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How to Use the Science of Infrared to Slash Your Home Heating Cost

Got big heating bills this winter even though you keep the thermostat set at “Brrrrrr”? Science may offer a better and cheaper way to stay warm at home. Feeling warm or cold has nothing to do with air temperature. We get warm from our surroundings that have been heated by infrared radiation. The sun produces harmless infrared light waves that are invisible and responsible for making us feel warm.



Sun heat

Feeling warm or cold does not depend on the temperature of the surrounding air. Skiers and mountain climbers do not freeze on extremely cold but sunny days. That’s because of infrared. When infrared waves touch the surface of the skier’s skin and clothing, heat energy is released regardless of the surrounding air temperature. So people on a winter sports holiday can sunbathe despite the low air temperatures—all thanks to the sun’s infrared rays.

Typical home heat

Now let’s talk about the way you heat your home. Whether you have a forced-air furnace,  a central gas heater, or radiators in every room—your system heats air and directs it into the rooms of your home. It costs a lot of money to keep open areas warm using this method, but even then, you may still feel cold.

A better way

There is an alternative and more effective way to keep heating costs down without feeling cold. It’s called infrared technology.

Portable infrared heaters work like the sun, producing infrared light waves, not warmed air. An infrared heater will heat you, your dog, your chair, the carpet, the walls—not the air around you.

Like sunlight

It’s like being directly in the sunlight versus sitting in the shade. You feel warm in the sun because the light that hits your clothes and skin keeps you warm. Infrared warms objects and surfaces, radiating warmth back into the room.

Infrared heaters safe

Infrared heaters are safe, available readily, and quite inexpensive. They come in a wide range of designs and sizes. Some even appear to be attractive pieces of furniture, a wood stove, a flat panel or a fireplace.


The nice thing about a portable infrared heater is that you can move it from one room to another as you change rooms. Or you could put one in each of several rooms. An infrared heater takes just a few minutes to get a room warm and comfortable.

As a supplement

Used in conjunction with your current heating system, stand-alone infrared heaters can reduce your home heating bills by as much as 50 percent because you can turn down the thermostat for the whole house, then supplement as needed with infrared. Depending on how much you are paying for home heat, an infrared heater could pay for itself in a matter of weeks.

Plug it in

Infrared heaters cost nothing to install (just plug it in) or maintain (no wood or pellets to purchase) and can keep you warm for nickels a day.

Stand-alone portable infrared heaters can heat objects in a room from 300 to 1,800 square feet, depending on the model you select. Some even have a programmable thermostat to start the heater just before you get home so your favorite chair will be warm and ready for you.

Worth consideration

An infrared heater may just be the solution you’ve been looking for to slash the cost of staying warm and comfortable this winter.




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10 replies
  1. Adrian Peterson says:

    Hi yes, my kids were complaining about the temputure so I handled it accordingly but thanks for the info anyways. -xoxo from The Washington State Child Protective Services Office

  2. JoAnne says:

    Dear Mary,
    There are so many infrared heaters and so many reviews to go through.
    What infrared heater do you recommend? I want to buy 3 for gifts and don’t want to regret my choice.

  3. raimerword says:

