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Infrared panel heating: your questions answered

Posted by NicoleYouGen on 19 April 2013 at 9:30 am

What are infrared panels? 

Infrared panels emit a very high ratio of heat as radiant heat. This heats objects directly, rather than warming the air (which is what convection heat does). Other examples of high-radiant heaters include portable halogen heaters, infrared outdoor patio heating, and electric fires. 

Infrared panels are typically in the form of a mirror or glass panel, and can be mounted on the wall or ceiling. They can also be built into furniture.

Infrared is the same as the energy that comes from the sun. Because they work by heating directly, infrared heaters warm you as soon as you turn them on; they don’t need time to warm up a room. On the flip side, when you turn them off, you will get cold again more quickly. They need to be positioned carefully so that the heat they emit is not obstructed. 

Because they heat objects rather than the air, some people find the heat from infrared panels less stuffy, and cite comfort and health as reasons for choosing them.

Do infrared panel heaters save energy? 

Infrared heating is typically electric in the UK, although oil and gas fired infrared heaters do exist. If you are not already using electricity for heating, using any electric heater will probably be more expensive because the cost of gas is much cheaper per unit than the cost of electricity.

The running cost of any electric heater depends on its rating (watts/kWs), with higher watts indicating higher costs. Whether infrared is an efficient option for you depends on the building you are heating and your circumstances. Because infrared heat heats objects, not the air, it is more efficient where there is a lot of air exchange, poor insulation or high ceilings. Their instant nature makes them a good option if you need instant heat for just one room. 

What do people say about infrared heat? 

Stacey at B My Office, a Devon-based virtual assistant, said:  "We wanted something that was a cheaper alternative to our electric fan heaters. It heats the room very well,  and is a nicer heat - less stuffy. The only time we needed extra heat was when it was -5 degrees, but I have had that experience with standard heaters too."   

Annette Witheridge, co-owner of the Salty Monk restaurant and B&B said about the infrared heating they use in their fitness room: 

“Compared to the gas heating in the main building, the infrared heating in the fitness room is very efficient and low cost [this is not a direct comparison, as the main building is older and less well-insulated]. It takes up little or no space, and it gives off a nice feeling of heat. It’s like standing in the sun. There’s no hot dry air.”

Historic Scotland installed infrared panels in one of its holiday cottage properties. Roger Curtis, technical officer for Historic Scotland, said that the decision was as much about a human-friendly form of heating as it was about efficiency. He said:  "I think it’s a better way of delivering thermal comfort in a way that is physiological comfortable. Breathing warm air isn’t that good for you. So there are sort of medical reasons why infrared heating is good. And of course people always heated themselves with radiant sources, eg fires." Although it hasn't been installed long enough to make any conclusions about it's effectiveness yet, Mr. Curtis thinks infrared might be best used with another form of heating, such as a woodburning stove. 

How much do infrared panel heaters cost? 

They are more expensive than other electric space heaters. Infrared heating panels come in various sizes and designs. Depending on the size and make, standard mirror or glass panels cost in the range of £150 to £500. More elaborate designs cost more. 

One company sells a 250 watt panel  (30x90cm, 2.5cm deep and 3.5kg) for £160, and an 800 watt panel (60 cm x 120cm, 2.5 cm deep and 12.5kg) for £420. 

Radiant heating is eligible for non-domestic Green Deal finance. 

What size panel is best?

Larger panels emit more heat. What size panel you need depends on how well your building retains heat as well as what your heating requirements are. For older and less insulated homes, a 250watt panel might be right for a bathroom or hallway and 850watt panel for the living room or bedroom. For a modern, super-insulated home, a 250watt panel might work for the living room. For an office, you need to consider the size of the space as well as where people spend most time. Some offices have infrared panels near to reception to warm guests immediately, for example. To produce the same feeling of warmth, a rough estimate is that a 600w infrared heater can replace a 1.5kW convection heater. 

Is installation required? 

There are two options: have an electrician install them so that they are programmable, or plug them into an electric socket and use them directly with the controls they come with, like a portable electric heater. How much installation will cost depends on how many panels are installed, but should be less than a couple of days work by an electrician. 

Are there any dangers?

Panels can reach surface temperatures of more than 100 degrees C. Children should not be allowed near them, and like with any heater they should be kept clear of flammables, like furniture and curtains.

Is it safe to use the heater near computer equipment? 

Many offices have them installed near desks. Obviously, they shouldn’t be close to any potential fire hazard. But they will not affect machinery. 

Are there other types of infrared heaters? 

Infrared panels are one form of infrared heater. There are two broad types of infrared heaters: near infrared and far infrared. Infrared panels use far infrared energy, the spectrum of infrared farthest from visible light. Near infrared heaters, which include heat lamps and infrared patio heaters, use the spectrum of infrared closest to visible light, and still emit some light (the familiar orange glow of an outside pub smoking room). Other forms of Infrared heaters are commonly used in industrial applications and animal husbandry, but infrared panels are more common for home and office use. 

Do they emit an orange glow? 

Infrared panels do not emit any orange glow. 

How does infrared heat work? 

Infrared is electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength longer than visible light and shorter than microwaves. The warming energy from sunshine is infrared. Unlike other heating systems, infrared heaters do not work by warming the air; they work by directly warming objects. In a space heated with infrared, people will absorb the heat as well as the building fabric and objects in the room, so the space itself may become warmer over time (like in passive solar heating, where building fabric absorbs heat from the sun and re-radiates that heat out). 

Photo credit: Mutiheat & Energy Systems

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5 comments - read them below or add one


CavityComment left on: 25 June 2015 at 7:53 pm


Has anyone, or does anyone know of anyone, who has achieved a saving with infrared panel heaters compared to conventional gas fired central heating?

Can anyone point me in the direction of unbiased research comparisons between the above heating systems?

Does anyone know of any energy assessment software that would enable one to compare the predicted running cocts of the above heating systems for a given domestic property?

A relative has replaced a gas fired system with infrared panel heaters and the running cost so far (Nov 14 to June 15) are between 2 and 2.5 times more expensive. The question I'm trying to answer is should they cut their losses and re-install a conventional gas fired heating system or, now that the installer has (so they say) configured the panel system correctly, continue with the infrared panels.

All feedback greatly appreciated.  



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CavityComment left on: 30 January 2015 at 3:41 pm

With regard to the first comment.

From the third paragraph in the article.

'They need to be positioned carefully so that the heat they emit is not obstructed.'

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Sussex Solar Ltd

Sussex Solar LtdComment left on: 7 January 2015 at 8:19 pm

I would advise great caution. There are a number of companies hard selling these systems and claiming running costs are half that of gas. We have just put monitoring equipment on one installation and its already looking expensive at £95 in 7 days for a 3-bed semi.

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vincenewmanComment left on: 28 April 2014 at 5:33 am

Deleted due to spam content

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BexGawneComment left on: 26 April 2013 at 12:34 pm

Infrared heating is the way forward I think! Especially when you can hide the panels behind sleek accents like mirrors and pictures.

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