The Advantages and Disadvantages of Infrared Panels

Advantages and Disadvantages of Infrared Panels

As homes aim to reduce their environmental impact and save on energy bills, innovative infrared heating panels present an appealing option for eco-conscious homeowners. But like any technology, infrared offers both advantages and disadvantages when compared to conventional heating methods. 

Understanding these pros and cons help determine if infrared heat aligns with your needs and sustainability goals. This article aims to cover just that to give you a balanced look at all the information.

What are infrared panels?

Infrared panels are a modern and energy-efficient heating solution that use infrared heat to warm up spaces. When paired with sustainable energy supplies, infrared (IR) heaters are a low-emission, electric-powered heating alternative. 

In contrast to traditional convection heating systems, infrared panels emit radiant heat which warms objects and people directly rather than heating the air in between.

Infrared panels in the home use ‘far’ infrared radiation. This type of IR radiation is perfectly safe for humans. It’s actually the same type of heat that’s used in baby incubators. 

People can sometimes be alarmed by the term ‘radiation’, but rest assured this is nothing to worry about. All radiation means is energy that moves from one place to another in the form of a ‘wave’ or particles. We’re exposed to radiation in one way or another our entire lives, and far infrared radiation that’s emitted from panels has been shown to be safe. 

Infrared panels come in a variety of sizes, but more often than not, they are rectangular in shape. The most common place to have them installed is on walls or the ceiling. As IR panels are simple electric devices, they’re usually quick and easy to install.

Pros and cons of infrared heating panels

Like most forms of heating, there are advantages and disadvantages when it comes to infrared. 

To give you the most balanced view, we’ve compiled the most important pros and cons you need to be aware of if you’re thinking about installing infrared heating in your home, business or workplace. 

Here’s a quick summary of our findings before we dig into the details:

Advantages:

  • Energy-efficient
  • Direct heating of people and objects
  • Low emissions
  • Smart controls
  • Simple installation
  • No negative impacts on internal air environment
  • Long lifespan and little maintenance
  • Aesthetic options

Disadvantages:

  • Upfront costs
  • Running costs
  • Heat distribution

Infrared Heating for you?

Why not book a free consultation today.

Our expert advisors will help build a system to heat any size of room and also help you understand the best way to use Infrared heat for your premises.

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Advantages of Infrared Panels

Energy Efficiency

One of the most significant advantages of infrared heating panels is their energy efficiency. 

Infrared panels are electrical devices with precise mechanisms. IR panels themselves can convert 100% of consumed electricity into infrared heat that’s emitted out into a space to be absorbed by an object. This gives them the maximum possible efficiency rating. 

As they are energy efficient, the logic follows that they require less energy to operate, resulting in lower consumption and reduced bills. It can be slightly more nuanced than this depending on individual factors of the space (size, insulation, room features, layout etc), but the rule of thumb applies.

When comparing infrared panels to radiators, IR comes out on top in terms of efficiency. Traditional radiators take much longer to heat up and have bigger systems to power, which means more energy is wasted along the way. You can also see how infrared panels compare to electric heaters in terms of efficiency.

Direct heating of people and objects

A defining feature of IR panels is their ability to directly warm people and objects through radiant heat. As explained above, IR does this by sending out electromagnetic waves that are readily absorbed by solid materials like floors, furniture and your body!

The direct heating effect means when you enter an infrared-heated zone, you’ll feel warmth within seconds – just like when you step out into direct sunlight. This also reflects in the way panels work. Typically, an IR panel will get up to full temperature in just a few minutes, but you’ll start to feel heat being emitted almost immediately. 

In terms of heating a whole room, this will take much longer as the process happens over time as heat is re-emitted from objects. You can find more information on how long infrared panels take to heat a room in our full guide.

To maximise the direct heating benefit, enough infrared panels need to be installed in a given room or space to be effective. Just how many infrared panels you need depends on your home, room size, layout, insulation and how warm you like to be.  Another key factor to make the most of the direct heating comes down to infrared panel positioning.

Remember, panels require a clear line of sight to your body in order to warm you up effectively. With this in mind, panels are best positioned higher up on walls directed down to the living space and not in alcoves. Installing panels on the ceiling is one of the best places as you get maximum coverage and heat dispersion.

Low emissions

In an era where sustainability is essential, infrared heating panels stand out for their low emissions and minimal environmental impact. On their own this is true, but when compared to fossil-fuel burning alternatives, the benefits are huge. 