    Mary, we discovered an item called Envi-Heaters from the eheat.com website. Just thought I’d share this with you and your readers. They run right now with the fall sale about $140.00 a piece and come in a hard wired or plug in model. There is a YouTube video on them and we bought three (2 hard wired and 1 plug in.) My husband and I have been trying to supplement our oil furnace with pellet stove heat but we still have cool spots. We set up the plug in one and it was such an easy install…it was ridiculous! It attaches to the wall using two clips (provided) and that is it! Anyway, we turned it on and according to the description it uses only 475 watts (instead of the typical 1500 electric radiator or the Amish heaters that are plugged in.) Here in NH we have very high electric rates so we are always looking for a way to heat and save in the cold weather.
    The Envi heaters are slim, white and cool to the touch. The top is where the heat comes out and it does feel warm. The company says that it doesn’t get so hot that it peels any paint or causes a fire hazard (of course don’t hang anything over it!) Basically it works by convection so you set it up 6-8 inches from the floor on a wall in the room you want to heat. Any cool air on the floor gets moved up through the fins inside the unit and it heats it to whatever level of heat you need based on the thermostat you set on the top next to the warm air exit location. I love that it is absolutely quiet, too! We’ve slept with it on and there are no safety issues that we can see (unlike a gas heater which must be turned off after 4 hours due to using up too much O2 and causing drowsiness/ death if you loose too much O2 in the space you are heating.) Yes, if you loose power, better have a battery operated back up or a generator for a back up heat source. I’ll try to get back to you about the impact on our electric costs. It sure beats the chill out of that cold space we had!

  4. mal says:

    I went to Consumers Reports for recommendations about infrared heaters. One of their articles was about energy-saving myths. Apparently, if you have natural gas heat, these space heaters would not provide savings. The savings apply only if you have electric heat.

  5. Denise says:

    Thanks for the article, but I was disappointed that you didn’t have any particular recommendations. Have you used any yourself that you can recommend Mary?

  6. Mary says:

    Just remember that if you turn the heat down in the whole house do not turn it too low or you could end up with frozen pipes.

  7. Danielle Williams says:

    First of all, I think some radiant heaters are great products and can possibly save you money.

    That being said, air temperature absolutely impacts your feeling of comfort. Any undergrad heat transfer class teaches that heat is transferred in 3 ways: conduction, convection, and radiation. So if you are inside, your body is warmed in two ways: by conduction (heat from air particles transferring to the molecules of your skin) and by radiation (as you described, through energy directly radiating from source to skin). Convective currents may occur in the room’s air, as well. Do recall that though skiers stay warm on sunny, cold days, they also stay warm on hot, cloudy days, when the ambient air temperature is high to heat them through conduction, but there is little direct radiation from the sun. The only time ambient temperature wouldn’t matter is if you were in a vacuum (the physics kind, not the Hoover kind)… which few people maintain in their homes. 🙂

    I didn’t intend to give you a science lesson, though, but to mention that some infrared heaters actually use conduction and not radiation to heat your body. They use radiation to heat air particles, and then blow them into the room just like a conventional heater. So if you are shopping around, be sure that the model you choose has the heating element mostly exposed (pretend you are a plate of food under a heat lamp – you should be able to see the glowing heating element!), and that it is not just warming up air and blowing it around the room. Unfortunately, you may have to sacrifice style for function, since many of the “pretty” infrared heaters use fans, and their heating elements are mostly hidden.

    I have heard reports of people with joint pain having relief of their symptoms when they use radiant heaters, just as if they had soaked up the sun!

    • Guest says:

      This column was well-researched. I think we have a semantics problem. Heat lamps, the ones you see in restaurant kitchens keeping food warm, the one you see in the ceiling of many bathrooms and those on the patios of outdoor eating areas—the are infrared. Yes, heat lamp = infrared. The terms are interchangeable.

      The sun produces an assortment of including infrared and ultraviolet. Infrared heaters that have a heat conductor built in like copper for example produce radiant heat.

      So … the fact remains. It is a lot cheaper to produce infrared than to produce heat. Infrared waves create warmth on their own.

      Infrared heaters are a fabulous bargain for the warmth they produce.

      • Danielle Williams says:

        I sure didn’t mean to step on your toes, Mary – I’m sorry if my post earlier came across that way. I know you only recommend products that you truly believe in and have thoroughly vetted. There are a wide variety of infrared products on the market though, some of which use radiant heat to heat your body directly (as you described), and some which warm up air and blow it out with a fan. I just wanted to point out the difference as a caveat emptor, but I probably went a little nerd-crazy, please forgive me. 🙂

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