What is infrared light?
Infrared light is the reason why we feel warm when the sun is shining in the middle of a wintery day. Conventional wisdom would suggest that if the air temperature were freezing, then you too would feel cold. However the infrared waves emitted by the sun travel unimpeded through space, and warm any object they hit, including your body.
Infrared is a form of electromagnetic radiation that sits just beyond the red end of the visible light range of the electromagnetic spectrum. We often hear the word radiation and automatically associate it with being harmful, but in fact, radiation is just a process of energy emission. Just like visible light radiation, infrared radiation is 100% safe and even our own bodies emit infrared radiation (which is what allows search and rescue helicopters to find lost travellers at night for example).
Conventional space heating in homes
Conventional heating in the home works by warming up the air around you; for instance a radiator does most of its heating through convection currents (it also gives off small amounts of infrared radiation).
When the radiator warms up, it heats the air directly around it, which then expands and rises. As the hot air rises, it creates a vacuum behind it, which pulls colder air into contact with the radiator, causing it to heat up. As the hot air begins to cool down it drops down back to floor level. This cold air gets heated again and this process keeps repeating itself – this is known as convection heating.
Most conventional heating systems do emit some infrared waves. For example, if you have ever sat near an open fire, you will have felt the heat on your face. Then when you put your hand in front of your face, this stops the infrared hitting your face directly; instead you will feel your hands get warm. This is infrared.
Infrared heaters in the home
Infrared heating is a fairly recent addition to the domestic and commercial heating scene. It is emitted from the heater, which then travels unimpeded through the air until it hits an object. The object absorbs the radiation, causing molecules within it to vibrate, producing heat.
If the waves come into contact with humans, they will travel about an inch into the body providing a feeling of deep heat, but even if you are not directly in the way of the waves, any solid body will vibrate when the waves hit them, causing them to radiate heat back towards you.
Despite being able to purchase gas, oil and solid fuel infrared heaters, we suggest using electric infrared panels in the home, since you do not need to integrate any pipework or fuel storage facilities when you install the panels. There are also no direct emissions associated with using the electrical panels (and if you use them in conjunction with solar panels you get 100% emission-free heating). According to a study made by Jigsaw infrared when adding solar panels to their infrared heating, you could save up to 50% on your energy bills. They also can be placed high up on the walls or the ceiling, so they will be easy to keep away from pets and children (they get about as warm as a standard radiator).
The electric panels come in numerous sizes and certain models can double up as mirrors. Since they have no moving parts, they operate in complete silence, which makes them ideal for any property.
Energy savings from infrared heaters
Infrared heating works by heating the surface area of a room, rather than the volume (as is the case the traditional convection heaters), which means they are heating considerably less to provide the same amount of heat.
The following worked example compares a 800 Watt infrared heat panel and a standard 2000 Watt convection heater (like for like providing the same comfort of heat), providing heat up to 4 months of winter (November through to Feb 119 days) for 8 hours a day at a cost of £0.30 per kWh of electricity (As of May 2022 estimated 10 minutes per hour of use for IR panel. 10 minutes per hour for convection heater).
|Infrared Heater||Convection Heater|
|Energy rating||800 Watts||2000 Watts|
|Electricity units per hour||0.80||2.00|
|Total electrical units used||119kWh||238kWh|
In addition, you are heating solid walls or objects with infrared radiation and these have a thermal mass, which means they retain heat and help keep the home cosy. Conversely, air has no thermal mass, so in the case of traditional convection-warmed rooms, when a door is opened, the hot air will quickly escape; requiring you to reheat the room to feel warm again. One brilliant factor in favour of these panels is the ability to provide the home with a fully-zoned property. Unlike central heating systems, the panels can be switched on in individual rooms using the thermostats. This means that heating is only fully used when required. If you think how much energy is wasted in rooms that do not need to be heated, such as guest bedrooms, this is a real benefit.
A study was placed by Aston University and Jigsaw Infrared which found that Jigsaw’s infrared panels can increase the room temperature to 18 C in 10 mins which is less than a 2000 W storage and convection heater take 15 and 17 min respectively. Moreover, the IR heating system has an efficiency 2 times higher than a 2000 W and storage and convection heating system. Therefore, the IR panel used half the energy (50% less) of the storage heater and reached room temp in almost half the time. Therefore, Infrared heating is much more efficient at heating a space than conventional space heaters. The heat is also contained in the thermal mass of the room surfaces, as opposed to the heat. This means that it stays warmer for longer and draughts do not play as large a part when compared with convection heaters.
Infrared vs. other heating systems
|Heating System||Annual Cost|
|Gas central heating with zone controls||£608|
|Jigsaw infrared with zone controls||£804|
|Reversible air con with zone controls||£881|
|Air-water heat pump with zone controls||£977|
|Electric convector heating with zone controls||£1,332|
|Electric underfloor heating with zone controls||£1,508|
|New electric night storage with automatic controls||£1,734|
Based on a 2-bed property and May 2022 energy prices. Heating only.
Other advantages of infrared heating
Another major advantage of infrared heating is that unlike conventional heaters that just heat the air, infrared heaters heat the walls, which will mean they stay completely dry. It then builds up the thermal mass within the walls and the floors, which maintains the warmth and keeps it dry by reducing condensation. Therefore infrared heating helps prevent the spread of mould in the property.
In addition, conventional heaters warm the room by convection currents that circulate dust particles continuously around the home, however these convection currents do not occur with infrared heating, so for people who suffer from asthma, infrared panels can be the ideal solution.
- The units are compact and can be designed to provide other functions such as a mirror in the bathroom, which helps save room.
- Since infrared heaters heat solid objects in the home like walls, they prevent any moisture build-up on these surfaces and so inhibit the spread of mould.
- Fit and forget technology, very little maintenance required
- These heaters are emission-free (i.e., no fuel is burnt in their operation) and if they are used in conjunction with renewable energy sources like solar PV, you are producing 100% clean heat.
- The way these heaters heat a room is more efficient than conventional convection heaters, so they are more cost-effective to run.
- Infrared heaters warm solid objects with a thermal capacity, therefore if a room is draughty or a door is opened, the solid objects retain the heat keeping the room warm.
- low weight, small size, and no need for thermal bricks.
- They cost about twice as much as traditional convection space heaters. However the saving difference made should mean that they pay back in a little over a year, and then you will experience savings on your energy bills.
- To feel the true benefits of the heating panel, there needs to be no obstacles between you and the heating unit, which is not always easy to achieve.
- Based on a newly built two-bedroom house, hall, and a bathroom at 18℃ with Jigsaw infrared aluminium infrared panels. IR panels are required for 5 x 400W at £395 each and 4 x 800W at £595 each. Including one room thermostat for each room at £89 each and one control Hub per property at £129. Total units and parts costing £5,285.
Installing infrared heating
Are you thinking about installing infrared heating in your home? We have scoured the country for the best tradespeople, so that we can make sure we only recommend those we really trust.
If you would like us to find you a local installer to help install infrared heating in your home, just fill in the form below and we will be in touch shortly!