Infrared is the heat we experience from a warm sandy beach (Far Infrared), an open fire or a toaster (Medium Infrared) or the sun (Near Infrared).
Any surface above absolute zero will radiate infrared heat. When one object is hotter than another, energy will be transferred from the hot object to the cold one.
So Infrared Heat is “Energy Transferred thanks to a temperature difference”. The energy will continue to flow until both objects have the same temperature.
This heat transfer is not a matter of heating air. The energy from the hot source travels directly to its target. That is difficult to grasp at first because we are so used to thinking about our heating in terms of warm air. The best way to think about it is the feeling of the sun on your face on a fresh spring morning. Your face feels warm, although the air temperature is cold.
But you are also a radiant object! You can absorb heat from an object hotter than yourself, but you can also lose your body heat to an object colder than yourself, and it has nothing to do with the temperature of the surrounding air.
An experiment at the John B. Pierce Laboratory, USA, clarified the different human perceptions of heat:
“Test subjects in a room with a temperature of 50°C (122°F) of warm air and cooled walls felt cold and when in a room with cool air of 10°C (50°F) and warm walls, they broke into a sweat.”
(source: Techn. Info “Strahlungsenergie – die Ur-Energie, neu entdeckt, TT Technotherm GmbH, Nürnberg).
You are probably familiar with this sitting in a centrally heated room at 21°C with your back to an outside wall at 15°C, you will feel cold, because your body is radiating heat to the wall, regardless of the air temperature being comfortable.
This underlines a weakness in heating only the air: in as much as the heating has to remain On for you to remain feeling warm. As soon as you turn the convection heating off, you will become the radiator.
If we think of this in terms of heaters, then it implies that instead of having to heat volumes of air, you can alternatively heat the objects in the room. The main reasons it makes economic sense to use radiant heating instead of warming the air (convection), is:
As a result of these advantages, Radiant heat solutions typically require lower power installations and run for less time than their convection counterparts.
The above characteristics also lend Infrared heat the following further advantages.
Because you are warming surfaces in a room and not the air, you are reversing the classic damp-forming conditions that convection heating creates. This has many benefits both to health (reduction of mould & fungal spores) as well as a direct benefit to buildings in terms of drying out bathrooms, stonework etc.
Although the claims for far infrared from the wellbeing industry are well in advance of the actual science on the subject, we do subscribe to the general approach that by providing a basically warm and dry environment with heating that is lower cost to run that competing types, that there is a general health benefit to adopting far infrared heating over convection heating.