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Can I power infrared heating from my solar panels?

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 24 November 2014 at 10:11 am

Q: Having had solar panels installed a few years ago, the same company is trying to sell me infrared heating for inside the house which will use electricity generated by the panels. Do you have any advice about infra red heating? I currently have gas central heating using a combi boiler.

A: Infrared heating is an interesting option that has been growing in popularity. Most domestic heat sources use convection (radiators, wood burners, fan heaters) to heat the air in a room. Infrared heaters give out radiant heat which warms objects (or more specifically the humans in a room). This means that you get warm as soon as you turn the heater on, and don't have to wait for the room to warm up.

However, they are powered by electricity. This makes them an ideal replacement for storage heaters or other forms of electric heating, but much less economical if you are replacing gas.

The argument that you will use the electricity generated by your solar panels sounds enticing, but it is thoroughly misleading. The times that you are most likely to need heat are the times that the sun is least likely to be shining. You'll notice that now we're in autumn your daily solar generation will have dropped significantly, and will carry on falling as the days get shorter and colder. So unless you have some strange need for heating in the middle of summer, I suggest that you stick with gas! It will be better for your bills, and for the planet. 

Photo Credit: Steve Jurvetson via Compfight Cc

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6 comments - read them below or add one

Sussex Solar Ltd

Sussex Solar LtdComment left on: 7 January 2015 at 11:18 pm

Infrared heating is never going to save you money to heat your home unless you already use electric storage heaters. Trying to suggest otherwise is deception, its only a matter of time before unhappy customers with massive electricity bills call in Trading Standards and get the cowboys shutdown. again..  

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richmcComment left on: 28 November 2014 at 6:09 pm

I really can't understand the logic from both sides here, the answer is simple, install a solar diverter to push the excess generation into your hot water tank, even now in November I'm getting a full tank of hot water most days, if you have a diverter that can switch to a second load, then send it to a simple convection heater.

Solar gives me hot water, if there isn't enough sun to do so ny oil fired boiler (no gas here) is my back up. Use every joule you can from your generation, don't give anything back to the grid if you can avoid it.

The "winter months myth" is silly you may generate less but what there is should be used to the max, remember you may be seeing shorter days but the cooler air temperatures mean your panels are working more effectivly on a sunny cold day producing loads of power. 

"...It's a bit presumtuous that gas will be cheeper....", if you are driving your heating from solar (partly) then it's free, gas isn't.

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shricthismComment left on: 28 November 2014 at 4:42 pm

Tracey Drain's claims do not make a lot of sense in my opinion. The report that she shows a link to is in fact just two pages with some unexplained results and claims. Whatever type of device you use 1KWH of electricity will create 1KWH of heat - its basic physics. Even if you use a food mixer as the device the same holds true. Of course different devices will deliver it at different speeds and as different types of heat - eg convection, radiant etc. So if one infra red panel can produce 10 times as much as another, then that other must be producing lots of heat in another form. These will all heat up the house by the same amount in time.

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Steve C

Steve CComment left on: 27 November 2014 at 2:37 pm

Hi Cathy

The assessment by Mark Brindley refers to CHS, Tracey refers to a company installing Erad. I believe they are the same unit.

It does concern me that companies can make claims as Heating Homes do;

The website suggests that the product is recommended by the Energy Saving Trust and clearly uses the logo. NO Infrared Heating system is listed by the Energy Saving Trust, only the programmer is listed.

The website also claims under benefits that the product will "Increase the value of your home". "The heating system will improve your homes EPC rating" . I believe that replacing storage heaters or gas heating with Infrared will adversley affect the EPC 

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Cathy Debenham

Cathy DebenhamComment left on: 27 November 2014 at 12:00 pm

Hi Tracey

I'm not convinced about the methodology of this study. Have you read this assessment of it by Mark Brinkley?

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Tracey Drain

Tracey DrainComment left on: 25 November 2014 at 11:30 am

Whilst I agree that less electricity is generated from solar panels during the autumn and winter months, it's a bit presumtuous to suggest that gas will be cheaper as not all infrared heating panels are created equal.

A new company that has received government funding has come onto the market. Their panels have undergone years of technical development and use minimal Kw to heat an entire home. In fact, they claim to use one Kw to other infrared panels 10kw.

The results of their comprehensive installation savings study can be found here: - a study backed by Leeds University.

So although gas is obviously still in the running to provide hot water, there are significant savings both in cost and energy to be made on infrared heating powered by electricity.  


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