Infra Red Panel heaters are rapidly becoming popular in the UK, after finding much popularity in homes across Europe and the USA for many years, the main advantage of Infra Red Panel heating is the relative low wattage compared to more conventional forms of electric heating, and so the reduction in energy running costs in a world where energy prices are constantly on the rise.
There are one or two myths surrounding Infra red Panels, which often leads them to being described as the most economical form of heating or some revolutionary low cost source of heat which will heat your entire home for just a few pennies per hour. These are generally claims which are made by the sales people selling Infra Red Panel Heaters, and whilst the cost of running these heaters is relatively low and they are indeed economical to run, Infra red panel heaters will only be efficient when used correctly, and in the right application.
First of all lets examine how traditional space heaters such as Convector Heaters or Central Heating radiators work. These types of heaters slowly emit their heat into the air, which first has to heat all of the air within the room, raising the actual room temperature before the people in the room begin to feel warm. This requires both time and large amounts of energy, which in turn costs money especially if the room is badly insulated or is draughty .
Infra red panel heaters work in a slightly different manner than conventional heaters and Central Heating, and the heat which they create is similar to the heat from the sun, coming through a window and gently warming your skin in the form of infra red rays. These rays are entirely harmless and will not cause sunburn or any health problems, in fact Infra Red Panel heaters can be beneficial in households with allergy or asthma sufferers as they do not dry out the air, emit fumes nor recirculate dust particles.
Because Infra red panels work by directly warming people and objects, rather than the actual air, they are designed to be mounted on a wall facing people, and so the best mounting position for an infra red panel would be on a large flat wall, such as above a mantlepiece / fireplace directly facing the chairs and sofas where people would sit for long periods, reading and watching tv etc. Because the mounting requirements of these heaters make them a focal point, they are designed to look like a picture, contemporary artwork or a mirror so they do not look out of place when mounted on a wall.
Infra Red Panel Heaters also require no expensive maintenance or ongoing annual servicing costs, and they offer an extremely long service life averaging as much as 10 to 20 years, making them a truly “fit and forget” form of heating
Unless you intend to heat a very small room, in a new very well insulated property, then Infra Red Panel heaters are NOT designed to be the sole form of heat source within an household. However they do make a very efficient source of supplementary heating which will allow central heating and radiator thermostats to be turned down to a background level, and then using the Infra Red Rays from the panel heater to warm seated people directly, resulting in a much lower cost than having the central heating turned up to a high level, where energy is burned to heat water, then the radiator and then warm the air in the room before the people in the room will feel warm – which is all very wasteful. In comparison, Infra red Panel heaters begin to emit their full heat potential after just 30 seconds, and heat people directly rather than having to heat water or the room first.
Infra Red Panel Heaters are also ideal for households which have storage heaters. Usually with Economy 7 type heating, the storage heaters will begin to run out of heat in the early evening which inevitably reduces their heat output to a background level and additional heat is then required for the remainder of the evening. Because Economy 7 customers pay far more for their peak rate energy than customers on standard tariffs, using convector or fan heaters to provide additional heating is very expensive, and so Infra Red panels can easily maintain the requirement for that small amount of additional heating, but at around 40% of the cost of more conventional electric heaters.
Thanks to the design of heating people and objects, rather than heating the air, Infra red panel heaters are also ideal for difficult to heat areas such as Conservatories, Outbuildings and Utility Rooms. They are also ideal for small rooms such as background heating in bedrooms and box rooms and they can also be used very effectively in Caravans, with their low wattage making them suitable for standard campsite caravan hook up points.
In short, Infra Red Panel Heaters can be an effective and economical form of electric heating when used correctly, and despite their relatively high purchase cost, most infra red panels will generally pay for themselves from direct energy savings in two or three winter seasons, which, given their long service life means a very good return for the original outlay.
To work out the cost of running an Infrared panel heater, you should read our page on infrared panel running costs