Which is more effective, an infrared heater vs ceramic heater?

Within the heating world, there’s fierce competition between ceramic heaters and infrared heaters. They both reduce energy consumption costs and provide zone heating.

However, each has a different heating method despite their similarities in terms of efficiency.

In this article, you’ll learn about all of the similarities and differences between infrared heaters and ceramic heaters so you can pick the best type for your home.

Infrared Heater vs Ceramic Heater

Infrared heater vs ceramic heater

The main difference between infrared space heaters and ceramic heaters is the way they operate.

Thermal energy produced by infrared heater elements warms the object or person in front of it. A ceramic heater works differently by heating the air in the room which circulates around to warm up objects and people.

Essentially, infrared heaters work via infrared radiation while ceramic heaters operate on convection heating.

The infrared rays from an infrared heater have an impact on our skin just like the sun does. The skin absorbs the rays and warms up the body in cold weather. The convection heating by a ceramic heater warms up the body by being exposed to hotter air.

>> See all of Amazon's Best Selling Space Heaters <<

How Infrared Heaters Work

Infrared heaters are a type of radiant heater. This means that they warm up objects directly. 

Unlike convection heaters, infrared radiant heaters don’t warm up the air in the room. That means you can open a window or door in a room and still enjoy the same level of heat with an infrared heater because it warms you up directly.

Infrared Heater Efficiency

So, are infrared heaters efficient? 

Let’s quickly find out.

Infrared heaters use electricity, gas, and other forms of energy to fuel operation. Therefore, you have several options to choose from for heating. Ceramic heaters, on the other hand, only operate by electricity.

To compare the energy and cost efficiency between ceramic vs infrared heaters, it’s easiest to assume that both units are using electricity as the power source.

Next, you must realize that the effectiveness of infrared heaters is better than ceramic heaters due to radiation technology. That means an infrared heater doesn’t have to stay powered on as often as a ceramic heater to warm up the same size room.

For our example purposes, let’s assume that for every 1 hour that a ceramic heater runs, an infrared heater only needs to operate for 45 minutes (i.e. 75% of the total time or a 25% better efficiency rating.)

Therefore, we can equate every 0.8 kilowatt of electricity (kWh) that an infrared heater uses with 1 kilowatt for a ceramic heater.

Now, let’s assume that we are using both types of heaters with these criteria:

  • The cost of electricity per wattage is 13 cents per kWh.
  • Both heaters are 1,500 Watt units.
  • Both heaters operate 8 hours per day.
  • Both heaters are used for 120 days of winter.

Based on the above information, we get the following infrared heater efficiency chart:

 Infrared heaterCeramic heater
Wattage1,500W1,500W
Energy consumption per hour0.8kWh1kWh
Cost per kWH$0.13$0.13
Hourly cost for running the heater$0.09$0.13
Hours used per day88
Daily cost$0.72$1.04
Total cost for running heater during winter$86.40$124.80

According to the chart above, the cost and energy efficiency use of infrared room heaters is better than ceramic heaters. 

The electric bill for an infrared heater would be a total savings of $38.40 during the winter season.

If we were to use a gas infrared heater rather than an electric infrared heater, then the cost savings would be great because fuel is cheaper to use per hour than electricity.

If you like the idea of all of these cost-savings, then check out our page on the most energy efficient space heaters available to find a good model for your home.

Types of Infrared Heaters

Infrared Electric Heaters

Infrared portable heaters that use electricity operate by passing an electric current through a high resistant element. They’re used in areas where gas heaters are not allowed or safe to operate.

Check out our infrared heater reviews page to compare the top models of this type.

You can also get infrared electric heaters that look like fireplaces. This provides a more cozy feel to the room. Check out our reviews on electric fires to see every type available or our wall mount electric fireplace reviews for just wall-mountable units.

Infrared Patio Heaters

These types of heaters provide outdoor direct heating in places like decks, restaurant patios, and vestibules.

Check out our best outdoor heaters page for some good recommendations.

Propane Infrared Heaters

An infrared propane heater uses liquid propane as its fuel source. These heaters are convenient in places where electricity is not readily available, such as the outdoors.

Check out our best propane heaters page to see what’s available.

Infrared Space Heaters

This type of heater is often used in high ceiling buildings. They’re also used in areas with a high demand for heat loads like bays and loading docs.

Pros and Cons of Infrared Heaters

Pros

  • Infrared heaters are efficient: Infrared heaters use 100% of the heat produced, so there is no heat loss between the unit and the person receiving the heat. Also, infrared heaters do not have to run all of the time, saving on the electrical energy needed to heat the room.
  • Infrared heaters are safe: Infrared heaters don’t heat up like other space heaters which makes them safe to use. The heating element is covered with a metal sheath so it is cool to touch.
  • Generate heat silently: A fan is the main source of noise in space heaters. Most infrared heaters don’t have a fan, making them produce heat quietly.
  • Low maintenance costs: Infrared heaters don’t have any moving parts. There are no filters, fans, or motorized parts that need to be cleaned or lubricated.
  • They heat objects directly: Infrared heaters are perfect for the home, workshops, and garage heating. Places that are poorly insulated and lose heat easily when ceramic heaters are used can warm up more efficiently with an infrared heater. See our garage heater reviews for top choices.
  • No dry air is produced: Infrared heaters do not use oxygen or existing air in the room to provide heating. This reduces the need for humidifiers during the winter, as these heating units do not dry out the air.

