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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.

 

  • Ed

    Thanks for taking the time, good reviews!

  • sim

    If anyone still manages this, hope so.

    I just bought the bionaire. The temperature on it keeps flashing. I am using the thermostat option. I’m guessing it only flashes because it’s not on? only an assumption tho. confirmation would be nice.

    • sim:

      Your assumption is correct. On the Bionaire, once it reaches the temperature you’ve set, the heating element shuts off and the display flashes until the temperature dips (at which point the heater turns back on and the display goes solid again).

      • Anonymous

        So how do the Delonghi or Honeywell brands compare?

  • Jo

    Thanks for the reviews, Matt. I have a question for you: are either of these cool to the touch when turned on? (I’m thinking probably not…but some models apparently are). I’m thinking of buying one for the kid’s room. Thanks again!

    • Jo,

      They’re not cool to the touch, and can actually get quite hot. Using my IR thermometer, I’ve typically been seeing temps of about 60-70 degrees Celcius, though a couple portions a little harder to get at show close to 90 (I’m assuming those portions are a little closer to the element hotspot). To give you an idea as to how hot it feels, on a portion that’s currently 62 degrees, I can touch the thing with my fingers/hand for about 2-3 seconds without getting a burn (though it really hurts at that point and I have to pull away). I’ve actually rubbed my hands against the thing to warm them up after being outside. Using a more sensitive part of skin (inner wrist) though, I don’t even last a second – it hurts fast.

      I’d imagine a typical 6+ child would pull away well before getting burned (and understand that it’s hot and they should play away from it to begin with). I wouldn’t let a toddler around one of these things though.

  • Rob

    Thanks for the review. One thing: there is a lot of focus on the blue light in the article, but the most important thing is not even discussed in this article: performance.

    Which unit actually works better in heating up the room properly?

    • Since both are 1500W units, they generate the same amount of heat (electricity –> heat is 100% efficient). The only possible difference would be how well the design dissipates that heat into the air, which is what I’m assuming you’re referring to.

      From what I can tell, the design is nearly identical – same number of fins, same dimensions (total differences of under 1/4 of an inch generally). I wouldn’t be surprised if the enclosure/casings were manufactured by the same company. If I were to yank off the front panels, wheels, and painted them the same color, I doubt I’d be able to tell them apart.

      Given the above, it probably won’t come as a surprise that when they’re both running at the 1500W setting, I can’t tell any difference in performance. I’d suggest buying based on the features someone wants – in terms of heat output, you’re not going to notice a lick of difference between them.

      As far as heating up a room properly, as the sole source of heat, neither results in a room with an even distribution of heat. You have a hotspot around the radiator itself – the floor, and nearby walls are quite warm. The further you get away, the cooler it gets, though with doors closed, no air leaks to the outside, and decent insulation, the entire room eventually gets to roughly the same temperature (with the exception of the hotspot). So far, they’ve been great in the smaller rooms (bedrooms) – when it’s -20C outside, I can get it well past +25C in a bedroom in no time if I wish, but on the other hand, the performance is awful when alone in large areas – throwing one in the living room, kitchen, or basement, once you get far enough away from the heater, you might wonder whether it’s actually on or not, even if it’s been on for a day. Obviously how well any heater does will be directly related to the level of insulation/winterization in your particular home, and the size of the space it’s trying to heat though.

  • Thebaldeagle

    Garrison oil heaters r on sale now at cdn. tire! I just bought one!

  • Denis Savoie

    Matt: Thanks for the well written and informative review. I was at a Christmas social function last evening in my apt. building and at least two people have these type of heaters (not sure which brand) and both say they work fine for the intended purpose. One person has a one bedroom the other a two. The apt. building is older and as electric baseboard heaters and it is very expensive to heat any unit in this building. I am going to see them today and likely will buy one (not sure which brand or model) and will let you know what I think. Thanks again. Denis

  • John

    Bought a Garrison with a nice backlight display at CT. but the manual is only in French. It was all assembled and ready to go. Works nicely for what it is.

  • mm

    just got the garrison model today on sale. i just finished assembly and turned it on. waiting to see the performance. im sitting in a basement so i can feel nearer to the unit there is some heat but further way – yeah, you might wonder if its on. its only been 15 minutes so ill see how it goes in the next hour or so.

