There are a lot of reasons that someone may be looking for a new source of heat. Whether it’s a back-up for when your furnace isn’t working great, something to keep the garage warm every now and then, a way to warm up a cold bedroom, or whatever else, sometimes you just need a little more warmth.
Space heaters work great as shorter-term solutions, or even for longer-term if you don’t have another more energy efficient option available.
How do you choose which type of heater is best for your home? Infrared heaters are a good option in many cases, for a number of reasons which we’ll discuss, but before digging in too deep, let’s answer the question that brought you here in the first place, which is a curiosity about how infrared heaters work…
Here’s how infrared heaters work:
Instead of heaters that work using natural gas, fossil fuels, or other combustibles, infrared heating works using a different form of heat. Infrared light is a heat source that offers radiant heat, and warms the air with infrared radiation. Don’t worry, this isn’t the type of radiation you might be thinking of, you don’t have to worry about growing any extra limbs or becoming a member of the X-Men.
Infrared comfort heating is invisible due to the spectrum in which it exists, but it’s kind of similar to the heat that we get from the sun.
Convection heat warms the air around us, whereas radiant heat systems help us and our surrounds to feel warm by heating the objects in their vicinity. When you heat the air, it’s not the same as heating the objects around the air, which can also in turn cause the air to feel warmer.
- They instantly heat up
- They’re more environmentally friendly
- They’re considered a more healthy form of heating
- They’re more cost-effective than central heating in certain applications
Let’s break down some of these points to explain what we’re talking about in more details, if you’re still curious to learn more about radiant heating from infrared space heaters.
The way that infrared heaters work is to instantly heat up the area in which they’re targeting. Instead of having to wait for the air to warm up, circulate the room, start to cool down while needing to be constantly warmed up again, and gradually raising the temperature, with infrared you essentially get a beam of heat that warms immediately.
Without combustion of fuel, infrared heaters work to have less emissions than other types of heaters you could choose to use in similar situations. They’re also great for use indoors, unlike other types of heaters that only work outside, like a propane deck lamp for instance.
How does infrared heating work compared to convection heating?
With convection heating – say in your garage for example – you need to warm up the air for the entire room, and in the winter this can be extra tricky since the coldness from outside is entering your garage nearly as quick as you can warm it up. The result? It’s WILDLY inefficient.
With infrared heating, on the other hand, you can point it directly at your work bench or the area you’re going to be in, so you aren’t fighting against mother nearly nearly as hard – because that is always a losing battle, especially when trying to heat a garage in the winter.
Radiant Heating Cons
It’s not all good, though. There are some disadvantages of radiant heating by virtue of how it works, too.
- It’s good that they start heating the zone instantly, right? But on the flip side, they don’t keep an ambient heat in the area after they’re turned off. When you turn your furnace off, your home doesn’t suddenly get cold, some of the warmth sticks around for a while, but it’s different with infrared.
- They aren’t meant to warm up a whole home, or even an entire room necessarily, they’re meant for warming up the specific zone in which they’re placed. It’s nice to be able to move them around and have that flexibility, but it’s also nice to not need to move your heat source around all the time.
- The coils inside an infrared heater get very, very hot. If you have children running around, or pets, or any chance of something falling in and touching the coils, it can be very bad news. Newer models are getting much better, and much safer, so the risk of starting a fire is declining, but you still need to be careful. With a furnace, for example, you still wouldn’t want to play around near the heat source, but the difference is that the furnace is tucked away in a basement, not sitting in the exact area that you’re living, working, etc.
Sidenote: We were referring to electric infrared heaters a lot in this article, but it’s worth mentioning that there are also gas infrared heaters. We’ve featured the best infrared heaters in both of those categories, and more, so take a look at our products page to learn more and to choose the types of heaters that are best suited for your needs.