Infrared heaters are environmentally-friendly, efficient heaters which heat objects through infrared light rather than heating the air in a space. Infrared heaters have several benefits including instant heat, heating bill savings, and low maintenance costs.
Infrared heaters may cost anywhere between $50 and $500 to buy, depending on the model; they typically cost about $75 per month to run, though the exact cost will depend on wattage and hours used per day. Buying an infrared heater may be worth it for you, depending on the type of space you need to heat. Below, learn more about infrared heaters, including whether it makes sense to invest in one and other types of portable heaters to consider.
What Are the Pros of Infrared Heaters?
Infrared heaters use warm, invisible infrared light — the same type of light that offers warmth when you stand in the sun or hold your hands over a campfire — to heat up things in a surrounding space. In other words, things like our clothes, hair, and skin absorb the light and transform it into heat. Rather than heating the space itself, infrared heaters use a series of coils and a reflector to direct the light toward people and objects in the room.
Infrared heaters provide a number of advantages for your wallet, your productivity, and the planet. The top benefits of infrared heaters include:
- Comfort: Since infrared heaters don’t use fans, they offer a more comfortable warmth, rather than a dry heat.
- Instant Heat: As soon as you turn on an infrared heater, it starts emitting infrared light. Since it warms objects (and your body) rather than the air itself, you’ll feel warm almost instantly.
- Efficiency: Infrared heaters are very efficient and transfer at least 90% of all the energy they produce to the items in a space. They can also reduce the heat required to maintain a comfortable temperature in a building by at least 15%.
- Environmental Friendliness: Infrared heaters don’t release any pollutants into the air, nor do they use any fossil fuels or burn any wood to produce heat. Therefore, they’re a clean source of heat.
- Low Maintenance: They require very little maintenance (if any).
- Quiet: Since they use light instead of a fan to warm you, infrared heaters tend to be much quieter than other types of heaters.
What Are the Cons of Infrared Heaters?
While infrared heaters have several benefits, they do also have a few potential downfalls. In larger rooms, compared to other types of heaters, infrared heaters can fall short at heating up the entire room. The heat also stops flowing as soon as an infrared heater is turned off.
Thus, this type of heater works best in places where the air in a space does not need to be warmed or would be inefficient to warm, such as a loading dock where doors are opened and closed often. Since the warm air in this type of space will quickly escape to the outside, heating the air would be inefficient; an infrared heater will continue to provide comfortable heating to you and the objects in the space, regardless of the doors constantly opening.
While infrared heaters are efficient, claims of energy savings (and energy bill savings) are sometimes overstated. The efficiency of an infrared heater and the energy it requires to run depend on its wattage. A 750-watt heater, of course, will be more energy-efficient than a 1500-watt heater. Additionally, to see any cost savings from an infrared heater or other space heater, note that you’ll need to lower your thermostat — keeping the rest of the building cooler, while using the heater to keep a single room more comfortable.
Should You Purchase an Infrared Heater?
Are infrared heaters worth it? An infrared heater might be a beneficial purchase for you if you:
- Are heating a small zone in your home and turning down your primary heat source.
- Have bad allergies or asthma and need a heat source that does not push around air.
- Have a workshop or garage that needs to be heated, and it sees a lot of in-and-out traffic.
- Want/need heat quickly, and you want/need heat to stop quickly.
The purchase price of infrared heaters varies substantially based on the size, brand, and wattage, but there are models available at several price points. The price of infrared heaters typically ranges from around $50 for smaller models up to $500 for the most advanced models. A mid-sized, energy-efficient infrared heater will cost you about $150.
Compared to other portable heaters, infrared heaters can be pricey, but in general, you can find models similarly-priced to other types of heaters — including higher-end ceramic, electric, and radiant models, which typically cost around $100.
In terms of cost to run, a 1500-watt infrared heater costs about $75 per month to run at 10 hours per day in states like California, where the electricity cost per kilowatt hour is about 17 cents. Since electric companies charge per kilowatt hour, a 1500-watt infrared heater will cost the same to run as any type of portable heater with the same wattage — so your decision of which type of heater to buy should depend more on the space you need to heat and your purchase budget, rather than electricity savings.
