In this guide, you will learn everything you need to know about infrared heaters, how they work and what technologies are behind these appliances. A comparison chart of TOP 5 best infrared heaters and tips on what features to consider when buying a product will help you make the right choice. Learn about the benefits the device offers, such as cost and energy efficiency. Find out what location you should choose to maximize the unit’s efficiency and how to calculate the capacity you need to efficiently heat your space. This guide also describes four types of infrared heaters and their essential differences so that you can decide which one is the best option for you.

Infrared heaters are designed to warm you, not just the air around you! This technology converts almost ALL of the heat the unit generates into “usable” heat. These heaters warm you more efficiently than a conventional heater because they directly heat the objects in the room or space and deliver more evenly distributed heat since they do not rely on circulated air to warm the space.

What You Will Learn From This Guide:

What Is an Infrared Heater and How Does It Work?

Infrared heaters use the same principle as the sun to radiate heat. Individual fast-moving, light-absorbed, warmed particles evenly heat the room or space.

The typical infrared heater contains a ceramic or gas-filled glass quartz tube with coiled tungsten, low-temp carbon, or chromium, aluminum, or iron-alloy filament. People or a space feels warm when fast-moving light energy is precisely directed toward them or directed toward them via a fan that blows heat from the heat exchanger.

They are efficient and safe to use. Infrared space and outdoor patio heaters, convection ovens, dry saunas, and animal incubator lamps are increasing in popularity. They are intended for spot (zone) heating and are very effective in buildings with vaulted/high ceilings.

What Technologies Are Used In Infrared Heaters?

Infrared heating is radiant heat that is 100% usable and efficient. While convection heat heats air that rises, thus requiring a constant supply to heat the area, infrared, radiant, heat heats people and objects within the space/area. As a result, infrared heating is ideal zone heating that is more energy and cost efficient than other heating options/technologies. Infrared technology produces instantly-warming heat in large or small spaces.

Pros and Cons

Infrared technology not only reduces your carbon footprint, infrared technology also:

  • provides a safer, low-temperature heat source,
  • provides evenly distributed heat,
  • reduces energy bills,
  • reduces static electricity,
  • reduces harmful in-home heating emissions (i.e.: carbon monoxide, fuel source (heating oil) carcinogens, etc.), and
  • maintains natural humidity.

Infrared heaters maintain but do not raise humidity levels and should not be used as, or expected to be a substitute for a humidifier. Infrared heaters that are not thermostatically controlled are also not recommended since they can cost more to operate.

What are product functionalities?

Infrared heating may be portable units for indoor spaces. They may be used as outdoor patio heaters. They may be built-in (i.e.: building wall or floor units) or commercially used in emergency flood recovery situations. Infrared heaters effectively reduce condensation, maintain the room’s/space’s natural humidity, and add warmth.

Passive use infrared heaters are used to warm rooms/spaces that are exposed to masonry, which tends to retain moisture and be damp. The infrared heater effectively evaporates water vapor trapped in the masonry so optimal room warmth is attained. Far (long wave) infrared heaters are the best type for drying masonry and for flood recovery operations because they dry from the inside-out and then warm the space.

Infrared space heaters are cost effective solutions for warming non-insulated spaces (i.e.: garages, basements). They do not require maintenance and ensure long life. Built-in infrared panels also provide economical radiant floor and wall heating.

What Are The Types of Infrared Heaters?

Infrared heaters are defined according to the light wavelength the element emits. Infrared heating elements may be ceramic, quartz lamps and/or quartz tubes, or metal tubulars. They vary in wavelength, operating temperature, cost, and efficiency. In general, the most efficient infrared heaters are those whose wavelength satisfies the object’s scale of absorption (i.e.: drying, then warming, masonry).

Long-wave (far) infrared heaters are typically used in homes. Short-wave (near) infrared heaters capable of reaching very high temperatures are more suitable for industry.

Far Infrared Heaters (Long-wave)

Residential space heaters are typically low-temperature, long-wave (far infrared (FIR)) infrared heating units. They are typically large, low-watt ceramic panels that release long-wave infrared radiation. They deliver emission-, particulate-, and toxin-free heat, which makes it popular among allergy-sensitive users. For optimal results, all surfaces should be exposed to ensure evenly distributed ambient warmth. This technology may also be used for high-end infrared saunas.

