How do Infrared heaters work?

by Richard Martin

How do Infrared heaters work?

Infrared is the heat we experience from a warm sandy beach (Far Infrared), an open fire or a toaster (Medium Infrared) or the sun (Near Infrared). This video explains more.

What is Infrared Heat?

Any surface above absolute zero will radiate infrared heat. When one object is hotter than another, energy will be transferred from the hot object to the cold one.

This heat transfer is not a matter of heating air. The energy from the hot source travels directly to its target. That is difficult to grasp at first because we are so used to thinking about our heating in terms of warm air. The best way to think about it is the feeling of the sun on your face on a fresh spring morning. Your face feels warm, although the air temperature is cold.

Infrared in the human body

But you are also a radiant object! You can absorb heat from an object hotter than yourself, but you can also lose your body heat to an object colder than yourself, and it has nothing to do with the temperature of the surrounding air.



If you are in a room with cold walls in winter, you will lose your body heat out to the room, even if the air temperature is warm. This is why you can still feel cold in a room with central heating. So we turn up the heat until the air becomes stuffy, because it is the only way to compensate for the cold environment.

But what if you could heat objects in a room instead of the air? You could stop the need for those stuffy temperatures and stop losing your body heat to the cold walls. THis is exactly what Infrared Heating achieves.

The main reasons it makes economic sense to use radiant heating instead of warming the air (convection), is:

  • Higher rate of heat transfer per degree °C rise than convection;
  • A higher percentage of the input energy goes into production of heat instead of to the surrounding air;
  • Radiant heat is direct: source to target. Convection is indirect: source, to medium (air) to target;
  • Quicker warm up of materials in the environment;
  • Build up of thermal mass in the environment which continues to radiate even when the heating is switched off;
  • Ability to zone the heat (i.e. target it only where you want). This is impossible with convection;

As a result of these advantages, Radiant heat solutions typically require lower power installations and run for less time than their convection counterparts i.e. they are more energy efficient.


Examples of different types of Infrared Heater

Far Infrared Panel Heater – Typical Use: Homes and Offices

Far Infrared Space Heater – Typical Use: Larger Domestic Spaces; Workshops and Sheltered Patios

Medium Infrared Patio Heater – Typical Use: Larger, Colder Indoor Spaces; Patios and Terraces


Further benefits

The above characteristics also lend Infrared heat the following further advantages.

Elimination of damp

Because you are warming surfaces in a room and not the air, you are reversing the classic damp-forming conditions that convection heating creates. This has many benefits both to health (reduction of mould & fungal spores) as well as a direct benefit to buildings in terms of drying out bathrooms, stonework etc.

Benefits to Health

Although the claims for far infrared from the wellbeing industry are well in advance of the scientific research on the subject, we do subscribe to the general approach that by providing a basically warm and dry environment with heating that is lower cost to run that competing types, that there is a general health benefit to adopting far infrared heating over convection heating systems.



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