All About Infrared Space Heaters

Everything You Need to Choose the Right Space Heater for Your Home

Infrared Space Heaters
Hampton Bay Legion Panoramic Infrared Electric Stove. Photo Courtesy of Home Depot

Infrared space heaters are a great way to keep any space warm on-the-go. This heating method can help save energy while still adding sufficient heat to your most-used spaces.

These type of heaters are most ideal for family rooms, insulated garages, or open living spaces. From key features and advantages to their best use and care tips, here's everything you should consider before buying an infrared heater.

The Advantages of Infrared Space Heaters

Infrared heaters are more energy-efficient than other space heaters. They use 100 percent of the heat they produce which creates almost no loss in heat transfer to zone heat at a low cost. This is because, unlike other supplemental heating appliances, infrared heaters do not heat the air and instead emit infrared radiation that only warms the objects the radiation touches. The physics involved is similar to the way sunlight warms objects, which means there is a natural feel to being warmed by the heat from an infrared space heater.

Because they do not move large quantities of air around, they don't dry out the air excessively or move dust around compared to forced air heating systems. They are also considerably safer than other types of space heaters since the heating coils do not become ultra hot.

However, the overall efficiency of the infrared heaters depends greatly on how the unit is engineered, constructed, and how much it's being used in coordination with other heat sources in your home. 

Types of Portable Electric Infrared Heaters

There are three styles of electric infrared heaters: portable wheeled units with infrared heating technology, compact heaters with (partial) infrared capability combined with other forms of heating systems, and freestanding electric infrared fireplaces.

Some units are portable and can be easily relocated carrying by hand or, with larger models, using built-in wheels. Although fireplace styles can add an attractive aesthetic to your space, they can also be bulky and more difficult to relocate.

Essential Features

Whether you are shopping for a small table-top unit, a larger portable model with wheels, or a fireplace-style infrared heater, you should always make sure your unit has:

  • A built-in thermostat and easy-to-set control
  • A fan
  • Quartz bulb (the longer the life, the better the value as replacement bulbs are expensive and may be difficult to find.)
  • Cool-to-the-touch exterior
  • Heating capacity suitable for your area (some can heat 1000 sq. ft. or more)
  • A stable design that resists tipping
  • Wheels that swivel
  • A reliable return/refund policy.

Although not necessary, some heaters come with additional features such as a replaceable air filter, built-in humidifier, and ultra-quiet fans.

What to Avoid

Don't believe marketing that claims to raise humidity levels. While using an infrared heater rather than forced air heating can keep the air from drying out quite as fast, using an infrared heater will not be a viable replacement for a humidifier. Also, heaters that are not thermostatically controlled are also not recommended as the lack of temperature control can cost more money.

The use of an extension cord is also not recommended when using infrared heaters as it can be a major fire hazard.

Price Ranges

Electric infrared heaters can range from $50 or less for small portable desktop units to more than $1,000 for decorative fireplace look-alike units. Generally, for a decent model with thermostatic controls, you can expect costs to be in the $100 to $200 range. 

High price does not guarantee better energy savings; prices are inflated in some cases simply because demand is high and brands are limited. Features, construction, and heating technology tend to differ among infrared models and consumers should compare heaters to get the best value for their money.

Infrared Heater Use and Care Tips

Larger units (1500 watts or more) should be connected to a 20-amp outlet, or, if connected to a 15-amp circuit, they should be dedicated to the heater only. A 1500 watt heater will draw up to 12.5 amps of power, which can cause a 15-amp circuit to overload if other lights and appliances are also running off it. 

Most models of infrared heaters have cool-to-touch exteriors and are safe to use with young children and pets in the home. Though clearances are not as much of an issue as with hot-coil heaters, you should remove clutter in the heater's area to ensure that heat can freely be dispersed to the room. As with any electrical heaters, keep papers, clothing, magazines, and other similar items away from the heater.

Infrared heaters are designed to be room, zone, or space heaters. Though some may boast a capacity to heat a larger area, an infrared heater should not be used as a home's sole heating unit, but as a supplemental heater to your central heating furnace or system.