Cons

  • Limited heating: Infrared heaters heat objects in the room and not the air. Infrared rays heat objects directly in front of them. Therefore if you are not in the direct path of the heating element, you may not receive as much heat.
  • Heat stops quickly: Although you get instant heat when the unit is turned on, an infrared heater stops all heating after it is turned off. There is no residual heat that radiates off of the unit.
  • Some units are heavy or large: Because there are so many types of infrared heaters available, they come in all shapes and sizes. And unless you get a small electric infrared heater, the unit could be heavy to move or too large to carry. This is especially true for outdoor patio heaters.

How Ceramic Heaters Work

Ceramic heaters use convection or radiant heating. The warmth is generated by passing air through a PTC (positive temperature coefficient) element made from ceramic.

PTC is a partial electricity conductor that produces heat when an electric current is passed through it. When the ceramic element heats up, the warm air can then be transferred within the room.

Types of Ceramic Heaters

Convective Ceramic Heaters

Most ceramic heaters are in convective form. Electricity is passed through aluminum fins that transfer heat to a ceramic element.

Cold air is drawn from the bottom of the heater through the hot elements and dispersing the warm air into the room. A fan spreads the heat at a faster rate.

Hot air rises and cool air is pushed downwards into the intake slot of the heater, repeating the process over again.

Radiant Ceramic Heaters

Radiant heaters use electricity to heat the ceramic plate. They don’t have a fan to bring in cool air or blow out the hot air. 

This type of ceramic heater radiates heat directly to objects in its path. The heat generated from the heater is warmer than the objects in a cold room. As a result, the objects will absorb the radiated heat and naturally increase their temperature.

You can check out our ceramic heater reviews page to learn more about both types of heating methods and their uses.

Pros and Cons of Ceramic Heaters

Pros

  • Precise heating. Ceramic heaters produce efficient warmth due to precise spot heating like in convection ceramic heaters that use a fan. You can face it in any direction for heating cool drafts and warming chills.
  • Instant heat: A major benefit of ceramic heaters is instantaneous heating. The ceramic part of the heater warms up sturdily with the heat being transferred around the room quickly with the help of a fan.
  • Cools down faster: Upon shutting down the ceramic heater the heating cools down immediately. This is a safety feature if you have pets or kids around. It also reduces the chances of the heater causing a fire.
  • Easy to carry around: The ceramic heating element is small and compact. This makes the heater easy to move conveniently from one room to another.
  • Cheap to buy: This depends on quality, model, and brand, but often ceramic heaters are the least expensive type of heater to purchase.

Cons

  • Not great for heating large areas: Ceramic heaters tend to max out at 300 square feet of heating coverage. So they are not the best choice for large rooms.
  • Take longer to heat a room: Radiant ceramic heaters lack a fan so it can take a while for a room to warm up. Convection heaters, on the other hand, take less time to heat a room because the warm air is spread out with a fan.
  • High electricity bills: Radiant ceramic heaters lack a fan to move the hot air around, making them heat up the room at a slower rate. As a result, more electrical energy is consumed.

Ceramic vs Infrared Heater for Garage

In terms of energy efficiency, the best heater for a garage is an infrared heater. It uses less energy per square foot and also heats up the people and objects in the space. 

An infrared heater saves on costs if you plan to spend most of your time in the garage.

When it’s turned off, the objects in the garage can still retain some of the heat. This means that the more people and objects you have in the garage, the more effective the infrared heater will be. 

Ceramic garage heaters operate like fan-forced heaters but have a slight difference. They use ceramic plates and can heat a large space. They’re good for larger areas like garages. 

Ceramic heaters raise the temperature of the ambient air rather than heating only the objects. However, they do take some time to heat up before warming the air.

Between infrared vs ceramic heaters, we think both work just well in garages. Choosing between the two will depend on your personal preferences.

Summary of Ceramic Heaters vs Infrared Heaters

In conclusion, between an infrared heater vs ceramic heater, both are great for generating warmth in a room.

Ceramic heaters use a ceramic element to heat the air in the room  and some units even include a fan to blow the air around faster and more evenly. 

Infrared heaters use infrared rays to warm objects and don’t depend on the use of a fan. These heaters work more efficiently if cost-savings are your top concern.

Both types of heaters are very efficient depending on the situation you use them in. 

We hope that this comparison guide helps you to decide which one is the best solution for your needs.

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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)