Closeup on the heating coil mechanism of an infrared heater

The popularity of infrared heaters has grown in recent years, but there is still a lot of confusion among homeowners regarding these heating devices.

For example, many wonder if infrared heaters are too good to be true. Or if this technology burns oxygen at the expense of providing cheap heat? 

This article will investigate that question and provide you with a solid background on infrared heating devices. Let’s get started.

Do Infrared Heaters Burn Oxygen?

Infrared heaters do not burn oxygen and are safe for use. Infrared (IR) heat utilizes electromagnetic radiation to transfer heat to a body colder than the device. The process of heat transfer through electromagnetic radiation does not burn oxygen. Infrared heaters can operate in a vacuum.

Now that we know infrared heaters won’t make you suffocate let’s dive deeper. We’ll look at some common questions about IR heaters, the pros and cons, and check out the most popular infrared heaters on the market.

Pros and Cons of Infrared Heaters

As with everything in life, infrared heaters have multiple advantages and drawbacks to weigh. Fortunately, we’ve searched far and wide and whittled this list down to the most essential pros and cons.

Pros of IR Heaters

We always like to start on a positive note, so let’s jump into the pros of infrared heaters first.

  • Cost-effectiveness – according to Appliance Analyst, IR heaters have the lowest wattage input per heat output. Eco Living Expert did the math and found that a typical 1500W infrared heater will cost $0.225 to run for one hour.
  • Aesthetics – these heaters come in more varieties than other heaters like space heaters. You can purchase freestanding heaters or ones that install on your walls, floor, or ceiling.
  • Outdoor effectiveness – infrared heaters don’t heat the air around you; rather, they heat your body or other objects. Therefore they are effective outdoors, which is why you’ll commonly see them used in farm stables or restaurant patios.
The heating element and 'shade' of an Infrared heater lamp
  • Rarely require maintenance – unlike some other heaters, IR heaters lack moving parts. The simple design means they seldom break and rarely require maintenance.
  • Produce vitamin D – a major benefit is the production of vitamin D. This advantage is especially important if you live in a cold climate where you don’t spend much time outside during the winter. For more info on the positives of vitamin D, check out Healthline’s ‘vitamin D benefits’ article.
  • Quietness – you’ll be amazed at how quiet infrared heaters run! You may get a minor humming noise upon starting it, but beyond that, IR heaters are completely silent.

Cons of IR Heaters

I know you’re probably halfway to checking out an infrared heater on Amazon after those enticing pros. But, don’t forget we still need to look into the cons—some of them may make you rethink your purchase decision.

  • Can be unsafe – IR heaters don’t produce harmful gasses like propane heaters. However, infrared heaters’ coils can get extremely hot and cause severe burns. The heating coils could be a serious safety concern if you have small kids or pets.
  • Restrictive zone warmingHeating Point estimates infrared heaters cover 3.5 meters (11.5 feet) of space. Therefore, if the area you’re trying to heat is more significant than 3.5 meters squared (37.7 feet squared), they will not cover your entire space.
  • Light production – infrared heaters always produce light when turned on. Typically, heating coils have a reddish-orange glow. IR heaters’ light production can cause problems in an area where you need darkness, like a bedroom.
  • Require direct light – They act similarly to the sun, which means they are also affected by shade. If you’re not within direct line of sight of your heater, you’ll lose the warming effect.
  • Dehydration – IR heaters dehydrate you just like the sun. Therefore, if you use an infrared heater for prolonged periods without actively hydrating, you could suffer dehydration. However, as long as you remember to consume lots of water, you shouldn’t have a problem.
  • No variable temperature – most heaters have a variable temperature to fine-tune the heat production to your preferred level. Unfortunately, IR heaters do not offer the same flexibility. When it comes to these devices, you have a binary decision between on and off.

Are Infrared Heaters Safe?

