Understanding Infrared Heaters

The ultimate infrared heater is the sun, which generates infrared heat through combustion of gases. This infrared energy passes directly through space to warm the surface of the earth. So even on a cold day, objects and people are warmed by the heat radiated by the sun even though the surrounding air may be cold. Similarly, infrared heaters act like mini suns because they burn a fuel to generate heat. The heat produced radiates downward warming objects such as the floor, machinery, tools and building components, as well as people in the room. These warmed objects then release some of their heat to the people and objects that come in contact with them and into the air, making it warmer. So, for example, a floor that absorbs infrared heat will warm a person who walks on it.

How Does Infrared Heaters Work?

Most infrared heaters are fueled using propane or natural gas, and sometimes oil. The hot temperatures generated by burning fuel inside the unit, heat either a steel tube (tube heater) or ceramic surface (luminous heater) within the heater. The heat from this surface is then emitted in the form of infrared radiant energy. Reflectors positioned above the radiant tubes direct the infrared radiant energy downward to ultimately warm the floor and objects below it.

Types of Infrared Heaters

Low Intensity Tube Heaters:
Sometimes referred to as positive/negative pressure heaters, tube heaters, radiant heaters, stick heaters, tube brooders or pipe heaters.

  • Hot exhaust gases travel through the inside of the tube resulting in tube surface temperatures up to 1100°F, which is considered low-intensity.
  • Generally theses heaters are vented and have the capability to use fresh air for combustion.
  • Low intensity tube heaters are the most popular choice for total building heat.

Patio Heaters:
Sometimes referred to as suspended, radiant, mushroom style, free standing or decorative patio heaters.

  • Ceramic or stainless steel radiant emitters.
  • Designed to heat a concentrated outdoor area.
  • Permanent or portable products that may be deck mounted or suspended

High Intensity Ceramic Heaters:
Sometimes referred to as – box heaters, spot heaters, luminous heaters, radiant heaters or plaque heaters.

  • Combustion takes place on a ceramic tile surface with surface temperatures of approximately 1800°F. Higher temperatures produced by this equipment means they must have a higher clearance to combustibles.
  • Direct-fired operation releases products of combustion into a properly ventilated heated space.
  • Often used in high bay or high air change applications.

Construction Heaters:
Sometimes referred to as spot heaters, portable construction heaters and tank top heaters. Heat turns a ceramic or stainless steel emitter red hot.

  • Used in spot heat applications and/or as warm up stations.
  • While commonly used in outdoor applications, units may also be used in industrial applications or temporarily used inside buildings under construction or repair.
  • At no time shall construction heaters be used in residential applications.

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