Rather than directly combusting gas, oil or coal to release stored energy, infrared technology instead simply converts electricity into warming electromagnetic waves. 

The electricity powering the panels can come from renewable sources, such as solar or wind, but this depends on where you get your electricity mix from. Even when powered by standard grid energy, which is becoming ever more green, the conversion to infrared heat is cleaner than a gas boiler.  

Couple a low emissions energy supply with 100% efficiency and we’re on to a winner in terms of sustainability. 

The next step to make this even better is to make sure all of the heat energy goes to good use. This is where excellent insulation and precise infrared panel placement come into their own. Unlike traditional radiators, the heat from infrared can’t be directly lost through things like draughts, vents and windows. 

It’s important to note that not all infrared systems operate in the same way. This can impact how eco-friendly and efficient the system is. For example, the panels from iHelios are engineered with advanced PTC (Positive Temperature Coefficient) technology. These systems are more reliable and efficient than traditional wire-based systems, plus the elements are self-regulating which prevents unwanted overheating.

Infrared Heating for you?

Why not book a free consultation today.

Our expert advisors will help build a system to heat any size of room and also help you understand the best way to use Infrared heat for your premises.

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Smart controls

A key benefit of electric infrared heating systems is the seamless compatibility with smart home technology. This gives homeowners customised control for maximum effectiveness and energy efficiency. 

Rather than the whole home environment being a slave to a single thermostat, infrared allows independent zoning so only occupied spaces get warmed to desired levels while unused rooms save power. This granular control is a major positive.

Individual panels or a whole system can all be controlled from smartphone apps – perfect for the tech-savvy and eco-savvy homeowner looking to reduce their energy usage and carbon footprint.

Simple and quick installation

A practical benefit is the simplicity and speed of installing infrared panels. 

Unlike the major structural alterations and behind the scenes pipework involved in heating systems with a central boiler, infrared heaters can be installed with minimal fuss.

Ceiling-mounted panels can be a little more tricky to install depending on exactly where they are, but they are typically lightweight units that shouldn’t lend too many issues. 

In some circumstances, homeowners may want all of their infrared panels to run on the same electrical circuit. This isn’t strictly necessary, but running separate circuits ensures more reliable performance. The downside is that it requires much more wiring effort.

No negative impacts on internal air environment

You might not think it, but standard convection-based radiators can disturb internal air environments. As they heat the air which circulates around the room, dust and other particles can be stirred up. 

Infrared bypasses this by not relying on internal air circulation at all. This distinction means infrared maintains stable environments free of undisrupted dust. Infrared also works well to prevent mould growth and other damp issues. 

This is particularly good for individuals with respiratory issues like allergies, asthma and skin conditions.

Long lifespan and little maintenance

Infrared panels are durable pieces of kit. They have a long lifespan and require little long-term maintenance as they have few moving parts. 

A lot of IR panels will come with at least a 5 year warranty, sometimes 10. Surya Heating suggests their panels will run for around 100,000 hours. So, if you run the panel all day, 365 days a year, you’d get 11 years of use! At a more normal use rate, these panels could potentially last decades. 

All you really have to do is give them a clean every once in a while and they’ll be good to carry on emitting their heat.

Aesthetic options

An appealing point of infrared panels is their versatility when it comes to room styling. 

As standard, all panels are pretty sleek and slimline. As they are wall or ceiling mounted, they don’t take up any floor space or stick out into the room. This means IR panels don’t limit furniture arrangement unlike traditional radiators. 

Usually, infrared panels come in neutral colours like white or silver, allowing them to blend into a room’s decor. However, it’s possible to buy panels with images on and even personalise them with custom artwork or family pictures. 

If you don’t like the look altogether, it’s possible for infrared panels to be plastered into the ceiling so you can’t see them at all, but thankfully, you’ll still be able to feel their warmth!

Disadvantages of Infrared Heating Panels

To give you the full picture, here are some of the cons you may encounter with infrared panels. 

Initial costs

One downside to infrared heating systems is their initial upfront costs. Costs differ depending on the size of the panel, but you can expect to pay between £200-500 for an IR panel. 

If you’re just thinking about using IR as a supplementary form of heating for your home office, garden room or garage, the initial cost shouldn’t be too much of an issue.

