How Do Infrared Heaters Work? A Comprehensive Guide

When winter season is here, you start thinking about keeping your home warm and cozy. You search for different heating options. Let me introduce you to infrared heaters: a popular, reliable and efficient way to heat your home. But you might be curious, how exactly do they work?

In this comprehensive guide, I’ll break down the step-by-step working guide behind working mechanism of infrared heaters and explore the various benefits and applications of this efficient heating system.

What is Infrared Heating?

Before diving into the working mechanism of infrared heaters, let me introduce you to concept behind infrared heating. Infrared heating is a type of radiant heating that uses electromagnetic waves to heat the residents and objects in your home directly, rather than heating the air around them.

This is the same heating mechanism behind the warmth you feel from the sun. The heat is transmitted through the air and absorbed by objects, warming them up.

How Do Infrared Heaters Work?

Infrared heaters emit electromagnetic waves in the infrared spectrum. These waves are a type of light that are not visible to the human eye. They are longer than the light we can see but shorter than radio waves. Infrared waves measure from about 700 billionths of a meter to 1 millionth of a meter.

When the objects absorb the thermal energy from the infrared heaters, they start to heat up and emit heat themselves. This creates a cycle of warming that eventually leads to the entire room being uniformly heated.

The following is a step-by-step guide on how infrared heaters work:

I- Generation of Infrared Radiation:

An infrared heater has a heating element such as a metal wire filament or ceramic element that generates heat through electrical resistance.

Infrared Heater Heating Element

There are mainly two types of heating elements: (i) Metal wire heating element (ii) Ceramic Heating Element

Metal wire filament in infrared heaters are commonly made from materials such as quartz, tungsten, or nickel-chromium alloys (such as nichrome).

Quartz is a high-temperature resistant material that is capable of emitting infrared radiation when heated. Tungsten is a durable and long-lasting metal that is also commonly used in infrared heating elements.

Nickel-chromium alloys, such as nichrome (80% Nickel, 20% Chromium), are resistant to oxidation and are often used in industrial-sized infrared heaters due to their high resistance to temperature and their ability to produce infrared radiation efficiently.

Ceramic heating elements in infrared heaters are typically made of materials such as aluminum oxide (Al2O3), magnesium oxide (MgO), or silicon carbide (SiC). These materials are known for their high resistance to temperature, durability, and ability to emit infrared radiation when heated.

Aluminum oxide is a commonly used material for ceramic heating elements due to its high thermal conductivity, electrical insulation properties, and ability to withstand high temperatures.

Magnesium oxide is another popular material for ceramic heating elements as it has excellent heat resistance and insulation properties, and is also relatively low in cost.

Silicon carbide is a high-performance material that is often used in industrial-sized infrared heaters due to its high resistance to temperature and thermal shock, and its ability to produce high-quality infrared radiation.

II- Emission of Infrared Radiation:

The heat generated by the heating element is then emitted as infrared radiation in the form of waves.

As discussed previously infrared radiation is a type of electromagnetic radiation that has a longer wavelength than visible light but a shorter wavelength than radio waves. As the material in the heating element warms up, it emits these infrared waves, which then travel through the air and are absorbed by objects.

III- Absorption of Infrared Radiation:

The emitted infrared radiation is then absorbed by objects such as furniture, walls, and people within the room.

IV- Conversion into Heat:

Upon absorption, the infrared radiation is converted into heat energy, causing the objects to warm up.

V- Heat Distribution:

The warmed objects then release heat into the surrounding air, which distributes the heat throughout the room.

VI- Continuous Cycle:

The heating element continues to generate heat, emitting infrared radiation, which is absorbed and converted into heat, creating a continuous cycle of heat generation and distribution.

One of the key benefits of infrared heating is that it’s much more efficient than other types of heating. Conventional heating systems, such as central heating or portable space heaters, rely on heating the air, which can cause a number of problems. The air is a poor conductor of heat and tends to rise, so most of the heat generated by these systems is lost. With infrared heating, however, the heat is directly absorbed by objects, making it much more efficient.

