Infrared heaters have become increasingly popular in recent years as an energy efficient way to heat homes and offices. Unlike convection heaters which heat the air, infrared heaters emit infrared radiation which directly heats objects and people in the room. This focused heating effect means infrared heaters can provide targeted warmth at a lower cost compared to other types of heaters.
In this article, we’ll look at:
- How infrared heaters work
- Benefits of infrared heating
- Cost savings from using infrared heaters
- Factors that affect infrared heater savings
- Comparison of infrared heater costs vs. conventional heaters
- Tips for maximizing savings with infrared heaters
How Do Infrared Heaters Work?
Infrared heaters work by emitting infrared radiation from a heated source. This infrared radiation is absorbed by nearby surfaces and converted directly into heat. The heat is then trapped inside the object through conduction, warming up the material.
Unlike convection heating which relies on heating up air, infrared radiation can directly heat floors, furniture, and even people in the room. This allows infrared heaters to provide targeted and efficient spot heating.
Infrared radiation directly heats objects, not the air.
Some key advantages of infrared heating include:
- Instant heat – Infrared heating provides warmth instantly as soon as the heater turns on. There is no warm up time needed.
- Targeted heating – Infrared heat can be directed exactly where its needed, reducing waste. This zone heating effect helps heat only occupied spaces.
- No air circulation needed – Infrared warmth doesn’t rely on blowing hot air around a room. This makes it suitable for heating enclosed spaces.
- Even heating – Infrared waves spread heating across all objects. This avoids hot and cold spots.
- Safe – With no exposed heating elements or hot surfaces, infrared heaters are safer around kids and pets.
Benefits of Infrared Heating
Infrared heaters provide several benefits that can help save on energy costs:
- Lower thermostat settings – Since infrared heat feels warmer, you can lower the thermostat temperature while still feeling comfortable. Dropping your thermostat just 1-3°F can save up to 10% on heating costs.
- Smaller heated space – Infrared units can provide targeted heating for just the rooms you use. Heating a smaller occupied zone uses less energy than heating your whole house.
- Shorter heating time – The instant heat and direct warming effect means you don’t have to run infrared heaters as long to feel comfortable. Using heaters for a shorter time saves energy.
- No standby heating – Portable infrared units can be turned off when not needed. They don’t have to run continuously to maintain room temperature.
- Higher efficiency – Infrared heaters convert nearly 100% of their consumed energy into heat. There are minimal conversion losses compared to forced air heating.
- Low maintenance – Infrared heaters have few moving parts. With no ducts or air filters, ongoing maintenance costs are minimized.
By taking advantage of these benefits, homeowners can reduce their heating expenses. The amount of savings will depend on several factors.
Factors That Affect Infrared Heater Savings
Several variables determine how much you’ll save by switching to infrared heating:
Heated Area Size
- Infrared works best for heating small, single room areas of around 250 square feet or less. The more area you need to heat, the lower the savings compared to central heating.
- Well insulated homes retain heat much better. This allows an infrared heater to warm up a space quicker and longer. Savings are best for well weatherized houses.
Existing Heating System
- Switching from an older, inefficient heating system to a new infrared heater will provide the most savings. Infrared savings may be lower when replacing newer central heating units.
Electricity vs Gas
- Homes heated by natural gas furnaces will see more dollar savings than electric heat using infrared. However, energy savings may be comparable switching from electric to infrared.
Climate and Location
- Colder climates that require more continuous heating will see less savings from infrared. Milder climates provide more opportunities to use zone infrared heating.
- Higher end infrared heaters are built for maximum efficiency and heating power. Cheaper units may offset some of the savings from lower quality.
Considering these factors will provide a better estimate of the realistic savings you can expect in your situation.
Infrared Heater Costs vs Conventional Heaters
Here is a typical cost comparison between different home heating methods. Estimated annual energy costs are based on heating a roughly 2,000 square foot house in a cold climate.
|Estimated Yearly Energy Cost
|Forced Air Furnace (Gas)
|$2,500 – $5,500
|$2,000 – $3,500
|Baseboard Heaters (Electric)
|$10 – $15 per foot
|Portable Infrared Heater
|$100 – $500 each
|$500 – $1,000
With lower purchase costs and energy usage, infrared heaters can save $200 to $1,000 per year compared to conventional heating methods.
