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I've tried two types of stones heaters and clearly know what I'll always be using.
The Good: http://www.specialitystones.co.uk/images/stone_heater_001.jpg - same model as I have
The Bad: http://www.wakinglifemassage.com/images/HotStone%20Heater%206quart.jpg - same model I had to use for a period
- A good heater must have precise digital temperature control and display, so you always know the exact temperature of the water and can adjust it quickly and easily. This way you're always certain that the stones have the right SAFE temperature to work with.
- A good heater also heats the water and stones evenly. This means the water should be flow freely around the stones and no stones rest on the heating element or bottom.
- A good heater has plenty of space so you quickly can find the stones you need, and can heat many stones at once saving you time.
Following these quick guidelines, you no longer have to guess about heating time for your stones, if the temperature is right, work with stones which aren't hot enough, bother with a heater which changes temperature during a treatment as you replace stones for heating and what not.
I am grateful I started working with a good heater and only after more than a year working with stones had to work with a "bad" heater. The bad heater was one of the "professional spa massage stone heaters" - so sold as a proper stone heater.
What I found was that it was impossible for me to adjust the temperature and know if the stones were hot enough prior to a treatment. I used a thermometer to check water temperature, but still it was a pain.
Normally I just set the temperature on my own heater and wait 20 min and I KNOW my stones have the right temperature.
I couldn't make the heater keep a consistent temperature during a treatment. As soon as I started to reheat stones it wasn't hot enough any longer and I had to turn it up, resulting in stones which were too hot.
Never had that problem with my own heater, I just have to put the stones in and the automatic temperature control makes sure that the water, and thereby my stones, are always at the same temperature.
As this heater was essentially a transformed roaster, the temperature of the stones weren't even. The sides and bottom was hot, while the water was cooler. So taking up a stone, one side would be warmer (often too warm) than the other which would sometimes be too cool. The stones were certainly not evenly heated.
I lacked space. Granted, it was the small model. But so clearly aimed at working with small stones like toe stones and other tiny stones that there were no space for more than 8 of my own massage stones.
Talk about inconvinience and frustration when I had to get used to that heater. I very quickly spent my own money to buy myself a new good heater!!!
So please, do go out and invest in a good heater. It can really make the difference between loving to work with stones and hating it!!!
I wrote a blog post about it a while back if you want more details: http://blog.starkeys.com/2010/11/what-stone-heater-and-why.html