Types of Infrared Heaters

There are several different types of infrared heaters, including:

  1. Quartz Infrared Heaters: These heaters use a quartz heating element to produce high-intensity infrared radiation, making them ideal for use in industrial settings where high temperatures are required.
  2. Shortwave Infrared Heaters: Shortwave infrared heaters use a special type of heating element that produces high-intensity, shortwave infrared radiation, which is well-suited for surface heating and drying applications.
  3. Medium Wave Infrared Heaters: Medium wave infrared heaters produce medium-intensity, medium-wavelength infrared radiation and are commonly used for heating and drying applications in the plastics and rubber industries.
  4. Far Infrared Heaters: Far infrared heaters produce low-intensity, long-wavelength infrared radiation that is well-suited for heating people and objects in a room. Far infrared heaters are often used in residential and commercial settings.
  5. Portable Infrared Heaters: Portable infrared heaters are compact and easy to move, making them ideal for use in a variety of settings. These heaters are often equipped with a handle and wheels, making them easy to transport from room to room.

Infrared Heating vs Convective Heating

Infrared heating and convective heating are two different heating mechanisms that are used to warm up a space.

Infrared heating involves the use of infrared radiation to heat up objects and surfaces in the room, including people and furniture. This type of heating is often considered to be more energy-efficient and eco-friendly compared to convective heating as it doesn’t require the movement of air.

Convective heating, on the other hand, works by heating up the air in the room using a heating element such as a radiator or a furnace. The warm air then rises and circulates, distributing heat throughout the space. Convective heating is a more traditional heating method and is still commonly used in many homes and buildings.

The infrared heating provides uniform heating in whole heating space and temperatures are almost even at different places. So if you need uniform and energy efficient heating, you should opt for infrared heating over convective heating.

Benefits of Infrared Heating

Infrared heating offers a number of benefits over other types of heating systems. Here are some of the key benefits:

  • Energy Efficiency: Infrared heating is much more efficient than other types of heating systems, as the heat is directly absorbed by objects rather than heating the air. This means that less energy is wasted, making infrared heating a more environmentally friendly option.
  • Cost-Effective: Infrared heating is more cost-effective than other types of heating systems in the long-run. While the initial cost of purchasing an infrared heater may be higher, the cost savings on your energy bills over time will more than make up for it.
  • Improved Air Quality: Infrared heating doesn’t produce any harmful emissions or pollute the air in your home. This makes it a great option for people with allergies or respiratory issues.
  • Flexibility: Infrared heaters are available in a range of styles and sizes, making them a versatile option for heating your home. They can be used in a variety of settings, from large commercial spaces to small bedrooms.

How long does it take infrared heater to heat a room?

The time it takes for an infrared heater to heat a room depends on several factors, including the size of the room, the power output of the heater, and the starting temperature of the room. Here is a rough estimate based on some typical assumptions:

  • Room size: A medium-sized room of about 150 square feet (14 square meters)
  • Power output of the heater: 1500 watts
  • Starting temperature: 60°F (15°C)
  • Desired temperature: 72°F (22°C)

To calculate the time it would take a 1500-watt infrared heater to raise the temperature of a medium-sized room of 150 square feet from 60°F (15°C) to 72°F (22°C), we need to use the following formula:

Time = (Desired temperature - Starting temperature) / (Heater output in BTUs / Room size in square feet)

First, we need to convert the power output of the heater from watts to BTUs. One BTU is equal to about 0.29307107 watts, so a 1500-watt heater is capable of generating approximately 1500 / 0.29307107 = 5119 BTUs per hour.

Next, we can plug in the values for the room size, the heater output, and the desired and starting temperatures:

Time = (72°F - 60°F) / (5119 BTUs / 150 square feet)
Time = 12°F / (5119 BTUs / 150 square feet)
Time = 12 / (5119 / 150)
Time = 12 / 34.13

The result of this calculation is approximately 0.35 hours, or 21 minutes.

It’s important to note that this is a rough estimate and the actual time it takes to heat the room will depend on several factors, including the insulation of the room, the presence of windows or doors, and the air flow in the room. This estimate assumes that the heater is functioning at its full capacity and that the room has an average level of insulation and air flow. The actual time it takes to heat the room may be faster or slower, depending on the specific circumstances.

How much does it cost to run a 1500 watt infrared heater for 24 hours?

The cost of running a 1500 watt infrared heater for 24 hours can be calculated as follows:

  1. Calculate the total energy consumption: 1500 watts * 24 hours = 36,000 watt-hours (Wh)
  2. Convert to kilowatt-hours (kWh): 36,000 Wh ÷ 1000 = 36 kWh
  3. Determine the cost per kilowatt-hour from your electricity bill. This will vary depending on your location and energy provider. Let’s assume an average cost of $0.13 per kWh.
  4. Calculate the total cost: 36 kWh * $0.13/kWh = $4.68

So, the cost of running a 1500 watt infrared heater for 24 hours would be approximately $4.68 based on the assumption that electricity costs $0.13 per kWh.

