Are infrared heaters efficient?
If yes, then how efficient are infrared space heaters?
And more important, are they the most cost effective and economical space heaters out there? Should you use them always, or are there cases when they are not the best option?
These questions and more, I will be answering here in order to help you make a wise decision that could help you save money on heating and electricity bills.
Are Infrared Heaters Efficient?
Yes, infrared heaters are efficient as they convert and emit most of the electric energy they consume in the form of heat or thermal energy, which is not achievable with most other heating systems.
How Efficient Are Infrared Heaters?
Infrared space heaters are almost 100% efficient as they convert almost all of the electric energy into heat through infrared light.
Are Infrared Heaters More Energy Efficient Than Other Types of Heating Systems?
Just because infrared heaters are 100% energy efficient, it doesn’t mean that they are the most efficient kind of space heaters, as you will see when compared to heat pumps below in this article, which can have more than 100% in efficiency.
Are Infrared Heaters More Cost Effective & Cheaper to Run?
Being 100% energy efficient doesn’t necessarily mean that infrared space heaters are always cost effective to run when compared to other types of heating, as there are many cases where one space heater type might be more cost effective and economical than the other, as explained shortly.
But first, you need to have a clear distinction between two terms:
Efficiency vs. Cost Effectiveness of IR Space Heaters
Efficiency means how good heater are in transforming the input energy source (electric energy) into output energy (thermal energy / heat).
While cost-effectiveness means how much you saved on the input energy source in order to get the desired result (comfortable heat level).
And although some heating systems like the central heating that use gas as an input energy source are less than 100% efficient, but it they might be still more economical to run than IR heaters if the gas prices are low enough, while the electricity fees are high.
But then there’s another factor.
What is the space you want to heat.
Are you trying to heat a small room in a big house, then using one small space heater might be more economical than heating the whole house with the central heating system.
There’s no one-size-fits-all type of heating system that is the most cost effective in all cases.
Here are short comparisons between infrared space heaters and some other types of heating systems.
Infrared Heaters vs. Other Heating Systems
Generally, Electrical infrared heaters are more energy efficient than some electric space heaters such as the convection space heaters and oil space heaters, and less efficient than using HVAC units (heat pumps).
But when it comes to overall economics, there are different cases that judge whether it is more economical to run infrared heaters compared to other types of heating systems, as follows:
Infrared Heaters vs. Convection Heaters
Compared to traditional electrical convection heaters, such as ceramic space heaters, an infrared space heater can use around only 40% of energy compared to what a convection heater used for the same area and under the same conditions.
For example, a 400 watt infrared space heater can give almost the same result of a 1,000 watt convection space heater.
This means that you save around 60% on the electricity consumed when you use infrared heaters instead of convection heaters.
Not only that helps reduce the electric bill in winter, but it also means that you can use smaller size cables and circuit breakers that you would need with a convection space heater.
But that’s mostly the case when you have a small room, or when you are trying to heat a small area in a big room or open space.
While when trying to heat a big closed room, then conviction heaters might be more cost effective.
Infrared Space Heaters vs. Oil Space Heaters
The two main differences between infrared and oil space heaters that define when and where each one is more efficient and economical to run:
- Infrared heaters give the heat immediately after turning them on through electrifying a quartz tube that generates and emits heat, and lose it immediately after turning them off, while oil heaters take a while before starting to give heat, and keep the heat for a while after turning them off.
- Infrared heaters give direct infrared light to where they are pointed, which then heats the objects or people in front of it, while the oil heaters heat the surrounding air, which then circulates in the whole space.
Based on the above, compared to oil space heaters, infrared space heaters can be more efficient and cost effective when you want to get fast heat for a while in a certain area, and you don’t care if you lose the heat immediately after you turn it off because you are leaving the place.
And it is better when you only want to heat a small room, a certain spot in a big room or in a shop, a room without a door, or a room with poor to no insulation like a basement, attic, garage, …etc., or even when used outdoors.
While oil heaters can be more cost effective to run when you want to heat a large closed room that has a good insulation, where you can heat the air in the room, and keep it warm for a while even after turning the heater off.
Infrared Heaters vs. HVAC Units (Heat Pumps)
Because infrared quartz space heaters are almost 100% energy efficient, it is hard to imagine that there are heaters that are more efficient, because as you know, energy cannot be produced out of nothing, and therefore, no heater can be more than 100% efficient.
