How Do Infrared Heating Technologies Work? | Pros and Cons of Infrared Heaters

If you have used a TV remote or any cordless microphone, you are familiar with infrared heating technologies.

You have to point the remote to your TV to operate it because the infrared rays require a clear line of sight to work. Any solid object such as a wall would block the rays and prevent signal transmission.

The same technology is used on infrared heaters, which have become pretty mainstream lately. This article looks at how infrared heating technologies work and why they have become such a popular heating solution.

How Infrared Heating Technologies Work

Infrared heating technologies transfer heat energy to objects and people around them through radiation of invisible light rays.

These rays can carry thermal energy and have the ability to transfer it in the same way as sun rays, except they do not have harmful UV rays.

Think about the way you feel warm when you are outside in the sun. If you get under a shade, you no longer feel the heat on your skin.

This illustrates how infrared waves require a direct line of sight to work. This illustration also tells you that you cannot use an infrared unit to heat multiple rooms.

You can only use one heater for a single room or zone at a time. If you wish to heat multiple zones, you would have to buy multiple infrared heaters. 

Because they work by radiation, infrared heaters, also referred to as radiant heaters, transfer thermal energy (heat) to your skin and the surfaces of objects within that area.

The people and objects will absorb this heat and increase the warmth in the room. This happens much the same way a sunlit area feels warmer due to objects on the Earth’s surface absorbing and reflecting the heat from the sun. 

The important thing to note here is that infrared heaters do not heat the air within an area. This is how they differ from other types of heaters, which work by circulating warm air to heat a place.

Usually, these other units can heat the air directly or use a fan to circulate warm air in the area. The problem with this heating mechanism is that it lowers humidity and reduces the amount of oxygen in the room.

Because infrared heaters do not impact the air, they will not affect the oxygen or moisture content within the target area. As such, using infrared heaters in winter can reduce the need for humidifiers.

An infrared heater can generate its thermal energy through an electric current or the combustion of gas or some other type of fuel.

The heat is then directed to an infrared heating panel made of ceramics, metal sheath, quartz lamp, or quartz tube.

This infrared panel is then responsible for transmitting the heat to the surrounding objects and people through radiation.

Types of Infrared Heating Technologies

If you are considering infrared heaters for use at home, you will want to know the options available for you. Infrared heaters come in different shapes and sizes.

But, more importantly, they are available in various styles and types suited for a wide range of indoor and outdoor applications, as you will find out shortly.

  1. Personal infrared space heaters

These are infrared space heaters designed for small spaces such as small offices, bedrooms, and living rooms. 

The units have different installation options; some are portable and can be placed on the floor, tabletops, and other surfaces to provide supplemental warmth. Others are designed for more permanent installation, usually affixed on a wall.

The advantage of portable units is that you can move around with them and use them at different places without having to buy multiple heaters.

This, however, could mean higher chances of accidents, especially where there are children and pets. Fixed units have lower chances of accidents but are limited to one area of use. 

  1. Low-intensity infrared tube heaters

These infrared heaters work by igniting a flame within a heat exchanger. This exchanger then heats up to low-intensity temperatures between 1110° and 1350° Fahrenheit.

At these temperatures, the unit emits infrared energy directed to the floor level via specialized reflectors. From there, the people and objects within the heater’s range can then absorb this heat.

  1. High-intensity ceramic heaters

These are also known as high-intensity infrared heaters, radiant heaters, box heaters, and spot heaters.

They work by igniting a mixture of air and gas evenly across a ceramic surface to produce high temperatures, typically above 1350° Fahrenheit.

The ceramic burning surface can reach temperatures of up to 1800° Fahrenheit. In addition, the units have highly polished reflectors that help direct infrared energy over large amounts of pace that require heating.

These heaters are ideal for both spot heating and total building heating.  In any case, experts recommend using these types of infrared heaters in well-ventilated areas for safety purposes due to their high heat output and possible gas emission.

  1. Patio or outdoor infrared heaters

These outdoor heaters are applicable in outdoor spot heating for both commercial and residential setups. You will commonly find them in restaurant decks and patios.

