What are Infrared Heaters and What are Storage Heaters?
Infrared is, in summarized Oxford Dictionary terms, ‘electromagnetic radiation, having a wavelength just greater than that of the red end of the visible light spectrum but less than that of microwaves… emitted particularly by heated objects’ and it is these heated objects which can be used in a domestic setting to more efficiently raise the temperature of a home or business. Storage heating on the other hand is … well the storage of heat, it is sometimes referred to as a heat bank (Australia) and they are electrical heaters which store thermal energy when the electrical costs are lower during the evening or at night, and then release the reserved heat when required. This is essentially a more economically efficient heater, although the heating technology is the same as traditional heating systems.
Far Infrared (FIR)
FIR is a region in the infrared spectrum and can be defined as ‘any radiation with a wavelength of 15 micrometres to 1 millimetre’, the most obvious difference between near and far infrared is the temperature which they can reach, near infrared (NIR) can reach temperatures of up to 1200°C whereas the FIR only reaches 100°C. The difference, however, with any form of Infrared compared to traditional heating is that they work by heating the objects in the area they are placed in. The rays which they emit, hit these objects where it is retained, before releasing it back to the air when the temperature difference between the two becomes greater. This gives the heat a larger surface area and allows the area to be warmed at a far more effective rate. This is different from heaters which heat the air, which in turn heats the objects at a much slower rate as it has had the potential for energy loss in the middle (non-insulated windows for example taking the energy from the air before it can be used heating the surrounding objects). In effect infrared is making the process chain one link smaller.
Heaters on the market
Because the Sun emits Near Infrared waves (NIR), the human body has evolved to reflect a large amount of any that come into contact with the skin, making it an ineffective method for heating the body and thus is better used for applications where higher, concentrated heat is needed, such as cooking or welding. Other uses may include heating outdoor areas like the smoking areas in restaurants, where exposure periods are short and there is less risk of being touched. The unenclosed environment also requires a higher heat output as the elements will have an influence on the effectiveness of the heating process. The majority of us will have seen this type of system before. An example of one of these heaters is The Burda Term 2000 IP67 which can be installed in a higher position than the desired heating area, which should be satisfactorily effective in an area up to 14m².
The benefit of indoor infrared is that it can also be combined with everyday objects in the home, in turn saving space. The bathroom heaters, for example, can combine mirrors (Aspect Frameless Mirror Infrared Heater With Backlight) and towel racks (Aspect bar Style Infrared Tower Heater) to become efficient at doing not only their intended purpose of reflecting and drying towels respectively, but also in heating the entire room at the same time. Products have been designed for this purpose to fit the modern trend of smaller living areas, given the space constraints we are feeling as the housing crisis becomes more of an issue, here in the UK more than other places.
With regards to storage heaters, they are essentially programmable heat storing electric radiators, where the heat theory stays the same and the way in which they operate and save costs differ. They make heating through convection electric radiators as efficient as possible by using features such as automatic charge regulators, which adjust to changing weather conditions to dictate the amount of heat to be stored and when to store it so to achieve maximum savings on electricity prices at different times of day.
They best achieve this using Economy 7 rates which can be 50% cheaper on some tariffs. It is for this reason that many suppliers seem to be reducing the availability of this cheaper tariff as, with grid capacity being reached they are losing profits as the availability threshold nears its limit, so future ROI equations regarding the benefits of this type of heating preference should be taken into consideration.
One example of a manufacturer developing more advanced forms of storage heater technology is Dimplex, with the Dimplex XL and XLS range.
The difference in modern storage heaters is the available level of control that can be had compared to the old heaters, however the problem with this is that it requires more attention by the end user to ensure the desired extra efficiency, as much of it will have to be done on a conscious basis and cannot be programmed. It must also be noted that elevated charges apply outside the recharge (cheaper) hours of between 12pm and 7am, so cooking, lighting and boosting the heaters will cost significantly more during these on-peak hours.
Which is better for home or business use?
The uncertainty of the future benefits of electric convector heat storage, and the fact that it is not a modern, energy efficient technology, would place infrared as a better heating option due to its ability to be able to save space and more effectively heat the area/objects required, however the initial purchase cost of a storage heater, if one would prefer only to replace existing heaters would on the face of it, be a more attractive option, however the consumer would need to factor in the dramatically increased long term electricity consumption, in addition to the prospect of energy price inflation, due to be over 50% in the coming few years.
As energy expenditure goes, the Infrared heaters ability to heat more efficiently allows it to be a less energy consuming form of central heating, combined with lack of maintenance and installed in a well-insulated property, this combination should be hard to compete with in the long term.
Quality infrared heaters:
Quality electric storage heaters: