Infrared heaters are becoming increasingly popular among homes and businesses; however, many people remain unaware of the dangers associated with infrared heating devices despite this growth in popularity.
These devices pose numerous risks to those using them, ranging from severe burns to fires.
What Are Infrared Heaters?
Infrared heaters use a process known as “spectrum hardening” to produce infrared radiation.
Spectrum hardening involves heating a unique ceramic plate until it begins to glow a deep red color. This then produces photons at the correct wavelength to be converted into visible light by passing through water vapor in an air-filled chamber.
These devices are typically cylindrical, with the ceramic plate lining an evacuated central chamber. A lamp is used to provide visible light through a reflective backing on the inside of the front viewing glass.
The primary mechanism that creates infrared radiation is the absorption of photons by water molecules in the air inside the device. And the specific photon energy level absorbed is dictated by the frequency of the light.
How Do Infrared Heaters Work?
Infrared (IR) radiation is one of several types of non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation. Infrared heaters, which can also be referred to as thermal radiators, emit infrared waves in heat and light using shortwave or longwave radiation.
The heater works by emitting infrared light and heat waves from a high-temperature source, such as an electric bar or metal plate, to the area that requires heating. Objects and people in the room then absorb the infrared waves.
As these objects re-emit this heat energy, they warm up until an equilibrium has been reached between the heat energy entering and leaving the air.
Benefits of Infrared Heaters
They Work Instantly
Infrared heaters warm objects and people in the room immediately, rather than producing a prolonged heating process or having to reach a specific temperature.
This is because infrared heaters emit infrared waves to the area that requires heating, which is then absorbed by objects and people.
Work Silently and are Healthy to Use
Unlike other heating processes, such as oil or coal-powered furnaces, infrared heaters emit no noise and no fumes during operation.
Because they do not produce any combustion or ozone emissions, infrared heaters are healthier for those using them. They’re also gentle to the environment by reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
Since infrared heaters only focus their energy on specific areas, the heat generated is highly concentrated and quickly heats a small area.
This enables infrared heaters to be cost-effective because they only need to generate enough heat for a particular space rather than heating an entire room.
Infrared heaters are more environment-friendly than gas or electric plug-in heaters because they do not release any harmful emissions into the surrounding air.
This makes infrared heating systems one of the most environment-friendly methods of indoor heating on the market today.
There is a wide range of infrared heaters on the market today, each with different designs and styles. Many resemble traditional space heaters or oil-filled radiators that can be used to complement one’s interior décor and provide warmth and comfort.
They’re Portable and Compact
Portable infrared heaters can be hooked up to a gas supply, making it easy to take the heat source with you to other areas within your home. Because infrared heaters are very lightweight, many can be carried around or moved from place to place without much effort.
Infrared Heaters Require Minimal Maintenance
The upkeep for infrared heaters is quite simple. There are no moving components, so there’s no motor to wear out, air filters to change, or lubrication required. All you have to do is clean the reflectors regularly to keep your equipment running smoothly.
Dangers of Infrared Heaters
Potential Fire Hazard
Infrared heaters are top-of-the-line space heating units because they are inexpensive to run, provide instant comfort in any area of your home, and do not pollute the air.
Unfortunately, infrared heaters also come with a potential fire hazard due to their design.
Infrared heat can also cause a burning sensation in your skin. This happens when the top layers of the skin are overheated by infrared radiation.
The skin will not be destroyed the same way as UV radiation does, but it will still cause surface burns and might worsen with continuous exposure. Therefore, most individuals do not stay in an infrared sauna long enough to occur unless they are unconscious.
Dangerous When Damaged
Infrared heaters emit a great deal of visible and infrared radiation. If the outer cabinet is cracked or damaged in any way, it could cause skin burns if touched. The same thing can happen if the front window of an infrared heater becomes chipped or cracked.
If you begin to notice these symptoms on your infrared heater, turn it off immediately. Keep it unplugged until you can replace the outer cabinet or front window.
Because this type of heater only heats a specific area, it can put certain areas of your home at risk for limited or slower warming.
For example, if you have a wall-mounted heater that only warms the area directly in front of it, you will not be able to feel the warmth in adjoining rooms. The same goes for heaters installed too high on walls or ceilings; this can leave the lower part of a room untouched by warmth.
Problems with Overheating
The heating elements in infrared space heaters can become hot enough to start fires if precautions are not taken. Heaters that use ceramic occasionally emit showers of sparks and crackling noise as they age due to ember buildup inside the heater’s body.
It is vital to keep combustible materials away from the heater and check that it has a thermostat or temperature control. It’s also important to monitor the area around the heater for sparks, embers, and other undesirable emissions.
Stops Heating When Off
The heat from infrared heaters immediately dissipates once the unit is turned off, which can leave you feeling cold and uncomfortable.
