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Infrared Space Heaters – Different Types and Their Efficiency

Infrared heaters are the most popular type of heaters available on the market today. According to experts, they use the most energy efficient technology amongst all the thermal heaters. Infrared heating process is fundamentally different than other conventional heating processes. However, most of us don’t know how much about infrared heating efficiency or even if infrared heating really works. In this article, we are going to understand how they work and determine infrared heater effect on electric bill.

How Infrared Heating Works:

Many of us may consider the infrared heating process a sophisticated technology but in reality, not only they are the most common heating process but also their resource is abundant. We know that most of us would like to avoid scientific and technical article. Keeping that in mind lets understand our subject matter in a very simple way.

There are three ways by which heat can be transferred. They are:

  1. Conduction in Solid
  2. Convection in Liquid or Gass
  3. Radiation

Infrared heaters warm the surrounding area by radiation process whereas conventional heaters such as electric heaters, oil heaters, and others work on conduction or convection principles. In conduction and convection process, matter is required to transfer the heat. On the contrary, in radiation process heat can be transferred without any medium.
Infrared rays are electromagnetic waves which have a longer wavelength than visible light. Because of this long wavelength, we can’t see infrared rays with naked eyes.

infrared heating efficiency:

To understand the infrared heating process, we must understand how the sunlight warms up our earth. Because the sun is the ultimate infrared heater of our solar system. The sun emits infrared ray which warms up the earth’s surface directly. Infrared rays heat up the object directly without heating the air. The earth then transfers the heat through conduction or convection process. That is why even in winter season people and objects get heat through sunlight despite the surrounding air is cold.

infrared heating efficiency:

Infrared heaters work in this very similar way. The infrared heating panels inside the infrared heaters work as the sun. The temperature produced by burning fuel (electricity, natural gas or oil) warms the infrared panel and then the panel emits heat through infrared rays to surrounding objects (walls, floor & bodies).

Infrared Heating Classification

There are various applications of infrared heating technology in our modern society. On the basis of heating intensity, there are mainly three types of infrared heaters. They are:

  1. Near Infrared Heater
  2. Medium wave Infrared Heater
  3. Far Infrared Heater

Near Infrared heaters and medium wave infrared heaters provide intense heat that operates between 0.75 to 1.5 microns. They can emit heat 500 – 1300°C degrees and are suitable for specific industrial uses and medical machine. To stay relevant on the subject matter we will only consider the efficiency of far infrared heaters that are designed for household and business uses. There are many types of far infrared heaters on the market designed for different settings. Each one has specific advantages and disadvantages of their own. Some popular prevalent far infrared heaters are described below to truly measure the efficiency and effectiveness of infrared heating.

Radiant Tube Heaters

Radiant tube heaters are a smart solution for whole building heating. They are capable of using air for combustion and have venting ability. The surface heat for radiant floor heating can reach up to 1100°F degrees which are considered low intense and that’s why they are often referred to as low-intensity tube heaters.
infrared heating efficiency:

Spot heaters or Construction Heaters

Construction heaters or spot heaters are best for outside applications. They are portable and super handy for buildings that are under construction or any other temporary settings. Spot heaters mainly have two parts. Heat generated by burning fuel is transferred to steel or ceramic panel which emits the heat via infrared rays.
infrared heating efficiency:

Patio Heaters

Patio heaters are specially designed for concentrated outdoor area heating. They are super slim and efficient, making them perfect for outdoor gardens or for the garage. Patio heaters are often called mushroom heaters since their infrared panel are visually similar to mushrooms. However, they are only suitable for area heating and spot heating purposes.
infrared heating efficiency:

Luminous Quartz Heaters or High-Intensity Ceramic Heater

Luminous heaters can provide high intense heat up to 1800°F degrees. They are highly flexible that can offer area heating, spot heating, zonal heating or whole building heating. Luminous heaters come with a proper ventilation system and can work superbly even if there is a constant change of air.
infrared heating efficiency:

Efficiency Vs Effectiveness

Although we often use the words efficiency and effectiveness synonymously, there is few technical difference between the two. Effectiveness means whether the purpose of the activity is being met or not. On the other hand, efficiency refers to if the activity is being done in the best manner possible without wasting any time or resources. In simple words, effectiveness means doing the right thing and efficiency means doing the thing rightly.
infrared heating efficiency:

To asses the subject matter of infrared heater efficiency we must answer following two valid question before reaching on any objective judgment.

