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What Is an Infrared Heater?

The most common type of heating element found in infrared heaters is made from quartz.
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  • Written By: Ken Black
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 02 October 2014
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An infrared heater is a heater that uses a portion of the invisible light spectrum to heat another object using electromagnetic waves. The heating source is touted as one of the most efficient forms of heating, achieving an efficiency rate of nearly 100 percent. The hallmark of an infrared heater is its ability to heat objects while leaving the surrounding air alone. Leaving that surrounding air at the same temperature means there is no wasted heat on unneeded air.

A number of heating elements can be used in an infrared heater, but one of the most common is quartz. Thus, this type of heater is often called a quartz heater, or an infrared quartz heater. This material is used because it is considered relatively durable. Ceramic, glass, and metal are also very popular options for infrared heaters.

Infrared light is a type of light beyond the visible spectrum. Some light may be seen at the source of the heater, but the light mostly responsible for the heating is infrared. It can be seen, but only with special filters. The concept behind infrared heater technology is relatively simple. Light, like almost any form of energy, gives off heat. In the case of an infrared heater, the invisible light is absorbed by objects in the room, including skin.

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In some cases, an infrared heater can be used to heat the air. In order to do so, it must first heat an object, usually within the casement of the heater itself, then a fan is used to blow that heat out. This is done in a device known as a heat exchanger. Even in this situation, the basic concept of the infrared heater is still the same. The infrared portion of the heater is only responsible for heating the object. The other object then radiates heat, which is then blown into the room. As with any energy transfer, the additional step will create some inefficiency.

Infrared heaters are commonly used as room heaters, or space heaters. They can also be used for cooking and industrial applications, though they are not as well known, or as popular in these settings. They are used to heat open areas when heating the air would be impossible, or at least impractical.

Manufacturers of these types of heaters claim they are among the safest space heaters. The casement for the heater never gets very hot to the touch, meaning the risk of burning, when compared to traditional space heaters, is quite low. The heater usually runs off electricity, meaning there is no chance of asphyxiation from burning fuels, which produce carbon dioxide and deplete oxygen.

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