Are you looking to buy an infrared heater and wondering how do infrared heaters work?

If so, that’s exactly what we’re going to explain to you in this article.

Plus, if you’re looking to save for your monthly electricity bills, then learning about the functioning of infrared heating panels is a key to learn.

The heating technology in infrared heaters is one-of-a-kind and comes with some unique safety features.

These units are also a very efficient way of keeping a space warm.

Infrared space heaters are perfect for the home, including open living areas and insulated garages.

In this article, we’ll answer some bugging questions that you might have such as “what is an infrared space heater?”, “how do infrared heaters work?” and what about the advantages and disadvantages of using one?

We’ll also take you through the most important part which is how to choose the best infrared space heater for your needs.

For a more detailed buying guide, check out our top infrared heater reviews page.

What is an Infrared Heater?

How do infrared heaters work

Have you ever stepped out from a shade into the sunlight and felt nicely warm?

This is because the infrared light from the sun is absorbed into your clothes and skin; It’s what warms your body.

Infrared heaters work like the sun. Infrared light warms objects directly in front of it.

These units produce invisible infrared light which is absorbed by your body and other objects in the room.

Infrared light is produced through a reflector and a series of coils that direct the light outwards. Your body and other objects in the room warm up due to the absorption of this light.

If you’ve ever wondered how do infrared thermometers work, they pretty much operate the same as infrared heaters.

It focuses infrared rays coming from the object to a detector. The infrared radiation is turned into heat and then electricity in the detector.

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How Do Infrared Heaters Work?

Infrared room heaters work through the conversion of electrical energy to radiant heat.

It’s the basic and safe form of heating principle and our bodies emit the same form of heat.

Infrared involves the direct transfer of heat from the heater to the objects in the room.

Without any need to heat the air in between. Hence, it’s a great alternative to save money on your electricity bills.

Infrared tube heaters help save money on electricity bills by only heating objects in a room.

The heat is not lost in the surrounding air. Air is a poor conductor of heat and loses heat easily.

Infrared heaters use less electricity to produce heat energy as compared to ceramic space heaters or oil filled space heaters.

If you’re using electric pads, you could be asking, “Do infrared pads work?”

Infrared pads heat the body to the bone unlike electric pads which heat the skin and are less effective.

Infrared Heating Principle

Infrared heating works through the production of electromagnetic infrared radiation that has invisible wavelengths of between 780nm and 1mm. This is the main principle that infrared heaters in your home operate on.

Infrared wall heaters work just like the sun via radiating their heat onto all objects in our surroundings. This design makes them some of the safest space heaters for bedrooms and the least noisy as they don’t interrupt your sleep.

Now that we have elaborated on the basic heating principle of infrared heaters, you might be asking a more detailed question of how infrared heaters work in relation to your electric bill.

Infrared Heater Effect on Electric Bill

Most infrared heaters work effectively in small areas.

So, how much does it cost to run an infrared heater?

The formula below is used to calculate the running costs of infrared heaters. You can also use this online calculator to quickly calculate costs by yourself.

Watts x Hours per Day x kWh Rate ÷ 1,000 = Average Daily Cost

Let’s assume your infrared heater uses 1,500 watts and you intend to use it for 5 hours per day.

You’ll need to multiply the wattage of the infrared heater by the number of hours and multiply this by the company utility rate, i.e. $0.12 kWh, and divide it by 1,000.

1,500 x 5 x 0.12 = 1,080

1,080/1,000 = $1.08

Therefore, your daily cost for 6 hours of usage is estimated to cost $1.08.

But remember, infrared heat lasts longer than other types of heating units. This is because infrared light heats the objects in the room other than the air around it which loses heat faster.

Air is a poor heat conductor and loses heat fast when an oil heater or ceramic heater is turned off.

The heat from an infrared heater will last longer when the heater is turned off since it takes longer until the objects have cooled down.

Infrared Heater Advantages

It’s easy to understand how infrared space heaters work but this article would be incomplete without taking into consideration the advantages of infrared heaters.

These types of heaters come with a lot of benefits to persons that want to add an economical heating unit to their homes.

Let’s dig into the most common advantages of infrared heaters:

  • Efficient: These heaters don’t waste any energy because they heat the objects in the room and not the air.
  • Instant heat: Infrared heaters emit infrared light once they’re turned on. Since they’re heating the objects in the room and not the air, they take little time to heat things up. This technology also makes them some of the best outdoor heaters available.
  • Quiet: Infrared heaters use light to warm you up. This makes them quieter than heaters that rely on a fan to disburse the hot air.
  • Environmentally friendly: This type of heater has many health benefits and the technology behind infrared heat does not use any fuel to generate heat. Therefore, electric infrared heaters do not cause air pollution and are a clean source of energy. (Keep in mind that some of the best portable propane heaters are designed with an infrared heating element which does use a fuel source.)
  • Cheap: Infrared heaters are very affordable and when you consider how well these units heat up a room, it makes them an even more economical choice.

