A Beginner’s Guide to Infrared Heating Panels

Couple in a cosy kitchen

The UK is in the midst of an energy transformation – swapping fossil fuels for greener alternatives in a bid to reduce emissions.

As the government works towards its goal of making the country net zero by 2050, environmentally-friendly heating methods are reaching new heights of popularity. And one of the latest bits of kit helping homeowners heat their properties is infrared heating panels.

There are plenty of pros and cons to these wall-mounted panels, which can lower household emissions and reduce energy bills, all while keeping your home nice and toasty.

Keen to learn more about how these handy devices can benefit you? Check out our helpful guide below, where you can find out everything you need to know about infrared heating.

Couple in a cosy kitchen

What are infrared heating panels?

Infrared heating is fairly new to the domestic heating scene, and works very differently from traditional heating methods.

Rather than heating the room, like a conventional boiler does, infrared systems heat objects directly. Radiation is released through large panels, which are propped up on the walls or ceilings, and heat is channelled to specific areas of the property.

These systems use something called ‘far infrared' heating panels – but more on that later.

Although this unique system is pretty under the radar at the moment, its popularity is predicted to pick up once the government’s gas boiler ban comes into place.

What is infrared heat?

Before we get to what infrared heating actually is, you should know that there are three types of heat transfer: conduction, convection and radiant heating.  

Infrared panels use radiant heating, which differs from conduction and convection because it transfers heat to objects and people directly, rather than heating the air.

Overall, there are two types of infrared heat: near and far. ‘Near’ infrared generates very intense heat, which can be unsafe. You’ll be glad to hear that this is not used for heating.

‘Far’ infrared, however, has to travel in order to target an area, which makes it much less intense and is a safe method of heating. This is the type of infrared that is used in panels on the market.

How do infrared heating panels work?

This is where it gets a bit technical, so bear with us.

Infrared is emitted from the heating panel, which then travels through the air until it hits an object. The object then absorbs the radiation, causing molecules within it to vibrate and produce heat. As well as heating the object directly, the vibration then re-radiates the warmth back into the room, which is recycling the heat.

Even humans can absorb this radiation. Once the infrared waves come into contact with us, they will travel roughly an inch into the body, providing a warm feeling. Although this might seem a little jarring, it’s perfectly safe – but we’ll go into that later.

Although infrared panels can work with gas and oil, it’s easier to power them with electricity – this way, you won’t need to integrate any pipework when you install the panels. Once you’ve got the panels, an installer can hardwire them into an electric circuit, which will allow you to use a proper switch (like a light switch) to turn them on.

When the panels are plugged in, they take about 90 seconds to get up to full heat intensity, so you won’t need to wait to get warm.

Why is infrared a good alternative to gas boilers?

The main reason why infrared trumps gas boilers is because of its high efficiency – some of the best infrared panels on the market have a rating of 100%.

Most heating systems deliver the majority of their heat through something called ‘convection’, which is effective, but also pretty wasteful. This is when heat is transferred into the air, which then heats up the people in that room. Radiation, on the other hand, cuts out the middleman (the air), by transferring heat straight from the heater to the people in the room.

On top of this, you’re more likely to stay warmer for longer with infrared heating. This is because convection heating is easily lost through draughts, or opened doors and windows. Radiant heat, however, heats objects, which can’t escape through a draught.

Infrared also uses a lower wattage than other heating solutions, since it effectively recycles the heat without letting it get lost to any draughts.

Another major difference between the two is that infrared heating panels can’t heat water, whilst gas boilers can.

Is infrared heat safe?

When we talk about infrared and radiation entering objects and humans, it can lead a lot of people to worry – after all, it sounds an awful lot like Hulk’s superhero origin story.

Thankfully, there’s no need to worry, since the type of infrared radiation used in this heating method is 100% natural and risk-free.

The far-infrared radiation given off by infrared panels is actually the same type of heat given off by our own bodies – that’s why we absorb it so easily. In fact, it’s so safe that it is even used in incubators for babies.

Infrared heating can even be healthier than gas heating for people who suffer from dust allergies or asthma. Whilst conventional radiators heat the room by moving the air about the room, infrared radiation only heats objects, meaning the air doesn’t move around and dust isn’t disturbed.

How much do infrared heating panels cost?

Typically, the price of an infrared heating panel starts at around £120, but this figure will fluctuate depending on the type of panel you go for, as well as its size, design, wattage.

Overall, a 600W (watt) panel will cost approximately £230, and should be enough to heat a small room. That means, for a three-bedroom house, you’ll be paying roughly £2,000-£2,500.

And since infrared heaters are easy to install, many suppliers now add installation costs into the purchase price if you buy directly from them.

Running costs

Running costs will differ, depending on the price you pay for electricity, as well as the size and wattage of the panel.

To give you a rough estimate of what you can expect, using a 500W panel for 11 hours a day will cost approximately £50 per year to run. To compare, a gas heating system would cost more than twice that amount – and an oil-run radiator would cost even more, at around £300.