Near Infrared Heaters (Short-wave)

High-temperature, short-wave (near infrared (NIR)) infrared heaters provide intense heart. They operate at filament temperatures above 1800+C. deg. These infrared heaters are best-suited where deep penetration is needed (i.e.: in strong winds, for heating silica). Near infrared heating is not suitable for comfort heating or drying applications since much of its produced energy is wasted in strong light and reflection, and their NIR wavelength is significantly below the absorption level.

Medium-wave Infrared Heaters

Medium-wave and carbon (CIR) infrared heaters offer comparable efficiency to long-wave heaters and surpass that of short-wave infrared units. Filament temperatures reach approximately 1000 C. deg. High absorbency, low reflection, and shallow radiation penetration provides residential comfort heating as well as larger open space industrial drying, gluing, and welding processes.

Carbon, Quartz, and Ceramic

Carbon, quartz or high-watt ceramic units produce short-wave and medium-wave infrared radiation, heat and light.

Short-wave quartz elements are typically used where rapid, high heating is needed. Quartz heat lamps are used in incubators and in commercial baking, drying, thawing, and heating processes. Medium-wave quartz heaters are best for indoor heating (i.e.: residential, office areas, etc.) and enclosed outdoor/semi-outdoor areas (i.e.: restaurant/bar areas, etc.) where open space, gentle heat is needed.

Ceramic emitters are best-suited for public and commercial open space zonal heating applications.

What To Look For When Buying

Portable or Fixed?

You may want an infrared heating unit for your home, business, or shop that is safe and will not interfere with usual activities, tip over, or become a tripping hazard. A heating unit that is permanently-attached to a wall may be your best choice.

Portable infrared heaters are flexible, highly efficient, and generally maintenance-free. The heater’s style and design may determine the amount of portability it can offer.

A typical portable infrared heater choice that can be easily moved from room to room will be lighter-weight and have wheels/castors or carry-handles for easy maneuvering. Infrared heaters with maximum portability tend to tip over easier. Ensure the wheels/castors do not get caught or hung up by carpet, throw rugs, floor gouges, etc. or tip and damage the heater or surrounding objects.

Portable infrared heaters you intend to use for a period of time and then store tend to be a bit larger, have inset handles and short feet or flat bottoms, and are designed to stand in the middle of a space during use. They tend to be more stable and do not tip or fall over easily. They are a good choice where children and pets are present.

Choosing the Best Location

Infrared heaters are not intended to be main sources of heat, but can be. They are economical supplemental heating (residential or office) solutions. Infrared heaters are available in a variety of types, sizes, and designs that may be sat on a flat surface or mounted to the wall.

To maximize your infrared heater’s use and efficiency, locate the unit:

  • on a flat/non-flammable surface (i.e.: floor, sturdy well-balanced table).
  • at a sitting height that allows maximum heat to circulate without being absorbed (i.e.: into a concrete floor).
  • at a mounted height that allows efficient heat transfer and does not interfere with persons walking around or under it.
  • away from windows or where there is air movement that reduces the amount of heat you receive (system ventilation is still necessary).
  • in a central location so heat circulates around the entire room/space. 
  • away from flammable materials (i.e.: drapery/ window treatments, furniture, bedding, etc.). 

Heater Size and Capacity

Choosing an infrared heater that is too large for your area costs more to purchase and operate, and wastes heat. On the other hand, a unit that is too small will not sufficiently heat your room/area.

You can determine how large an infrared heater you need to efficiently heat your space by first calculating the square foot area you intend to heat (allow for cathedral or vaulted ceilings) and multiplying that by 10 (the wattage needed to power the heater (not the amount of heat delivered). The general rule requires approximately 10 watts per square foot of floor area. So, a 1,000 watt heater can sufficiently heat a 100 SF area. It can even heat a larger area if it is used as a supplemental heat source.

Infrared heaters that have high-efficiency blowers produce more heat without requiring more power.

Safety Features

Safety features help ensure your infrared heating appliance operates easily and safely around all ages of occupants and pets in your home.

The Anti-Tip Shutoff - automatically shuts the heater off if it tips or gets knocked over. It ensures no fire will be started should the heater fall over or is accidentally tipped over. This is an important operation feature on infrared heaters that serve households with young children, seniors, or indoor pets.