They are designed with the outdoors in mind and can produce sufficient heat for entire outdoor living spaces like patios and covered backyards.

These lights are an ideal heating solution during cooler months of the year and are available in electric, propane, and natural gas-powered options.

  1. Industrial and garage infrared heaters

These are high-output heaters suited to the typically large industrial areas and garages. They are designed to radiate more heat than those used in residential applications and typically cost more to buy.

These large-output infrared garage heaters are usually mounted on walls with the heating surface directed towards the loading docks, open bays, hangars, or warehouses where they are supposed to warm.

  1. Infrared fireplaces and stoves

As the name suggests, these are heaters designed in the form of stoves and fireplaces but using infrared heating technology to generate heat. They are designed for use in residential areas not larger than 1,000 square feet.

To make the most of infrared fireplaces and stoves, you’ll want to keep the rooms adequately insulated to minimize heat loss. Usually, they use electricity as the source of combustion.

  1. Construction heaters

Tank top or construction heaters are spot-heating solutions for both indoor and outdoor applications during the construction or repair of a building. Experts warn against using construction heaters in day-to-day residential applications.

Pros and Cons of Infrared Heating Technologies

The use of infrared heaters in households has caught on in recent years. This popularity comes as a result of the numerous advantages associated with these novel devices. Let us take a look at the details.

  1. They are an eco-friendly way to warm living space

Infrared space heaters have little to no carbon footprint, making them a perfect solution to the greenhouse gas scourge.

Most infrared units use electricity to generate heat. Those that rely on gas or oil for combustion are also optimized to minimize emissions.

They hardly release any greenhouse gases to the environment, unlike gas- or oil-burning central heating systems.

  1. Quiet operation

Infrared heaters are typically used in bedrooms, workspaces, and libraries because they produce no noise.

Since the appliances heat up spaces by radiating heat energy from an infrared element, they are some of the most silent heating solutions in existence.

Their mode of heating makes them ideal for heating any area with little or no noise tolerance.

  1. Odorless and non-pollutant

Infrared beams are not only invisible to the eye, but they also have no smell. This makes the technology particularly beneficial to people with sensitivities to various scents.

The heaters also don’t affect the air circulating within the heated area, so they will not pollute it.

  1. High efficiency

The units also tend to be quite energy efficient. Electric infrared heaters have an efficiency rating of approximately 85 percent.

This is a much higher rate of heat energy conversion than any conventional heater. The direct heating method also makes the heaters more efficient.

They radiate heat and transfer it directly to the target objects and people rather than warming up the air within the area. This minimizes energy wastage and ensures maximum utility.

This feature means that the heater uses little energy to produce the optimal heat output.

  1. Low maintenance

Infrared heaters do not have any fans or motors that require frequent checking and replacing. Neither do they have catch trays to empty nor air filters to clean now and then.

All they need for maintenance is to ensure their reflectors are clean. That’s hardly any work at all. As with anything, infrared heaters are not without limitations.

Cons of Infrared Heaters

  • Limited heating 

These appliances are generally unsuitable for heating large spaces. If you want to heat up multiple zones, you would have to buy multiple heaters at additional costs, of course.

And, suppose you are many people in a room, you would have to keep the unit somewhere overhead – or it will only serve the people closest to it. The rays will be blocked from reaching anyone far away.

  • Overheating reflectors

Some heaters have reflectors that get too hot to the touch. If you have pets or children, you would have to keep the unit far out of reach, or there would be a risk of accidents. 

Should You Invest in Infrared Heating Technologies

After learning about infrared heating technologies and their merits in this guide, it should be a walk in the park to decide whether or not to buy one. We hope that this article helps make your work easier. 

If you have any observations, comments, or addition, we will be happy to hear them in the comments section.  

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Melanie Mavery is an aspiring HVAC technician who is fascinated by the trends and opportunities in the HVAC industry. She spends most of her day writing content on home improvement topics and outreaching to prospects.  She's always looking for ways to support HVACs!