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Infrared Heaters

24938 Views 12 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  OhGreatGuru
With winter looming, I have been considering different options to keep my heating bill down this winter. I had heard that IR heating is a cheaper way to heat a home then say portable ekectric heaters. I was wondering if anyone has any experience with these heaters and what there experience is.


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I have no experience with infrared heaters, but I did just buy an oil-filled electric heater for the new laundry room in my rental unit (the room tends to get very cold in the winter and I don't want the pipes to freeze).

Something about the oil in the heater makes the system much more efficient, and therefore cost less. The heat lasts longer, and it takes less time to heat up. We keep it on the lowest setting all the time and it just turns on intermittently (it has a built in thermostat).

We purchased ours for $50 on sale at Canadian Tire.
Claims of greater energy efficiency are all a marketing shell game. Electric heaters all have the same efficiency - 100% - as far as converting elecricity to heat is concerned. The differences, if any, are that some heaters may have different "comfort" levels depending on the application.

An IR heater might possiblity save you energy if you want to sit in front of it for long periods of time, and leave the rest of the house at a lower temprature. You could do the same by changing the thermostats on baseboard hearters as you move from room to room too. Or just wear a sweater and long underwear all the time.

The oil-filled electric heaters don't magically make electricity more efficient. You just have an electric heating element immersed in the oil. But, depending on what your criteria are, you might find it more comfortable in some situations. It provides a lower surface temperature, but over a larger area. The lower surface temperature can be an attractive feature in a room with small children; and some people feel it is more comfortable to have the heat radiating over a larger surface, but that is subjective. Keeping the oil-filled heater on continuously at low may, under the right circumstances, feel more comfortable than a convection (baseboard) heater that is connected to a wall thermostat, because the room temperature will cycle up & down 2-3 degrees with the latter. But they are not actually more energy effciient, and with the advent of economical electronic thermostats for baseboard heaters the "Temperature Swing" inherent in the old thermostats can be significantly reduced. (A study by Quebec Hydro demonstrated that the slow response time of conventional thermosts resulted in people setting the thermostats higher to compensate for this swing. When they replaced them with electronic thermostats, occupants set the thermosts lower, which is what saved energy.)
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Hmm, I remember hearing that since the oil retains heat better than air does, it cools off a lot slower and therefore is more efficient. Has to do with ambient heat.

Kind of like if you light a fire and the fire goes out but you still have hot coals, those coals will continue to give off heat, even though the fire itself is long gone. Compared to a purely electrical system, where once it is off has very little heat left to give (just what is left from the metal cooling off).

But I don't have a study to back this up ;).
Trying to explain elementary thermodynamics is a bit beyond the scope of this forum. But baseboard heaters and oil-filled electrical heaters are both variants of electric resistance heaters. Unless you drape yourself over the heater, both warm you up by heating the air in the room by convection. And in both cases the heat "loss" from the room is through exterior walls and by air infiltration, and is the same for both heaters. The thermal mass in that oil-filled heater doesn't come from nowhere. It has to be heated up by an electric element immersed in the oil. In contrast the heating element in baseboard heaters heats the air directly, so it actually has a much faster response time to room temperature changes.
Thanks for all of the input. It seems like the best thing to do would be to eliminate drafts in the house.

May I recommend the Eco energy program? Toronto has also started a new program called HEAT for increasing your attic insulation.

I just did the Eco Energy program for 24 townhouses I manage and got back $68000 for the owner.

The program can really be worth it.
As OhGreatGuru explained, the type of heater doesn't change the efficiency of converting electricity into heat. Energy in = energy out. The only difference is the way the heat is distributed. Infrared offers the advantage of heating objects (including people) instead of air, as they are "tuned" to emit specific wavelengths of infrared heat that closely match the absorption spectrum of human skin. So people can feel warmer without actually raising the air temperature as much. The downside is that it only warms what it is aimed at, and doesn't do much to heat an adjacent room. But, these heaters are usually designed to heat a farily wide area so that if positioned in the corner, they will be fairly effective at providing warmth to everyone in the room.