Controllers – allow you to adjust the infrared heater’s temperature and cycle(s) for satisfying comfort. Controls help you adjust the temperature and fan and reduce the cost of running the heater for long periods. It prevents overheating or under-heating the room or space.

The Timer – reduces the risk of overheating the space or the heater itself. The timer reduces the chance of leaving the heater on accidentally and potentially causing a fire.

Top 5 Best Infrared Heaters

Below, you will find 5 best infrared heaters within the price range of $100 to $250. Most of the models cover an area of about 1,000 square feet. The review starts with the less expensive products that have 2 heat setting and ends with the priciest ones that have 3 heat settings as well as additional options such as ECO-mode. An interesting design solution was applied to one of the models with a 3D flame effect. Some products are intended to be used at home while others should be placed in garages or stores.

Programmable Infrared Quartz Heater | ChimneyFree

Programmable Infrared Quartz Heater: photo

The durable, metal-bodied, 750-1500-watt ChimneyFree-brand infrared quartz heater is a tower model designed for home use. It maintains your home’s natural humidity and provides supplemental warmth for areas up to 1,000SF. Its 6’ cord plugs into any 120V outlet. Its outputs up to 5200 BTUs. Hi/Lo settings may be programmed and adjusted using the remote or manually from the front-dial and button controls. The oscillating fan feature is equipped with a digital thermostat and automatic (programmable) shut-off timer.

The ChimneyFree infrared quartz tower heater features a front, 18" electric fireplace insert w/screen that may be turned on/off and used without running the heater. The heater’s top and sides remain cool to the touch. It does not have a tip-over switch.

Recommendations:

The ChimneyFree infrared quartz tower heater is a quiet, space-saving, durable, supplemental heat source for the home. It is programmable, adjustable, and has the ambiance of a glowing fireplace log. It may be operated with or w/o heat.

ChimneyFree: Check the current price

For Garages & Shops | Dr. Infrared Heater DR-988

For Garages & Shops: photo

The portable, 5600-watt Dr. Infrared DR-988 infrared heater is a sturdy and reliable, metal w/safety grille industrial model designed for your garage, shop, or construction site. It has a carry handle for easy portability. Its specially-designed heating element heats (45F. deg. – 95F. deg.) up to a 600SF area. Its NEMA #6-30P plug/power cord requires a 220V outlet. It has a single-speed fan and built-in, adjustable, Hi/Lo thermostat control.

The Dr. Infrared DR-988 is UL and C-UL listed. It is not for household/residential use. It is a floor model and cannot be mounted on the ceiling. It also has no tip-over switch.

Recommendations:

The Dr. Infrared DR-988 is a portable, UL/C-UL listed, 240V/ 208V industrial heater intended for garage, construction sites, shops, etc. It may be safely left unattended. It is NOT for home use. It comes with a 1-yr. limited component warranty.

Dr. Infrared Heater DR-988: Check the current price

Energy-Efficient 1500-W | Dr. Infrared Heater

Energy-Efficient 1500-W: photo

This high efficiency, 1000-1500-watt, UL/C-UL certified Dr Infrared space heater is a quiet, portable, energy-saving unit that delivers “60% more heat” than its competitors. It is a combined PTC/quartz infrared space heater designed for large rooms/home use.

The dual heating system (energy-efficient infrared plus comfortable convection) maximizes heat transfer. The state-of-the-art 7” high-velocity blower is designed to circulate larger volumes of air at low-noise speeds. Smart Hi/Lo (50F. deg. - 86F. deg.) and Auto settings may be manually/remotely operated or programmed (12-hr. shut-off timer). The heater must be “On” for the IR remote control to work! 

This energy efficient in-home Dr. Infrared heater features humidity retention technology. The 72” cord plugs into a 120V outlet. Caster wheels allow easy moving. Its heating elements are not exposed to cause fires or harm to children and/or pets. It also has auto shut-off tip-over and overheat protections.

Recommendations:

The lightweight, 1500-watt Dr. Infrared large-room space heater is a quiet, energy-efficient, supplemental heat source for home use. It only warms to the touch and has overheat and tip-over protection, which makes it safe for use around children and pets. It comes with a lifetime filter and 3-yr. limited warranty.

