Thursday, 9 October 2014

5 Good, Energy Efficient Infrared Heaters: Reviews for 2014

What is the Best Infrared Heater for the Money?

Photo Credit: Pete
As the temperature dips, we look for ways to stay comfortable. Energy isn't free, and heat is one of the biggest power drains.

Aside from collecting firewood, what can we do to lower that power bill?

A recent innovation is infrared heat. It is capable of high temperatures and almost instantaneous warmth, and it has been used for applications ranging from drying paint to cooking food.

Infrared heaters also happen to be exception for keeping warm. They come in various formats, but they share a few similar traits: on demand heat with high efficiency. They range from spot heat to units capable of warming an entire floor.

They come in all shapes and sizes, and selecting one from the many options can be intimidating. This article highlights and reviews some good infrared heaters, including quartz and heat lamp styles.

Ready to save some cash this winter? Keep on reading.

Infrared / Quartz Heaters: What are their key features?

Obviously, if you're looking for electric heat to supplement your home, you'll have no end of choice. So what sets IR heaters apart from the competition? What makes them unique?

Instantaneous Heat: Infrared heaters offer nearly instant warmth when you turn it on. Unlike standard convection heat, which relies on heating the atmosphere around you, IR uses electromagnetic radiation to transfer energy. You can even operate one in a vacuum.

Power Savings: In real terms, an IR heater is highly energy efficient, with around 86% of the electrical energy input radiated as heat. The energy that isn't radiated also works to heat your space indirectly as convection. The near instant heat often means you can cycle the heater less frequently, and for shorter periods of time.


Dr. Infrared: A quartz infrared heater with good reviews

Dr. Infrared Quartz
Price: Click for Details
The Dr. Infrared quartz IR heater is one of the most well known and popular offerings on the market, although it should be said there are many similar items out there.

It's a dual purpose heater, and it takes advantage of every bit of the thermal energy produced by infrared. First, there is a large quartz infrared element that lives up to its promise: almost instant, direct heating of objects in the room. 

Secondly, the unit uses a low speed fan to take advantage of the extra convection heat produced, slowly increasing the ambient temperature of the space. 

The result is a highly efficient appliance, which the manufacturer claims can warm a room as large as 1,000 square feet. (In real terms, the heater would struggle to adequately heat a space that large, but a 500 square foot space would be very easily kept comfortable.)

The Dr. Infrared is a somewhat portable quartz heater, being easily repositioned into different rooms based on your needs. It's also pretty safe, as the outside housing will never get too hot to touch.

It has three settings: auto, low (1,000W) and high (1,500W). I'd suggest the auto is the best setting. It allows you to select a temperature preset, and the unit will choose the proper wattage to maintain that baseline, saving energy. 

With lots of rave customer reviews, it's among the best energy efficient infrared heaters for the money, and you'll probably find yourself using your central heat less often.

Pros: Somewhat portable, safe to touch, comes with a remote control, good automatic setting doesn't cycle too often.

Cons: Square foot heating claims are exaggerated, unit is small but not tiny.


Lifesmart Fireplace: An attractive quartz infrared heater, great reviews

Lifesmart Fireplace
 Price: Click for Details
Nothing says cozy like curling up next to a fire in the cold winter months. Unfortunately, real fire isn't feasible for most people. 

The next best thing? The Lifesmart infrared fireplace heater. When it comes to replicating that warm glow of a fire, IR is a great substitute. 

Obviously, this heater has some decorative elements to it, and it should probably be placed somewhere central and prominent like the real thing. Unlike a real fireplace, however, you don't need to worry about venting. 

It plugs into a standard 110 volt outlet, and uses 1,500 watts. It also has a low speed fan to distribute whatever convection heat remains in the unit. I'd rate it capable of warming a room of at least 500 square feet with no issues. It's best enjoyed by sitting near it, of course.

It operates in an automatic mode, and you can adjust it to the exact temperature you want.

Because the heating elements also produce a bit of light, the fireplace emits a warm glow. It's not a small appliance at 31 inches wide and 25 inches high, but it comes equipped with casters to make moving it fairly easy. It has a remote control too.