However, this is different with heat pumps (HVAC units) when used to heat spaces.
Heat pumps don’t actually transform electricity into heat like infrared heaters, but rather, the electricity is used in order to move the heat from one side (outdoors), into the other side (indoors), through the refrigerant inside them.
This is why, when compared to the 100% efficient infrared heaters, heat pumps, can give more heat to the space heated compared to the infrared heater while consuming the same amount of electric energy in kilowatt, which makes their efficiency go anywhere from 200% to up to 600%, depending on the manufacturer, the age of equipment, and the outside temperature.
However, like in the previous section, using small infrared heaters can be sometimes more cost effective in case that you want to heat a small area or a specific spot in a big room, especially in a space with little to no insulation, or in a space without a door, where the heat pump would keep running at almost full capacity in order to keep heating the air.
Infrared Heaters vs. Central Heating
Depending on the fuel price, central heating using might be more cost effective to run when you want to heat a complete house or office.
However, if you want to only heat a small zone of that place, or specific rooms, then using the infrared heater might be more cost effective, because even if you use the central heating and turn down the thermostat at the unused rooms, the boiler, and the pumps, still need to run at a certain capacity that causes losses that are not reduced just because you operated the heating in few zones.
This can be even more clear when heating a certain room or zone that has no door, or has poor insulation separating it from other zones or from the outdoors.
As you can see, using electric infrared space heaters can be more efficient or cost effective than other types of heating in some cases, and less efficient and less economical in other cases.
To make this easier for you, here are few specific cases where using an electric infrared space heater can be more cost effective.
9 Cases When Using Infrared Space Heaters Is Cost Effective
1 – Zone Heating with Central Heating in Place
As mentioned earlier, it might be wiser to use a small infrared space heater for heating a small zone instead of turning on the whole central heating system when you don’t need to heat other zones.
2 – When There’s No Central Heating
Maybe you have built a new room and it would cost you a lot of money to upgrade the existing central heating system in order to heat up the new room, or maybe the basement or the attic is not already connected to the system, and it costs some money to connect it.
In this case, it is probably more economical for you to use an infrared space heater instead.
3 – Outdoors
Heating patios can be done with different types of heaters, including gas heaters.
However, the downfall is that because they work by heating the air, which keeps moving in open spaces, then they consume a lot of energy without really giving you a comfortable level of warmth.
But using patio infrared heaters can do a much better job as it directs the infrared light towards you, which then warms up your body, the same way how the direct sunlight can warm you up during cold weather.
4 – For a Small Area in Big Spaces
Instead of warming up the whole big living room when you are alone, you may use a small space heater instead, so that you only heat enough space for yourself.
This also applies to places where the ceiling is higher than the average, which causes the hot air, which is lighter than cold air, to fly up, and thus, requiring a convection space heating system to keep working at full capacity in order to maintain hot air close to the floor.
5 – Rooms without Doors
Because using convection and oil heaters heats the air, and the air will easily move to outside of the room, thus, losing the heat, then using a space heater that gives you heat through direct light could be a more cost effective option.
6 – Small rooms
Another case where using a space heater can be more energy efficient is when you are in a small room and you don’t need to heat the air, especially for short periods of occupation.
7 – Spaces without a Good Insulation
Attic, basement, garage, and even rooms without proper insulation can cost a lot of money when you use convection heating methods as the heated air would keep running out of the space or room.
In this case, using a space heater can be more efficient in order to give direct heat to where you are.
8 – For Fast Heating
If you want to heat up a certain area immediately after you get in, then space heaters are really effective at performing the job, compared to many convection type systems that require anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes before giving a comfortable heat level.
9 – Short Periods of Occupation
This also depends on the nature how infrared heating works compared to convection heating.
Because they can give you heat almost immediately, infrared heaters waste no energy trying to heat the air until it reaches a certain level that is comfortable for you.
And even though they stop giving heat immediately after you turn them off, that actually doesn’t matter since you would not be using that space any longer.
While oil heaters use energy for some time before giving you a comfortable level of heat, this means that you consume some electrical energy without gaining the heat.
And although they can keep emitting heat for a while after switching them off, but that’s useless since you would leave the place and not come back until later on when the oil heater has cooled down and you need to run it and build up the heat again from the start.