However, it’s a question of how many panels you install. Most homes will require between 8-15 panels to heat the full space, which comes in around £4000-£7000. The premium pricing reflects infrared’s energy efficiencies and decades-long lifespans which will repay over years of operation versus replacing cheaper short-lived heating alternatives every 5-8 years.

It’s important to remember that IR heating panels will only provide heat for a space, they don’t provide hot water. So, if you do want to upgrade your whole house heating system, you’ll either need to keep your existing boiler in place, or remove gas entirely and buy a separate electric water heater. 

As you can imagine, all of this initial expense, plus installation costs, will quickly mount up. There are options to stagger investments over the long term. 

A plus point is that the initial outlay for solar and other renewable energy technologies has rapidly reduced as adoption scales have increased. This is likely to happen for infrared heating too. 

Running Costs

Alongside initial costs, you have to factor in running costs. 

Unfortunately, electricity costs in the UK are at an all time high. So despite being super energy efficient, whole house infrared heating systems aren’t the cheapest to run. 

Operating a single panel itself is relatively affordable – for example, running a 200W in your home office will cost you 5p an hour. Bargain for keeping you warm all day in the depths of winter!

However, costs can scale up quickly when you’re heating a 3-bedroom home with 12 panels average around 500W each. 

Depending on the size of the panel and how long you use it for over the year, you can pay anything from £30 to £300 per panel per year in running costs. But these price indications really do depend on your home, insulation levels, how many panels you have and how long they are run for. And then there’s the hot water costs to add in.  

You can find much more information on infrared panel running costs here. 

Heat distribution 

A potential disadvantage of infrared panels, versus the likes of convection radiators, is less effective heat distribution. This is especially if you’re looking to heat large open spaces and whole rooms. 

Infrared heating is great for zonal performance and concentrating warmth exactly where needed, but it can suffer from gaps in coverage – depending on where they’re placed of course.

Just a single obstruction like a wall, the back of a sofa or bookcase can block the infrared radiation, creating cold zones on the other side much more easily than convection systems.

A benefit of IR panels can also be a downside. For example, if you’re sitting near a panel in direct line of sight, you’ll feel nice and warm. But the effectiveness begins to drop off beyond a distance of 3 metres from the panel. On walls this can be an issue, but it makes a good case for ceiling installation as most residential rooms are less than 3m in height. You can read more on how far do infrared panels reach

Without airflow to mix warmth, the directional nature of infrared can leave distant corners chilly. That said, if you have a super insulated, modern home, the average air temperature should stay ambient for much longer periods of time. As infrared heat can be re-emitted back out by walls, hard flooring and other items that have absorbed it, a well-insulated home will retain the heat. 

Is Infrared Heating Expected to Become the Norm?

With rising eco-awareness and energy costs now front-of-mind, infrared heating seems poised to grow from a niche upgrade into a heating norm. 

As Director of iHelios, Martina Woodworth, explains, “the technology itself has existed for decades reliably warming commercial and medical spaces. Infrared’s residential popularity first sparked across Europe as homeowners realised its efficiency and air quality benefits before spreading to the modernising UK market over the last 20 years. Infrared heating has gained attention for its benefits, such as targeted heating, reduced energy consumption and improved air quality and comfort.”

So, is infrared a heating solution for the future?

Potentially, yes. 

While upfront expenses have slowed mainstream adoption, solar power faced similar barriers due to economies of scale. Once initial costs start to come down, gas use reduces and the country invests in more renewable energy infrastructure – maybe you’ll start to create your own renewable energy with solar panels – infrared heating will take more and more market share.

Infrared Heating for you?

Why not book a free consultation today.

Our expert advisors will help build a system to heat any size of room and also help you understand the best way to use Infrared heat for your premises.

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About the author 

Ben Hardman

Ben is a professional writer and the creator of sustainable living website TinyEco.com.
It's here where he helps people to reduce their environmental impact through simple, everyday choices. Away from the laptop, Ben loves spending time in the natural environment with his young family and Murphy the cocker spaniel.

Experience:
First Class BSc Biology degree (environmental and climate change focus)
Six years of working and writing in the environmental sector, including two years working at an international sustainability consultancy
Written for Ethical Consumer magazine, My Mother Tree, Unsustainable Magazine, Happy Eco News, Emission Index, PeakDistrict.org
Commented in The Independent, The Guardian, GreenMatch. Also featured on Radio 1's environmental special 'Minute of Me'

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