Can Cause Eye Damage
Infrared heaters emit more than just light and heat; they also release infrared radiation. This can cause long-term eye damage if exposed to the emitted rays too frequently or for an extended period.
Although this is still under debate, the potential risk is present with any radiation exposure.
Can Cause Skin Damage
The heat from infrared heaters can cause the skin to become dry and irritated, especially if the heater is kept in one place for too long.
This is another danger associated with using infrared heaters as a source of heating in your home. Although the heating element doesn’t get hot enough to cause a burn, it can raise your body’s blood pressure and heart rate.
Over time, this can be dangerous for those with existing heart conditions or who generally have high blood pressure.
Infrared heaters work by heating objects, then the air around those objects. Due to this process, water is lost from your skin and other body parts due to evaporation.
If you are exposed to infrared heat for an extended period, it could cause dehydration.
Safety Precautions to Take When Using Infrared Heaters
If you use an infrared heater in your home, you should follow these safety precautions:
- Keep the infrared heater away from flammable items. This includes drapes and carpeting, as well as paper and other combustible materials. If an infrared heater comes into contact with something flammable, it could cause a fire.
- Do not block or cover the front of the infrared heater. Blocking or covering the front of the unit obstructs the thermal radiation, which could damage the heater and cause it to overheat.
- Plug your infrared heater directly into an electrical outlet. Do not use an extension cord, power strip, surge protector, multi-plug adapter, or similar device with your infrared heater.
- Keep children and pets away from your infrared heater when in use.
- Disconnect the power to the infrared heater when you leave home or go to sleep. This prevents an unattended heater from overheating without your knowledge.
- Be sure to unplug your infrared heater if it begins to malfunction in any way, including making unusual sounds, emitting smoke, or have an unusual odor.
Do not attempt to correct the problem yourself if you experience any of these symptoms when using your infrared heater. Instead, contact a qualified electrician for service.
What Are Some Alternatives to Infrared Heaters?
With the potential dangers posed by infrared heaters, people may wonder what they can do to stay warm without using this potentially hazardous form of heating.
Well, there are several alternatives to infrared heaters:
Ceramic heaters are good alternatives to infrared heaters since they can be purchased at a low cost and do not emit harmful rays. The great thing is that they only need to be plugged in and switched on for them to work, making them easy to use even when you’re half asleep.
Their ceramic plates heat up quickly, making the whole room warm up in no time, which is very useful during winter.
Oil heaters are very similar to ceramic heaters since they can be bought at a low price and do not emit harmful UV rays. However, among the shortcomings of these heaters is that there is a risk of fire due to spilled oil.
Because they run on burning oil, their operating costs are also higher than other heating systems.
Kerosene heaters are good options for those who spend a lot of time outdoors as they can be easily carried around with you (such as on camping trips). Because their primary function is to produce radiant heat, the whole room heated by the heater becomes warm very quickly.
However, since kerosene is highly flammable and emits carbon monoxide, it is dangerous to use inside where there is poor ventilation.
A propane heater uses propane to heat a space. Fuel is stored in a tank and either manually or automatically ignited. In most cases, people use gas heaters with blowers in larger areas such as garages, porches, and even patio heaters without electricity.
Frequently Asked Questions about Infrared Heaters
Are Infrared Heaters Safe?
Yes – infrared heaters are completely safe. This is because infrared heat, like sunlight, warms things up rather than the surrounding air. Hence, infrared heating is a secure, natural procedure.
Are Infrared Heaters Safe to Leave on Overnight?
Generally, leaving infrared heaters on overnight is fine. They’re not fussy, and a modern heater should have safety shut-off buttons in case it topples over or gets too hot. However, if you’re going to leave one on while you sleep or are away, be cautious.
Do Infrared Heaters Cause Cancer?
No. Infrared heaters do not cause cancer. While the heat from these devices works similarly to the sun’s rays, the radiation from infrared heaters doesn’t possess the ultraviolet component.
For this reason, your skin doesn’t experience a sunburn, tanning, or in this case, cancer.
Are Infrared Heaters Efficient?
Yes, infrared heaters are highly efficient. This is because they use almost all of the electrical energy they consume and convert it to heat. As a result, infrared heaters are among the most efficient heating appliances on the market.
Can Infrared Heaters Cause Fires?
The greatest hazard posed by infrared heaters is fire. Therefore you should not keep combustible items like wood, paper, and textiles close to infrared heaters.
To avoid any leaks or misdirected heating, make sure the heater is installed correctly. This is especially important if gas is the source of heating.
Conclusion: Are Infrared Heaters Dangerous?
Infrared heaters are great alternatives to other heating systems, but they can be potentially hazardous like all electrical appliances. As such, ensure that you follow the manufacturer’s safety guidelines and only use infrared heaters in well-ventilated areas.
The first step is making sure that your space can handle it! If not, consider an alternative source of energy.