Things to Consider for Picking Efficient Infrared Space Heaters
1 – Programmable Timer & Thermostat
Using a programmable timer for a space heater can help you save energy instead of forgetting the heater on for long hours.
Also, if the space heater is used in a small room or in a closed area, then that might finally cause the heat to build up in that place, and if it reaches a certain comfortable level, then there’s no need for the heater to keep working.
In that case, a preset temperature can be used in order to get the thermostat switch off the IR heater.
Dr. Infrared Heater is one of the most popular efficient Infrared Heaters that come with a programmable timer and thermostat that can help you save on electricity.
2 – A Reflector
The quartz tubes in the infrared heaters emit infrared light in all directions.
And having a reflector helps in pointing all the IR light towards the area where the heater is directed.
Most of IR space heaters have a reflector built in with them.
3 – Multi-Heating Settings
Sometimes a 1,500W infrared heater is necessary for heating few people in a big room, but turning that heater on when you are alone might not be cost effective.
That’s why many infrared space heaters come with multiple heating settings where you can turn on one, two, or three quartz tubes based on your need.
Safety Precautions to Consider When Using an IR Heater
Infrared space heaters can cause some health and safety issues as they emit heat through the direct IR light, which is why there are some things to be aware of when getting one.
1 – Buffer Zones
Because infrared heaters produce light that heats the objects on which it falls, it might cause burns or injuries to people and pets who set very close to them, and they can set flammable material like papers on fire.
That’s why it is important to keep a buffer zone in front of infrared heaters where no people, pets, or flammable objects are subject to strong IR light that causes overheating.
2 – Hot Elements
Although most portable infrared heaters come with an aluminum grid to prevent any direct touch to the quartz tubes, but that grid itself might get hot since it is subject to the direct IR light from the tubes.
And touching these grids can cause injuries to humans and pets alike.
That’s why, if you have kids or pets, you might consider getting an IR space heater that has an interface that doesn’t heat up to the level that it is harmful.
3 – Overheating Protection
Many infrared space heaters come with a built-in protection that switches off the heater when it reaches a certain temperature.
This is good for preventing incidents, and for lengthening the lifespan of the heater.
4 – Tip-Over Protection
Because they are small, it easy to cause infrared space heaters to tip over when accidentally coming through them while walking, or even when kids are playing around.
That might cause the infrared light to directly heat up the carpet, or whatever is on the floor, and thus, leading to fire.
Many infrared space heaters come with a protection that would turning them off immediately when they tip over to the side, back, or front.
5 – Cable & Circuit Sizing
A 1,500 watt infrared heater can consume up to 12.5 amperes when connected to a 110V grid like the US one.
That means that you need to have a 15A circuit that is dedicated only to feeding that heater, or a 20A circuit if you wish to run some other small loads on the same circuit.
Also, make sure that the size of the cable can coming out from the circuit breaker withstands a higher current that the rating of the breaker, and that the socket outlet can withstand the rated current of the heater.
Can Infrared Heaters Heat a House?
Yes, but because infrared space heaters heat through direct IR light, and not by heating up the air, then you would need to use at least one space heater per room or zone when you want to heat it up.
You can’t use one infrared heater to heat up the whole house at the same moment.
Whether that was cost effective or not depends on many factors.
For example, if you need the whole house to be heated all the time, then a central heating system or a set of HVAC units might be more economical.
While when heating one room at a time, then an IR space heater might be more viable.
Infrared Heater Effect on Electric Bill
Infrared heaters can increase or lower electric bill depending on how you used to heat a house in the past.
Replacing a central heating system that works on gas or diesel means an increase in electric bill, but it also means a decrease in the gas or diesel bill.
And using an infrared space heater to replace a convection heater can lower electric bill in most of the cases.
While using the IR heater instead of the HVAC units can either reduce or increase the electric bill depending on the sizing of each unit and on how long you use it.
Conclusion – Should You Use Infrared Space Heaters?
Electrical infrared space heaters are energy efficient.
However, whether infrared heaters are cost effective and economical depends on the different scenarios in which they might be used, and they can save you money, or cost you more money compared to other space heating systems based on many factors as discussed earlier in this article.
In all cases, make sure to choose energy efficient infrared heaters with the basic safety measurements mentioned above.
I hope that might article provided useful insights that would help you decide whether to use efficient infrared space heaters or not.
If you have any question, or if you need any help, please, feel free to ask me and I will do my best in order to help you out 🙂