Dyson is the Apple of the home appliance world. It makes great looking, easy-to-use products that are highly innovative in some very fundamental ways.
However, it also falls prey to many of the same criticisms as Apple. Dyson machines often seem absurdly expensive, and loyal customers tend to be so blinded by product virtues that they overlook some of their shortcomings.
I suspect the company's fans and critics will remain in character when they see the Dyson Hot, a stylish but expensive new space heater I tested for a couple of chilly, late-October weeks that builds upon Dyson's eminent "air multiplier" technology by adding a gust of heat to the equation.
My family is no stranger to plug-in room warmers. We've used everything from office heating fans to big electric space heaters to raise the temperature inside our draughty, 20th-floor North York apartment, and we've always been left wanting something better. Most heating units are much too hot up close and offer no warmth if you get more than a couple of metres away, meaning there's a tiny zone of ideal temperature. Plus, they're typically searing hot to touch, making them dangerous for young ones to be around and a potential fire hazard should they tip or come into contact with fabric.
The Dyson Hot pretty much solves all of these problems.
Unlike the short-range, skin-drying blasts that come from most fan heaters, Dyson's air multiplier tech creates a gentle, Chinook-like breeze that flows out into the room for several metres. It does this by inducting air via an electric motor in the base and then forcing it out through thin vents. It's the same concept as Dyson's cooling fans – those windy towers displayed prominently in department stores that create a powerful air current from the centre of an open, bladeless aperture – with heat added via warmed ceramic blocks secreted away in the machine's frame.
One of the benefits of throwing heat so far forward, according to Dyson, is that it warms the lower levels of a room gradually and evenly before hotter air can climb to the ceiling. This seemed true in my tests. We placed the Hot the corner of a combined living room and dining area and could feel the temperature gently rise while sitting at the kitchen table about five or six metres away. Once it hit the temperature we'd set using the Hot's LCD thermostat, it shut off. Then, about 15 minutes later, when the room had cooled a degree or two, it automatically flipped back on.
Plus, the air never gets too hot, no matter how close you happen to be. It's never uncomfortable, even when millimetres away.
And the unit is always safe to touch. Dyson placed a removable heat warning label on the frame, but even after running for several hours at maximum power the outside of the frame felt barely warmer than room temperature. The inside of the aperture was warm to touch, but you'd have to hold your skin to it for quite a while to suffer any sort of lasting irritation. I can't it imagine that it would be capable of starting a fire, especially given that it automatically powers down when tipped. I didn't even experience the smell of burning dust that normally accompanies space heaters in operation.
However, while the Dyson Hot impresses in all sorts of ways unusual for a heater, it isn't perfect.
It may do a commendable job of gradually warming a room, but it can't instantly warm a well-chilled body. I suspect someone coming in damp and cold from snowball fight and looking to bask for a few moments in front of the dry, desert-like heat rising from a traditional space heater would be disappointed, at least temporarily.
An even more salient issue is price. At $449.99 – that's a $50 premium compared to its U.S. retail, by the way – it's anything but an impulse buy for the vast majority of consumers. Even with a host of perks – including a remote, the ability to function as a regular (though slightly less powerful) cooling fan in the summer months, and clever tilting and swivelling mechanics – it will be a hard sell for anyone looking to warm a space without breaking the bank.
But, as usual, once you try a Dyson product it's hard to go back. After reviewing Dyson's pricey DC30 handheld vacuum cleaner a couple of years ago, I complained about our cheap, crappy DustBuster so often that my wife eventually bought a DC30 for me as a Father's Day gift just to shut me up. (I use it several times per week and it remains one of my favourite presents.)
Similarly, having enjoyed the benefits of the Dyson Hot, it's hard to imagine dragging out one of our burning hot yet inefficient space heaters this winter.
The Dyson Hot, available in grey and blue or white and silver, can be purchased directly from the manufacturer's website (www.dysoncanada.ca).