Applications of Infrared Heating

Infrared heating has a number of applications, both in the residential and commercial sectors. Here are some of the most common applications:

  • Residential Heating: Infrared heaters are becoming increasingly popular for heating homes, offering a more efficient and cost-effective alternative to traditional heating systems.
  • Commercial Heating: Infrared heating is ideal for commercial spaces, as it can quickly heat large areas without the need for a central heating system
  • Outdoor Heating: Infrared heaters are also a great option for outdoor heating, providing warmth to outdoor spaces like patios, decks, and outdoor seating areas.
  • Industrial Heating: Infrared heaters are widely used in industrial settings, providing fast and efficient heating for a variety of applications, such as drying, curing, and heating large areas.
  • Agricultural Heating: Infrared heaters are also used in agricultural settings, providing heat for livestock and crop production.

Maintenance and Safety Considerations for Infrared Heaters

Infrared heaters are generally low-maintenance and easy to use, but it’s important to keep a few things in mind to ensure your heater operates safely and efficiently. Here are some of the key maintenance and safety considerations:

  • Keep the heater clean: Infrared heaters should be kept clean and free of debris, as this can impact their performance and efficiency.
  • Place the heater properly: Infrared heaters should be placed in a safe and secure location, away from flammable materials and out of reach of children and pets.
  • Check the wiring: It’s important to check the wiring of your infrared heater regularly to ensure it’s in good condition and to avoid any potential safety hazards.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions: Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for using and maintaining your infrared heater, as this will ensure it operates safely and efficiently.


Infrared heaters are a reliable and efficient way to heat your home or commercial space. They offer a number of benefits over other types of heating systems, including improved energy efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and improved air quality. With a wide range of styles and sizes available, infrared heaters are a versatile option for any heating needs. Just make sure to keep a few key maintenance and safety considerations in mind to ensure your heater operates safely and efficiently.

Frequently Asked Questions About Infrared Heaters (FAQs)

Do infrared heaters use a lot of electricity?

In general, infrared heaters are more energy-efficient than traditional heating methods such as electric or gas-fired furnaces. This is because they heat objects and surfaces directly, rather than heating the air, which reduces the amount of energy required to warm up a space.

However, like any electrical appliance, the amount of electricity used by an infrared heater will depend on its size, power output, and usage patterns. To minimize the amount of electricity used, it is important to choose an infrared heater with an appropriate power output for the size of the space it will be used in, and to use it as efficiently as possible by turning it off when it is not needed and using it in conjunction with other heating sources as needed.

Is infrared heating healthy?

Infrared heating is generally considered safe and healthy. Infrared radiation is a type of energy that is naturally occurring and is found in sunlight, so it is similar to the heat we receive from the sun. Infrared heaters do not produce harmful by-products such as carbon monoxide or other toxic fumes, making them a safe and healthy alternative to traditional heating methods.

Overheating or exposure to high levels of infrared radiation can be harmful, so it is important to keep a safe distance from the heater and to use it in a well-ventilated area. Overall, infrared heating is considered a safe and healthy heating option for homes and businesses.

Do infrared heaters dry out the air?

Infrared heaters do not dry out the air in a room to a significant extent. Infrared heaters work by heating objects and surfaces directly, rather than heating the air, so they do not reduce the humidity levels in a room in the same way that traditional heating methods do.

However, it is possible for infrared heaters to have a slight drying effect on the air if they are used for extended periods of time, especially in a room with low humidity levels. In such cases, it may be necessary to use a humidifier to maintain comfortable humidity levels.

Overall, the impact of infrared heaters on the humidity levels in a room is generally minimal, making them a suitable heating option for homes and businesses.

Do infrared heaters need ventilation?

Infrared heaters do not typically require ventilation in the same way that traditional heating methods like gas-fired furnaces or wood stoves do. Infrared heaters do not produce harmful by-products such as carbon monoxide or other toxic fumes, so they do not need to be vented to the outside.

However, it is important to use infrared heaters in a well-ventilated area to prevent overheating and to ensure that the heat is distributed evenly throughout the room. Overheating can be a safety concern and can also cause the heater to degrade more quickly. Additionally, using an infrared heater in a poorly ventilated area can cause a buildup of heat and lead to uncomfortable or even hazardous conditions.

So while infrared heaters do not typically require ventilation, it is important to use them correctly and in a well-ventilated area to ensure safe and effective operation.

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