budgets.
What Needs Improvement: the additional of a small fan option would make this unit that much more useful in our opinion. We love the quiet operation, but to be honest, when you're cold, you're likely an impatient grump. Adding something akin to a quiet PC fan to push some of that precious warm air at the start of operation would be a welcome addition for quicker heating.
Summary: if you're an apartment dweller, renter, or live in a small house with modest sized rooms, a couple of these Envi heaters are an excellent choice. If you live in a modern sized home with large open rooms, this sort of stacked convection heating device is not ideal (we tested a second purchased unit in a suburban bedroom, and the effects were negligible). Also allergy sufferers will like a heating solution which doesn't kick up dust and allergens, while parents and pet owners will feel safe having the unit warm rooms without burn hazards to worry about. We liked the Envi so much, as noted above, we purchased a unit for ourselves after testing the review unit; a recommended heating solution if you consider the limitations.
Cons: not super expensive, but priced more than cheap space heater; mounting hardware needs improvement; not a quick heating solution, requires planning and understanding about convection heating for optimal effect; designed to be most effective for 130 sq. ft. and smaller rooms.
Recommend+ (Strong Recommend for small space dwellers)