Infrared heaters work on a principle of heating that differs from a regular space heater. The infrared waves heat objects and not air space. These thermal waves work in a similar way to the sun's rays. When you step into the shade and out of the sunlight, you will feel cooler. You must always be exposed to the sunlight to be warmer, and this is the same way that an infrared heater works.
Conventional units heat the entire room through a process called convection. As the air heats up in a particular space, the objects in the room will heat up because they are exposed to the heated air. This is the same process that happens inside of a kitchen oven. The air gets hot and transfers that energy to heat up whatever is cooking. Because the entire room must get warm so you feel warm, convection heating is not a particularly efficient way to heat an open space.
An infrared heater will only heat you and not the air surrounding you, so long as you remain exposed to the infrared rays. If you move behind an object or move to another room, you will no longer be exposed to the infrared rays, and you will begin to feel cooler. Infrared heating works best in places where there are fewer obstructions to the infrared rays to heat your body. One of the most cost-effective places for infrared heating use is in warehouses or garages. In these large, open spaces, the infrared rays travel unobstructed through the air and warm a human body when they come into contact with it, yet they won't have to heat an entire space to provide warmth.
Cost of Fuel
Because infrared heaters run on electricity, their performance for whole-house heating would be similar to whole-house electric heat through convection heating. Although electricity is one of the most expensive ways to heat an entire home, a full conversion to infrared heating may be a more cost-effective measure if you live in a mild climate, as long as the heaters were turned on only when needed. This works because infrared heating supplies instant heat to your body, whereas standard electric heating warms the space around you first before you feel any effects. An infrared heater would only have to be on when you were in the room to keep you warm, while a convection type heater must be running all the times to keep the room heated so that you feel warm.
But in climates where the temperature drop below the freezing point of water, which is 32 degrees Fahrenheit, conventional heating must be employed to keep the space heated above that point so that pipes don't freeze. To ensure pipes are not damaged by the cold, a baseline temperature of around 55 degrees would be sufficient to make sure that even the corners of the home never get below the 32-degree mark.
Spot heating or room heating gives you the potential to save money through an infrared system. By placing an infrared heater into one room and turning the heat to other rooms either lower or completely off, the infrared heater is only heating you and nothing else. For example, in a scenario where you or your family are doing something together, like watching movies or playing video games, an infrared heater would warm only the people in the room. The room does not have to be kept at a certain temperature to remain comfortable. Therefore less electricity is burned to heat the people and not the entire room. When heating like this, the temperature for the other rooms is turned down several degrees. The difference in not having to heat the air throughout the entire house while keeping the people in the family room warm has a potential to save money.