These are estimates only – actual costs will depend on personal usage, climate, insulation and many other factors described in the previous section.
While infrared units provide the highest heating cost savings, convenience may also be a consideration. Central heating systems like furnaces provide whole home warmth from a single unit. Portable infrared heaters require manually moving units from room to room.
The potential savings from using infrared heaters are significant. According to a study by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, households that switch from conventional heating systems to infrared heaters could save an average of $1,300 per year.
Here is a table that shows the potential savings from using infrared heaters in different climates:
|Up to 70%
|Up to 50%
|Up to 20%
Examples of Actual Savings
There are many anecdotal stories of people who have saved a lot of money by using infrared heaters. For example, one homeowner in the UK saved £200 per year by switching from electric radiators to infrared heaters. Another homeowner in the US saved $400 per year by switching from forced-air heating to infrared heaters.
Tips for Maximizing Savings with Infrared Heaters
To get the most savings from your infrared heater, keep these tips in mind:
- Perform an energy audit to find leaks or deficiencies that make your home lose heat. Fixing these issues first will maximize infrared heater performance.
- Focus on heating efficiency – don’t rely on infrared heaters to provide whole home heating. Combine with other strategies like weatherizing and adding insulation. Use the infrared unit for supplemental zone heating.
- Position the heater near where you spend most of your time. For example, place a portable heater by a couch or desk you sit at for long periods.
- Angle the heater on your body directly, keeping the warmth focused on you.
- Lower your central thermostat temperature since infrared allows you to feel warmer. Turn down 2-3°F at first and adjust as needed.
- Use insulating window coverings and close doors to keep the heated room isolated.
- Turn the heater off and use residual warmth when leaving a room.
- Opt for a larger, higher power heater if trying to heat a bigger room. Underpowered units will have to work harder costing more.
- Clean the filters of permanent mounted infrared heaters. Dust and grime cause the heater to use more energy.
- Take advantage of smart controls or programmable timers to automatically turn the heater on/off based on your schedule.
Getting an energy assessment and sizing your infrared heater properly for the space will provide the best return on investment.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much can I save by using an infrared heater to heat one room?
By heating just a single occupied room of around 200 sq ft, you can save about 50-75% on heating costs compared to central heating an entire house. For a larger 400 sq ft room, potential savings are 25-50%.
Are infrared heaters safe?
Modern infrared heaters are designed to be safe for residential use. They use low surface temperatures and enclosed heating elements. As with any electrical device, make sure to follow manufacturer safety precautions. Proper placement away from flammable objects is important.
Can I leave an infrared heater on overnight?
Infrared heaters are generally designed for intermittent use to provide zone heating when occupied. Leaving them on 24/7 wastes energy for empty rooms. Units with timers allow setting a shutoff time at night. Otherwise turn off the heater manually before bed.
How long does an infrared heater last?
Quality infrared heaters can have a lifespan of 10 years or longer. Key factors affecting longevity include frequency of use, operating environment, and quality of manufacturing. Higher end heaters tend to have longer lifespans.
Should I get a portable or mounted infrared heater?
Portable infrared heaters allow flexibility to move them from room to room. Permanently mounted units provide focused heating in a fixed location. Choose portable versions if you want to zone heat multiple spaces on demand. Go with a mounted unit for consistent heating of a constantly occupied spot.
Can I use an infrared heater in a bathroom?
Infrared heaters are safe to use in bathrooms provided they are wall mounted the proper distance away from showers and tubs. Always confirm the heater is rated for bathroom use and has the necessary GFI or ground fault protection. Never use portable plug-in heaters in wet areas.
Infrared heaters can offer significant energy savings when used properly for zone heating. Exact savings will depend on your climate, existing heating system, home insulation, and total area heated. While not a complete replacement for central heating, combining infrared zone heating with other efficiency measures can help cut winter energy bills by 25% or more.