Infrared heating is nothing new, the principle has been used for many centuries, infrared energy from the sun warms surfaces, like stone walls or the sand on the ground, these surfaces absorb infrared energy and heat up, the warm surface then radiates heat back, creating a warmed thermal mass (or very large radiator!) A sunny hot wall is perfect for growing fruit across because the stonework absorbs infrared and remains warm long after the sun has gone in. Similarly, the sand on the beach absorbs infrared to become quite hot, as the waves gently lap up the water becomes warmed, so the sea is warmer in the shallows.
We have all felt infrared energy ourselves. If we stand in the sun, even on a cold day, we can feel this infrared warmth pleasantly on us, but if half our body is in the shade that part does not receive any infrared and feels cold, the air is not any colder but we are not experiencing infrared energy on that half of our body.
So, we know we feel comfortable and cosy when sat next to warm objects, whether in front of the stone wall or on the beach (surrounded by our large radiator) and the feeling of direct infrared warmth on our body feels pleasant and comfortable, so why not recreate this principle to heat our homes?
Years ago, open fires, log burners or agas worked using a similar principle, that a very hot surface gives off infrared heat which warms stone walls, clay tiles and cast iron, these surfaces hold the warmth and radiate it back long after the fire has died down, by keeping the fire going regularly the building remained warm and cosy being heated from this large thermal mass.
Our modern lifestyles require a heating system which is far more controllable, maintenance free, clean and easy to use, with just the same principle of infrared.
Electric infrared heating comes from a simple unit on the wall which becomes very hot, this could be a mirror or picture or just a slim white panel, there are no moving parts, no fans or noise. However, the heater must reach a very specific hot temperature across the large surface area to give off an optimum wavelength of far infrared which is comfortable to people yet has good qualities for heating objects and the air too. We have all experienced near infrared, which glows orange, this is excellent for fiercely heating people in a cold outdoor environment, but is the wrong wavelength for heating the home.
The electric panel works using the same principle as sunshine, infrared rays from the panel shine across the room, warming the surfaces they touch, creating a warmed thermal mass or large radiator. The rise in temperature of the walls, floor and furnishings is only a few degrees but sufficient to make the room feel comfortable and cosy. The air will become evenly warmed too, there is no convection or rise of hot air and fall of cold air because heat is being radiated from everywhere not one single point. The heater can be placed on the ceiling allowing it to shine across the room, it is giving off infrared energy, not hot air, so high on the ceiling is the best place.
To heat the surface of the panel requires very little energy, and once the room is warm the heater only needs to maintain that surface temperature, unlike traditional radiators which are constantly reheating cold fallen air, infrared heating is energy efficient because it is not focused on heating air but only maintaining surface temperature, the heated objects warm the air!
Electric storage heaters and gas central heating were created in a time when energy was plentiful and cheap, it did not need to be energy efficient. They both work on the principle of blowing hot air into the room. Air is not a good insulator, it draws warmth or cold from objects, so if we are warm but our surroundings are cold then our body will lose heat and our surroundings will chill the air, ultimately cooling us, so the air needs to be hot and constantly reheated to compensate for this, which of course requires more and more energy.
Infrared heating feels nice on the body, just like gentle sunshine warming us directly. Our body is naturally designed to absorb and emit infrared energy so this form of home heating feels very comfortable and healthy, it works with us, allowing the body to equalise itself with the surroundings, most people feel comfortable at 19 degrees C rather than the 21 degrees required when heating the air only.
Read more about infrared here