It's a good looking, energy efficient infrared space heater, and most customer reviews are very positive. It's well worth a look!

Pros: Good looks, warm glow, fireplace-like warmth on your skin, easy to relocate.

Cons: Not portable


Soleus: A reflective infrared heater disc, portable & cheap

Soleus Disc Heater
 Price: Click for Details
Tired of buffeting air and dry eyes? Most personal sized heaters rely on forced air convection, which basically blasts a fan at you. Not so with IR. 

This reflective disk operates much like an oscillating fan, projecting infrared heat in a cone outwards wherever it's pointed. 

Because most of the heat is reflected, the housing is safe to touch and doesn't get nearly as hot as other units. Still, you get the advantage of instant heat when you turn it on, all without buffeting. It has a tip-over cutoff.

It's a lower powered unit (since it's intended for smaller spaces or spot heating) and uses two settings, one low setting of 400 watts and a higher one with 800 watts. 

Because it doesn't also have to power a fan, the Soleus consumes a lot less energy than a similarly rated forced air heater. I do recommend running it on the oscillating setting, because it distributes the heat more evenly. 

It's not nearly as efficient at warming up a space as, say, the Dr. Infrared, but it's a perfect companion for a chilly office or winter garage project. Your cat will love it too.

Pros: Good reviews, spot infrared heat, portable size, low price tag

Cons: Not powerful enough to heat a room, no convection.


Air Commander: An oscillating, energy efficient infrared tower heater

Lifesmart Air Commander
 Price: Click for Details
Marrying good looks and energy efficiency, the Air Commander, by Lifesmart, is a subtly powerful unit.

It has a few features that set it apart from other 'cabinet' style quartz infrared space heaters on the market. First, rather than being squat, this one is quite thin, meaning it fits into nooks more easily.

Another significant trait is the oscillating heat louvers on the front. They distribute the heat from left to right without a need for the whole unit to swivel, and combined with an integrated quiet fan to move air around the room.

It was clearly developed with economy in mind. You have three settings to choose between, high, low and eco. Eco mode will essentially keep the baseline room temperature steady at 68 degrees. This setting uses a mere 500 watts.

Lifesmart claims the Air Commander can heat spaces up to 1,500 square feet, though that's probably an overestimate. It will certainly keep most living rooms or kitchens nice and toasty.

With a gorgeous dark oak housing, exact temperature settings and a remote control, the Air Commander is one of the best infrared heaters, and reviewers agree with me.

Pros: Slim design is easy to incorporate into your space, eco setting is very efficient.

Cons: Heavy at nearly 30 pounds.


Optimus H-5300BK: A good, portable quartz infrared 'radiator' heater

Optimus H-5300BK
 Price: Click for Details
I've always been a fan of the form and function of a traditional oil radiator. They're convenient, simple to use, and can be wheeled from room to room. Their one downside? They take a long time to heat up the room.

The H-5300, from Optimus, is a good, portable infrared heater styled like a radiator. The combination of convection and IR heat features mean this affordable little unit is highly effective, and it heats far more quickly.

Its unique shape is intended to fill the air with warmth like a radiator. It lacks a fan, but it's still very efficient and quiet. The air movement comes out the top, and you can actually feel it rising.

In addition, you get the benefit of a full panel of quartz heater elements that provide nearly instantaneous warmth to any nearby objects. 

If portability is one of your requirements, you'll love it. It comes with a recessed carrying handle and four small pivoting wheels. As for controls, it features four power settings at various voltages, and a thermostat which informs how often the unit will cycle. 

It's also priced similarly to a radiator, making it a cheap, portable infrared heater option worth considering. It has a full metal housing and should last for a long time.

Pros: Portable size and features, cheap price tag, easy controls, rapid radiant heat with convection. Should fill a room with warmth more quickly than an oil radiator.

Cons: May take some time to get used to compared to traditional fan heaters. 


Final Notes:

Keep in mind that all of the above are electric space heaters. They are not competition for your central air. They're merely cheap alternatives which can save you some money on your energy bill, especially if you own a large house yet don't spend time in each room.

Did I miss any? What's your experience with these things, or with IR heat in general? Feel free to leave a comment at the bottom.

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