Obviously getting better insulation and eliminating drafts are going to be the biggest factor in reducing energy costs in the winter, but if you've decided you need to buy an electric heater to warm a specific room, infrared can be a bit better. Some don't like the "feel" of it though, so make sure you're able to return it.
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Electric heat questions

The topic here is close to my questions so I'm hoping this old thread is the right one...

We have a studio outbuilding (20' x 14' footprint) where we need to be 8 hours a day. It's insulated (but not that well - the walls are 2x4'') and heated via 15 year-old electric baseboards.
Last winter I estimate we spent over $250/month from Dec-April on heat

We have talked about bringing in a gas line (or install propane) & fireplace as we found the capital cost would be minimum $3K - which we don't have.
(......Any comments on this? I've read the material from
in some detail and can see that it's hard to tell the payback in our case although I suspect the Ontario vs. B.C. situation would give us a bias towards natural gas...)

So now my questions revolve towards the use of electricity to heat this studio! After some web searching on the subject the best course to take is "clear as mud" :)

[1] I read about Infrared Heating - EdenPure and others - and I'm wondering about replacing the old baseboard heaters by one of these units. Is it likely to make a difference in comfort for the same electrical consumption?
[2] How about cycling the thermostat settings? It's not clear what the best policy is either. Say for 8 hours needed at 20degC we can do:
- overnight at 5deg, 12 hours set at 20deg - it takes AT LEAST 4 hours to warm up
- leave it on at 20deg all the time
- take a middle course of say 12deg overnight and 20 for the daytime.
Thanks in advance for your comments
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For the reasons discussed earlier, infrared heating will not save you energy. However, with the temperature cycling you have, and the slow warm-up time with the baseboard heaters it is possible IR heaters would make you feel more comfortable until the whole room warms up. (if you standing/working within range of the radiant heat.)

Turning down the thermostat when you are not using the building will save you energy. NRCan has publications on how much you can expect to save for each degree you set back - I can't remember the numbers of hand. As you have discovered though, the "recovery" time with baseboard convection heaters is slow - they do not have much over-capacity designed into them, because of the peak electrical load it would need. Cranking temperature down as low as 5 deg if you are using the building daily may not be the best move. Variable-rate electrical billing is coming soon, and you will probably be running the heat continuously for 4 hours to re-heat to 20 Degrees during a peak billing rate period (weekday mornings)

PS: If it is taking over 4 hours to heat up, even from 5C, I suspect the capacity of your electric heating system is underdesigned.

Possible solutions: (These won't save you energy, but may be more comfortable)
a) start re-heating 4 hours earlier (this could be hard to do automatically with conventional baseboard thermostats);
b) If you have the electrical capacity, add a forced-fan electrical space heater to speed up the reheating process.

Actually you might want to re-examine the cost-benefit of investing the money to change to gas after looking at the effect that variable rate electricity cost will have.

The last time I looked BC electricity rates were 60% of those in Ontario. The price spread on gas is a lot less. But use the rates for your province in any calculations.
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Don't forget to include the cost of being Enbridge's customer.

When I had a gas space heater in my industrial shop they wanted me to pay year round for their service $20 per month x 12 months $240.

I also found it funny that even thought I had the gas shut off at the meter they still saw fit to bill me for gas consumption. At the time we would cut wood and the dust would ignite and spray ashes over your project. So we would shut the furnace and pilot and everything off.

So I had some interesting discussions with Enbridge which is why when I changed my house furnace I kept the oil. I find it much cheaper than gas. So far this year half a tank of oil $365.
Thanks Guru...
1. I Will look at the outbuilding's electrical capacity and see if can add an assist
2. I Will also watch when variable rate comes in. I know that many UK houses have heat-storage appliances to take advantage of this, and we'll have to learn to do the same (way overdue!)
You're welcome. See my added PS on my post. If it is taking over 4 hrs to warm up I suspect your existing heating capacity is also underdesigned (or the insulation in the walls & ceiling is a lot less than it should be. I suspect the latter because by my estimates you are using about 5 times the kwh/sq.ft. that I use to heat my 40-year old home.)
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