Infrared heating panels
Infrared heating panels use electricity to create radiant heat, in the same way as electric bar heaters. Infrared is part of the electromagnetic spectrum, it’s what creates the feeling of warmth from the sun and the heat from a coal fire. It is even the same form of heat emitted by your body.
Infrared heating panels require very little maintenance and are basically plug and play technology. For some, the zone warming provided by infrared heating may not be ideal, especially if you move around the house a lot. The effect is very different to conventional convection heating which heats the air in the room but the efficiency gains are significant and the lack of complex, and costly, installation compared with other alternatives to gas makes them a smart option, especially when combined with occupancy sensors.
How do infrared heating panels work?
Infrared heating panels work by converting electricity into radiant heat. In comparison to traditional (convection) radiators they don’t warm the air, so only warm things within range of the panel, rather than the air in the room. Infrared heating panels can be freestanding, or mounted on walls, or even the ceiling but should ideally be placed where they will distribute heat towards the areas of a room which people use most. When directed towards solid walls, floors, or other objects with a high thermal mass, which retain heat, these objects will warm up and re-radiate heat back into the room.
Infrared heating panels efficiency
Infrared heating panels warm the objects around them and do not rely on convection to heat the air in the room, making them highly efficient. Infrared heaters convert almost 100% of the electricity they consume into heat, making them one of the most efficient heating solutions available. Infrared panels also heat up very quickly. As soon as you switch a panel on it will begin to emit heat, so you only need to turn them when you enter a room. Infrared panels also allow you to easily ‘zone’ your heating, which helps with energy efficiency by making it very easy to heat only the spaces you need to be warm at any particular time. When combined with occupancy sensors, which notice if someone is in a room and switch the panels off or on accordingly, infrared heating panels are highly efficient. We waste huge amounts of energy heating up spaces which we are not using, and waiting for convection heating to have an effect. By contrast, the instant heat available from infrared heating panels is perfect for avoiding wasted energy, making them highly efficient.
Infrared heating panels are very energy efficient with proven savings of around 50% compared to conventional, radiator heating systems. They are also very easy to install. Free standing panels can literally be plugged straight into a socket and moved around the house as needed. Wall and ceiling mounted panels are best wired in, or plugged into a permanent socket but can still be installed yourself.
Infrared heating can be highly targeted, unlike convection, making it more efficient to reach the required heat in a particular space. Modern infrared heating panels are also very slim, so they don’t require much space. Unlike almost all the other heating systems which offer alternatives to gas, infrared heating panels are ideal for poorly insulated homes because the heat produced is not affected by draughts or open windows.
Unlike a traditional gas fired boiler, infrared panel heaters are silent, and don’t require any servicing. Plus, unlike fan heaters, they don’t push air around so are claimed to be better for your health, particularly for those who suffer from allergies, asthma and other respiratory diseases. They can also reduce damp and mould caused by damp, which can be especially bad for human health. If you direct an infrared panel at a damp wall it will slowly heat and dry out the wall, reducing the spread of mould.
Infrared heat cannot travel around corners so you need to keep the space around the heating panel clear for the heat to travel directly to the objects and people in the room. Heating panels work best when they’re directed towards the people that want to stay warm, so they’re not ideal if you move around between rooms a lot. Plus, as soon as you turn an infrared heating panel off it will stop radiating heat so there’s no lasting heat effect and, since infrared travels through glass, if you direct a heating panel towards a window the heat it generates will be lost. Finally, infrared heating panels do not heat water so, as a direct replacement for gas central heating they are not a complete solution and you will need an additional heating system for hot water.
Infrared heating panels costs
The installation costs for infrared heating panels can be as low as the costs of the units themselves, as they can be free-standing and simply plugged into a conventional socket. For our comparison with other forms of heating we’ve assumed a typical 3 bed house would need 8 x 500W panels at £350/panel giving a total of £2,800. 8 panels assumes: 1 in each bedroom, 1 in the living room, 1 in the kitchen, 1 in the hall, 1 in the bathroom and 1 on the upstairs landing.
Running costs for infrared heating will vary depending on the power of the units and the length of time they are left on throughout the day. For our comparison we have assumed that only 1 panel out of the 8 installed will be on at any time, since there is no need or point to keep them on when you are not in the room. So in total you will be running 1 panel for 8 hours per day, everyday between Oct 1 – March 31. Obviously, with 3 or more people at home on the weekends this heating pattern will change and you may need 3 panels on at once but, if you’re all out at work and school during the week this will balance out. As ever, these costs are just an example but hopefully help provide a useful comparison.
Running 1 x 500W infrared heating panel, for 8 hours everyday between Oct 1 – March 31 will costs: 500 x 34p x 8 x 182 days = £247.52
Are infrared heating panels worth it?
Infrared heating is a great way to heat rooms and provides significant efficiency gains, making the panels a great alternative to conventional radiators. However, as an alternative to gas boilers they don’t provide a complete solution because they don’t heat hot water so you will need an additional heating system for washing, bathing and showering. If you’re working from home and simply need to heat one room, infrared heating panels are a great option. They also make perfect sense in situations where you don’t stay in a room for long but want fast, instant heating. For example, at breakfast, when the house is cold a conventional gas boiler and radiators will rarely get the room up to temperature before the meal is over, making it pointless to turn the heating on. Or, the boiler will need to be programmed to come on an hour in advance, wasting huge amounts of energy. But with infrared heating you can have instant heating as soon as the first person enters the room and shut it off again when the last person leaves the room. When combined with occupancy sensors, to avoid the need to switch panels on and off manually, infrared heating systems are a very efficient, low carbon option. But they will increase your electricity bill.