1500-W Dr. Infrared Heater: Check the current price

Infrared Quartz Heater With 3D Flame Effect | Duraflame

Infrared Quartz Heater With 3D Flame Effect: photo

The sturdy, 1500-watt Duraflame infrared quartz fireplace/wood stove is designed for home use. It remains cool to the touch making it safe for use around children and pets. The quartz heat technology maintains your home’s natural humidity. It outputs 5200 BTUs and provides supplemental warmth up to 1,000SF. Its patent-pending, 120V.

Safer Plug has a built-in plug temperature thermometer monitor and overheat protection shut-off. The adjustable digital thermostat and 3 speed settings may be manually (from the front control panel) or remotely controlled or programmed using the timer (30 min. – 9 hr.).

This cost-effective Duraflame infrared quartz heater features patent pending 3D flame-effect technology with adjustable color and brightness settings. The front door opens and the flame-effect may be operated with or without the heater. No venting is required.

Recommendations:

The sturdy, 3D flame-effect Duraflame infrared quartz fireplace/woodstove heater is a sturdy and durable supplemental home heat source that is cozy, easily programmable, and safe for use around children and pets. It may be operated with or w/o heat. It includes a 1-yr. limited warranty.

Duraflame With 3D Flame Effect: Check the current price

Quite & Portable Infrared Quartz Heater | Lifesmart

Quite & Portable Infrared Quartz Heater: photo

The energy-efficient, 1500-watt Lifesmart Infrared Fireplace is a solid mantle, portable, floor design unit that is ideal for home use. It has three commercial-grade quartz elements that output 5200 BTUs that efficiently heats up to 1,000 SF while maintaining your home’s natural humidity.

It plugs into a standard 110V outlet. The low-noise, multi-blade, turbo scroll fan quietly circulates heat. It has 3 heat settings plus ECO-mode. The Auto Hi/Auto Lo and Standby power settings may be manually or remotely controlled or programmed using the 12-hr. timer. This infrared heater has a 68F. deg. default setting. The Standby setting allows heat to cycle every 5 minutes.

This simulated infrared quartz fireplace heater features a special LED display and automatic safety tip-over and inlet air overheat protection shut-off switches. It offers two levels of “realistic fire glow.” EZ-Glide caster wheels allow easy moving. No venting is required and the fireplace log feature may be used with or without heat.

Recommendations:

The efficient, low-sitting Lifesmart Infrared Fireplace is a small quiet, portable unit suitable for home/apartment use. It is not heat-efficient for garage or basement use however. It comes with a 1-year limited warranty on all electric components.

Lifesmart: Check the current price

Comparison Chart of Infrared Heater Effectiveness

Product Features

ChimneyFree

Zone Heating Area: Up to 1,000SF
Connection: 120V outlet plug-in
Settings: 2 Heat (High, Low)
Effectiveness: 9

Dr. Infrared Heater DR-988

Zone Heating Area: Up to 600SF
Connection: 30 amp/220V outlet plug-in
Settings: 2 Heat (Adjustable High, Low)
Effectiveness: 7

1500-W Dr. Infrared Heater

Zone Heating Area: One “large” room
Connection: 12.5 amp/120 V outlet plug-in
Settings: 3 Heat (High, Low, Auto)
Effectiveness: 8

Duraflame With 3D Flame Effect

Zone Heating Area: Up to 1,000SF
Connection: 12.5 amp/120 V outlet plug-in
Settings: 2 3D-Flame Effect (Color, Brightness); 3 Heat (High, Low, Auto)
Effectiveness: 10

Lifesmart

Zone Heating Area: 1,000SF
Connection: 15 amp/110V outlet plug-in
Settings: 3 Heat + Eco Mode
Effectiveness: 10

Safety And Precautionary Measures 

How to install an infrared heater

Infrared heaters are space/ zone heaters. Regardless if they are portable or securely fixed (mounted), larger 1500+ watt units should be connected to a 20-amp outlet. If they are connected to a 15-amp circuit, the circuit should be wholly dedicated to the heater to avoid overload/overheating the circuit.

Although most infrared heaters advertise they are “cool-to-the-touch” never place one close to flammable materials (i.e.: drapery, furniture, etc.). This is especially important when the hot-coil elements are exposed.

