1500W oil heaters – Bionaire vs Garrison

In looking for a couple oil-filled radiator space heaters, I came across a couple models:

  • Garmin 1500W Oil-Filled Heater – 043-5963 (Canadian Tire)
  • Bionaire 1500W Oil Filler Radiator – BOF2001-CN (Wal-Mart)

Both have a thermostat that can be set, a digital display, and claim to have a frost protection feature.

Here are a couple pictures of them, side-by-side. Bionaire (black) is on the left. Garrison (white) on the right:

 

Both are powered on – it’s a bit dim in the room, so in the 1st image, the camera’s flash is off. In the 2nd image, the camera’s flash is on.

As you can see, the Bionaire has a blue backlit display, with some pretty large numbers. You’ll have no problem reading it in the dark. On the other hand, the Garrison has a small display, and it’s not backlit – it’s very difficult to see in the dark. A couple more images closer up:

 

It’s really tough to read some of the indicators on the Garrison model (right-side). Particularly the stuff on the top and bottom. If your room’s not very well-lit, it’s an exercise in frustration. Try reading/making-out as much as you can in the image above. See what you can pick out.

Now here’s another image with the flash on:

Really, the Garrison’s not meant for a dark room, assuming you plan to read the display. If you’re planning to set-and-forget, it might be just fine though.

With that out of the way, let’s get this comparison / review moving….

DetailsBionaireGarrisonAdvantage
InstallationBoth come with the rollers/brackets detached, which are assembled in a similar fashion with the unit upside-down.Bionaire’s is a fair bit quicker to install. There’s only 1 wing nut per bracket clamp (the other side of the clamp just slides in), and the wheels pop on. Instructions are short, but excellent, with a couple simple but very helpful diagrams.Garrison’s takes a while. 2 wing nuts per bracket which are a bit small (making it a bit cumbersome), and the wheels need to screw on as well. For some reason, Garrison decided that the best place to pack the wheels in the box was below the lower styrofoam insert. I imagine Canadian Tire probably gets a lot of returns with the explanation being “wheels missing” when in reality they’re just in a weird place. The instructions are lengthy, but diagrams are rather poor.Bionaire
StabilityBoth have safety mechanisms to shut off the radiator in the event it tips over, but is 1 more likely to tip or roll off than the other?Bionaire’s has a slightly longer wheel base length-wise due to the bracket design. However, since I doubt anyone’s going to manage to tip one of these over to the front/rear, the only thing this is likely to help with is if the unit rolls backwards – the bracket will smack into the wall rather than the tank. This unit should have roughly the same likeliness of tipping to the side (the most probable way to tip it) as the Garrison.The Garrison has larger, wider wheels. Obviously, with the large wheels it rolls easier. 2 of the 4 wheels are locking wheels – you can flip a tap to keep them from rolling. Thus, it’s easier to move the unit when you want to, and harder to move the unit when you want it to stay.Garrison
Wattage settingsBoth units have 3 different heat settings, for an effective “low” “medium” and “high”. Whether you simply want the thing on all the time (rather than set at a specific temperature), or are worried about tripping your circuit breaker, having settings other than “max” can be beneficial.Bionare has 700/800/1500W settings. What a joke. 700/800? This may as well be a 750/1500W, though I don’t suppose they could advertise it as having 3 heat settings if that were the case. Seriously, 500/1000/1500 would have been much better.Garrison has 600/900/1500W settings. Pretty reasonable layout, and I can see a rational situation for using each of them.Garrison
DisplayI touched on this above with the pictures.Bionaire’s has a blue backlight, and nice large numbers and icons. In addition, Bionaire’s can show you the *current* temperature (or alternately the temperature you want the thermostat *set* to). You can also see the temperature in degrees F or C.Garrison’s isn’t backlit, and is small and hard to read at times. The only case I can make for Garrison’s being better for somebody is if you specifically *don’t* want the backlight. Garrisons has no way of showing you the current temperature – only the set temperature. However, you can set the Garrison to show you the time.Bionaire
Ease of use.How intuitive is each interface? Can you figure it out just by pressing buttons and looking at the icons, or do you have to memorize the manual?Bionaire’s is fairly intuitive. Press enough buttons (which are labelled decently enough with icons), and you’ll eventually figure most of it out. You’ll still want to keep the manual handy though.Garrison’s has a complicated feel to it. 4 out of the 7 buttons have to do with the time & timers. If you ignore those 4, it becomes significantly more simple. If you plan to use any of the time features, you’ll need to read through the manual.Bionaire
TimersBoth have timers for turning the radiator on/off.Bionaire’s is simple, and rather limited. Set the thing to turn off in anywhere from 1-24 hours, or turn on in 1-24 hours (1 hour intervals). It’s similar to a TV’s sleep timer. You can figure it out without the manual.Garrison’s has a couple types of timers. The first is a timer that can be set for 30m-8h (presumably to turn it off). The second is a timer for scheduling. For example turn on at 8:30am, and turn off at 11:30pm. While you might muddle your way through it, you’ll probably want to use the manual.Garrison
Anti-freeze settingDesigned for places where you might want to keep temperatures just-above-freezing (near water pipes for example), both advertise an anti-freeze feature. It’s worth noting that these units don’t turn back on after a power outage though, which makes this feature worthless if you’re going on vacation.Bionaire’s is fairly simple. Turn the thing on, and press the “mode” button twice. You’ll get the fancy little snowflake (seen in above screenshot), and the thing will turn on when the temperature hits 5 degrees C. The only pain is that the unit must be set to the highest power setting for this option to show.Garrison’s anti-freeze setting instructions say to “set the temperature to 5 degrees C”. Seriously. This is the anti-freeze setting advertised. Somehow I feel like I’ve been robbed of a feature. They could have just advertised “can be manually set as low as 5 degrees to prevent freezing” instead. I really expected a button and indicator.Bionaire

It’s worth noting that Bionaire’s also has an “Energy Savings Heat & Save(tm)” mode. What it actually does is has the heater run on high for 10 minutes, followed by 30 minutes of medium. This cycle repeats. Unless there’s some particular reason you want the thing automatically switching between high/medium while it’s running, you’ll probably never use it. If you actually want to save energy, you’ll just use the thermostat.

Conclusion

The Bionaire has a great display and is easy to use. Being able to see the current temperature is a definite plus. If you like to monitor your heater at a glance, prefer big displays, or want something you can figure out without the manual, it’s probably the model to get.

The Garrison has well-rounded wattage settings, locking wheels (a good idea on what’s essentially a hot case of oil on wheels), and is pretty strong when it comes to programmability. It’s not as intuitive, and the display could really use a backlight, but functionally, it’s superior in most ways.

One major flaw with both models is the lack of any sort of memory when unplugged. This really diminishes the value of the “anti frost” features. Power loss means you have to get back to the oil based radiator/heater before the temperature in the room drops from 5 degrees to 0. Technically, this makes the “manual” models superior for those applications. You might not be able to set the “manual” models to a specific temperature, but at least when the power comes back on, they do too.

The Bionaire BOF2001-CN is currently available at Wal-Mart Canada for $69.96.
The Garrison 043-5963-6 is currently available at Canadian Tire for $79.99.