I HAVE ALWAYS MIGRATED to warmer places during the winter, so heating options haven’t been much of a concern before. Just turn on the stove for a few minutes to take the chill off.
But since this year I’ve committed to stay at a place that’s at about 6,000 feet, and where the nights have already been well below freezing, heat has become rather important. I’ve been exploring the net for various options, hoping to find solutions outside the ones that usually come to mind in the nomad world.
I got wondering about in-floor radiant heating. Was there something that would work in a van? Ummmm… lots of stuff for buildings, barns, hen houses, and animal pens — systems out of my budget and that relied on a lot of electricity.
But what was this search result way down the list? A foot warmer pad intended for desk workers? Sort of mini in-floor radiant heating. On top of the floor. Hmmmm…
It claims to draw only 55 Watts. That’s not much. And it can put out up to 145°F/62.7°C. I decided that for 38 bucks it was worth a try. After all, these women’s feet look mighty happy. (Well, maybe not Steve Martin level happy.)
The unbagging and first test
My feet get cold, even with heavy wool socks and down booties, so I was eager to try out the Olydon Feet Warmer Pad when the UPS man delivered it.
I had assumed it would come in a flat box, because, you know, electrical wires and stuff. But it was in a shipping bag. Inside was a sealed plastic bag. And inside that bag the pad was folded in half. Um, was that a good thing? Could the heating elements break? Had I just received damaged goods?
I plugged it into my inverter and pushed the pad’s squishy button. The control lit up, showing it was set at the default 115°. I took off my hiking shoes, leaving me with just wool socks on my feet. The better to feel the heat with, my dear.
The pad warmed up. It felt nice. It got even warmer. It felt even nicer. I had no reference for what 115° feels like other than knowing my hot spring water temperature tolerance is about 104° and that my hatless desert sun on my head tolerance maxes out at about 112° — for a few seconds. It turned out 115° (or whatever it actually was) feels good. To me.
For those whose feet perceive heat differently from mine, the other settings include 85, 95, 105, 125, 135 and 145 degrees. After an hour or so I turned the pad down to 105°. It still felt good.
Some areas of the pad are warmer than others. No doubt this is because the heating element isn’t evenly distributed. But the warm spots are larger enough for my size 11.5 feet.
Test 2: How much power is this thing using?
I plugged the Olydon into a Kill A Watt to get some readings. Oh! Less than I expected. Only 45.8 Watts (compared to the 55 W rating) and a little over a third of an Amp. That was with the default 115° setting. With it turned up to 145° it drew 46.5 W at 0.39 A. How long could you run this heating pad? That depends upon your electrical system.
Test 3: Defying the warning
Warning number 8 on the instruction sheet says:
Do not cover other items on the surface of the product, so as to avoid local high temperature and potential safety hazards.
Being the rebel (with cold feet) that I am, I slipped the Olydon under my bedding. It took a while to warm things up in there, but once it did it was quite nice. It didn’t overheat and there was no damage to the bed or myself.
Oh, and the Olydon Feet Warmer Pad shuts itself off after three hours.
Test 4: Attempting the impossible
How well would a foot warmer function as an area heater? I placed it in the center of the floor and waited. And waited. And waited. My thermometer showed no change.
Test 5: Something I hadn’t considered
As I was moving the pad from place to place I had it on my lap for a moment with my hands placed on top. Ooooooo, I had forgotten how cold my hands get. The pad was perfect for warming my chilled, crampy fingers. And I discovered the pad backing blocks most of the heat, so it’s unlikely it would do any harm to whatever surface you place it on.
I think the Olydon Feet Warmer Pad is worth the money I spent on it. It works as it claims, warming my old feet and hands without using nearly as much power as other electric heating methods. I can accept that it won’t warm the whole van. It wasn’t designed to do that.
A little bit of weirdness in parting
Safety warning number 4 says:
Do not use this product if you are carrying a pacemaker, bleeding from the viscera, or if your skin is not healed.
Make of that what you will.