Radiation Levels

Radiation is the transfer of radiant energy directly from the energy source to the object. Radiant (heat) energy goes from the heat source to the object without directly heating the air. Infrared radiant heat is similar to the sun’s energy. It is released in electromagnetic waves in the infrared band from the heat source directly to warm the object/person.

Low-watt ceramic plates that remain cold, which are typically used in residential infrared space heaters, produce far-wave infrared radiation. Quartz, carbon, or high-watt ceramic units produce higher temperature, near- and medium-wave infrared radiation, light, and heat.

Fire Hazard

The primary concern about infrared heaters is the fire risk. Low-temperature infrared heaters reduce accidental space heater home fires. They should never be used as table tops. And objects, paper articles, draperies, and other flammable materials should be kept away from the heater. It is never recommended to use an extension cord!

Infrared Heaters Vs. Electric Heaters

Here is a brief comparison to help you decide whether to purchase an infrared space heater or an electric space heater. They both heat your room/space and you can always find one that suits your budget.

Electric heaters:

  • rely on convection currents to heat the air 
  • require a fan to distribute heat 
  • fan noise 
  • takes longer to heat the air and warm the room 
  • warm air can escape (through a draught, air vent, etc.) 
  • dries out the air 

Infrared heaters:

  • use infrared light rays that heat objects not the air 
  • do not need a fan to distribute heat
  • quiet operation
  • shorter time to warm up (objects) and the room
  • less wasted energy
  • retains natural humidity 

F.A.Q.

Are infrared heaters energy efficient? Do they use less/more electricity?
Yes. They heat the objects in the room, not the air that can escape through vents, draughts, etc.

Are they safe to leave unattended / overnight / on all the time?
Heating elements are seldom exposed and top/sides are generally designed “cool-to-the-touch.” Check the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Are they cost-effective? Are they expensive to run?
The initial cost is comparable. Infrared heaters use radiant heat that is 100% usable/efficient. They heat faster and most units have timers or auto-cycling.

Are they safe for the health and babies?
Infrared heaters do not dry out the air like electric heaters do. Units are typically coo-to-the-touch and safe for use around children and pets.

Can they cause cancer?
No.

Are they cause or catch fire?
Most units have built-in auto tip-over and overheat protection shut-off switches.

Can infrared heaters heat a house?
They are not intended to be primary heat sources. They are for zone heating.

Which one is the most energy efficient?
The one that fits your planned use/location, and size of area you wish to heat.

What size do I need?
General calculation: SF area x 10

Which infrared heater is best?
That depends on your preference, planned use/location, and size of area you wish to heat.

Can it be used for a dog house?
A short- or medium-wave (larger open space) unit works.

What’s the best one for RV?
Low-temperature, long-wave (FIR) infrared heating units.

Can I use an infrared heater for a sauna?
Long-wave infrared technology is used for high-end infrared saunas.

Can you use it in a bathroom?
Yes.

What infrared heater is best for a garage?
Short-wave (NIR) quartz element heaters are best for high-heating needs where heat will be absorbed (basements, garages, etc.).

Which one works best for a large room? For a small room?
Size and calculate your need. The general rule requires approximately 10 watts per square foot of floor area.

Which type works best for a greenhouse?
Medium-wave quartz heaters.

What’s the best type for hot yoga?
Long-wave ceramic emitters.

What’s the best type for a patio?
Short- or medium-wave (larger open space) unit

How do you repair an infrared heater?
Refer to your Owner’s Manual. Warranties can be void unless repaired by the manufacturer or recommended technician.

Conclusion

Infrared heaters are designed to heat areas safely and efficiently using radiant heat that is 100% usable. They heat the objects around them rather than the air that rises and escapes. As a result, infrared heating is ideal zone heating that is more energy and cost efficient than other heating options/technologies.

Although they do not raise humidity, they maintain natural levels making it safe for areas where documents are stored as well as where people congregate. Technological advancements make portable infrared heaters for indoor spaces or for outdoor patios. They may be mounted to walls or built-in floor heating panels. They may heat construction sites, homes, or warehouses, or be commercially used in emergency flood recovery situations. Their energy efficiency and cost savings makes them an increasingly attractive and viable heat source.