Although electricity is more expensive to use than natural gas, the infrared heating system is so efficient that it doesn’t need to be on for quite as long, which means it saves money in the long run.

Savings

Infrared heating can reduce your heating costs by 30-50% – but this will depend on the construction of your home, the property’s ceiling height, and how well insulated it is.

If you want to save even more money, you can hook it up to your smart meter. Infrared panels can be integrated into the home’s electricity system, which means they can be switched on or off in individual rooms whenever you like.

For more about the prices involved, take a look at our guide on infrared heating panel costs in 2022.

Types of infrared heating panels

When it comes to choosing your infrared heating, you have options for both indoors and outdoors:

  • Infrared panels – These can reach up to 90˚C, producing far-infrared heat. This is the most efficient choice for indoor locations because we absorb this type of heat easily
  • Quartz heaters – You may have seen these as indoor space heaters, outdoor patio heaters, or as a heater designed for industrial purposes. Reaching up to 1500˚C, these heaters produce near-infrared heat. Since this heat is more intense, it’s more suitable for outdoor locations

As well as considering the type of panel, you’ll also need to think about the different features of the panel, including:

  • Printed panels – Printed panels basically turn your infrared panels into interior decor – you can even print your own custom images onto them. Rather than having a plain panel on the wall, why not spruce it up with a photo or some artwork?
  • Wall-mounted panels – This is the most common way to mount your panel. It’s out of the way and is much more discreet than traditional radiators. Plus, you can stick it on any wall, just make sure there are no obstructions in the way
  • Suspended-ceiling panels – Not got enough space to pop a panel on your wall? Thankfully, you can also place your panels on the ceiling – this way, you’re less likely to have objects getting in the way
  • Other niche panels – There are also other panels that are designed for specific needs, such as pet heaters – created for kennels and catteries, and can come as cheap as £99 – and under-desk panels for workspaces

Infrared heating panel in bedroom

Image credit: infraredpanelheaters.com

Advantages and disadvantages of infrared heating panels

Pros of infrared panels

  • Low emissions – Infrared doesn’t rely on fossil fuels, which means it can rapidly reduce household emissions. Panels can even be used with renewable energy sources to provide 100% clean heat
  • Aesthetically pleasing – The ability to turn your panels into art or a personal photo makes them a great option for anyone worried about how heating systems will affect their interior. Even without printing anything on them, the panels are sleek sheets of white – much easier on the eyes than a bulky boiler
  • Don’t take up much space – Infrared units are compact, so they can be used in small properties. They can also be designed to provide another function, such as a mirror in the bathroom or as a piece of wall art
  • Low maintenance – There are no moving parts in an infrared system, which means there’s very little risk of wear and tear. They don’t need much upkeep either, since there aren't any air filters to be replaced, no engine to wear out, and no lubrication needed. To keep the unit in tip-top condition, you just have to clean the reflectors every now and then
  • More efficient than central heating systems – Infrared heating provides warmth by heating objects directly, rather than heating up the air. Plus, the heating effect happens immediately, so you don’t have to wait before getting warm
  • Retains heat well – Since infrared heaters warm solid objects, it’s able to retain heat better than central heating systems (a system that’s notoriously bad for heat easily escaping through draughts)
  • No noise pollution – Infrared heaters don’t have fans, which means they stay silent whilst generating heat

Cons of infrared heaters

  • More expensive – You can expect to pay about twice as much for the whole infrared system, compared to traditional boilers. However, you should make your money back in a little over a year, thanks to the amount you’ll save on bills
  • There can’t be any obstructions – To feel the true benefits of the heating panel, there shouldn’t be anything in front of them, which is not always easy to achieve
  • They can’t fully replace a boiler – Given infrared panels can’t heat water, and gas boilers can, they won’t be able to fully replace a boiler. You’ll probably have to look into another green option, such as solar thermal heating, to get hot water. That said, some companies are starting to change this by looking into infrared-water-heating technology, so watch this space
ProsCons
Reduces household emissionsExpensive
Can be aesthetically pleasingThere can’t be any obstructions
Don’t take up much spaceThey can’t fully replace a boiler
Low maintenance
More efficient than gas boilers
Able to retain heat easier than traditional boilers
No noise pollution

How popular is infrared heating in the UK?

Infrared heating isn’t very popular in the UK at the moment. In 2019, there were only 33,399 UK homes that had infrared heating – or, in other words, 0.04% of the country. 

However, since the government has announced its plans to cut household emissions, it’s only a matter of time before homeowners need to ditch their gas boilers and look for alternatives.

Next steps

Infrared is the underdog in the home-heating game. As the UK government sets to ban gas boilers from 2025 onwards, people are having to look for different ways to keep their homes warm – and infrared is one of the best options waiting for them.

Want to learn more about greener alternatives to heating? Check out some of our helpful guides on the best options out there:

Beth Howell Writer

Beth has a real passion for green living. She’s been absorbed in eco research for over three years, and has become quite the expert. Whether you’re after a new set of solar panels, a home energy improvement, or you want to catch the latest eco news, she’s got your back.

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