Effectiveness of Infrared Heaters

Infrared heating technology can generate temperature 100°C to 1300°C degrees. Far infrared heaters normally provide 100°C degrees temperature which is perfect for heating human bodies and other biological creatures since our bodies are made of 80% water. Among the three type of infrared heaters, far infrared is the least transmissive to our bodies but it is best absorbed by our skin.
infrared heating efficiency:
Infrared heating technology is very swift in transferring heats to its surrounding objects. The main advantage of infrared heaters is that unlike conventional heaters, they don’t require to heat the air to transfer heat. If you are in a big room, conventional heater would need much more time to transfer heat to your body since the heat would have to transfer through the air. On the other hand, infrared heaters could transfer heat to your body in no time.

This point has made infrared heaters much more effective and applicable where other typical heaters couldn’t reach. For example, working places where air is constantly moving and could escape to outsides. Thus, infrared heating technology has enlarged the utility and safety of heaters and its commercial aspects with it.

So, after evaluating these points, we can certainly say that in terms of effectiveness, infrared heaters are far better off than conventional heaters.

Infrared Heating Efficiency: Are Infrared Heaters Really Efficient?

In case of determining the efficiency of infrared heaters, we have to examine if infrared heaters are transferring heat in the best way possible or with the least amount of energy. We will consider two parameters which are energy efficiency and cost efficiency to compare the infrared heating efficiency with conventional heaters.

Infrared heaters can be fueled by electricity, natural gas and other forms of energy. Electric infrared heaters are most common in the market. To compare the energy and cost efficiency we are building a simple model of two identical houses with two different heaters. One is infrared heaters and the other one is a space heater. We assumed that both of them is fueled by electricity. Since the effectiveness of infrared heaters is better than conventional heaters for its radiation technology, we equaled 0.4 KW infrared heater with a 1 KW electric heater.

Here are few others assumptions to be made for the simplicity of the model.

Infrared Heater Electric Space Heater
Wattage 800 Watt 2000 Watt
Energy used per hour 0.8 KW 2 KW
Cost per KW $0.12 $0.12
Cost of Running Heaters per hour $0.10 $0.24
Daily Cost $1.15 $2.88
Cost of Running Heaters per winter $138.24 $345.60

In our simple model, it is evident that the energy and cost efficiency of infrared heaters is much higher than conventional heaters. We can literally save 207 dollars per winter by using an infrared heater.

Another point to consider is what if we use a gas heater instead of an electric heater. The answer is too simple for conducting any calculation. Gas is much cheaper than electricity. If we compare an electric infrared heater with a gas heater, a gas heater would be the cheapest option. However, in that case, infrared heater fueled by gas would be the cheapest option. The main disadvantage of gas-fueled heaters is that gas is not equally available in every region in the USA.

Aside from this, with the central heating system, you can’t heat any single room (space heating). You have to heat the whole house which raises the cost of the system. You can install thermostatic radiator valves for spot heating but they are not much effective. Another down point of gas heaters is the risk of any fire hazard.

Infrared Heater Health Risks

There is a safety concern over infrared technology among general consumers. The main reason behind is that infrared heating technology follows the radiation process to transfer the heat. The word ‘radiation’ is generally linked to negative impression s in our mind because of many recent events including Chernobyl and Fukushima incidents.

The three kinds of infrared rays have different effects on human body. Near and medium wave infrared rays have the most penetrating ability which is highly dangerous for any biological creatures including human. They can cause serious health issues if exposed for a long time. But far infrared rays don’t have the same penetrating power. Their penetrating ability is the same as sun rays. Infrared heaters used for comfort heating use far infrared rays which is perfectly safe for us. If you want to know more about infrared heaters safety can read our blog.

After considering all the possible aspects of infrared heaters we can say that the efficiency an infrared heater usually has is much more than other conventional heaters. It requires less energy to run an infrared heating system. Thus, infrared heater effect on electric bill is undeniable.

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