Infrared panels are an alternative choice to the more traditional radiator when it comes to heating your home. Unlike radiators, which effectively radiate out heat to warm up the air in a room, infrared heat warms up nearby objects, including people, making them an efficient alternative. But as they are powered by electricity, then can be seen as more expensive to run.
We take a more in-depth look into whether you should opt for infrared in your home with our guide to infrared heating panels: the pros and cons.
What is Infrared Heat?
Infrared light is a form of light that can be found on the electromagnetic spectrum. Unlike radiators which uses convection heat, infrared radiates heat, in the same way as the sun. But unlike the sun’s rays, infrared doesn’t contain any harmful UV light. There are actually three types of infrared, near, mid and far) with near and far infrared both having its own domestic applications. Near infrared gives off no heat and is used in devices such as TV remotes to send signals to your television. Far infrared is the ultimate in infrared heating and is also used in saunas and hospital incubators to keep newborn babies warm.
How Do Infrared Heating Panels Work?
With infrared warming any object it meets as it is emitted – just as the sun’s rays do – infrared heating panels are an efficient form of targeted home heating. And this is because infrared doesn’t warm an entire area or the air in a whole room, but actually safely radiates heat to warm furnishings, objects and people sitting nearby.
Here’s a little bit of the science behind it – infrared panels work by releasing radiation which travels through the air until it hits an object. As this radiation makes contact with the object, it is absorbed, causing the object’s molecules to start to vibrate, and these vibrations then produce heat. So, the objects effectively become the heat source and will make you feel warm without wasting heat to warm the air around you.
The added bonus to this form of heat generation is that many objects such as solid walls, sofas and humans have a thermal mass which means they retain the heat. This retained heat then keeps the room warmer for longer without any heat escaping through uninsulated windows, or door cracks, as convection heating is prone to do.
As a result of the way they produce heat, infrared heating panels tend to be smaller than electric storage heaters and are convenient to install, compared to traditional radiators as they don’t require any fuel or pipework.
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Infrared Heating Panels Pros & Cons
As with any heating solution, infrared heating panels may not be for every home. But what they do offer is an efficient and easy to use alternative to the more bulky, traditional radiator. To help you decide whether going infrared is the right choice for your home, we check out the infrared heating panel pros and cons.
- Efficiently heat a space
As infrared panels heat objects rather than a whole room, they are more efficient at heating a space, which can help you to reduce your annual energy bills. And as they don’t heat the air, which rises as it warms and drops as it cools, you will find fewer cold spots in your living room or chosen space.
- Heat up fast
As it efficiently warm objects, rather than the air, infrared heating is quick to provide the heat you are looking for, typically reaching the required temperature within 30 seconds of being switched on. However, the speed does depend on the size of heating panel you have and where they are located in the room. And the room will cool down pretty quickly once the heaters are turned off, as there is less lingering heat.
Check out our article on: What is the Ideal Room Temperature?
- Lower heating bills
Due to its efficient way of creating radiating heat, infrared panels are an efficient and so cost-effective way of heating your home, compared to standard convection heaters.
- Energy efficient
As well as being cost-effective, infrared is a cleaner source of energy, especially if used in conjunction with renewable energy, such as solar or wind power to create the electricity.
- Silent operation
Unlike traditional radiators, which are prone to being ‘vocal’ when it comes to the noisy expansion of metals and gurgling of water as it runs around the system, infrared heating panels are quiet, so you get the best of both worlds – heat and silence!
- No pipework
Another key plus to installing infrared panel heaters is that they look neat, and don’t come with cumbersome pipework which can ruin the aesthetics of a room. And, with no pipes, there’s no risk of blockages or frozen pipework.
- Ideal for any room
The sleek, almost minimalist look of an infrared heating panel makes them a versatile option that can work in all the rooms of your home. With no moving parts and so a silent operation, they are ideal for peaceful bedrooms or nurseries. And as they come in a wide choice of designs and finishes, they can be selected per room to fit with your style and décor.
- Easy to install and maintain
As well as easy to install, compared to the pipework required for traditional radiators, infrared panels require little maintenance and will not need to be balanced or bled.
- Health benefits
Infrared panel heaters should also be recognised for the positive affect it can have on your home and health. With no warm air circulating to create heat, infrared panels can support cleaner air in your home and reduce the amount of pollen, dust and other allergens being carried around your home. And, as well as the minimal air circulation, the lower operating temperatures of infrared can also help to reduce and even prevent any build-up of mould and damp around your home.
- Need clearance space
As infrared uses infrared radiation to heat up an object, it needs an unobstructed path to create its heat where you want it to be. And this means each panel will need a sufficient clearance space around it to ensure it is evenly and efficiently spreading its warmth. This means that infrared heating panels are perhaps not the best choice for smaller rooms or cramped spaces as their waves can be blocked, reducing both their heating effectiveness and efficiency.
- You need one in every room
Unlike a central heating system, where the radiators heat up and circulate warm air not just in the one room but also, to a certain level, around the home, infrared panels can only warm up the objects in its immediate vicinity. And this means you need at least one panel in every room and hall space. Depending on the size of your home, this could add to your cost of buying your new infrared home heating system.
- Initially more expensive
And this leads on to our final disadvantage of infrared heating panels, which is that they are initially often more expensive than traditional central heating systems to buy and install. And your average infrared panel is typically more costly to buy than a standard radiator or convection space heater. But the plus to this negative is that, over time, you could save money on your fuel bills so infrared heating panels are a more cost-effective proposition in the long run.
Can Infrared Heating Panels Impact Health?
While infrared uses radiation, it is a completely different type of radiation to the harmful forms such as gamma and UV. Infrared is a naturally occurring and perfectly safe radiation which will be emitted at some level from any object that has a temperature. In fact, infrared heating is considered safe enough to be used in hospital incubators for newborns.
However, when it comes to heating your home, it is far infrared which is used in infrared heating panels, rather than near infrared, which can be intense and so not appropriate for domestic use.
By harnessing this efficient form of heating for our homes, infrared heaters can actually be considered beneficial for your health, as the radiated heat doesn’t result in circulating air, and so reduces the amount of dust and potential allergens moving around your home. With infrared panels, mould and damp is also less likely to take hold.
How Much Do Infrared Heaters Cost?
So, now down to the bank balance and just how much infrared heaters cost – to buy, install and run.
The initial set up cost of domestic infrared heating panels can vary, depending on the manufacturer and model of the heating panel you are choosing, how many you need and the size of each panel. As a guide, a single infrared heating panel can start from around £150, rising to over £500, for a top end model with a host of extra features. But for around £200 you should be able to pick up a good quality 600W infrared heating panel which should be enough to heat a small to medium sized room (for larger rooms you may need more than one panel).
Don’t forget that compared to radiators which need pipework to be fitted, infrared heaters are also relatively easy to install and so you will save on the installation costs.
When it comes to running costs, an infrared heating system does need electricity which is more expensive on balance to gas, but the panels are a more efficient heating system and don’t need to be on for so long to get up to heat.
Infrared heating panels do need electricity to run, which is an expensive fuel to run – especially when compared to natural gas – but as a highly efficient heating solution, they don’t need to be on for quite as long. Estimates put a typical annual cost of running a 500W infrared heater for a year at around £50-£70 a year, compared to around £150 for a standard convection heater. And as infrared panel heaters use less electricity but still provide a high level of efficiency, they are kinder on the planet…and your carbon footprint. The final cost plus for infrared heaters are you can create a fully zoned home system, which means you can operate each infrared heater independently and so adjust your infrared heating system per room and your heating requirements, whatever time of the year.