Why Heat Your Workshop with Infrared?
There are several good reasons to heat a workshop or garage space with an infrared heater. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s discuss what infrared is and how it compares with other methods of heating.
First, there are basically three methods of heat exchange. They are Convection, Conduction and Infrared (radiant).
Convection is perhaps the most common method for general space heating in homes, although not the most cost efficient. Think of a forced air furnace pushing warm air through long runs of ducting and up through registers into every room in the house. Or perhaps a forced air unit heater blowing warm air from one corner of a room or shop space in an attempt to heat up air molecules to warm the surrounding air.
To understand conduction, think of a hot water bottle. Physically touching the water bottle can help warm body temperature. That may work fine when you go to bed at night, but it isn’t too practical for general people heating.
Infrared is radiant heat wave energy that is emitted from a hot heat source. Think of a fireplace, stove, or even our own sun. These are all infrared heat emitters. Unlike the sun, however, infrared heaters emit no harmful ultra-violet rays. In fact, infrared heaters have proven to have therapeutic and other benefits.
Technically speaking, infrared is electromagnetic wave energy that travels at the speed of light, which, upon striking an object, converts to heat. Think of the sun’s rays. Upon absorbing into the earth’s surface and objects at ground level, that energy converts to heat to warm the surrounding air.
About the mid 1950’s it was determined that the infrared heating principle could be effectively applied to heat the inside of structures such as workshops, garages, aircraft hangars, manufacturing facilities and other large open buildings. Since then, the technology of infrared heating appliances has improved over many years to include all sizes and types of infrared heaters for use in even the smallest of shop spaces to the largest manufacturing and warehouse facilities. There are even infrared heaters for use inside the dwelling space of homes.
So why are Infrared heaters so popular?
Two words. Energy savings. An infrared heater or heating system can save as much as 50% in energy usage compared to conventional "warm air" blower type heaters.
Infrared energy is absorbed and then stored by objects including floors, machinery, tools and even people. In effect, all objects in the direct path of the infrared heater’s rays become heat sinks that re-radiate to heat the surrounding air, resulting in shorter heating cycles and lower energy consumption. Also, when overhead doors to the outside are opened and closed several times a day, heat recovery is quicker.
Convection heaters, on the other hand, heat only the air molecules, not objects and surfaces. When doors to the outside are opened up, warm air molecules are quickly cooled and replaced by cold air. When some or all of the heated air is gone, the heating cycle starts all over again. That means longer heating cycles to regain lost temperatures and higher energy use.
Note also that hot air rises. With convection heaters in high bay structures, ceiling temperatures can reach 100 degrees or more, with floor temperatures of only 50 to 60 degrees F. To comfortably heat the people zone, warm air collecting at the ceiling must compress until it reaches the floor. We call this "hot air stacking". And that, quite frankly, takes time and wastes energy.
With infrared heating systems, floors and objects below become reservoirs of heat. Therefore, ceiling temperatures are typically 60 degrees with floor temperatures a cozy 70 degrees F. To put it succinctly, convection heaters heat from the ceiling downward while infrared heaters heat from the floors upward.
In addition to enhanced energy savings, infrared heaters are normally much quieter and comfortable compared to forced air convection systems. If you’re planning on buying a new heater or heaters for your shop space, consider the benefits of using infrared.
Scott Workman owns and operates Infra-Red Products Supply, Inc. of Draper, Utah. Since 1986, Infra-Red Products has become recognized as one of the foremost leaders in energy saving heating system design and sales for residential, commercial and industrial consumers.