In contrast to traditional convection heating, which warms the air to then warm a room, infrared heating directly warms the solid objects (thermal mass) within the room (i.e. the ceiling, walls, furniture and people). It’s the same principle and uses the same type of rays as the sun warming the earth, and it feels the same!
The energy absorbed by the solid objects is then also gradually released as heat, resulting in a homogeneous heating from all surfaces.
By directly heating occupants and objects, the air temperature of a room can be reduced by 2-3°C whilst maintaining the same level of comfort. The Carbon Trust suggest a 1°C drop in average space temperature can cut heating energy consumption by 8%. In addition, warm, drier walls are better insulators; they have a lower U-value.
Fitting suitable controls (i.e. sensors, thermostats and timers) can help improve energy efficiency further by avoiding unnecessary overheating.
Infrared tends to also provide a constant humidity (approximately 45%) and as the air is not being heated, limits convection currents which can circulate dust and allergens.
Infrared can be used as a primary heating system (usually replacing electric convection heaters) or as supplementary heating to tackle ‘cold spots’; for instance in reception areas or by leaky windows.
It is well suited for zone heating within larger buildings, such as warehouses, where it is not necessary to heat an entire space.
A range of infrared heaters are available, including products that can be fitted on a wall or ceiling, suspended or integrated within a ceiling grid, to optimise floor space. There are also free-standing models. Installation is relatively quick in compariosn with other heating systems, helping to minimise disruption costs.
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With thanks to Andy Bloore from ARC Thermal Products, specialists in infrared, underfloor and pipeline heating for commercial and domestic applications.