  • karen

    hi … a couple of questions … we live in an older high rise apt. on the ground floor with an outside wall on one side of us … the electric heating is very expensive and does not warm up the place adequately … when you use the oil heaters do you have to use them in a room WITH THE DOOR CLOSED … we sleep with our doors open because we have 4 cats … and do you know the 3 wattage settings for the manual versions for both these heaters ? … hope you can help … thankyou … Karen

    • Karen: Keeping the door closed is really best – otherwise the warm air will escape to the rest of your place! I suppose you could leave the door open just enough for the cats to get in and out, and that way the warm air will escape less quickly than if your door were wide open.

      How quickly the warm air escapes also depends on the temperature difference between your room and the rest of your place. A bigger temperature difference means the warm air rushes out the door faster. So if your place is 18 degrees C and you’re trying to get your room to 24 degrees C, the heater probably won’t manage to do it with the door open. But if your place is 20 degrees C and you’re trying to get your room to 21 or 22 degrees C, the heater should manage – it will take a little longer with the door open, and the heater will come on more often to maintain the temperature, but your room should get there.

      As for the wattage settings, they’re mentioned in the chart, but it’s 700/800/1500 for the Bionaire, and 600/900/1500 for the Garrison.

  • Barry

    Hi just bought the bonnaire bof2001-cn after reading your review which i found very helpful, with the one i just bought which looks exactly as the one shown the only conflict i find about the unit is the EC (energy savings) feature, printed on the box it says the unit will run 15 mins at 1500w and then 15 mins at 900w then back to 15 mins at 1500w. 900w? the box also states it is a 700, 800, 1500w settings so where does the 900w setting come in? and to further confuse you when you read the manual it states the EC feature will run on high 1500w setting for 10 mins, then switch to medium 800w setting for 30 mins, of course when all else fails ignore the box and believe the manual. but when in the store you can’t read the manual you only have what is printed on the box to go by.

  • JANE WALL

    TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN; I HAVE PURCHASED TWO GARRISON OIL HEATERS IN WHICH BOTH DIED WITHIN A MONTH, PURCHASED THROUGH CANADIAN TIRE, WHO WILL NOT EXCHANGE OR RETURN, I AM VERY DISCOURAGED BY GARRISON HEATERS AND CANADIAN TIRE, I WOULD REALLY LIKE SOME ONE TO TAKE THE TIME TO HELP ME ON THIS MATTER. PERHAPS GARRISON COULD REPLY TO THIS MATTER.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the review, I’ve been trying to decide between these 2 models. I’ve read alot of bad reviews about the Garrison when it comes to longevity, lots of owners saying it’s good for the season but dead when it’s pulled out to use the following fall/winter.

  • Anonymous

    Anyone know how to troubleshoot. My Garrison was working fine and then not! Does not seem to be anything wrong with it, it just stopped working.

  • Anonymous

    For Garrison model 043-59506 from CT, it doesnt work. soon as i turn on it shuts off..i want to change the control panel which contains the on/off button..where can i buy them. ? Garrison Cust serv is pathetic. They gave 2 tel no. to call and they want to only do door calls for $75.

  • Kathy

    Bionaire BOF2001-CN was recalled on Nov 11/14. Bionaire has issued a recall on this model as it can leak. I received the recall notice one day too late, as the heater had already leaked in my office. The smell was horrible, gave the office a headache, nausea, and made a few people’s lips tingle. The company would not provide an MSDS for the oil, but said it was “just mineral oil”… right…. The company offered to open a claim for damages to my carpeting and underdesk plastic mat (it melted through it!), but it would only pay out after their technicians conducted an inspection of my heater and determined that I hadn’t caused the leak!!! They were quite rude on the phone, and had no concern for how the smell was affecting the office staff. ABSOLUTELY DO NOT BUY THIS PRODUCT!

  • Bill

    I have been using 2 manual Garrison heaters for 2 yrs now ,very energy efficient , my place I am heating is a small 3 bedroom house ,no basement and 1 level , cost me extra $250 on top of my regular hydro bill with electric heat but with these 2 heaters my hydro only goes up on cold months $60 ,,,very happy with them !