If you live in a home that doesn’t have access to mains gas, then unfortunately your heating choices are pretty limited, you can either go for a heat pump, storage heaters, electric convection heaters or the infrared heaters.
The reason infrared heaters are our preference is that they are affordable (a ground source heat pump for example can cost upwards of €25.000 which makes them too expensive for most) and they are also efficient.
The concept of infrared is that instead of heating the air like a traditional radiator (or storage heater), the infrared heaters heat solid objects directly. Once the infrared panels get to temperature, the units emit infrared radiation that travels unimpeded until it hits a solid object i.e. a person or some furniture. This object absorbs the infrared and then warms up.
The nice thing about infrared is that you are not wasting energy heating air that can easily escape up chimneys or through draughty windows. You are just heating the objects that require heating. Now considering you are heating surface area instead of volume you do get huge energy savings – but it is easy to say – what are the numbers that back up these huge savings/
Running costs of infrared versus electric convection heating
The savings from infrared all come due to the sizing of the system. Typically an infrared heater just 40% the size of a traditional convection radiator will produce the same level of comfort. So a 1kW convection heater will produce the same level of comfort for the occupant as a 400w infrared heating panel.
This is where the savings come from! Typically we recommend using between 50 watts and 100 watts per m2 depending on how well insulated a space is. A better insulated space will be closer to the 50w/m2 while an old uninsulated property will be nearer the 100w/m2.
We have made the following assumptions:
- The heating is on for 5 hours per day.
- The cost of electricity is 12 ½ eurocent / kWh
- We are using a 1kW electric convection heater and therefore a 0.4kW infrared heater.
You can compare:
- Total wattage of heater (W)
- Infrared heater: 400w
- Electric convection heater: 1200w
- Total units used per hour (kWh)
- Infrared heater: 0.4kWh
- Electric convection heater: 1.2kWh
- Cost of running unit for 1 hour
- Infrared heater: €0.10
- Electric convection heater: €0.30
- Cost of running for 5 hours each day:
- Infrared heater: €0.50
- Electric convection heater: €1.5
- Total runing cost over winter period:
- Infrared heater: €60
- Electric convection heater: €180
So in this simple example we are looking at a saving of €120 per year by installing infrared over a standard electric panels heating, but it is worth pointing out that this does not take into account the speed at which the heat is felt using infrared.
When an infrared heater is turned on, the panel will heat up and start producing the infrared within just a couple of minutes, it is then that the occupant will feel the warmth.
With an electric convection heater, the heater needs to get warm and then this needs to heat the air – it is only then, once the air gets up to temperature, that the occupant will feel the heat.
Bearing this in mind, the savings from the infrared heaters stated in the table are actually underestimated.
Comparing electric heating versus gas central heating
With gas costing just 3.5 eurocent / kWh, it is pretty clear to see that the cost of heating a home with gas is considerably cheaper than heating a home with electricity, but there is one important point to consider.
When using any form of electric heating, you can heat specific rooms as required, simply by turning on the electric heating units in those rooms. When using a gas central heating system it is much harder, even through the use of thermostatic radiator valves. The reason is that the boiler still needs to fire even if it only needs to provide enough hot water to heat one radiator.
So while gas central heating is a great way to heat your home, the fact that you can zone your heating with electrical heating so easily (i.e. just heat rooms as and when required), the case for opting for gas over electric isn’t completely black and white.
So in conclusion, if you are going for electric heating and don’t have funds readily available to go for a heat pump, we would really recommend infrared heating as a means of heating your home or business. The running costs of infrared heating versus electric convection heating illustrate there are large savings to be had by making the swap to infrared.
The case for infrared over and above a gas central heating system is less compelling, but still the ability to only heat rooms as required and the low install and maintenance costs mean that infrared should not be discounted.