The laws of physics have still not changed in spite of what you might have read in some adverts.
“The reality is that each direct-active electric heating appliance has an efficiency of 100%” a spokesperson at Electric Heating Expert clarifies it for us. He further goes to explain, “This includes panel heaters, radiators, along with the newly acclaimed infrared heaters. One kilowatt or unit of electrical energy always produces an equal heat output of one kilowatt.”
Myth: Infrared heating panels output more heat than energy input
While it has been claimed that some of the new infrared heating panels are capable of producing as much heat as a radiator but using less electricity, no evidence exists to support such claims. It would be a miracle to improve upon 100% efficient direct-acting electric heating. It would be a technology that re-writes the laws of physics!
Electric heating typically uses two heat transfer methods namely: radiation and convection. Convection refers to the transfer of heat energy via the air circulating within a room. Radiation refers to the direct transfer of heat to objects and people.
Infrared heating panels only produce radiant heat, but electric radiators usually produce heat through a combination of convection and radiation. The heating effect that electric radiators produce is similar to that from a standard boiler-fired wet radiator system.
Infrared heating panel manufacturers have recently claimed 50% energy savings when compared to other types of electric heating. The proposition is that you can use a 1 kW infrared panel for heating an area that would otherwise require a 2 kW electric radiator. While the claimed 50% energy saving might appear plausible to some people, basic physics shows that a 2 kW radiator should produce two times as much heat as an infrared panel.
Other shortcomings of the claim
Other flaws also exist. Infrared heating panels only emit radiant heat and it is directional. Infrared waves move in straight lines where objects and people absorb them. To feel the warmth they provide, you must either be beneath or in front of an obstructed infrared panel. In a typical home, you will find several cold spots within each room. More heating panels have to be installed to counter this, which increases the initial cost and purchase and energy usage significantly.
While a basic electric radiator is able to use a thermostatic control to regulate its energy consumption, infrared heating panels must continue drawing their full wattage for the duration.
Once the room gets up to a certain temperature, energy in a thermostatically controlled electric radiator is used intermittently or even proportionally in some cases. The required electricity relates to the air temperature directly, which means that a radiator in well-insulated rooms with comparatively less heat loss may only have to draw 30 to 40 percent of its total wattage capacity for maintaining a given temperature.
Infrared heating panels have to continuously draw power. Radiation heats objects and people and not just air, which means that the temperature sensor or thermostat becomes redundant. Not just this, but if an infrared panel switches off even just momentarily, you would lose the heating effect and the people in the room would start feeling cold quickly.
Finding a place for infrared heating panels in typical home environments might be hard but they can still be useful in some situations. For instance, traditional churches are impossible to heat fully because of their size, the lack of insulation and vaulted ceilings. Infrared panels can be suspended overhead when the occupants are seated and the radiant heat can beam down from above.
Modern radiators still remain the best electric heating solutions. Trade and domestic customers prefer them since they are reliable and easy to install and offer an excellent level of comfort and control. You can use them for heating small and large properties effectively, just as a good primary heating system should.