How Infrared Heaters Work
by Rosalind Jackson

Jackson, Rosalind.  "How Infrared Heaters Work" 
10 March 2009. <>
30 December 2010.

Inside this Article

1.Introduction to How Infrared Heaters Work
2.Infrared Heater Specifications
3.Are Infrared Heaters Green?
4.When to Use Infrared Heaters
5.Lots More Information
6.See all Heating and Cooling articles

­You probably learned about infrared light when you studied wavelengths in science class­. You also might have heard of infrared radiation or infrared technology, just from casual tidbits on TV commercials or in magazines. But to be honest, you've either forgotten or never really understood the science behind wavelengths and light spectrums. So you pretty much draw a blank when you try to figure out what infrared heaters do.

You might remember that infrared light isn't visible because it's beyond the spectrum we can see. That's the gist of an infrared heater: The heat is a product of light that is invisible to our eyes. The reason we get warm from an infrared heater is because our skin and clothes absorb the light [source: Wasch]. It's like the difference between being directly in the sunlight versus sitting in the shade. You feel warm in the sun because the light that hits your clothes and skin keeps you warm, but when you're in the shade, the light doesn't reach you as well.

Energy Efficiency

•Can installing a green roof save you money?
•Hybrid Water Heaters
•How to Insulate Windows
•Can Infrared Heaters Save You Money?

­There are several kinds of infrared heaters. Some might direct their infrared light straight into a room or space to create heat on the object it reaches. Other infrared heaters contain three parts that create heat: infrared light bulbs, a heat exchanger (such as a good metal conductor like copper) and a fan that blows air onto the exchanger to create the heat [source: Wasch].

Infrared heaters also differ in fuel source and c­onstruction material. There are propane, natural gas and electric heaters. Some are ceramic, and there are also portable ones [source: IQS Directory].

Infrared heaters have certain specifications and should be used only in certain situations. These heaters may be more environmentally friendly.
Infrared Heater Specifications

Testing the Heat­

Some people are skeptical of using infrared heat. They believe that infrared heat will cause cancer because of the radiation that the heat source emits. Though there is a setting on home infrared heaters that keeps the heat on a weak level for extended periods of time, some think it could cause as much harm to your body as if you were in the presence of a stronger infrared heat source for a shorter amount of time [source: Associated Content].­

It's difficult to make general claims about infrared heaters because there are so many different specifications. First, there's the fuel/energy source. As we mentioned earlier, infrared heaters can be powered by electricity, natural gas or propane - if you're looking for an electric model, you should check how many volts and Hz are used. Different heaters also have different heat outputs and maximum operating temperatures. Some heaters also come with timers [sources: Tools For Wellness].

Other specifications include: filter controls, wheels, weight, fan, thermostat and color. Design also plays a role. Usually, you'll find a protective cover over the heating element, which  can be made from as copper, iron, steel or brass [sources: Ramson Solutions, Global Spec].

Read the next paragraph in order to find out why some claim that infrared heaters are more environmentally friendly than other heat sources.

Are Infrared Heaters Green?

Rebate Deals­

If you’re considering switching to an infrared heater, make sure to check for local rebate deals. For instance, a Minnesota company is offering a rebate to all natural gas customers within the state boundaries who want to install new infrared heating equipment. Be on the lookout for deals like this, and make sure to follow up on what it takes to qualify for them [source: Center Point Energy].­

It's tough to heat your house and stay green by trying to cause minimal harm to your surroundings. There is not one method of keeping warm that doesn't affect the natural world around you. You could even claim that simply bundling up in layers and layers of clothes would still have an effect on the environment if those clothes were made in a factory. That being said, you can't claim that infrared heaters have no effect on the outside world.

It really depends on what kind of infrared heater you use. Remember how all the heaters use a different source of fuel? You can debate which is greener by asking: Is it better to use electricity or natural gas? When you're considering how green infrared heaters are, be sure to keep in mind the power source of any particular model.

There are other factors that determine the greenness of infrared heaters. For instance, electric infrared heaters don't release harmful fumes into the air or contribute any emissions into the atmosphere. Electric infrared heaters also don't rely on fuel or gas lines, which is another green point [sources: Alabama Power, Tools For Wellness].

Some brands of infrared heaters claim their heaters don't take out oxygen or humidity from the air. The companies attest that their heaters make for easy-breathing, oxygen-rich air while still creating heat [source: Alabama Power].

Click to the next page to learn about where and in what situation it is best to use an infrared heater. Before you even think of buying one, you want to make sure you know when to use an infrared heater!

When to Use Infrared Heaters

Study Those Effects

A study set out to test the effects of infrared heaters used in industrial buildings. Since infrared radiation is the kind we experience from the sun, the study found that the human body is able to withstand the typical amount of radiation emitted by the infrared heater. The study found that infrared heaters have many benefits, including greater energy efficiency and a better living environment due to the use of natural gas, the least damaging fossil fuel [source: Sage Journals Online].­

Infrared heaters do provide direct cost-efficient heating, but that doesn't mean you should forego central heating. Infrared heaters generally aren't meant to heat your entire home.

Instead, you're most likely to find infrared heating technologies in large spaces that must counteract frequent loss of heat, such as warehouses, garages and airplane hangars. These spaces often have large doors or other cavities that are opened and closed often. Infrared heat works well to keep these areas from cooling too much.

You're also likely to find them along production lines in factories, but infrared heaters aren't reserved for industrial sites and cavernous areas. Because of their ability to focus heat on objects and not just pump hot air into a room, they're useful in home construction or improvement projects, such as helping paint dry. Anytime direct heat is needed, infrared heat may be the answer.

You might even find infrared heaters in use at your local gym or spa -- infrared saunas are beginning to grow in popularity. New technology directs infrared rays toward bodies, warming them in a similar fashion as the sun's rays would, but without the UV rays. Saunas of the past relied on traditional methods of producing large quantities of heat to first warm the air and then the bodies in the sauna. Infrared heat skips the air and directly heats bodies far more efficiently.

For more helpful information, be sure to check out the links on the next page.


•Alabama Power. "Electric Infrared Heaters." (Accessed 3/2/09)
•Associated Content. "Can an Infrared Heater Cause Cancer?" (Accessed 3/2/09)
•Center Point Energy. "Infrared Heaters (Minnesota)." (Accessed 3/2/09)
•Gatton, Bill. "How to Find the Best Far Infrared Heaters." (Accessed 3/2/09)
•Global Spec. "About Infrared Heaters." (Accessed 3/02/09)
•Heater Shop. "Infrared Heaters." (Accessed 3/2/09)
•IQS Directory. "Infrared Heaters." (Accessed 3/2/09)
•Ramson Solutions. "ComfortZone Infrared Heaters." (Accessed 3/2/09)
•Sage Journals Online. "Effect of Thermal Comfort/Discomfort due to Infrared Heaters Installed at Workplaces in Industrial Buildings." (Accessed 3/2/09)
•Tools For Wellness. "Far Infrared Heater." (Accessed 3/23/09)
•True Green Technologies. "Frequently Asked Questions." (Accessed 3/2/09)
•Wasch, Adam. "The story behind infrared heaters." (Accessed 3/2/09)