Infrared Heater Disadvantages

Despite their advantages and benefits, infrared heaters do come with some disadvantages.

These are some of the disadvantages of infrared heaters that you should definitely consider:

  • Light-emitting: The heating panels emit an orange glow where the brightness depends on the model of the infrared heater. It might not be comfortable for people who cannot sleep in a lit room.
  • No heat when turned off: Infrared heaters only heat the objects in the room through rays of light and not the air. Once the heater is turned off the process of heating stops.
  • Limited heating range: Infrared light only heats objects within the direct path. So, it’s not an ideal heat source for large rooms where objects will block the emissions of light. Strategic placement is best so that more objects in the room get direct heat.
  • Safety: Infrared heaters use coils which might get very hot. Therefore, it’s not the most suitable heating unit to use around pets or children. There is also a danger of fire when infrared space heaters are placed near combustible items. However, because infrared heaters are becoming more common, companies are designing safer units that include a fan to disperse the heat and cool to the touch cabinets.

Are Infrared Heaters Safe?

Yes, infrared heaters are very safe. Infrared heaters work similarly to sunlight by warming up the people and objects in the surroundings rather than the air. Hence infrared heaters rely on a natural process.

Infrared heating is a natural process that is very safe. If you’re wondering whether infrared causes cancer the simple answer is no. It is safe for babies, for the eyes, and also for pets.

Infrared heaters are efficient and come equipped with safety features like automatically regulating heat and switching off when tipped over.

Can Infrared Heaters Cause Cancer?

You might worry about the dangers for your health or even if infrared heaters cause cancer. There is no scientific evidence that infrared light causes cancer. Infrared is a representation of electromagnetic radiation that has longer wavelengths than visible light. UV has wavelengths shorter than that of visible light.

Therefore, it’s safe to say that infrared light is not harmful to human or animal health.

Can Infrared Heaters Heat a House?

Yes, infrared panels are capable of heating a whole house. It’s an energy-saving heating solution as compared to convection heaters due to its low wattage requirements.

Convection involves a room heating up. This occurs due to the movement of hot air via gas central heating systems and storage heaters. As such, this is the major difference between infrared heating vs gas heating.

A whole house infrared heating system is effective because both the items and people in the rooms get heated. No heat is lost in the air and that can help you save on electricity use.

Choosing an Infrared Heater

Now that you know the details of how infrared heaters work, you may be wondering how to pick the right one for your needs.

If you want to buy an infrared heater, these are some of the important features that you need to consider when choosing the right unit:

Temperature Range

The temperature rating is the measurement of the possible temperatures you can achieve with an infrared heater.

Some infrared heaters have a temperature range of 40°F to 90°F others have a range of 50°F to 80°F.

The one with the highest temperature rating is the best in terms of performance and flexibility.

Power Rating

Infrared heaters use electricity to heat your room just like an electric heater.

Almost all infrared heaters come with a power rating given in watts. You need to check the power rating of an infrared heater if you want the most effective one.

A 1,500 watt infrared heater will perform much better than a 1,000 watt infrared heater.

However, a 1,500 watt unit will result in higher electricity consumption.

This is something you may want to consider before purchasing an infrared heater if energy use is important to you.


You need to choose a durable and reliable space heater if you want it to be effective for a long time.

To verify this, you need to check out the length of the warranty. Most infrared heaters come with a one-year to three-year warranty.

Size and Form Factor

It’s important to check out the size and form factor of an infrared space heater before purchasing it.

Since these heaters are often used as portable units in offices and homes they should be compact and small. This will ensure that the unit doesn’t take up much space in the room.

Some infrared heaters are lightweight enough and portable to take from one room to another. You can also opt for a wall mounted infrared panel heater.

Wall-mounted infrared heaters can come in the standard panel design or even look like a fireplace. You can visit our best wall mount electric fireplace on the market page for some good recommendations. Or simply go with the portable freestanding style with a new electric fireplace.

How Do Infrared Space Heaters Work Summary

So, are infrared heaters worth it?

It all depends on your preference.

We hope this guide has answered all of your questions about how do infrared heaters work and the advantages and disadvantages of infrared space heaters.

If you’re wanting to buy an infrared heater, this article is a good first step in that process.

The next step is to check out our top infrared heater reviews page.

This guide and those reviews will help you make the most informed decision when buying an infrared space heater for your home.

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About David Morrison

David is an Air Quality & Comfort Technician. He has expert knowledge on the technology and design of air purification, air conditioning, and heating systems. His main role is to write content that helps people get the most value out of their air purifiers, air conditioners, and heating units. (See Full Bio)