How Other Portable Heaters Compare
There are many different types of portable space heaters that compete with the infrared heater. Each is used to heat a room or space without having to crank the central heating system (which can help lower your heating bills). However, not all heaters are created equal. Here’s how other types of portable heaters differ from infrared heaters.
- How it works: Ceramic heaters use electricity to heat up metal embedded in ceramic plates. The air near the heater is warmed up in the process, which then radiates to surrounding areas either using natural or fan-induced convection currents.
- Pros: Ceramic heaters are said to reach higher temperatures with less input energy than metal-coil heaters, thus making them more efficient. They also stay cool to the touch and provide focused heating pretty quickly. They don’t create any dust, fumes, or smells, and spread heat evenly from floor to ceiling.
- Cons: They tend to be more expensive than many other types of heat. They can also be heavier than other types of heaters, making them less portable.
- Best for: Small personal spaces
- Price: Typically between $30 – $100, depending on size and wattage
- How it works: Convection heaters utilize natural air currents to suck the air from a room, heat it in a central chamber, and blow it back into the room. They steadily circulate heat by producing hot air that rises to the ceiling and makes cooler air fall to the floor.
- Pros: They can make an entire room feel warm and toasty very quickly.
- Cons: Since most of the hot air ends up at the ceiling, convection heaters can end up being quite inefficient. They’re also a leading cause of fires in houses. Over time, they can draw a lot of power and be a more expensive option.
- Best for: Full rooms you spend a lot of time in, i.e. bedroom, living room, kitchen
- Price: $100 – $200, depending on size and wattage
- How it works: Electric heaters use volts of electricity to heat metal columns. Some are powered by batteries and others are plug-ins that must be directly connected to a home’s fuse box, which can limit their range.
- Pros: Electric heaters tend to warm up very quickly. They’re also the most portable, as they have only electrical components and are very lightweight.
- Cons: Electric heaters consume large amounts of energy, as they need a constant charge of voltage in order to produce heat. Since they’re constantly churning out volts, they can also be quite noisy.
- Best for: Mid-sized rooms
- Price: $20 – $150, depending on size and wattage
- How it works: Fan heaters use an electric element to generate heat and blow it away from the heater using a fan. They heat the space first, rather than the surfaces within it, as opposed to infrared heaters, which immediately warm you up.
- Pros: The air flow can be adjusted to focus on a specific part of a room, like where you are, or it can oscillate to warm up the entire space. The space stays warm even after you turn it off.
- Cons: With fan heaters, you’re constantly blowing dust and debris around in a room, which is bad for indoor air quality. They’re also a bit noisy since there’s a fan constantly blowing out air.
- Best for: Offices, workshops, small bedrooms
- Price: $20 – $150, depending on size and wattage
Oil-Filled Radiant Heaters
- How it works: Oil-filled heaters are filled with oil, which is then warmed by electricity. When you turn them on, they immediately heat the air around. Then, that heat travels to the cooler areas in the room until the whole space feels warm. This takes some time, as opposed to the infrared heater, which provides instant heat.
- Pros: Once you turn off oil-filled heaters, the room is still warm. They require a generally lower wattage and tend to use less energy than other conventional heaters. They’re also quiet and don’t move dust around the room.
- Cons: Oil-filled heaters are slow to heat up. Since they’re filled with liquid, they’re heavy and not as portable as other types.
- Best for: Medium-sized spaces like living rooms or bedrooms
- Price: Typically between $50 – $100, depending on size and wattage
Where to Buy Portable Space Heaters
The following stores sell portable space heaters of every variety—infrared, ceramic, fan-forced, oil-filled, electric, and convection. Be sure to compare prices and read reviews before you make your purchase.
1. Ace Hardware
3. Bed Bath & Beyond
9. The Home Depot
Are infrared heaters worth it? Infrared heaters are an efficient, quick way to heat yourself and the objects in your space. However, they fall short at heating large rooms, and things quickly cool off once you turn off the heater. Depending on size, infrared heaters can cost anywhere from $50 to $500. If this price tag is too steep for you or you need to heat a larger space, we’ve listed several other portable heater options to check out.