IR heaters are among the safest heaters. With everything that produces large amounts of heat, there will be risks of burns and fires. However, you have nothing to worry about with these heaters regarding harmful gasses.

5 Safety Tips for IR Heaters

As mentioned, infrared heaters are safer than other heaters, but you should always take safety precautions with any kind of heater. Here are a few important safety tips to keep in mind when using an IR heater:

  • Avoid placing your heater near flammable objects – the main cause for concern with infrared heaters is fire. Avoid keeping flammable curtains, linens, clothing, paper, or other flammable objects near your heater. If you’re not careful, you may end up with a fire on your hands.
  • Keep cords and cables away from your heater – electronic cords like power cables, phone charging cords, and HDMI cables are also a cause for concern with IR heaters. Ensure you keep your infrared heater away from any cables or cords to avoid substantial fires.
  • Do not touch the heating coil – IR heaters have a heating coil that runs extremely hot and can cause severe burns. Avoid touching the heating coil when it is running and until it cools down thoroughly after being turned off.
A homeowner's hands out in front but at a safe distance from an IR heater.
  • Keep away from children – as you can tell from the previous safety concerns, IR heaters are not child-friendly devices. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t own an infrared heater. You can use a cage or put the heater out of your child’s reach to ensure safety.
  • Practice proper fire safety – the principal concern revolving around infrared heaters has to do with fires. Therefore, you need to follow proper fire safety protocols at all times. For example, ensure your smoke alarm batteries are still working and know where your home fire extinguisher is.

Different Kinds of Infrared Heaters

If you haven’t been scared off by the safety concerns around these heaters, let’s start looking for the right one for you!

There are three types to learn about:

Short Wave IR Heaters

If you’re looking for a heater to heat your home or an outdoor area, short wave infrared heaters are the types you want. Whenever you see heating lamps on a restaurant patio or an IR heater in someone’s home, it’s almost always a short wave heater.

Short wave infrared runs the hottest of the types of IR heaters. A short wave heater coil will run at about 2,200ºC (3,992ºF), which allows it to produce instant heat.

On top of being the hottest of the infrared heaters, short wave IR heaters are also the most efficient. According to Tansun, 92% of the short wave energy will heat objects, and only 8% is wasted on heating the air.

Heating an entire outdoor space’s air is an impossible task. However, the less energy expended on the air around you, the warmer you’ll be. Therefore, the efficiency of short wave infrared heaters makes them ideal for heating an outdoor space.

The Dr Infrared Heater DR-238 is a great short wave option. Additional features like overheat protection and a timer make it stand out above the competition.

Medium Wave IR Heaters

Medium wave infrared heaters run cooler at 900ºC (1,652ºF). The lower temperature means they will not produce instant heat. Instead, they take about 30 seconds to warm up.

This heater variety is also less efficient, with only 60% of their output heating objects. The efficiency loss means you will feel affected by drops in temperature due to airflow.

These drawbacks make medium wave heaters inefficient for heating people, especially in an outdoor setting. Instead, they are more commonly used for drying and curing processes.

Longwave Infrared Heaters

Longwave IR heaters have similar drawbacks to medium waves. However, longwave heaters run far cooler at 300ºC (572ºF) and will take about five minutes to start heating.

The efficiency of a longwave IR heater is the inverse of a medium wave infrared heater, meaning longwave expend 60% of their energy heating the air and 40% on heating objects.

Longwave heaters are not typically used to heat people. They’re more commonly used in kitchens. The heating lamp used to keep food warm after preparation generally is a long wave heater.

A closeup of two longwave IR heater heat lamps in a restaurant's kitchen

Final Thoughts

When it comes to the safety concerns of infrared heaters, you have nothing to worry about! They are among the safest heaters available to purchase.

However, you want to follow some safety guidelines with anything that produces heat. As long as you’re following the five safety tips in the article, you’ll have nothing to worry about.

Oh, and one more thing—if you want to heat yourself, get a short wave infrared heater.


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